Interview: Frightened Rabbit at Glastonbury

Interview: Frightened Rabbit at Glastonbury

Having had somewhat of a rush to popularity in the UK somewhere between Midnight Organ Fight and Winter of Mixed Drinks in 2009, Frightened Rabbit have since released an EP and a fourth full-length record Pedestrian Verse that landed earlier this year. The latter of which has seen many of the old themes embellished in a newer, perhaps more minimal approach. Playing Glastonbury’s John Peel stage last Friday, it seemed like a good time to catch up with front-man Scott Hutchinson.

How many times is this playing Glastonbury?

This is our second, the first being three years ago now. The joy of it hasn’t gone away, and my experience of it is that it’s unlike anywhere else.

Pedestrian Verse landed earlier this year, what have you guys been up to since?

We’ve toured pretty relentlessly. Started off in the UK and then went to the US, Australia and Europe and so it continues. Traditionally, we’ve always used touring as the main method of getting the word out about our band, so we’ve been really happy to play as many shows as we have and get those songs played in front of people.

There’s a certain amount of adrenaline playing live, but something I always have to get over is the imperfections of live performance, something that is usually at odds with what would happen in the studio. But even then, I now find that something that has energy can actually be preferable to something that sounds more technically ‘right’. So in many ways we used our live experience in this record. We played some of the songs live before recording them, and that was the first time we’ve ever done that. It was a conscious decision to practice together and give the album more of a collective feel, rather than it traditionally being me writing all the songs and taking them into the studio.

It felt as if it was the right time to involve everybody else. When you’re so involved in something for such a long time it’s difficult to step away from it, so it’s certainly made it easier to have many more opinions flying around, someone else can see something that I can’t. It’s just become a lot more enjoyable, it’s nice to have company!

The album certainly sounds different.

Yeah I think that’s a big part of it. I don’t like it when bands make this big conscious move in another direction that’s never going to work out. A process of development however will always be natural, and it’s something we started as a band 8 or 9 years ago. But I don’t want to wake up tomorrow and be electro, I don’t think that’s genuine.

Do you think your music is pessimistic or optimistic?

I hope there’s a good balance of the two. I do tend to focus on the darker elements of my life, and in this record looking a little bit into the lives of others. However, I always try to temper that with a hopeful twist, doing that almost allows you to be as dark as you like in the build up. It’s like ‘yes it’s fucked, but it’s not that fucked and nothing can be that bad’. A lot of my favourite Scottish writers tend to write in that way, such as Aidan Moffat (Arab Strap), that’s very depressing music but there’s a sense of humour involved that sort of lightens it, and I think that’s essential really.

Does every artist need a tragedy?

I would never do it on purpose but I must admit that I am quite drawn to that outlook, and almost revel in it. It’s certainly not a healthy way to be, and whilst I’m lucky I can set my music to an uplifting joyous background, many of the songs are actually about me being a dick and the worst types of human behaviour.

Have you ever considered not playing music?

I certainly didn’t consider it as a career or way of life until fairly late on. I went to art school for four years and thought that would be my path, but over those four years the balance of my interests shifted massively. I found myself making art-work that didn’t feel like it was coming directly from the source, me. Whereas that’s exactly how I found music to be. So from that point on there was little question in my mind that it was what I needed to and wanted to do.

Art is something that is in the background for me right now, but it won’t necessarily go away and I can always come back to it later. I do also think that art school helped me in the sense that there are a lot of ideologies and ways of thinking that you learn there that you can apply to almost anything. I found that has helped me with my music. The main thing I learned was being self-critical, when a lot of people start telling you you’re great, you need to be aware that you’re not.

Of course, everybody loves Glastonbury, but what are your favourite festivals abroad?

I love playing in Germany. It sounds like a cliché but German organisation is fantastic, everything just seems to work really well over there. Don’t get me wrong, I love the chaos of a British festival but it’s very different there. The US is always good for us, Lollapalooza last time we played was a real eye-opener for us, just how many people were into our music.

What is Snake really about?

It’s not about my knob, as some people obviously think. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those draft excluders that you could get from Ikea in the shape of a snake, they’re multi-coloured. Me and my girlfriend at the time had one of them as our pet, because I’m allergic to animals. So when she moved away to New York and left me, I went over there to try and win her back, and surprised her with only this snake in my back-pack.

It didn’t work, but snake still lives in New York now. He got donated to a girl of about three years old at the time, I think she’s now about ten. She’s got two gay dads, and he lives there with them, which she’s very happy about I think.

Still keep in touch?

I can’t! Well, I still keep in touch with her, so I get updates from her. Maybe one day I could meet him again, it would be quite a momentous moment because I haven’t seen him for years and he was a big part of our lives.

Frightened Rabbit will also play T in the Park and Reading/Leeds this summer.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.