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Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Monday 18th November, 2013 9:07AM

Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit are heading to New Zealand for Laneway Festival next January, in support of their latest studio album, Pedestrian Verse. The album was a more collaborative effort than the band's previous releases, as Frightened Rabbit founder Scott Hutchison recruited the rest of the band - including brother Grant - for the writing process, rather than isolating himself from everything and everyone until the songs were completed. UnderTheRadar discussed this change in tact with Grant, as well as chatting about whether they feel like a particularly Scottish band and why they really enjoy touring the States.

Hey Grant, what are you up to at the moment?

I'm currently sitting on the bus, post-show – we played a gig in Bristol in the UK tonight. So I'm sitting on the bus speaking to people in New Zealand.

How has the tour been going so far?

It's good! This is our third show of the UK tour – we just started that this week. We just finished two months in the US which was awesome. It was the longest stretch we’ve ever done but it was great, amazing. We did a couple of weeks at the start of the tour with the National and that was a lot of fun.

Yeah I bet. Do you get a good response from US crowds?

Yeah, it’s a good place for us. We’ve built up a solid fan base over there, purely from touring – going back again and again. It’s a case of playing to four people the first time, then fifty, then a hundred and it’s snowballed quite naturally so it’s great – we love going there. Compared to the UK everywhere is very different because the country is so huge so it makes for an interesting tour.

I wanted to start by talking a little bit about your new album, which you released this year, Pedestrian Verse. What was the starting point for that one?

With the previous records Scott had holed himself up, away from everyone and everything and written songs and brought them back to us fully formed – there would be very little change to the make up of the song from that point. This time around, when it came to that point, Scott made the decision to open it up to the rest of the band and to make it more collaborative, to try and avoid repetition. I think he found he was repeating techniques he used to write songs and was aware that it might be boring, basically. So he opened it up and we all got involved from the outset which was great. It meant it took us a little longer to get going with it after we all found our feet and figured out what our roles were in that process. It was important for him to relinquish some control too and that was difficult to do at the start and to figure out when to walk away or when to pitch in. It was a really enjoyable experience but certainly a steep learning curve that ended up taking three years. This time around we know the score a bit better and I think we can hit the ground running and we’ll be starting off from a slightly better position than the last time.

How do you think the collaborative element has most profoundly affected the Frightened Rabbit sound or the tone of this record?

When we were demo-ing and writing Andy (Monaghan)recorded a lot of it because he’s a studio engineer guy, and I think his influence is quite obvious on the record – some of the sounds he used and the way he recorded things were a bit more off the wall than we’ve had in the past. Everyone, specifically Scott and Andy, have very different guitar sounds and I think you can pick out and hear those differences on this record. We also worked with a producer which we hadn’t done in the past, who essentially became as important as an extra member in regards to some of the decisions that he made that had a massive impact to how the songs sounded and how they were structured. You can sit with a song for weeks and weeks and try and improve on it but often you can’t see the woods from the trees and you need an outside ear to say “why don’t’ you try this”. It was great to have someone like that.

Because it was Leo Abrahams that you worked with right? What led you to working with him? Was it an admiration of his previous work?

It was a little bit of that. When we came to deciding on a studio and a producer, both us and the label wrote up a list and he was on their list actually. We'd spoken with him and recorded a couple of tracks with him in a different studio to where we ended up recording the record, we all got on instantly and really enjoyed the experience of working with him and he got the songs sounding great and really understood what we were trying to do from the get-go. Sometimes it’s hard for people to really see the end result and get over the crappiness of the initial material, but he knew instantly what we were going for. In that producer role, someone’s personality is just as important as their CV. We spent four weeks in the studio with him and it wouldn’t have worked if we’d all thought he was a dickhead, so it’s as important that you get on with them as it is to get someone who technically knows what they’re doing.

Speaking of getting on, you’re in Frightened Rabbit with your brother. How is that working relationship?

Yeah it can get tough haha. We’re pretty good though, we’ve been doing it as a three-piece, a four-piece and a five-piece and so we’ve gotten used to it and us and Billy (Kennedy) have been there for the long haul so we know how it works, and you just have to take it one day at a time. If something happens and we do fall out – and this is the case with anyone, but probably more so with Scott and myself – you’ve just got to forget about it the next day and get on with it. You get tired, you get worn out and people annoy you for no reason or very little reason and you just need to pick yourself up and get on with it, and that’s the best way to look at it rather than thinking “oh god I’ve got another four weeks with that guy”. In terms of the creative side – writing or demo-ing – we came to the conclusion that we should just avoid eachother. If I give him advice on what I think sounds right he’ll look at me and go “well you’re a drummer, you don’t know what you’re talking about”, and vice versa if he tells me something I’ll say “well you don’t know how to play the drums do you”, so the best way is if I’m doing a part he just leaves. The thing is that I’m not the kind of drummer who can just come up with something instantly, lay it down and then that’s that. I like to think about it and listen to all the other parts and think about where they’re going to sit and why as well, so it’s better to not have him around for that.

You obviously grew up together. When and why did you both get drawn towards music?

I donno, our parents were not massively musical – Dad played guitar and mum sang a little. They used to run a folk club in the Highlands of Scotland back in the day when they were hippies and all that, but it wasn’t something that was that prominent in the house. I think for me it was Scott and my older brother Neil, who is five years older than me. When he started listening to proper music he played it so loud because he was a teenager, and therefore so did we. He’s not a professional musician – he plays guitar – but he listens to music a lot and knows a lot about music, and he influenced us massively back when he started listening to grunge music or even brit pop music before that. It wasn’t until I started secondary school that I played the drums and it was my music teacher who was very adament that I should play the drums so it’s down to her as well.

You guys are a Scottish band and Scotland has a prestigious lineage of both shoegaze and alternative indie rock. Did you feel connected to those genres and to those bands, or do you feel part of that heritage now?

I grew up in the South of Scotland in a small town called Selkirk and there wasn’t a lot of music there, definitely not original music. Scott and I were both in our different high school bands but we basically played covers because that’s what people wanted to hear. So growing up not really, but when I moved to Glasgow and Scott and I started playing together we became part of our own scene. There was us and the Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks, and I guess to an extent bands that are coming up now like Chvrches – we’re musically obviously very different but we know those guys quite well and in Glasgow there’s no competition when it comes to music, everyone’s in the same boat and very supportive of eachother. So it’s definitely more of a contemporary scene that we feel a part of. We’ve been heavily influenced by bands like Mogwai and Belle and Sebastian and Arab Strap and again we’ve met those people and call some of them our friends but at the same time we’re part of a different era but they’re still strong if not stronger than us as well. It’s great, there’s still so much happening in Glasgow and Scotland that you’re constantly finding new acts and two bands are rarely the same.

You guys are on tour and then you break for Christmas, and then you’re heading to New Zealand for Laneway Festival. Are you looking forward to it? Have you been before?

I can’t wait, I’m really excited. I’ve heard so many great things about New Zealand it’s probably one of the only places I’ve not visited that people speak so highly of, and it’s frustrating because I’ve been to Australia a bunch of times and it’s like if we’re going to go that far surely we can come to New Zealand at the same time – in my mind it’s just an easy trip over to New Zealand, it’s probably not but that’s my perspective. But yeah, can’t wait it’s going to be awesome.


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