Frightened Rabbit: Caught in the festival headlights

Since Frightened Rabbit's angst-ridden latest album made the Top 10, they've become a much bigger live draw. They talk to Emily Mackay

As Scotland's hardiest champions of doing things the old-fashioned, road-hardened touring way, it seems surprising that there's a corner of UK festival fields Frightened Rabbit haven't trodden. “No, we've never played Reading and Leeds before, confesses singer and main songwriter Scott Hutchison. ”This is our debut, if you like.“

No trembling festival virgins these, though – with fine fourth album Pedestrian Verse (which broke into the Top Ten in February) added to their anthem-heavy live arsenal and a summer of global touring behind them, Frightened Rabbit are more than ready for the big-hitting rock weekenders. Long-time followers predicted, of course, that with the band having moved from Brighton indie FatCat to Atlantic Records, that this would be the year Frightened Rabbit broke into the big time.

“People have sort of been saying something along those lines for a wee while,” laughs Hutchison. “Yeah, this'll be your year, yeah, this'll be your record... I always hoped this album would alert more people to Frightened Rabbit's existence but certainly not to the extent that it did. The last one got to No 61 or something, so for this one to do this was just ridiculous.”

The recent success of Pedestrian Verse is the reward, as Hutchison notes, for eight years of hard work; the band played their biggest-ever UK headline show at London's 2,100-capacity Kentish Town Forum in February, sold out pre-Christmas before their new singles even started getting radio play, and in November they'll top that with Brixton Academy. March saw them heading out on their 12th tour of the US, where having slogged it out live long before the Mumford/Adele/One Direction invasion they can play bigger venues even than that. Scott describes their T in the Park and Glastonbury sets this year as “nice wee moments for us. We don't get the chance to play in Scotland that often any more, and the last time we played, the record hadn't been out that long. It's nice to see that people are attaching themselves to those new songs.”

And wow, do they attach themselves; Frightened Rabbit live shows, particularly north of the border, are a fiercely cathartic experience where their intensely personal songs are at their most powerful. “That's one of the things about our band: that there's often quite downtrodden subject matter that when it's put in a live setting, becomes a joyful, universal, victorious experience which is really lovely,” agrees Hutchison. “A lot of the darker songs about the times when I was not particularly on fantastic form have become these nice little anthems.”

This album, written for the first time with the rest of the band's input, was also initially supposed to step away from autobiographical agonies, but life, as it will, got in the way. On “Pedestrian Verse”, there's darkness aplenty, but “Acts of Man”, next single “Backyard Skulls” and “State Hospital” also move into a newly socially observant vantage point somewhere between the small-hours horror of Aidan Moffat and the small-town storytelling of The Hold Steady, both previous collaborators.

“Those songs lyrically are where the album started,” explains Hutchison, “I was trying to maintain those themes and taking those stories and focusing on the elements and people within them. Then my personal life took over.”

Hutchison had felt over-exposed by the roiling romantic fall-out of …Organ Fight, written after a break-up at a time when he was less acutely aware of the band's audience. As a result, 2010's The Winter of Mixed Drinks, he feels, over-compensated and lacked an authentic emotional ring. He tried to broaden out for Pedestrian Verse. And then he broke up with his girlfriend.

“I was really desperately trying not to offend her by writing a song and then going, 'this is how it is, sorry!' It's a really twisted way of doing it, and it has upset her in the past. I tried not to on the last record, and I tried not to at the start on this one. And then it just became a total necessity...”

The pressure and guilt of the situation forged songs like the bereft, blackest-humoured “Nitrous Gas”, which hides knife-twist lines like “If happiness won't live with me, I think I can live with that” alongside bitter zingers like “Suck in the bright red major key/ Spit out the blue minor misery” in a very Frightened Rabbit way. The closing song, “Oil Slick”, frames a half-serious, half-ironic apology for the rush of dark words, Hutchison wondering “How can I talk in light and warm/ I've got a voice like a gutter in a toxic storm,” before finding resolution of sorts in a glimmer of light.

“The way I try and write is to have something that can be as overbearingly dark as it likes as long as it comes to a slight upward trajectory at the end and so that was the final song on the album,” says Hutchison; “That message [is] quite prevalent in a lot of stuff that I do, that it's totally fucked... but it's not that bad!”

A fine motto to live by, and one that's responded to fervently by more and more people. Hutchison still finds it difficult baring his failings and feelings so totally, but playing live is a different matter. “Some of these songs are quite new, and it didn't happen so long ago, so there's still a rawness,” he says. “But it helps with the process of it, when you can see people truly losing their shit to something that was a wee bit awful...”

If you're at Reading and Leeds, become part of that process. Otherwise, you can be sure Frightened Rabbit will be bringing their stoical message round your way sometime soon.

'Pedestrian Verse' is out now. The EP 'The Woodpile' is released on 2 September. Frightened Rabbit play Reading and Leeds festivals 23-25 August and Brixton Academy on 8 November

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried