As they prepare to unleash album number three, Finbarr Bermingham spoke to Frightened Rabbit to find out what 2010 holds in store.
Scott Hutchison is in Bath. Today should have been his day off. But instead, Frightened Rabbit’s lead singer and songwriter has found himself cooped up in a Somerset studio by day and answering his phone to journalists by night. The never-ending spiral of production and promotion has laid claim to the spirits of many musicians. Hutchison, though, is more philosophical than most.
“There are days when it’s awful,” he tells me as he checks into his hotel room. “But you have to catch yourself and transfer your body into an office, wearing a suit. Then you think: ‘Fuck it, I’m alright.’ Even on the worst days of touring, to me it’s preferable to any other job, so I’m not going to complain at all.”
Frightened Rabbit have been recording the B-sides for their forthcoming single, Swim Until You Can’t See Land. It precedes the March 2010 release of album number three, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, which Hutchison says is “more of a storytelling record” than anything they’ve put out before. It will be speckled with autobiographical musings, but nothing to match the heart-on-sleeve opus that was Midnight Organ Fight. “In other words,” he assures us, “I didn’t spend all of winter getting pissed!”
“At its core,” Scott continues, “it’s still full of songs and for me, that’s the point of putting an album together. The way we’ve treated them is sonically quite different. It’s much more layered, but I don’t want to say grand, because the obvious mistake to make is to start going over the top. But I don’t think we have – in many ways it’s a much more restrained and confident record. I don’t think it’s grasping for your attention as much as the last record and the difference in confidence is probably why.”
The runaway success of Midnight Organ Fight was largely unforeseen and it’s a measure of the band’s progress that The Winter of Mixed Drinks is one of the most anticipated albums of 2010. For many, expectation like that is liable to breed pressure. For Hutchison, though, it all comes from within. “I just want to better myself,” he says. “When you’re demoing, writing and recording you’re away from outside influence. It’s nice forgetting about the fact that anyone’s going to hear the songs and remembering how to write to please yourself again.”
If the new songs were written to please Hutchison, then surely previous tracks were written to help him. Painfully personal accounts of a failed relationship formed the basis of Midnight Organ Fight and the album charts Scott’s progress as he attempts to get his life back on track. Frequently it’s stirring. Sometimes it’s lewd and at others it’s funny. But the only track his mother struggles to listen to is Floating Down The Forth, during which Hutchinson contemplates suicide.
“I can see why a mum might not want to hear about her son having those thoughts. But she’s extremely supportive of the rest of it. I’m sure I’ve said ‘cunt’ in front of my mum once or twice, so the language isn’t much of an issue.”
The subject of the songs, too, has been for the most part encouraging. “I know the girl in question has heard it,” explains Scott. “She told me that some days she’d enjoy it and others she just couldn’t bear listening to it at all. I understand that, she’s good enough to not complain about it and even though we don’t keep in touch anymore, for the small amount of time that we did, she was pretty supportive.”
In less than a month, Frightened Rabbit will play one of their biggest shows to date, when they take to the stage at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party. New Year has, in the past, brought contrasting fortunes for the Selkirk band. Scott describes last year’s performance in Sydney as “bloody excellent” and one of the highlights of his short career. Its grandiosity is only magnified when it’s considered alongside some of their humbler experiences. Scott takes up the story:
“A couple of years before that, we played at Barfly. It was the year the George Square celebration got cancelled because of the gales and the rain, so it was bad enough trying to even get there. At the time, we were doing all our own driving and I had to wait until we got all the way home to have a drink. So, that was shit. I think we got paid something like fifty quid for our trouble.”
He admits that sometimes it’s good to reflect on dark nights like those. “We’ve done okay,” is his modest assessment of the subsequent couple of years. The twelve months ahead, though, promise to be some of the busiest of their lives, but Hutchison is anything but daunted. “There are always people to be played to, there’s always a new town to go to so we’re going to treat it like that and tour the arse off it!”
Scott contemplates the rigours ahead, before saying, “It could be worse.”
One wonders whether he’s thinking of that suit?