Interview: Grant Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit
Preparing themselves for the blistering heat of the Australian summer for Laneway Festival and a couple of side shows across January/February, we took a few moments out of Frightened Rabbit drummer Grant Hutchison’s day to answer a few of our pressing questions.
After almost 10 years as Frightened Rabbit, did you ever foresee being where you are today?
I never imagined when we started that we playing places like Barrowlands in Glasgow or Brixton Academy in London or getting to travel to places like Australia. I never underestimate how lucky I am and I appreciate that these are things that most people will never get to do and that makes it all very special. Those ten years have been at times really frustrating and difficult but I’d much rather see results from hard work than a sudden rise to fame from a bit of luck and loads of money!
What would you say has been the highlight(s) of your musical career to date?
My highlight has to be playing The Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. We’ve done it 3 times now and every time is as special as the last. It’s a very important venue in Scotland and I saw so many great shows there growing up that to get the chance to play it means a lot. I’ve heard so many bands from outside of Scotland say it’s the best venue in the world too so I know I’m not just being biased!
As a relatively well-known act, would you class yourself as successful? What is your measure of success?
It is constantly changing. When we first started my measure of success was selling out King Tuts in Glasgow and then being signed to FatCat and more recently getting the top ten album. Hopefully I never get to the stage where I can say “We’ve arrived” because I would never want to settle with what we have achieved. I would describe our band as successful but you can always be more successful! Our goals and aspirations change with every record and as long as we take another step forward musically on album 5 then I’ll be happy.
After years of touring together, how do you stay sane when on tour?
We don’t always manage to stay sane to be honest! I think the most important thing to keep a healthy mind on tour is to make sure you make some time for yourself. It’s a very claustrophobic experience and you can start to feel a little institutionalised if you don’t take a step back and breathe. The smallest things about someone’s personality can really start to grate on you if you let them and getting away from it even for a couple of hours can really help.
If you weren’t a musician, where do you think you would be today?
Well I have no qualifications to do anything else so I’d probably be working in a cheese shop or trying to make my own cider. It’s difficult to think about that because everything I have managed to do because of Frightened Rabbit has made me who I am now and I can’t really say where I would be without it.
You released your forth LP Pedestrian Verse earlier this year… how has it been received?
We’re all really happy with how the album’s been received. Moving to a major label was a big change for us and we were very aware of people’s perception of bands that make that move. Everyone involved was extremely careful to ensure we made the right record and we felt strongly about keeping our integrity and making no compromises musically purely because we were on a new label. I can always say from now on that I released a top ten record and that feels pretty good.
Why did you choose to produce with Leo Abrahams on Pedestrian Verse?
Leo understood what we were trying to achieve right from the beginning. The way he spoke about the demos we sent him was really encouraging and exciting. He worked with Brian Eno for a while too which was a massive incentive for us to meet him and talk about the record and once we’d done that we were totally sold. We recorded a couple of tracks with him in London and it went really well so that’s when we decided it had to be him for the full length.
What was the production process like?
Due to time and financial constraints on the previous records we didn’t have the chance to use the producer to his full capacity so it was nice to be able to do that this time. Leo ended up being almost like a 6th member with the amount he contributed and he has a very calming influence in the studio. We recorded most of the tracks live as a band as we were wary of adding too many layers because I think we all felt that was a mistake we made with The Winter Of Mixed Drinks. Leo would do work himself in the morning before we came in to the studio which meant we weren’t sitting around watching him make changes on a computer screen.
Do you feel after four albums and numerous EPs that you have a working formula for song writing?
That’s actually something we changed on this record. Scott did feel he had a formula for songwriting and in an effort to avoid repeating himself he opened up writing duties to the rest of the band. I think the worst thing that can happen to a band is that they stagnate and become stuck in this cyclical process of writing the same album over and over again. Changing the writing process on album 4 is a little odd but I think we benefited from it a lot. We all feel far more connection to this record and I think it’s our best sounding album yet. It did mean we took a little longer than we wanted to get the album out but I hope it was worth the wait!
Where do the stories and themes within your music come from? Are they fiction/historical/personal experience?
Again this is something that changed on Pedestrian Verse. The majority of material Scott has written previously was about himself and very personal but on PV his lyrics take a more outward look at life. I think it’s fairly obvious that there’s still a personal element to all the songs but it’s more about Scott commentating on other people’s lives rather than his own. Everybody gets bored of that friend they have who constantly moans about himself and how shit his life is so it would be a mistake for Scott to put that on record time and again for everyone to hear!
What can Australian audiences expect when you’re out here early next year for Laneway Festival?
We will be playing our instruments on a stage in the baking heat probably with a lot of exposed red skin and a hell of a lot of sweat!
Are there any artists you’re particularly excited about checking out on the Laneway lineup?
So so many. King Krule, Haim, Chvrches, Daughter, Phospherescent, Warpaint. The lineup is incredible and hopefully I can catch some local bands I don’t know too.
Frightened Rabbit – Jan/Feb 2014
Laneway Festival, Saturday 25th January 2014, The Meadow, Gardens By The Bay
Laneway Festival, Monday 27th January 2014, Silo Park
Laneway Festival, Friday 31st January 2014, Brisbane RNA, Fortitude Valley
Wednesday 5th February, Palace Theatre (Oztix 1300 762 545)
Laneway Festival, Saturday 1st February, Footscray Community Arts Centre (FCAC) and the River’s Edge
Thursday 6th February, Metro Theatre (Ticketek 132 849)
Laneway Festival, Sunday 2nd February, Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), Rozelle
Laneway Festival, Friday 7th February, Harts Mill, Port Adelaide
Laneway Festival, Saturday 8th February, Esplanade Park and West End