Date: October 7, 2009
Location: Stereo, Glasgow
Interview subject: Frightened Rabbit
Background info: Glasgow-based band Frightened Rabbit are Selkirk-born brothers Scott and Grant Hutchison, Billy Kennedy, Andy Monaghan and new guy Gordon Skene. Following the mushrooming popularity of their second album The Midnight Organ Fight, they will soon be making public its much-anticipated follow-up, The Winter Of Mixed Drinks.
Does anyone else get the feeling that 2010 will be the year of the Rabbit? While FRIGHTENED RABBIT’S UK sales barely come close to the number of albums they have shifted across the Atlantic (a highly respectable 30,000 and counting), all the signs seems to suggest that their third effort, The Winter Of Mixed Drinks, might just be the one that sees them make the leap into mainstream popularity – or at least the indie-rock version of the mainstream world inhabited by the likes of Death Cab For Cutie, The National and Super Furry Animals.
The first teaser from Frightened Rabbit’s new album certainly doesn’t do anything to dispel that theory, with the instantly hummable chorus and woozy melody of forthcoming single Swim Until You Can’t See Land reinforced by a beautifully-shot video promo.
So it’s new single, new album and new member time for the Scots, with former Make Model guitarist and vocalist Gordon Skene the latest addition to the first-team squad. The Pop Cop sat down with Scott, Grant, Billy and Andy to discuss tactics – although the Hutchison brothers tend to do all of the talking…
THE POP COP: Why did you feel the need to bring in another band member?
SCOTT: “A lot of the new record is heavily layered and it felt like too much for the four of us to do. We need another member to get them at their full impact. I dunno, we’re kind of bored of each other. We just need to add some fresh meat.”
THE POP COP: Will Gordon have to learn new parts for the old songs?
SCOTT: “Yeah, there’s going to be a bit of that. I wouldn’t want him to be on and off stage. There are bits missing in the old ones anyway. He’s becoming a part of the band so he’s going to have plenty to do.”
THE POP COP: Are you not worried about splitting your profits?
GRANT: “He’s not getting anything!”
SCOTT: “You’ve got to earn those stripes. He’s a Frightened Rabbit intern.”
THE POP COP: How does the new album compare to The Midnight Organ Fight?
SCOTT: “I like it a lot better. I can’t listen to the last one without hearing many faults and things that I wish had been in there. It felt like a rushed process. This one is a lot more detailed and complete. It’s not a ‘live’ album at all, it’s a real studio effort. Everything has been separately recorded and that’s the way I like to make records. There was just something I regretted about the way the last one was recorded, sonically, that I didn’t want to happen again. I didn’t make the album I wanted to last time – I had to exorcise that feeling.”
THE POP COP: Was that a feeling you had several months after you recorded The Midnight Organ Fight?
SCOTT: “No, I knew straight away there was stuff that wasn’t on there that should have been. I didn’t have time and I knew it. It only gets worse as time goes on.”
GRANT: “I must have only listened to The Midnight Organ Fight about three times outwith the actual recording. I had no desire or need to listen to it again.”
SCOTT: “Me too, three or four times.”
THE POP COP: The Midnight Organ Fight was a break-up album. What’s the theme of The Winter Of Mixed Drinks?
SCOTT: “I wrote it when I was out at my pal’s house in Crail, in Fife, so the sea definitely had an influence on it. I would take a daily morning walk out by the coast and ruminate on ideas. I would come back and try to write something and it would just seep in there. It’s about an escape and maybe even a slight breakdown. I have to say, it’s semi-fictional. There’s a protagonist who is possibly male but it doesn’t really describe my life because if I did that it wouldn’t make for an interesting album this time around as I’ve been quite solid and content, thankfully. There are certainly joyous moments but they are always tinged with a certain self-deprecation, while the rest of it is just a journey out into the hinterland of the mind. It covers the same ground as the last album without being so obsessed about one particular thing. There are definitely dark moments in it as well. There are only two songs that actually express out-and-out happiness.”
GRANT: “Two more than usual!”
THE POP COP: You’ve played Swim Until You Can’t See Land and Nothing Like You at gigs. Are you not desperate to show off your other new songs live?
GRANT: “We’re just waiting to start with Gordon.”
SCOTT: “We don’t want to play them and have everyone at the show say, ‘Oh, they played some new stuff… it was shit’. It’s not ready and when it’s ready we’ll play them. We don’t want to fuck it up. At most of the shows I get the sense that people aren’t even bothered about hearing new songs – they still want to hear The Midnight Organ Fight songs and are quite happy with that. That’s fine by me.”
THE POP COP: Is there any chance of Be Less Rude ever seeing the light of day in a live show again?
SCOTT: “Not in a full Frightened Rabbit set, I doubt it. I get nothing from playing that song any more and I don’t think anyone in the audience really does.”
GRANT: “Even when we have played it in the past year, it doesn’t get a great reaction.”
THE POP COP: Do you feel there is pressure on you to live up to a greater level of expectation with the next album?
GRANT: “There definitely is more pressure this time around.”
SCOTT: “It’s just a different feeling. I’ve never been in the position of being aware of an audience of any size that was waiting for our music, so that just sits there in the back of your head. You have to be aware of it otherwise it’s totally selfish. I know that certain people do make music solely for themselves but I don’t believe in that and it’s nice to know that people are going to want to hear it. Pressure sounds like a negative thing but it’s quite positive actually. It feels earned. Everything we’ve achieved has been earned. At the beginning of this year, we emerged with a clean slate debt-wise and that was nice. Up until then it was still a bit of a struggle. It has taken a year since The Midnight Organ Fight came out for us to actually be in any position to call this our jobs.”
THE POP COP: A lot of people think 2010 will be your breakthrough year and that you’ll enjoy the kind of slow-burning success bands such as Biffy Clyro and Snow Patrol did. Can you see that happening?
SCOTT: “It would be disappointing if we didn’t become more popular because that’s got to be the goal for every new record, or at least bring some new fans on board. I don’t foresee a Biffy Clyro-style thing happening next year but you wouldn’t really predict it, would you? If it comes, I think we’re actually ready for it now , whereas that hasn’t been the case before. We ourselves haven’t felt like we’re a real band or we’re even in the realms of being a popular, well-known band. But this time we feel like we might be able to be.”
October 21, Picture House, Edinburgh (Music Like A Vitamin) (tickets)
October 23, Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh (Scott Hutchison solo, Oxjam Edinburgh) (tickets)
November 27, BA Club, Fort William (tickets)
November 28, Tolbooth, Stirling (tickets)
November 29, Ironworks, Inverness (tickets)
December 1, Warehouse, Aberdeen (tickets)
December 2, Fat Sams, Dundee (tickets)
December 22, ABC 1, Glasgow (tickets)