Interview: Frightened Rabbit

This interview was originally published in Issue #12, May 2010.

You’re a bunny rabbit and a car is screaming towards you, STOP! Drop what you’re doing and have a listen to Frightened Rabbit whilst you’re reading this, an interview with that very band. These Scottish brothers and friends are absolutely charming to listen to, and not at all long in the tooth and scared, as their name would suggest.

I was recently lucky enough to stumble across their new album and single; lovely sentiments lace their songs. I encourage anyone, especially if you’re feeling a little low, to have a listen to their harmonies and adventures. I don't think you'll regret it. These guys gave me faith during bad times and I can't ask for more than that.

Here's a snippet of their aspirations and thoughts taken from a recent interview, courtesy of DrunkenWerewolf. Answers come from Grant Hutchison, Frightened Rabbit’s modest but cheeky drummer, and one of their founding members - enjoy!

So Frightened Rabbit (FR throughout this interview), where does that name come from?

That's what our Mum used to describe Scott [Hutchinson, Grant’s brother and frontman] as when he was younger. He was very socially awkward, which is strange considering he's now the singer in a band and getting up on stage in front of hundreds of strangers!  Can you give me some history behind how you got together? Scott started playing solo shows supporting friends' bands in Glasgow with just an acoustic guitar. I was the only drummer he knew so I got the job of being the second member of FR. Basically I joined to make the whole thing a little bit noisier! Billy is a friend from Selkirk who we knew would bring some/many things to the band (he draws a mean picture of a penis!) including guitar.

What are your full names and nicknames?

Scott 'Java' Hutchison, Grant 'Dark Temptation' Hutchison, Billy 'Voodoo' Kennedy, Andy 'Africa' Monaghan and Gordon 'Oriental' Skene - I won't develop the above for clarity, it's nice to be mysterious!

Your tour is about to start...Where are you most excited to visit and why? Do you need a dogsbody, only I am sure I'd love the States this time of year?

Unfortunately we already have a dogsbody, but we may need someone to sell our wares in the future so send CVs to FR and we shall get the auditions rolling! I can't wait to play Coachella and I'm also really excited about going back to Chicago. It feels like our adopted US hometown, we've been there so much!

What do you hope to achieve with your new album, A Winter of Mixed Drinks? As long as we move forward positively and people enjoy what we're doing then that's enough for me. I wouldn't want to be stuck at the same level forever but I also think the healthiest way to progress as a band is to allow things to happen quite naturally. That way you learn from mistakes and when you get to a place you're happy with you are prepared for it. How long did it take you and is the finished album what you hoped for? 

We always knew that this album had to be bigger and more expansive than the last. There were a lot of aspects on the last album where time constraints didn't allow us to achieve what we wanted, so this time it was important for us to get everything we wanted in there. We spent three weeks recording and two weeks mixing the record, which is still not long but for us that felt like a lifetime!!

How do you find having five musicians creating together works for you?

Well we don't really create together. Scott starts the whole process off by writing the songs himself on an acoustic guitar and then I chip in with some drum ideas, and then we sort of figure it out from there. Essentially Scott writes all the instrumentation on the records and I do my part with the drums. We're hoping to make the process of the next record more of a group effort but we'll see how that goes! Scott's very controlling!! The band works because we all know the roles we play and these are all very different and not always involving music. Plus we don't speak to each other on tour just to avoid arguments.

Do you think your new single "Living in Colour" will be well received? I personally think it's one of the more instant tracks on the album. I think it really grabs you from the start and it's fairly relentless, so it was an obvious choice for us and FatCat [the band’s label].

You recently visited the famous festival South by South West in Texas - how was it for you and what do you think the festival does for music?

SXSW is very different when you're doing it rather than looking in from the outside. Although it looks like one big party, for us this year it was one week of fairly solid work. I don't know what it does for music as such. Sometimes it can feel like a big band supermarket where labels, managers and agents go to browse, and if they like something they might pick it up and continue browsing, but there's no guarantee they'll take it to the checkout!  What is your favourite gig venue and best gig you have played so far? Queens Hall, Edinburgh with Koko in London a close second. Queens Hall in Edinburgh was a very special night. Everything just seemed to click into place and I've never seen a crowd like it in my life. I've always thought Glasgow was the place for wild crowds but that night Edinburgh trounced everyone! It's such a beautiful hall and our family were there too so it really humbled us actually.

The five piece play guitar, bass, keys, drums and other various percussion; they’re modest on stage, very tight and comfortable with one another. Brother Grant on drums compliments the vocals from Scott nicely: their voices are clean, rather than gruff and dirty - something I expected from their appearance. Billy, Andy and Gordon offer a different gentile side to the brothers' hairy appearance and ballsy ideas. I’m keen to see them live - these guys must be doing something really right, as FR have sold out gigs as far as New York coming up.

Who is your favourite frontman/woman? Freddie Mercury wins every single time. An absolute entertainer - nobody has ever come close to matching him, and I doubt that they ever will.

My favourite song on the album is “Swim Until You Can't See Land”. I am all about escapism and that made me feel quite elated. I'll be telling friends about you. Do you think that’s what music is about, or am I missing something? What more can I do for you as a fan, or is that enough for you?

It's enough for me that our music has made you feel something. All any artist wants to or should try to achieve is for someone to feel some emotion when listening to their music. Word of mouth has been a huge reason for the band's current status and as long as you pester you're friends until they listen to it that's fine by me.

What inspires you and what makes you excited to get out of bed each day?

I'm inspired by anyone who's ever toured in a band and seen how fucking hard it can be, and it's the hours we spend on stage every night that I get out of bed for.

I read an article not long ago that said music can change the world and we should invest more in the arts. I believe music has the power to change lives, but I only listen to it. How do you feel your music would change a life, if it could?

I think your use of the word 'only' in this question is misplaced. If there were no people who listened to music and were interested enough to create a bunch of questions for us to ask we would be nowhere. I think lyrically our songs have had a huge impact on some people, and I'd love to think that somewhere there's one young lad who heard our stuff and decided "I'm gonna play the fucking drums!" That would be great. People will always make music whether there's someone buying it or not.

You support Invisible Children, a charity trying to bring peace to Uganda. Their legacy is very passionate. How do you specifically help their cause? We are talking with Invisible Children constantly about hopefully going out to Uganda with them and hopefully having them on tour soon to raise awareness of the situation there. We always try and help with charities whenever we can but they really struck a chord with me. It was like you say, the passion they have that really drew me in and made me excited about what they do because they are so excited and enthusiastic about it. I think the documentary they made is absolutely beautiful but in a shocking and brutal way.

List your essentials, dreams and components for a perfect world:

There is and never will be any such thing unfortunately. That's not pessimistic, simply realistic.

If you could change five things by being elected this year, what would they be?

I would never run for any kind of election. I have a huge fear of rejection!!

Who do you love most right now? 

I will always be eternally in debt to my parents for being so supportive when things weren't so rosy with the band. Whenever I need them they are there and they're just as important in the bands progress as Scott and myself.

Define happiness?

Happiness is contentment and right now I'm very content. I'm going to sound like I'm gushing but I have a wonderful girlfriend, a job that most people would kill for and I get to tour with 6 great people (even if they can be dicks sometimes). Do you feel you are all you can be at this point in time, as an individual?

No. I always want to progress as a drummer and as a person. If I ever though I was all I could be why would I keep going? I want to take over the world! I would also like a PlayStation 3, as this would make me a better timewaster!

My favourite film at the moment is Into the Wild, because the message was “happiness is best shared”. The film made a valid point in a dark way and one that has had a lasting effect on me. What is your favourite film and why?

Currently it's Where the Wild Things Are. I love the book and I think it has a very similar theme you describe for Into The Wild. Although it's essentially a kids' film I think there's a lot adults can learn from it too. It also has a great soundtrack, which is important.  Where you would take me if I came to visit you at your home? If you came to Selkirk I would take you to Camerons Bakery for a pink bun, and if you came to Glasgow I would take you for an afternoon cider in The Belle. So Grant, what's next?

Who knows? It's not for us to decide, that's for you and your friends who haven't listened to us yet to decide!!

I am sorry to have missed the chance to ask more from these hard working chaps. I really like Frightened Rabbit; they come across as honest and sincere in this interview, Grant complimented my expectations of the band with his genuine answers. Frightened Rabbit are passionate and something tells me they will not get caught up like a bunny in the headlights, even when signing autographs in the States and being interviewed by people more capable than I of portraying them as they deserve. Good luck fellas!


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