“I’m not miserable all the time” – Frightened Rabbit open up about writing songs of sadness

Scottish indie-rockers Frightened Rabbit are starting to make a name for themselves around these parts. Having toured Australia twice over the last few years after signing to Atlantic in 2013 and they are finally starting to pull the crowds they see in Europe and the UK with Melbourne and Sydney shows already sold out plus second Sydney concert not far behind. Christian Stanger caught up with singer-songwriter Scott Hutchison ahead of their next tour downunder set to start in Brisbane next week.

After forming in 2003, Frightened Rabbit have carved out for themselves a little niche in the UK indie-rock scene but they are not known for having the most positive subject matter. You don’t give a Frightened Rabbit record a spin if you want to hear an upbeat love song. The Scots aren’t known for their sonnets or loving tributes, as a matter of fact vocalist Scott Hutchison tends more to muse on subjects like loss, loneliness, anxiety and depression. But, he’s quick to point out, he’s not that much of a sad sack, song-writing is just a way to deal with dark emotions, and it happens to seriously help him stay in work.

“I’m not miserable all the time,” Hutchison said, reassuringly. “There is a cathartic aspect to it. If you don’t understand something that you’re going through but a song makes it very relatable and that’s why I’m drawn into song as they have a very finite structure and that makes a messy emotion quite neat and understandable.”

“It’s placing something chaotic into something that’s quite mathematical,” he said.

The latest album, 2016’s Painting Of A Panic Attack, represented a shift for the band to a cleaner, more calculated sound. With the addition of some electronic elements, like a drum beat here and there or a keyboard into the music, Hutchison was able to flesh out the tracks and set a new trajectory for the band.

Hutchison said that the new sounds came as a necessity. Before he began the writing process he was wondering if the world really needed another Frightened Rabbit record and as he was living in Los Angeles for much the recording he had to learn how to demo via Dropbox after giving himself a crash course in several recording programs.

“I’d never delved into anything beyond Garage Band,” Hutchison explained.

“So I was picking up programs and finding this whole new raft of sounds that were hugely appealing to me that helped to me to change the way I wrote songs which had previously been me alone in a room with a guitar,” he said.

“That informed a lot of the writing and I was writing on drum pads on keyboards and then moving to the guitar. It was a big shift for us.”

The music may have progressed somewhat but the subject matter remains rooted in dark themes with songs like Death Dreams, I Wish I Was Sober, An Otherwise Disappointing Life and Blood Under The Bridge peppered throughout the album. I asked Scott if he subscribed to the school of thought that agrees that great art is often created by troubled people with demons with that the their art often helps to keep these demons at bay.

“I would be loathe to say that you need to be miserable to make art,” he said. “But I think every artist has their finger on that particular pulse or as my friend calls “putting your finger on the wound” and I think there’s a close connection between art and depression and dealing with things that you don’t understand at the time.”

Escaping the northern Winter, the five-piece are excited to return to Australia next week with shows starting at The Triffid on Thursday 9 March. Hutchison said the crowd is always a little bit looser over here which is probably a product of being starved for mid-level bands who can’t afford to tour this far abroad.

“It’s always nice to escape the Scottish Winter and get to Australia for a bit of Vitamin D,” he said.

“The level of crowd participation and the investment of our audience there is as good as anywhere we’ve played.

“When you think it’s been years since we’ve been there so it’s nice to know that there’s still an audience waiting to hear our songs played live because you never know, people move on and grow out of things but it’s nice to know people in Australia are interested in seeing Frightened Rabbit.”

The band play on 9 March at The Triffid in Brisbane. Tickets through www.thetriffid.com.au.

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