Music

Siren Festival 2009: Q&A With Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison

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“I don’t mind rollercoasters, but some of those things that put you in a weird state of velocity are a bit upsetting”

Frightened Rabbit started to gain a following after last year’s sleeper hit Midnight Organ Fight. With a sound that’s relatively reminiscent of the early days of Bright Eyes, the Scottish four-piece has spent this year writing and recording their follow-up, a currently untitled release due in spring 2010. Expect one or two new songs this weekend, when Frightened Rabbit plays the Siren Festival Main Stage at 4pm, right before Grand Duchy.

You’re headed to Coney Island this weekend for the Siren Festival.

We’re quite excited for it, and I’ve never actually been to Coney Island.

What have you heard about it?

I’ve heard that it was a funfare. Exciting, but yet kind of rickety rides over there. Was it deemed unsafe and torn down?

No. It’s still going.

Okay, so cool. That’s good news then.

Is the idea of the circus or the carnival still active in the U.K.?

It’s dying. But I don’t know, they still tour. I was just in my home town and I drove past the local park, and to my surprise, there was an elephant wandering around in it from the traveling circus. But it looked kind of sad. It doesn’t have a great image as far as particularly ethical. But I guess that’s everything. There’s still a romantic idea that lives inside you that’s kind of childish, that wants the circus to be a cool thing. And for everything to be as it is onstage, but it’s not.

Well, it must’ve been weird to just see an elephant wandering around.

That was cool! I was like “Whoa, an elephant!” You get that child like reaction to it and almost run your car off the road.

Do you have a favorite carnival game?

As far as rides go, I don’t mind rollercoasters, but some of those things that put you in a weird state of velocity are a bit upsetting. But anything that requires very decent skills, like throwing something at something else and you win something cuddly, is fine by me.

What have you been up to this year? There’s a new record in the works?

The recording is done and we finished it last week. We’re getting mixed over the U.S. after we do a small tour that starts at Siren.

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What would you say the sound is like? A bit different than the last one?

It is different. Last time was a rushed effort, but we seemed to pull it off okay. This time we had more time; it’s much more layered, much more detailed. I think we’re moving away from sounding like a rock band. Music that I listen didn’t reflect Frightened Rabbit’s sound. This new stuff just veers into territories that we hadn’t explored until now, in terms of using synthesizers and samples and loops and drum overdubs.

I had read that you described Midnight Organ Fight as more pop oriented, compared to earlier work. But it sounds like you’re getting away from that notion.

It’s really just the treatment of the songs that has changed. The way I write songs is still the same-I still love a chorus. There’s something nice about having that kind of standard pop structure to hang something slightly different onto. Lyrically, it doesn’t focus on the same theme.

What does it focus on lyrically?

I wrote a lot of the record in quiet solitude. A friend of mine had an empty house on the east coast of Scotland. Tiny, tiny village, very remote. And I went there to write it. A lot of it focuses on the sea and the remoteness of that. Not necessarily my situation, but the general feeling of losing yourself within something, whether that be physically or geographically. Or whether it’s chemicals or something-just losing yourself.

How long were you in that village?

It was about a month and a half. It was great. If you want to look it up, it’s called Creil. When it’s rough, it’s rough as hell. But when it’s sunny, it’s like Portugal or something. It doesn’t feel like Scotland. I was removed from everyone. I had no reception on my mobile telephone, I had no internet access, I had a TV but I tried to avoid it. It was a removal-and I needed it, to recover from the tour.

What was your first time playing New York?

The first time we played New York was in a basement in Brooklyn in January of 2007. There were about 14 people there. I was nervous that people were going to arrive at all. We were out of our comfort zone completely, so it was a wild experience. But even then, New York has always been very welcoming to us. And it’s constantly our first and last port of calls on most tours. So it feels like the closest thing to home we have in the U.S.

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