Interview: Frightened Rabbit

I first fell in love with Frightened Rabbit in Year 10. That’s more or less the point in which I discovered that there was more to music than Green Day and 50 Cent. Frightened Rabbit were one of the first indie bands to really catch my attention, because they didn’t just go for the well-worn jangle bullshit. They wrote soulful stuff, and after a quick listen to ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ or ‘The Loneliness & the Scream’, I was infatutated. So, I was stoked when I got to send over a couple questions to Grant Hutchinson, the drummer for Frightened Rabbit, and ask him about the band.
R: Last year, you claimed that Australian bookers didn’t like you, and then all of a sudden you played Groovin’ the Moo (great show by the way! I was second row for it!) And are coming back next year for Laneway. Did the outburst attract a lot more attention?
G: The outburst certainly worked! It wasn’t planned that way we were just a little frustrated that we’d played Australia so many times and from our fans on Twitter and FB there seemed to be a demand for us to play gigs there but nobody wanted to take the risk and book us. Thankfully someone at Groovin’ The Moo was kind enough to have us along and we all had a bloody great time!
R: You guys have quite the relationship with Laneway festival, having played in 2010, and in the debut Detroit version of the festival. What attracts you so much to playing with Laneway? Do you enjoy the boutique feel?
G: Laneway have consistently come up with seriously strong lineups over the years. What I like is they have stuck to what they like and not sold out and given in to booking more commercial bands simply to shift tickets. That’s not something you see a lot of with festivals. Especially not a festival that has grown from nothing into what Laneway now is. I love the smaller boutique festivals. I prefer to see bands in more intimate surroundings and usually these festivals have better food selection and nicer beers on offer which is always good!!
R: Coming from Scotland, was it an interesting process gaining traction as a band with your unique brand of music? And what advice would you give to bands that are trying to break from a relatively obscure place with a niche sound, such as yourselves?
G: Although our sound is unique I also think it’s quite universally inclusive. We’re not doing anything massively experimental and Scott always uses lyrical themes which I think are easily relatable to most people’s experiences. When we play shows there’s a togetherness that you don’t see everywhere and that helps when you’re trying to get people’s attention. One thing I would say to any band is don’t compromise who you are at all. Stick to what you believe even if the other option seems more attractive at the time. Also to get where we are today wasn’t always easy and if you aren’t willing to put in the hours of work that come with it then just stop now because as well as a little luck you need to put in a lot of hard graft too.
R: On the topic of niche sounds, I was curious about what the writing process was for the lyrics. What’s the usual inspirations, both in terms of style and the lyrics themselves?
G: The lyrics are all still written by Scott. Although the last record was more collaborative musically we left the lyrics alone as I think it’s important there is still that strain of familiarity running through all the songs. Also I’m shit a writing creatively so the songs would really suffer if I tried! With the previous albums Scott has focused very much on himself but with Pedestrian Verse the focus definitely shifted more outward and concentrated a lot more on the themes of other people’s lives.
R: And with recording, I’ve noticed that your songs tend to be very, very full with lot’s of music being involved in the process of even just one song. How does one keep track, or when coming up with the various parts for a song, or even figure out what’s going to work with what?
G: This record was far more a band effort and having all those different sources of creativity makes for a very interesting recording process. You can never really tell if something is going to work for sure or not until you try it. It’s not like we’re just guessing and hoping for the best but we spent a lot of time making sure each part on this record was necessary to the song rather than just adding more layers and parts for the fun of it. We made that mistake with the album before and I think it was really bogged down in sound.
R: Speaking of new material, because ‘Pedestrian Verse’ was released earlier this year, and you guys are pretty prolific, is there any chance of new music on the horizon?
G: Of course! We plan on writing the new record in 2014 and hope to release it 2015. Due to the writing process changing on the last record and adjusting to a new label this album took a little longer than we would have liked and we want to avoid that this time so we’ll be looking to release some new material at the end of the year and a full new LP not long after that.
R: After being on a bunch of labels, you signed to Atlantic in 2010, Being signed to a major label, and being associated with the indie music scene, do people or fans ever give you grief over that decision?
G: When we initially announced the move we had a few doubters voicing their opinions online but nothing too serious. I think most of our fans had faith in us to do what was true to the band and not to be moulded in to something we are not comfortable with. On top of that Atlantic were signing a band on their 4th record knowing full well that’s how we felt so it was never part of their agenda to change anything about the band either. The longer the album writing process dragged on the more worried we all got about the major label stories you hear about so often but the reason it took so long was that everyone just wanted to get it right. We didn’t want to give anyone the option of writing that being on a major had really fucked up the band and our career!!
R: Finally, as a band, how do you shy away from becoming stale with your music?
G: Time off is as important as being on tour when you’re as busy as we have been this year. We’ve spent so much time together and so much time concentrating on the band that when we’re not on the orad it’s important to do other things and concentrate on having a more normal lifestyle than touring gives you. It means when we hit the road again with the new record even the old songs will feel new to us as we won’t have played them for a little while. It’s always interesting to work with new people too as this can give you a new viewpoint on something that you thought you’d hit a brick wall with. This could be different musicians, engineers or producers and I will certainly try and do a bit more of that at the start of next year.
Frightened Rabbit are playing Laneway Festival, in February of next year, along with HAIM, Lorde, Savages and Kurt Vile. I’m going, and you should put down whatever you’re doing right now and buy tickets. Frightened Rabbit are also playing sideshows, 5th of February at The Palace in Melbourne, and 6th of February at the Metro in Sydney.
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