Interview and article by Aline Giordano
Frightened Rabbit have just released their second album ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’, which some reviewers have qualified as more positive compared to the cathartic and heartbreaking first album ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’, written during Scott Hutchison’s break-up with his girlfriend. As a result I planned to talk with Scott about a better outlook on life and happiness. To some extent that’s what we did but sometimes, however hard you try, it seems that one cannot escape the theme of death.
Scott, front man of Frightened Rabbit, is sitting patiently, sipping his cup of coffee while I try to get my brand new digital recorder to start recording. Scott very kindly accepts my apology in his soft Scottish voice and I give him the names of a few bands I’ve interviewed so he can be comforted that he’ll be in good company on Uzinemusic. I name Shearwater, Sophia, Elliott Brood and Vic Chesnutt – ‘obviously not recently’, I add after a pause!
Scott says that he only heard about Vic’s death the previous week and asks me if I knew when he actually died. “25 December” I reply. I could have carried on with the theme but steered the interview back on track. After all, we were here to talk about Frightened Rabbit and not Vic Chesnutt. So I tell Scott about how I first came across the music of Frightened Rabbit.
A friend of mine and I have this little game going… making each other themed compilations. The first theme was ‘sex and death’. I endeavoured to put on my compilation some of my favourite artists: Sophia, Bright Eyes, Elliott Smith and Bonnie Prince Billy to name but a few. In exchange I was introduced to a raft of artists and among them Frightened Rabbit. The song ‘The Twist’ and especially the lyrics stuck out immediately: “Twist and whisper the wrong name. I don’t care nor do my ears. Twist yourself around me. I need company. I need human heat. I need human heat… Twist and whisper the right name. I’m David please. Twist as if you’re just like me. You need company. You need human heat”.
Scott acknowledges that he’d never thought of the album Midnight Organ Fight, which features the song, in these terms (i.e. sex and death) but agrees that a lot of the songs can be spilt up into a combination of the two. “Death is certainly something that I keep returning to in my song writing. It seems unavoidable for me. I don’t know why, even on the new album.” So we talk about the new album and how more time in the studio meant that the band was able to create a more complete album.
The Winter of Mixed Drinks is a more positive album. Scott took some time off in Scotland after their previous tour. He went back into a healthy routine and wrote songs for the new album in, I quote, “the fittest mental state” he’d been for a while. I ask Scott if it is a more positive album. “Yes, absolutely!” he replies enthusiastically. “It was the most positive I’d felt in my life and the album reflects that in some of the songs… although other songs are about death but that’s unavoidable!” I’m determined to ask Scott if he’d found happiness. I know it is a cheesy question, but it had to be asked. Scott unashamedly responds that there are true moments of joy on the record. “There’s contentment on it and that comes from being more confident in ourselves and what we’re doing. It’s purposely at ease with itself”.
As the saying goes, strike while the iron is hot, I’m curious to find out how Scott defines happiness. “Well… complete happiness and complete contentment makes me feel a bit ill. I get nauseous if things get too comfortable. Happiness to me only comes in quite small doses. I can’t stay happy for long periods of time because it starts to feel uncomfortable”.
I know the feeling and I add that happiness is a trade-off, a compromise and a coping mechanism for our human existence. Scott acknowledges the trade-off theory and adds that “contentment comes with losing, perhaps, the more unexpected and exciting parts of life, and those are the parts that I still thrive off. Disaster for example is very appealing to me because I like things to…. to happen!”
We then meander into the realm of song recording for the new album. Scott explains that they had more time to concentrate on the creative and arrangement elements of studio recording. “It’s much more exciting that way. You get a sense of spontaneity on the record that was lacking somewhat on the previous one. On the previous record, we recreated the demos with decent mics, note for note almost. This time round there were more studio-based techniques that went into making the album, which was exciting for me.”
With a new album and having just embarked on a large European and US tour, I ask Scott what’s next for the Frightened Rabbit. “I hope that people become absorbed in the new album. I hope that it takes us to new places. All I really want to do is keep moving forward. We don’t need huge meteoric strides. We just want small steps and as long as things are moving forward and the band is progressing creatively, then I’m happy”. He stops talking then says loudly “HAPPY!” with a big smile on his face. I can’t help myself and ask: So what’s after happiness? “Nothing… Death!” he replies. We both laugh and I thank Scott for his time. It was a pleasure.
© Aline Giordano 2010