Interview: Frightened Rabbit

I first heard Frightened Rabbit in 2009 on NPR – one of many Saturday mornings at work staying sane with Car Talk, then Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, then Sound Opinions.  They were Greg and Jim’s guests on Sound Opinions that day, playing acoustic versions of songs from The Midnight Organ Fight and chatting with the guys.  I remember thinking “These songs sound good…”  That night I checked out the studio recordings on MySpace and thought “Wow, this is really great…”  The next day I went down to Reckless Records in Chicago and bought the album.  Within about 2 weeks I knew it would be one of my favorite albums… period.

My girlfriend and I both fell in love with the record – which was a bit strange as thematically it’s one of the most crushing break-up records in recent memory – and every month or so I had a new favorite track. The songwriting and lyrics are so poignant and gripping throughout its entirety, but even more striking are the arrangements.  Frightened Rabbit completely broke down my conceptions of what lyrical music could sound like.  Complex kick-drum rhythms and soaring organ pads that, unlike most modern indie rock bands, never got in the way of the vocal or masked any lyrics or meaning.  The result is an album with both emotional and musical dynamics that interplay in an extraordinary way.  Most songs and records that you listen to incessantly put you back in that same place/time/relationship when you listen years later.  For me, Frightened Rabbit’s music cuts so deeply into pure emotions that it takes me back beyond my circumstances at the time.  It brings me into those universal emotions directly, but with a joy and energy that only Rock & Roll can provide.

Needless today I was somewhat giddy to interview Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchinson this past spring as he opened for another of my favorite songwriters in the world, Josh Ritter.  Frightened Rabbit is also the first and only non-American band I’ve interviewed which put a very interesting spin on my questions around community and transitions.  Thanks so much to Scott and Grant for being so darn nice and accommodating to a huge fanboy trying to keep it professional.  Enjoy these text excerpts and mp3 clips below, or [download id=”7″ format=”1″]

“When we first started playing we really felt we were against the tide a bit because there wasn’t much interest in our music – and maybe we were still a bit shit but I still thought the songs were worth listening to.  But the whole atmosphere in Glasgow wasn’t geared towards us – more gallery parties and a punk-disco scene – it wasn’t appropriate for us.  So then we met The Twilight Sad . . . and I heard the music and said “Hey! Fuck! Someone else is doing something that isn’t that!”  And we clung to each other for a little while because we felt a bit alone next to all of that.” – Scott Hutchinson, Frightened Rabbit

“I like the way that I used to write music, but I can’t ever get that back.  Whereby I was writing my first songs in my bedroom and such a romantic ideal attached to that, and the process is quite different now and that changes the songs.  But I’m going to accept those changing conditions as natural things and allow them to actually direct the songs as well, and that can be exciting as well as frustrating . . . but what happened is it went from a hobby to a profession.  It has changed and been a source of inspiration and frustrating, but I try to just run with it.” – Scott Hutchinson, Frightened Rabbit


MH: “What is the origin story of Frightened Rabbit and what was it like starting off in Glasgow, Scotland at that time?”

MH: “Was there a community in Glasgow that was important to the beginnings of your band?”

MH: “How has your understanding of building community around music changed from a local to international level?”

MH: “In your experience, what are some inhibitors to building good community around music?”

MH: “Your surroundings have changed so drastically since you first started writing.  From an artistic standpoint, how has that shift affected you and your writing?”

MH: “What did the jump from Glasgow to the next level look like?”

MH: “What advice would you give a fledgling band?”

Scott and the rest of Frightened Rabbit are entertaining on both Twitter and Facebook – I highly recommend connecting with them and buying their music pronto.

Photos by Jason Tang and Natalie Kardos