Unsere Verbindung mit Frightened Rabbit geht mittlerweile ins achte Jahr. Angefangen hat alles an einem bitterkalten Tag Ende November in Bielefeld als die Schotten im Rahmen der Support-Tour vor Death Cab For Cutie im Ringlokschuppen nicht nur im Vorprogramm zu sehen waren, sondern uns Frontmann Scott nach unserem Interview mit der Hauptband abfing und sympathisch fragte, ob wir nicht auch mit ihm sprechen wollen würden. Frightened Rabbit kannten wir damals nicht, ließen uns aber trotzdem auf den Plausch ein und verfolgten das Treiben der Band seitdem. 2010 dann trafen wir Scott im Hafen 2 – die Kameras liefen, eine Akustik-Session sollte es werden, beim ersten Take versagt die Stimme, beim zweiten ging gar nichts mehr – Session, wie die restlichen beiden Konzerte der Tour mussten abgesagt werden. Alles Geschichte, letzte Woche erschien mit ‘Painting Of A Panic Attack‘ das neue, mittlerweile fünfte Studio-Album der Band – Grund genug sich zumindest mal wieder virtuell upzudaten – unser Interview mit Frightened Rabbit!
1.) Band facts
– Name: Frightened Rabbit
– Band members: Scott Hutchison, Grant Hutchison, Billy Kennedy, Andy Monaghan, Simon Liddell
– Founding year: 2003
– Residence: Scotland and Los Angeles
– Current album: Painting Of A Panic Attack
– First of all – it’s nice to „meet“ you back, after having met you by accident at a support show for Death Cab For Cutie in Bielefeld in the winter of 2008! This seems like forever ago and a lot has happened for you too it feels – it’s been three long years now since the last record ‘Pedestrian Verse’ was released and changed a lot in what Frightened Rabbit was before and how you worked up to then – can you describe what had changed then and why you decided to take a new approach in the songs?
Well, a lot has happened since we were in Bielefeld! Where to begin? We have recorded three albums since then, and I released a “solo” album in collaboration with Andy and Simon. I think we reached a conclusion of sorts with ‘Pedestrian Verse’ in that we essentially achieved a sound and aesthetic that we had been chasing for the 10 years leading up to it. That album also took us on a very long tour, after which we were all left wondering whether we wanted to make another FR album. I got to a point where I was asking myself if there was any need for us to continue, as we had all lived and breathed the band for so long and it felt a little tired. Luckily, our label stepped in and suggested I make a solo album. This not only threw us on to another sonic path, it also served to get a certain self-indulgent urge out of my system, and the three of us were able to make an album very quickly on our own terms with no pressure at all.
– Since then – again – a lot has happened: The last record seems to have worked quite well, especially in the US, Scott moved there and released some kind of solo record (although having some Frightened Rabbit members contribute to it) and now a new record is coming up – how did the new situation of being a long-distance band change the band, the songs and the preparation of the theme?
As I mentioned before, the break that was forced by my move to the US and making the Owl John album was necessary for everyone to reset and regain a sense of excitement for working as Frightened Rabbit again. It wasn’t until August of 2014 that we entered back into the studio to write. We had nothing prepared, no ideas had been thrown around in advance and we actually tackled it in much the same way as we did on Owl John. Let’s make one piece of music each day. No lyrics, no vocal melody, just music. This was the start of us finding our feet again, as friends and musicians. We still had no idea where it was going, and this was a feeling that would continue until the very end of the recording sessions last summer. Everything was in flux all the time. Nothing was finished until the artwork was printed! We had to adjust to working via email whilst I was in the US, and it was exciting. Communication can actually be easier in this mode, rather than sitting in a room and staring at each other. But it all contributed to a slower writing and demoing process, which is why it has been 3 years since Pedestrian Verse.
– I read that there were also moments you thought that it might just be the time to call it a day and leave Frightened Rabbit behind you – why was that so and what kept you going?
I think after 10 years and 4 albums, you SHOULD be asking yourself if there’s any life left in this band. I never ever want us to stagnate and stay in one place. Not that we need to make major changes, but it should always have a forward momentum. As I said, it all felt a little tired and old to me after the Pedestrian Verse tour. But as we started to work there were new sounds emerging, unexpected directions which made us excited at the prospect of another album. The addition of Simon was really important, as his enthusiasm breathed a lot of new life into the band.
– As you told me the last time that you are a big Death Cab fan – is ‘Painting Of A Panic Attack’ your attempt to do a Postal Service album version for Frightened Rabbit?
Not at all! I don’t think that Postal Service album needs to be done again in any way, it was quite perfect. Painting Of A Panic Attack is simply the five of us rediscovering why we make music together. It’s refreshing and familiar at the same time. But there were conscious efforts to stay away from the habits that we had been building for some time, and having Aaron in the room really helped with that restraint.
– Aaron Dessner from The National produced the new record – can you explain how he got the job, how he works and how he contributed to the songs?
We had toured with The National a couple of years ago, but hadn’t really been able to get to know Aaron particularly well. It wasn’t until early 2014 when someone at our label put us in touch with each other that we started talking about him being involved. Initially I went to do some work at his house, just the two of us. We threw some ideas around, without any preconception that Aaron was going to produce the album. After a few days, it was clear he was quite invested in the material we had already written, so it made perfect sense to have him see the project through.
– Can you tell us a bit about the production process of your new record ‘Painting Of A Panic Attack’? What were the best and the worst moments during the process and what’s your most told anecdote from recording period?
There were plenty of moments that were both wonderful and terrible. The making of this album was a bit of a struggle, we had never played the songs together and were constantly trying to find a balance between our opinions and Aaron’s. After two weeks at the first studio near Woodstock, we took a break from recording and moved down to Brooklyn. During that time I went to the park to listen back to what we had done in order to make notes. In fact, I just sat there and almost cried from disappointment because it sounded like total shit. Thankfully, that was rectified. Some of the most special moments came when Aaron brought in other musicians, such as Thomas Bartlett. He’s an absolute wonder. We went to his studio for one day and let him sprinkle some magic on the songs. It was amazing to watch.
– I read that during the process of writing lyrics Scott did also tried to change his way of writing very personal influenced songs – What was the reason for that? What were those songs about and why did he decide to return to write sad personal songs again in the end?
I think this initial change was all part of trying to find a new path for the band. But after sending a few examples to the other guys, I got an email from Grant saying very politely that he thought it was not my best work. I was quite annoyed at him for a day or two before I realised he was right. I had been trying to force myself into a new area, but the results were not effective. At least I tried. That’s not to say I just fell back on exactly how I had written before, but it turns out there was actually material to be drawn from my own experience that I had been completely ignoring up till that point.
– There is a saying that no good record was ever made about just being happy – would you agree?
I would agree with that yes. I would also say that if there’s anyone out there who claims to be 100% happy, then they are a liar. Turmoil is an essential part of life, because if you don’t experience that it means you’re not trying hard enough. Making music is hard work but I’m never happier than when I’m writing and recording.
– ‘Still Want To Be Here’ is one of my favorite songs from the record – can you tell us what it is about, how it was done and if there is a story behind it?
That song is about Los Angeles. Hollywood to be precise. Ivar Avenue to be even more precise. I immediately felt out of place when I moved to LA, and that feeling did not fade over time. I struggled to find a purpose for myself there, beyond my own private work and the relationship I was in at the time. That song is essentially saying “this place is shit but it’s worth it to be with you.” In the end, the place was not worth the struggle and we moved to Hudson, NY which was a much better location. The thing about that song is that I truly did not think it was very good at all, but everyone I played it to went crazy for it. I was dragging my heels right up till the last minute. I didn’t want it on the album for a long time, but I now believe that Aaron helped us to make such a beautiful version that it should be on there.
– If you’d compare your success in the States with your success in Europe it seems you have more fans in the States which is great (especially if you keep in mind, that European bands aren’t usually that successful over there). Can you imagine/discribe why it is like that?
We have certainly toured a great deal more in North America, which has helped our profile there. Unfortunately, unless you are an enormous rock act, you can’t MAKE people listen to your music, so we’ve obviously just never had a particularly great connection with music fans in certain countries. That’s not to say that we don’t have an amazing and loyal audience throughout Europe, there are simply less of them than in the UK and the US. I actually love going through Belgium, Germany, Austria, Denmark etc and playing smaller venues. It gives life a little more variety!
– What is success for you and is it important to you?
Success has two parallel streams. There is creative success and commercial success. I’d rather have creative success (and admittedly I have more control over this aspect), though if that happens to run comfortably alongside the other stream, that’s a bonus. Success for me is making another human feel something. If we can continue to do that with our music, I’ll be happy.
– Frightened Rabbit exists for over ten years now – When you started the band, did you ever imagine to be in the place you are now? What were the best moments during the last ten years and what can we expect for the future from Frightened Rabbit?
Of course I always dreamed that we would play lovely big venues, support some of our favourite bands and make albums that made a small difference in people’s lives. But I did not EXPECT that. It has been a wonderful thing to be part of. There are almost too many special moments to mention, from playing at Red Rocks with both The National and Death Cab, to amazing shows at Scotland’s biggest festival T in the Park. We’ve met so many amazing people, made great friends and these are the things that will last beyond the lifespan of the band. I think we have more albums to make. This feels like the beginning of something rather than the end or the middle.
– What are you doing when you don’t make music?
Probably the same things anyone does. I watch (good and bad) TV shows, I read the occasional book, dip into a little poetry, I draw and paint, I go for long walks in order to focus my brain.
– What did you learn in 2016 so far?
I learned that it’s good to get back to work.
– What song would fit to your actual situation?
I’m laying on a bed, typing and listening to ‘Look Into Your Own Mind’ by Julianna Barwick. It seems to fit my mood rather well.
– What song makes you dance independent of your situation?
‘Cherry Lips’ by Archie Bronson Outfit
– What would your „Bedroomdisco“ look like?
My bedroomdisco would be DARK! Mostly candles but maybe there would be a few lasers for the big tunes, and an enormous soundsystem. After that, we’d only need whisky and good friends.
– Who did fill out the questionnaire?