Scottish Winds: Frightened Rabbit

"It’s about story telling."

It’s tough being Scottish.

Somewhere between a province and a nation, Scotland ticks both boxes but enjoys neither category. Perhaps that’s why the country produces so many earnest, passionate songwriters –they need to stamp their identity somehow.

Watching Frightened Rabbit onstage at the Tartan Clef Awards, it’s possible to appreciate just how far this band has come. Held in Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket – not a natural music venue by any means – the band fill the vast hall with a stirring performance. An epic display of power and poise, their Scottishness feels just that bit more natural than pre-Devolution predecessors such as Big Country. Less self-conscious and more self-aware, Frightened Rabbit have allowed a recent touring spell with Death Cab For Cutie to rub off on them. “It was a long tour, but it was amazing. Playing the size of venues that they do we learned a lot about performance” explains Scott Hutchison, clearly enamoured with the headliners. “I mean, they put in a shift – they put in over two hours every night. They give so much to their fans. But they are four of the best musicians I have ever played with. A lot of bands will be like ‘we play in a band, we’re hands off about everything else, that’s fine’. But Death Cab are so hands on in everything, which is different than a lot of bands and I think that side of it is what we’ve learned from them. Don’t let anything get under your nose because it could have a negative effect so try and keep control of it.”

Watching Frightened Rabbit progress, the Glasgow based outfit have notched up some astonishing career highs. Recently performing to thousands of fans each night on the Death Cab tour, the band has battled to retain a sense of intimacy. “Actually, what I find is that – we may be lucky – but a lot of our material is really emotional, perhaps less so now, but it certainly deals with things that are quite personal to people. At least, they are personal to me” the singer argues. “So hopefully what comes across is that it’s still personal no matter what size of room we’re playing in and I hope we don’t lose that. I think we still perform in quite an intimate way.”

A Frightened Rabbit EP by Frightened Rabbit

Attempting to retain a familiar sense of self, Frightened Rabbit’s live show has prompted a major shift in how the band operates, allowing the band to craft new material as a collective unit for the first time. “I think when we do as we’ve done which is essentially bring members on one by one, growing slowly and purposefully, then what happens is that the newest member maybe doesn’t feel a sense of ownership over the material” he says. “As a five piece now, doing material together and touring together everyone starts to feel more involved. Before, it was such a personal thing to me that I think everyone thought it would be like touching a wound or something.”

Retreating to rural Scotland, Frightened Rabbit locked themselves away from the stresses and strains of city life – something Scott Hutchison finds essential. “There’s a lot to the countryside: fresh air, housing is cheap – certainly cheaper than a poky flat in Glasgow, and there’s just that sense of space in your brain. You can’t get that anywhere else. I’m quite easily flustered and the countryside really suits me for that.”

With progress on their fourth album already under way, fans are debating the prospects of the first Frightened Rabbit LP to be released under the yoke of a major label. Swapping Fat Cat for Atlantic, the frontman appears delighted by the smooth transition. “I think we’ve been given more freedom this year than ever before, we’ve been given more time to write songs, more space, more resources and everything seems to be focussed on us making the album we want to. To be honest with you, I was bracing myself for major label nonsense – which I’ve heard all about and didn’t really want to deal with – but Atlantic seem to be unique in that they are so supportive of their less commercially viable artists. They just want us to make the best album we can. I’ve been blown away by how supportive they’ve been by what we want to do with the next record.”

The first fruits of the relationship is a short tour EP, released for the Death Cab shows. Containing three tracks –two of which are duets – the release is deeply unusual, and a pointed reminder of the band’s artistic independence. Containing guest slots from Camera Obscura’s Tracy-Anne Campbell and folk icon Archie Fisher, the EP has a decidedly Scottish slant. Reflecting on a folk influence in Frightened Rabbit, Hutchison said: “It starts off from that. It’s about how we explode it out into different parts and pieces. It’s about the next part of the story but at its core it’s still got that. It’s about story telling.”

As for the fourth album, it seems that fans won’t have long to wait. “It’s written, essentially. So we’re just trying to chose a producer. We’re trying to figure that out. It’s written and it’s really exciting material. It’s different enough but it’s still ourselves, y’know? It’s dark. We’re experimenting with minor keys, which is actually new for us – we’re quite a major key band. Fuck me, I’ve done – what – three albums now and not many minor key songs. So we’ve been experimenting with that. Spooky.”

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Frightened Rabbit are currently working on their fourth album.

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