Interview – Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit Interview

SCOTTISH singer/guitarist Scott Hutchison used to feel a bit like a frightened rabbit when he got up on stage to perform his solo shows, so he thought he would use the name. Feeling a bit lonely, he decided to ally his singing, strumming and songwriting to the drumming talents of brother Grant and two mates. FR are now one of the shooting stars of the Scottish music scene and many believe they are destined for greatness. Grant talks to Rob Moore about great whites, cracking America, the curse of the nasty NME and why nobody will ever stop them swearing.

IT’S always hard to know what to expect when talking to musicians across an 11-hour time difference. In our morning they are usually eager to get to the pub/bed/groupies, talk in our evening and they are usually in bed and eager to get to their milk/cornflakes/first line of coke.
So it was a stroke of luck that I caught Grant Hutchinson moments after one of the greatest moments of his 24-year-old life.
“We’ve just come off stage at Brixton Academy. Wow man. That was quite unbelievable. We’ve never played a venue of this size. Nothing else really compares to it. What a night,” he croaked.
The band were playing their last show supporting Deathcab For Cutie and were due to return to some of the nation’s best known venues with Biffy Clyro later this month.
With the prospect of a New Year trip Down Under on the horizon, I got the impression life couldn’t have been much better.
Grant agreed: “Things are going really well at the moment and we can’t wait to get to Oz. None of us have ever been over and we’ll be able to have a wee holiday on the coast while we’re there. To be able to get to see places like that while doing something you love is amazing.”
His only concerns seemed to suround his choice of attire and the local wildlife.
“We’ll be leaving from Glasgow so I’m not sure whether to look like a dick here by rocking up to the plane in shorts and sandals or look like a dick by entering Australia in a huge coat.
“We haven’t seen the sun for so long we’re not sure how our bodies are going to react.
“We’d like to try as many things as we can while we’re out there, but I’m not sure I’ll be too brave due to my fear of the sea and most things in it. It’s all very well talking about going in the water, until you remember there are actually great whites there. And spiders can kill you? I’m going to have to print off pictures of the most dangerous creatures and keep it in my wallet.”
It may be their first trip to Australia, but they are veterans of playing outside Britain, having spent much of their career to date in America. Given that a lot of bands constantly talk about the battle to ‘crack America’, was he surprised so many people were drawn to their music?
“We never felt like we were going over there to crack America so there was no pressure,” Grant replied. “We went there having had no success in the UK and were able to build our following simultaneously in both countries. For that reason it never really felt weird. We’ve toured the US more than Britain and audiences over there picked up on us quicker than the UK. “We’ve been rewarded for putting the work in. The fact we’re Scottish gave us a bit of a head start as it seems everyone in America has Scottish ancestry – at least they claim they do.
“In the UK the NME has a lot of power, whereas in the US there is no self proclaimed governing body to say what is and isn’t cool – word of mouth and blogging is much more important. That’s something we love.”
I put it to Grant that FR are part of a huge resurgence of Scottish bands with The Fratellis, Biffy Clyro and Glas Vegas taking off in a big way. Is it something to draw encouragement from?
“Scotland is producing a lot of good bands, but it always has. Bands no longer think they have to move to London to make it and the spotlight is on Glasgow just as much, if not more.
“There is a real music community in Glasgow. I don’t know what it is about the place, but it just seems to be our time. Manchester had its era in the 90s and now it’s our turn.
“Glasgow is definitely a very real city. It’s a grey, dull, industrial place and not pretty to look at, but it has an identity and music scene unlike any other city in Scotland and new bands can play somewhere every night if they want. That’s what we did. We accepted every gig. The only way to improve is to play to five people, then 10, and build up that way – by grafting.”
The fact FR have done things the old fashioned way and grown naturally by virtue of the quality of their music, rather than being over-hyped and expected to deliver on it, is sadly rare nowadays.
I wondered whether they are proud of this, or if they’d have liked a bit of a helping hand? Grant is certain and knows who is to blame.
“The NME has a lot to answer for. It used to be a credible magazine, but has turned into Smash Hits with certain bands who are the flavour of the month and are never heard of again.
“We never wanted to be like that. It’s great to get recognition, but we’d much prefer to get it for our hard work rather than our record label paying someone to get us on the cover. We are glad we’ve progressed at a steady pace and done our time doing shitty tours in shitty venues. It’s sad when 19-year-olds are told they are the biggest thing in Britain. The hype is taken away as quickly as it’s received.”
So what is the dynamic of the band like? As Grant joined Scott’s solo project, was it easy for him to let go of all the power? Being brothers, does it make arguments more or less regular?
“He hasn’t let go of any power or control, I assure you of that. He was playing his songs on his acoustic guitar by himself, needed support and I was the only drummer he knew. Then Billy (Kennedy) joined and it has grown naturally from then. But Scott has the final say – that’s the way it should be as they are his songs.
“If we weren’t on tour I don’t know how often we’d argue. But because we’re brothers we’re allowed to shout at each other. Our easiest outlets to vent our frustrations are each other, so it helps. It’s not as if I’m not going to speak to him because he called me a cock yesterday.”
Speaking of swearing, have they ever been told to clean up their filthy lyrics for the mainstream?
“(Current label) Fat Cat would never ask us to, but there may be labels who would. If it changed it would take away what’s different about our songs. They are regular pop songs in the instrumentation, with lyrics relevant to the way people in Glasgow speak. To say fuck there is not offensive, nor is it to call someone a c**t. Those words are practically used as punctuation. We’re not using swear words in an aggressive way and the message in most songs is actually quite nice. The honesty that comes from singing the way we speak is vital to a lot of people.
“We just want to keep writing and recording good albums and playing great shows. Love us or hate us, we will never stop being who we are.”