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Frightened Rabbit: Getting in tune

SINGAPORE — In many ways, Scottish band Frightened Rabbit might be considered an anachronism. The band was formed in the new millennium, but its approach, agenda and attitude towards music making is stridently “old-fashioned”.

Frightened Rabbit: Getting in tune

Frightened Rabbit: ‘It’s very Scottish to have the dark lyrics that people like. It’s something in the water in Scotland.’

SINGAPORE — In many ways, Scottish band Frightened Rabbit might be considered an anachronism. The band was formed in the new millennium, but its approach, agenda and attitude towards music making is stridently “old-fashioned”.

But the music apparently is hipster enough for the band to appear on the bill for St Jerome’s Laneway Festival in Singapore next year. It’s no coincidence that, when listening to the music of Frightened Rabbit, one recalls artistes like Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave — singer-songwriters known for their expressive music and literate wordsmithing.

“Well, it’s great company to be in,” drummer Grant Hutchinson said. “I’d love to be of the same status as a couple of those people. I guess it makes sense, I like and listen to those artists so definitely their influences are creeping in somewhere”.

That is exactly the sense an astute music lover will get about Frightened Rabbit. The band is not about something trendy, it’s more like something that is “classic”, and will be around for 20 or 30 years.

“Mainly we listen to older artists like The Band,” said Hutchinson. “And bands like Wilco which has the ethos of not having a meteoric rise, just working and playing the music that you love and hoping that people will appreciate that — for your music and not for the clothes you’re wearing.”

A refreshing emphasis on songwriting and serious themes has distinguished Frightened Rabbit’s oeuvre ever since the band started out as a vehicle for primary songwriter Scott Hutchinson, Grant’s brother. Four albums later, the band evolved to make changes deemed necessary for its continued growth and development, signing on to a major label (Atlantic Records) and expanding the songwriting to a group level.

“FatCat, the label we were on previously, was a very small operation — one office with four or five people working — and we moved from that to an office where teams of four or five people are working on each aspect of the campaign. So it’s really different. And we’ve seen the benefits of that.”

Another benefit is the fact that the songs on their new album, Pedestrian Verse, were jointly written by the band. Previously Scott was the sole songwriter. “Scott writes all the lyrics — that takes him a long time and he really pores over that. What we try to do is to match up the music with the lyrics,” said Hutchinson.

That all changed with Pedestrian Verse. “There was a conscious decision to write together this time,” he explained. “From the very beginning we were all together in a house writing songs. It meant that the whole process took a little longer than the last few records before but in the end once we got there we finally figured out how it worked and this album benefited from that.”

For Hutchinson, change is a good thing. “(It’s) more enjoyable, with more open discussion, and all of us come up with our own parts which were incorporated into songs,” he said. “It’s good that the new record rejuvenated everyone — not that anyone had lost interest!” Kevin Mathews

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