Last week we sent our intrepid Live Editor, Kathleen, to meet Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit before the band’s gig at The Phoenix is Exeter.
Read on after the jump for Scott’s thoughts on the move to a major, the new albums production, the Scottish music industry and plenty more.
APFoS: Obviously the move to Atlantic has been talked about a lot. Musically, how has your approach changed as you moved from the independent label Fat Cat onto the major label of Atlantic?
Scott Hutchison: Well, I think actually because we had more resources than ever on Atlantic, we were able to do things like take up residence for a couple of months in a house in Scotland. We wrote collectively there, and actually I think it was more creative freedom than we’ve ever had. So, it was weird: I was expecting to have less and have to fight for it, you know? But actually they’ve really embraced what we built on the independent label, and really just wanted to take what we’ve already got and kind of amplify it a little bit… and, well, spread it out into the wider world, I guess, because Fat Cat’s resources are quite a lot more meagre than Atlantic. So we’ve found it to be nothing but positives at this point.
APFoS: So, you were working with Peter Katis for your two records before this, and he ushered in albums that were real breakthroughs by The National and Interpol. What was your decision to go with Leo Abrahams for this particular record?
SH: Well, I think everything had changed. You know, the way that we’d been writing music had changed, the label had changed, and therefore we thought it was just time to take a fresh approach to the producer we were working with as well. So when I met Leo, he really had an understanding. He only had the demos, but he’d got so involved in those already that it seemed to me like we were going to be working on the right track or with the same goal from the outset. And it worked out, it was great, I’d love to work with Leo again, but the reason why we chose to move away from Peter at this point was just to feel like it was a fresh start almost.
APFoS: Is the new album the result of a more collaborative effort between your band members, would you say?
SH: Yeah, it is. Well, not lyrically. I still take care of that. But yeah we decided that – well, I decided – that I’d started to repeat myself and there were patterns in my writing that were… it had just become a bit boring, and I think in order to inject a bit more of diversity and excitement into the whole project everyone had to get involved. And I think it was beneficial. Like, songs took turns that I couldn’t have predicted, and it’s exciting when that happens and it doesn’t happen as often when you’re solitary.
APFoS: You recorded some of The Winter of Mixed Drinks and The Midnight Organ Fight in Connecticut, didn’t you? How do you think your location affects your approach to writing and recording?
SH: It’s really essential. For writing, it’s nice to change your environment, you know? So, a lot of this was written out in the country in isolation, and I think… I don’t know how it seeps in but I think it definitely affects the way you write. And then recording for us kind of seems essential that we’re in a remote location. In the town in Connecticut, Bridgeport, where Peter lives, there’s nothing to do. Like, there’s nowhere to go out. There’s nowhere to really have fun. There’s a supermarket and a couple of restaurants, and that’s it, and I think that’s good because it means your focus is entirely on the record. It’s not good to have distractions, so we’ve always recorded it in locations that are out of the way.
APFoS: Maybe this is a generalisation made by a lot of English music journalists – I guess they make sweeping statements about the Scottish music scene, as if they’re looking into a geographical genre… but I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about that. Do you think there’s a sense of community among Scottish bands?
SH: Absolutely. It’s not a very large community, the Scottish music scene, so it’s very easy to know most of the people… you get a peer group together. A lot of that is based around what pubs people drink in, as well. But there’s a sort of a support and a loyalty within that community that is really healthy and there’s collaboration going on a lot as well. We’ve done tracks with other Scottish artists, and it’s just… we’re such a small country, yet I think the output of music is very high for the number of people that live in Scotland, and I think there’s a pride and the community is pretty strong as a result.
APFoS: There seems to be a resurgence in the use of the Scottish accent, whereas it felt for years that Scottish bands felt that this was something they should cover up. What do you put this down to?
SH: Well, the associations it used to have were with old folk music and The Proclaimers and when you’re in your twenties that’s not the coolest frame of reference. However, I think it was a sleeve of bands preceding our band, like Arab Strap: Aidan Moffat using his own… and Stuart Murdoch to an extent as well, from Belle and Sebastian. Because the material was so honest, and raw, and bare, it would seem odd putting on that mid-Atlantic accent, or whatever the standard singing accent is. The bands that then cropped up when we were starting to get going, like The Twilight Sad and We Were Promised Jetpacks… the content was again quite open and honest, and heartfelt, so I think that was the reason for it, and it’s almost like the norm now.
APFoS: Maybe it’s just me as an English person, but alongside the accent comes these self-deprecating lyrics. Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai said that 51% of their last album sales were sold at HMV, which is obviously not heading to a good place right now. Where do you see the future of Scottish music? Do you think it’s going to become increasingly tough for bands on independent labels?
SH: Well, yeah. I think that all that’s going to have to happen is a sort of diversification of the record industry. It’s starting to happen at the moment, in that our label essentially has had to admit that record sales alone are not enough for them to stay afloat. They take a cut of a lot of other revenue streams from us. That’s all that’s going to have to happen; the standard model of the industry is going to have to change. I don’t think it’s going to get any harder for a band starting out or anything like that, I just think that they’re going to have to look at different avenues to get the money that’s required. Things like – I’m not sure what my thoughts are on it but – things like Kickstarter, and all those fan-funded album things are a step in that direction as well. But it’s just going to be the case that the industry might suffer but I don’t think bands will, actually. There will always be a way of getting music out there.
APFoS: If you experience more commercial success, will you feel pressured to leave Glasgow or do you think you’ll always stay there?
SH: I don’t think I’ll always stay there, but that won’t be anything to do with commercial success it will just be to do with my own wanting an adventure. I would look elsewhere, but right now I’m happy. I live in Edinburgh but the band is based in Glasgow.
APFoS: When you were younger you were very shy, leading your mum to call you her “frightened rabbit”. Is there still a part of that child in your songs?
SH: Maybe, yeah. Even something like the single we put out this year, The Woodpile, sort of focuses on that introverted social attitude that I still have. Particularly in a room full of strangers… I find it very difficult at parties and things, but I don’t find it difficult when I’m addressing a crowd. It’s really weird. It does occasionally go back to that wee four-year-old boy, I do sort of retreat back into myself but, yeah… it’s still there in a lot of the songs.