Q&A: Frightened Rabbit
Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchison on craving success, fighting his control freak instincts and that Mumford & Sons tirade . . .
Here's a scary thought: Frightened Rabbit are about to become proper, arena-headlining rock heros. Their latest album was a top 10 hit in the UK; stadium moochers The National have invited them to tour the United States and some indiscreet comments about Mumford & Sons have seen the Scottish group generate global headlines. It's a long way from their days as scrawny also-rans of the Glasgow scene. Ahead of a high-profile date at Longitude, singer Scott Hutchison talks about burgeoning stardom, his one-sided Mumfords feud and why ambition is nothing to be ashamed of.
Hi Scott. Your new album, Pedestrian Verse, was a smash in Britain and you've made the BBC Radio One playlist. Look who's just arrived as a real, grown-up rock star...
Aye, it seems to have stepped up. I've definitely noticed a change in terms of the size of venues we are playing. And we're on the radio, very much against anyone's predictions. [BBC DJ] Zane Lowe picked up on the band before Christmas. We hadn't been banking on any of that. It's all been a very big surprise.
On the subject of unexpected publicity, do you regret recently describing Mumford & Sons (inset) as "shovelling shit"? It does seem to have garnered a lot of attention...
Look, I completely understand why that band is so popular. However, we've been getting all these comparisons with them. Especially with our new LP, that seems less and less valid, more and more lazy. I'll be honest, I got a bit frustrated. I don't really hate them. I think they absolutely have a place. They make people very happy. I'm not going to criticise them any further.
Well, you've already made your feelings quite clear!
You just have to go and see us play to understand we are a rock band.
They are not a rock band. I just don't think it is valid for us to be spoken of in the same breath. I was annoyed.
Regardless of what you did or didn't say about Mumford & Sons, having a throwaway remark about another act create international headlines must be a strange experience...
Do you know what, I made that comment just as we were starting to get airplay. Until that point, I was able to say whatever the fuck I wanted and nobody would pay any attention whatsoever. All of a sudden, it was on the front page of the NME website and on Spin.com in America. It was all over the place. I was going 'ah, Christ, I need to keep my mouth shut'. I've definitely learned a lesson."
Pedestrian Verse is your major label debut. Why yoke yourselves to the corporate machine when so many bands are going in the opposite direction?
Our ambitions did not align with those of our former label [Fat Cat]. They are resolutely independent and very DIY. I have huge admiration for them. However, what we wanted outstretched their resources.
We were looking for somewhere that felt natural. Atlantic is a big label but has an indie outlook. The fact we still feel that way about them [having recorded an LP] says it all I think.
You've built your career record by record, maybe even gig by gig. Somehow you've avoided the blight of overnight hype that seems to afflict so many UK musicians...
If you look at bands like Biffy Clyro, Death Cab For Cutie, The National – even REM, although I'm not comparing them to Frightened Rabbit – they've all done it organically. It's far better than having all this pressure on your first or second record.
We have matured in a natural way. It leads to an organic career. I want to be doing this for the rest of my life – not just for one or two records. Taking the slow route can be frustrating at times. Ultimately, it is worth it.
For an indie band, you're pretty forthright about wanting to appeal to a big audience.
I've always been ambitious. My attitude is that you should try to reach as wide a listenership as possible. We have consistently written music in the same vein. We release reasonably accessible songs with a comparatively complex lyrical content. It seems to be resonating a bit more.
With Atlantic supporting you, Pedestrian Verse was always likely to be your biggest record. Did that play on your minds in the studio?
I was aware of the risks. We were very conscious it would be in the spotlight to a far greater degree than anything else we had done.
However, we were squirrelled away in the countryside and the pressure faded away. We wrote what we wanted, without interference.
Frightened Rabbit are often described as perennial underdogs. Now that you've started to have real success, will your sense of yourself change?
I still feel an underdog, it's a very Scottish thing. The ambition I have means I probably won't ever feel satisfied. As far as I'm concerned, we have a long way to go and that, to that extent, we are still underdogs.
On this album, you share the songwriting with the rest of the line-up for the first time. Was it hard to give up absolute control?
I mentioned to my brother (drummer Grant) that I was more open to collaboration. He was going 'aye, I'm sure we'll see that happen'. I genuinely meant it. I had started repeating myself. Patterns were coming up again and again in the songs and I wasn't happy with that.
This was a necessary step. If it was just me writing the songs, it would have made for a very boring record.
Frightened Rabbit play Longitude at Marlay Park, Dublin, next Friday