Frightened Rabbit: The Making Of ‘Pedestrian Verse’

Scott Hutchison introduces their new album...

The Making Of Pedestrian Verse – by Scott Hutchison A couple of years ago, I wrote the words ‘Pedestrian Verse’ on the front of a notebook. I think it was a nice Muji one, you know the type. Brown etc. I had already begun writing bits and pieces for the new record and the first song that came to fruition, or even resembled anything more than the sound of a grown man‘mucking about’, was State Hospital. Within that song the line ‘a bloody curse word in a pedestrian verse’ presented me with the perfect title to work to, a title that drove me towards, hopefully, becoming a better writer. It really stuck with me. Every time I opened the book to work, those words on that lovely brown cover challenged me: “Don’t go writing about ‘the sky falling’ mate, or how she is your ‘world’. Don’t you fucking dare!”

Now, I’d never write about the sky falling (there’s the excellent chicken story about that, pretty much nailed it) or how she was my ‘world’ (she was actually simply my favourite person in the ‘world’, so there you go…) but the title certainly helped to steer me from using the old comfortable song writing clichés. So that was the start. A gorgeous bloody notebook (really, just lovely) and a song about a fictional girl’s slightly desperate life.It was my intention to continue drawing inspiration from the same neighbourhood that had brought State Hospital to life. It was to be an album that looked through windows (from afar with binoculars, don’t worry, I am not outside your house). I was going to widen the lens and examine other people’s lives rather than harping on about my own tics and foibles like some sort of whiny bastard harpist. And I did do just that for a short while. Acts of Man came next, and it’s the partner to State Hospital in many ways. It is State Hospital’s unfaithful husband, her occasionally comforting drinking partner, her alley-fuck, her weird and overweight neighbour.

It all started off very well, all very grey, all very suburban, all very… conceptual (vomit if you must!). Then, perhaps inevitably,my own life barged in and took over somewhat. I won’t bore you with details; it’s all there in the songs if you look/listen, but I found myself in a position whereby I couldn’t write about anything else. Rather than ignore the urge and battle on with the window licking, I decided I’d write about all these more personal occurrences, but I hoped to do so in a way that echoed the imagery of those first two songs, wherever possible. Thus, we have Backyard Skulls with its references to suburbia, Dead Now and it’s porch-pissing, the two Housing variations and the living rooms of December’s Traditions. It will always be incredibly important to me that an album has a thread, however thin, that ties it together. I look for it in the writing of others and this album was heavily influenced by lyricists such as Aidan Moffat and Craig Finn. To me, they write stories with detail, yet with one eye on the song and another on the album. That was the idea. The song lead the way, the song was the most important chap in the room – the lyrics had to serve that chap, arrogant and loud as he often was. If they didn’t they were binned or shaved a little to make them more presentable. Although it may be the most lyrically dense Frightened Rabbit record yet, I was wary of it becoming overbearing. Not least of all because we had made a series of instrumental pieces that we were all very excited about. For the first time we wrote the music collectively as a band and I was wary of shitting on the work of the others when it all got a bit ‘wordy’ inside that utterly gorgeous looking notebook of mine.

Which brings me neatly to the other half of the album: the music. I think it was Allen Toussaint who said that writing music is like “gathering up feathers and bones then trying to make a chicken”. As a band, that was exactly what we did. By the time we had left the first writing session in Rosyth, there weren’t many wholechickens flying about, and although some of the feathers sounded great, I wasn’t sure if this new way of working would… erm, work. It had been a conscious effort on my part to move away from the traditional method of writing an album, which was to disappear alone for a wee while and come back with it all written and arranged. Prior to starting this new album in earnest, I had detected patterns in my work; stagnant, boring patterns. The whole process needed a shot in the arm, and the involvement of other brains seemed like the most effective and natural way to administer that shot. Perhaps the injection metaphor isn’t the most accurate to use here, as the process of developing songs together took quite a long time. It was the drip feed that eventually cured my ails, and when it did, we found that the songs started to pile up.

By the time we set up in Monnow Valley Studios in Wales, after successive writing sessions in the Scottish Borders and Kingussie, we were carrying well over twenty songs. Not twenty staggering, life-smashing, face melting songs, but certainly more than we had ever previously had at that stage in the process. Leo Abrahams was at Monnow when we arrived. Fuck knows how he got there, probably on a flying bike or something. The chap is a magician. Over the course of the four weeks that followed, Leo, with the aid of professorTchad Blake, helped to shape the songs further still. It’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what Leo did to this record, as his musical touch is so deft and subtle as to be almost invisible at times. That’s what makes it all the more impressive. The unique layer of transparency he placed over all of the songs allowed the band to be who we were and not diminish the intrinsic value of that. It’s a neat and deceptively difficult trick, as any producer will tell you, unless they are an egotistical prick.

Leo’s not a prick. His zen-like presence helped us to further the work we had begun well over a year hence and take it to a place we had not expected. And now Pedestrian Verse exists. Beyond that STUNNING (just fucking STUNNING) brown notebook, beyond The Substation in Rosyth, beyond Plenploth near Stow, beyond Briar Grove in Kingussie, beyond Andy’s flat in Govan. Transported from our houses and into yours. Look out the window. Can you see me waving?

Words by Scott Hutchison

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'Pedestrian Verse' is out on Monday (February 4th).

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