Frightened Rabbit are a band with an unmistakable musical identity, and after 10 years in the business, brothers Scott and Grant Hutchison – accompanied by Andy Monaghan, Billy Kennedy, and most recently, Gordon Skene – have cultivated an indie/folk-rock vibe with a cult-like following.
With their fourth album, Pedestrian Verse, the five-piece have proven their likeness to single-malt whisky; very Scottish, and vastly improved with age.
Attesting to this, frontman and founder Scott explains, “It’s probably the most complete and refined album that we’ve done. It’s been the longest process we’ve been through to put together a record, so we feel ready for it to finally come out.”
The rounded feel may be attributed to the creative method the group went through for the album, shifting focus solely from Hutchison to a collaborative group effort.
“Rather than just essentially reflecting personal experience, which I’ve done in the past, I tried to go away from that a little bit,” says the singer. “It was just getting a bit stale and I think it was important that I let that go in order to benefit the record and the band, and I would never go back.”
Reflecting further on the change in process, he says “I just got bored of my own way of working and the patterns in the way that I was doing things.”“[The band] can kind of give a sense of grandeur or beauty or romance to something that’s actually kind of shit – I think that’s one of my favourite things.” – Scott Hutchison
“In the past, I have been a bit frantic in putting records together, so settled is maybe the right word for it – and not in a kind of negative, dull, boring way- but there’s definitely a maturity to the stuff we’ve been doing recently.”
With obvious themes of suburbia and the man-made environment, Pedestrian Verse is similar to prior album The Winter of Mixed Drinks purely in its thematic lyrics.
Of his lyrical methods, Hutchison says “I’m always inspired by surroundings. This time round we did a lot more writing living in Edinburgh, (so) there are a lot more references to the city and people’s homes and I think that was a major influence.”
Long-time fans shouldn’t fret though; Hutchison’s dry, bleak lyrical voice is still very much present in the album, only bettered by the input of his bandmates. The band “can kind of give a sense of grandeur or beauty or romance to something that’s actually kind of shit,” Hutcison notes bluntly; “I think that’s one of my favourite things.”
The group had the opportunity to work under the guidance of legendary producer Leo Abrahams (whose previous colleagues include Brian Eno, Paul Simon, and Paolo Nutini), and quite literally sing their praises for him. “It was a really easy process, very frictionless, it was fantastic. He’s got a lot of strings in his bow and he brings a lot of that subtlety and studio trickery to the record.”
Considering the uncharacteristic calmness of some of the tracks, Hutchison says, “it was really important to have him aboard, he had a great understanding of what we were trying to achieve and he was almost trying to achieve the same thing.”
It seems Abrahams’ industry wisdom proved incredibly useful, the Frightened Rabbit frontman providing a fitting analogy for the sound of past releases. “I remember mum saying I used to colour in to the very edge of the page and I think that maybe comes out in the (earlier) albums.” For Pedestrian Verse however, “I’m almost colouring in the songs to the edge of the page.”
Hutchison describes how the producer acted as a “filter for months of material that we brought to the record” and in any case, did so seamlessly, the track listing coming across as polished and thoroughly considered, despite initial concern from Hutchison.
“This time it’s been a collective and collaborative process, usually I would just choose the track listing. Again, that’s probably for the best.”
While in the past it seems the band has been focussed on experimentation and cultivating a unique sound, this time – with the exception of two minute-and-a-half tracks simply called “Housing” – there’s a focus on the catchy and anthemic that’s easily sellable to the commercial market.
Hutchison explaining that “the goal was to serve the album as a whole and not just be super self-indulgent.”“We’ve never really done the touring festival experience, which is a really unique thing to Australia… we’re excited to see the bands on that bill.”
The “Housing” songs are enjoyable, (if disappointingly short) and a justified inclusion, though Hutchison was initially hesitant to include them on the record. “We had to kind of solidify that theme – of habitats, where people live, suburbia and the city – and those two songs did that.”
These changes seem to have served Frightened Rabbit well on the festival booking scene, with the band being added to the 2013 Groovin’ The Moo bill.
“We were so pleased that we were offered that festival, we’ve never really done the touring festival experience, which is a really unique thing to Australia,” enthuses Hutcison, adding, “we’re excited to see the bands on that bill.”
Appearing alongside acts like Flume, Alpine, and The Temper Trap, it’s no wonder they’re eager to return to Australia for the first time since 2010.
About to embark on a three-month tour of the United Kingdom and the United States, Hutchison reckons the band are “probably more at home on tour than we are at home. I really enjoy that kind of routine you get… it’s a very structured lifestyle and then when you come home it’s very floaty and vague.
“I have a feeling that after two weeks of touring you can’t get any more tired and I love it, I really enjoy it,” he continues. “We have a policy of not complaining about that so it’s great.”
Presenting an immensely likeable, endearingly self-deprecating character in live performances, it’s hard to believe that the band was christened from Hutchison’s crippling timidity as a child. “The 5 year old wee guy isn’t entirely gone – basically it comes back in certain situations. I am definitely confident in what I do within the band.”
With Pedestrian Verse marking a newfound mellowness and clarity of sound for the group, it seems that turning 10 has seen Frightened Rabbit mature to their full potential.
From a band formed by two brothers in 2004, Hutchison agrees that the band is still maturing and evolving – “I’m 31, I would hope so!”
Pedestrian Verse is out now through Warner Music Australia, read the Tone Deaf review here. Frightened Rabbit head to regional centres with Groovin’ The Moo in April/May as well as playing headline sideshows, dates and details below.
Frightened Rabbit 2013 Australian Tour
TUESDAY 30TH APRIL, THE HI FI, SYDNEY – NEW SHOW
TUESDAY 7TH MAY, CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE
WEDNESDAY 8th MAY, CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE – SOLD OUT!
Groovin The Moo 2013 Dates
Saturday 27 April 2013 – Maitland NSW – SOLD OUT!
Blomfield St, Maitland NSW 2320
Sunday 28 April 2013 – Canberra ACT
University of Canberra
Kirinari St Bruce ACT 2617
Saturday 4 May 2013 – Bendigo VIC – SOLD OUT!
Bendigo’s Prince of Wales Showground
42 – 72 Holmes Rd, Bendigo VIC 3550
Sunday 5 May 2013 – Townsville QLD
Murray Sports Complex – Townsville Cricket Grounds
Mervyn Crossman Dr & Murray Lyons Cres, Idalia QLD 4811
Saturday 11 May 2013 – Bunbury WA
(off) Parade Rd Bunbury WA 6230