The patronising and corkscrewed angle from which we analyse feelings of heartache and anguish often leave us confused, tainted and at a loss. Manifesting the intensity of these emotions and surviving can often be bewildering, and it’s themes like this that Scottish indie five-piece Frightened Rabbit have come to epitomise.
Fronted by Scott Hutchison, who began the project solo back in 2003 as a way to cope with his chronic shyness, the band flourished to become the beloved collective they stand as today. Their notoriously melancholic style serves as a creative outlet that is so beautiful you forget it’s intentionally sad in the first place. Bassist Billy Kennedy explains: “There’s a strong connection to our lives within the narratives of the music, but most especially for Scott. It’s all very personal to him, especially his break up album, and then the primarily happier one after that.” Although the majority of the songwriting stems from Scott’s experiences, they’re not all solely his stories. “We vibe off each other’s emotions,” Billy says, “it’s a big part of the writing process. We send each other snippets and then collectively come together in the studio in Glasgow to jam them out. It’s lovely to sit down with somebody and listen to what inspires them in contrast, it almost helps you understand them that little bit more. We also take a lot from landscapes, like the countryside of America, or even just looking out of the window here in Scotland. As a musician, it’s helpful to view the poetic angle to everything.”
The line-up of the band can be tricky to keep up with; the new wave of ideas, especially from past producer Peter Katis, has allowed them to experiment with a more electronic vibe that would’ve received a swift upturned nose in years prior. “The sound has developed a lot, and the writing we do now is totally different as a five-piece, there’s a whole load of new propositions floating all over the place.”
We aimed to be a little more subtle, and perhaps pick up a keyboard instead of always being magnetised towards the safety of a guitar.
Their latest release, Painting Of A Panic Attack, granted them their most acclaimed response to date. Opening track Death Dream depicts a foggy and perplexed state of mind, slightly haunting in sound yet intriguing by word, allowing the listener a peek into Hutchison’s hazy mind-set. Songs such as Break and I Wish I Was Sober unleash severe self-frustration and sombre tones, while Get Out sees the band experiment with a shoegaze riff that explodes into a frenzied chorus, an interesting touch to an album particularly focused on deprecation.
The production was aided by The National’s Aaron Dessner, a friend and idol of the band. “Working with Aaron was absolutely fantastic,” Billy enthuses, “it was quite nerve-wracking at the start, because he’s an incredible person but also someone we idolise as a musician. He really helped us to look at things with an alternate perspective, aiding us to experiment and be a bit outside of the lines.”
Thirteen years down the line for Frightened Rabbit, it’s clear that the group has become so much more than a sole member’s outlet for personal emotions. Billy describes himself as bringing the terrible humour to the group, Andy for finding the dimmer spots, Grant for the aggression, Simon supplying knowledge and accredits Scott for his naïve anxiety, and he cites all of these alternate traits as crucial to perfecting the blend of the band, and allowing it to be an expression for each member. It wasn’t always so easy for the collective however: “Breaking out into the industry was very strange, it was something we never expected. It was an incredibly difficult process, being shafted by a ridiculous amount of labels and we didn’t know what to expect at all. It was quite nice in a way, although travelling miles and miles for a wee show in front of a few people criticising your every move was daunting.”
About to embark on their upcoming UK album tour, which stops in at Newcastle’s Riverside on Monday 12th December, Frightened Rabbit hope their new LP will induce the odd crowd surf and circle pit. “We’re so excited to get back on tour and a couple of our new songs we haven’t even attempted to perform live yet! We want to include a few old ones too and try and change up the set list every night, as we do love to keep an audience on their toes.”