Date: February 29, 2008
Location: Cathouse, Glasgow
Interview subject: Scott Hutchison, Frightened Rabbit
Background info: Regular visitors to The Pop Cop will be well aware of how much we love Frightened Rabbit. We first interviewed Selkirk’s finest export last August and the band’s popularity has been on an upward trajectory ever since, although whether those two facts are linked is open to debate. Six months on, we caught up with frontman Scott, who gave us a frank and candid account of the anguish that fuelled his songwriting for their hotly-anticipated new album.
Half of the material on The Midnight Organ Fight should already feel cosily familiar to FRIGHTENED RABBIT fans. Last year the band freely gave away demos of The Modern Leper, Old Old Fashioned, The Twist, My Backwards Walk, Head Rolls Off and Keep Yourself Warm to anyone who asked (usually accompanied by a biscuit), while Fast Blood has long been a live favourite alongside the older material from their debut record Sing The Greys.
The Frightened Rabbit sound has been beefed up and improved beyond recognition for the new album and it’s no surprise they recently drafted in an extra guitarist, Andy Monaghan, to do justice to the expansive weight of the studio versions.
The songs on The Midnight Organ Fight are almost entirely about the break-up of Scott’s long-term relationship, a fact he admirably doesn’t shy away from, either on record or when chatting to The Pop Cop. It’s an honesty that is in many ways matched by the band’s musicianship, which is powerfully raw and always driven by melody.
So here we have Scott’s track-by-track take on The Midnight Organ Fight, straight from the Rabbit’s mouth…
01 The Modern Leper
SCOTT: One of my favourites without a doubt, both live and on the record. I’m quite pleased with it as an opener because it sums up the album’s sonic and lyrical scope. It’s not that dark a song but the lyrics are a bit more intense than some of the ones on the last record. There’s no beating about the bush, it’s a big tune.
THE POP COP: Are you the modern leper?
Yeah, totally, all the songs are about me. By the end of this song, or any of them, I don’t think there’s a feeling that there’s no hope at all. I always try to go for at least a slight upturn in the mood. There’s definitely a positive aspect to it. There’s tonnes of shit that goes with being in a relationship and there’s tonnes of good stuff as well. As long as it doesn’t get outweighed by the shit there’s always hope.
02 I Feel Better
I took a trip to New York to surprise a girl and salvage the relationship but it didn’t really work out the way I intended so I came back and tried to sort out my life here and put that to one side, which is the point of the song – to say, ‘I’m done with this’. It’s about the process of recovery – getting worse before you can get better and maybe coming out of it feeling even better than you did before. It’s like shaking off a disease.
03 Good Arms vs Bad Arms
Same relationship, third person involved, I didn’t like him. Because you never like that person, do you? I didn’t really want to hit his face with a brick, I’m not a violent person, but lyrically I was hopefully hitting him with a bit of a brick. I don’t want to go too far into it.
04 Fast Blood
That’s just about shagging, simple as that. It contains the first Frightened Rabbit solo ever. It’s a big Slash moment for Andy.
05 Old Old Fashioned
It’s about trying to recapture some of the magic of where a relationship starts out. It’s a lot more general, not so much about specific memories or thoughts. It’s about a place and a time you were happiest and trying to revisit that. Failing, maybe.
06 The Twist
That’s a different time, a slightly different relationship as well.
THE POP COP: Before or after the one the other songs are about?
[Sheepish] In-between. I was imagining an office party or any kind of disco where you just don’t want to end up by yourself at the end of the night. It’s not so much about me, it’s more open-ended. I don’t care about ending up by myself at the end of the night, I’m usually happier that way.
07 Bright Pink Bookmark
It’s an instrumental. It has the chord structure from The Greys with the trumpet part and drums from I Feel Better. I wanted to keep a homemade feel. I’m alright with it now, but part of me was uncomfortable with how polished the sound had become. I definitely wanted to include some more ‘how we used to be’ sounds in it. That was the idea behind that, it wasn’t filler. We haven’t perfected the whole segueing thing yet but we’re getting there.
08 Head Rolls Off
It’s not about relationships – just dying and leaving something behind.
THE POP COP: Is it about atheism?
Yeah, but it doesn’t matter so much, you can still believe in that [God] – what matters most is what you do whilst you are alive rather than what you do when you are dead… nothing to be done then!
09 My Backwards Walk
It’s about trying to shake off that cycle again – of continuing to go back to something that’s not necessarily positive – and failing miserably. There’s a lot about failure.
THE POP COP: Do you find it hard to sing?
No, not at all. I enjoy it. I’m more focused on getting the pitch right. Once or twice some thoughts come back into my head but usually it’s not really that connected, otherwise it would be a bit painful at times.
10 Keep Yourself Warm
It’s just about bad, loud nightclubs and bad, loud music and drink… then the outcome of those things when combined. Not a great idea.
Another instrumental, it’s an extension of My Backwards Walk and The Twist being flung together. We try to throw songs together and see what comes out, it’s the theme and variation thing. The instrumentals are from our original 24-track demos we did at home.
It’s about looking back on things and trying to figure out why it [the relationship] didn’t quite work out.
THE POP COP: Do you come to a conclusion?
No, never [laughs]. Still haven’t.
13 Floating In The Forth
That’s about thinking of killing yourself. I’ve asked a few people and most have their ideal escape route planned in their head.
THE POP COP: Is jumping off a bridge not a painful way to go?
I’m not too sure. You’d definitely be knocked unconscious on impact. I just like the idea of doing it in the fresh air as opposed to in a room. A sunny day, go out to the Forth and just… I’m alright now, I’m not going to do it. The process of thinking was writing that song and realising I didn’t want to do it, so I think in a sense it’s positive in the end. But my mum never listens to that song.
14 Who’d You Kill Now?
It’s very lo-fi. It was also recorded in my house on a completely throwaway line that I have no idea where it came from nor what it means. Often I play these things to someone else and they’ll say, ‘You have to put that on the record’ and that’s what happened here.
THE POP COP: What will you write about for the next album?
Joy. Horses. Candyfloss.
4 Frightened Rabbit – I Feel Better
4 Frightened Rabbit – The Greys (live at SXSW)
b March 27, Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh
b March 29, Barfly, Glasgow (with We Were Promised Jetpacks) (tickets)
b April 10, Snafu, Aberdeen (with Make Model) (tickets)
b April 12, King Tut’s, Glasgow (with Make Model) (tickets)
b April 13, Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh (with Make Model) (tickets)
b April 24, The Green Room, Edinburgh
b April 25, Tolbooth, Stirling (tickets)
b April 26, Tramway, Glasgow (Triptych festival with Mogwai, Clinic, Malcolm Middleton) (tickets)
b May 15, Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline (Tigerfest with The Twilight Sad) (tickets)