Frightened Rabbit: Not Scared At All, Actually
In the short course of three albums, lately last year's The Winter of Mixed Drinks, Frightened Rabbit has created a very distinct sound of Elliot Smith-like hyperrealism couched in the emotional alienation of 21st-century banality. The Scottish indie-rockers take the every day and make it sad; not since the days of the Smiths has a band been able to fully explain that melancholy and being alive are sometimes the same thing.
janeinma2003 via Flickr Frightened Rabbit in Cambridge, Mass., 2008
Frightened Rabbit write songs that help the listener realize that being this fucked up is not only normal, but preferable. Because if nothing else, the bruises lead to art and art makes you realize that happiness really is possible.
A few days before their long-awaited appearance in Houston - they were forced to cancel their last two scheduled shows, one due to a "van problem," the other because of a super-huge volcano - Rocks Off had a chance to speak with lead vocalist and songwriter Scott Hutchison.
Rocks Off: What were you doing five minutes ago?
Scott Hutchinson: I was still kind of sleeping, on the bunk on the bus. It's funny, you never really get used to the time changes and being on the road, living the bus lifestyle. We're on the West Coast right now; it's still morning. Being on the bus completely changes one's perspective about life, and about time.
RO: Winter of Mixed Drinks is clearly a record more concerned with self and less concerned with the girl - but at the same time, many of the songs treat the self as something in part defined by what's no longer missing in your life - meaning the girl. How do you reconcile the idea of being able to break away from your past while at the same time relying on the past to realize who you are?
SH: I think you're right - it's kind of human nature to define yourself by using someone else, or a group of people. I wrote this record about myself after trying to move on from a seven-year relationship, and it was hard. At the same time, I don't know if anyone knows who they are if not for other people, and the person I've become in a way forced to use is the person I have such a long past with.
It was easier on this album to kind of get away from that past, too, and come to understand who I was after the recovery period. It's a difficult question to face, and a difficult thing to realize - who am I, am I anyone?
RO: On two songs ("Modern Leper," "Not Miserable"), you use metaphors of disease, particularly the kind of disease that leaves people permanently scarred with spots. Is there something about broken relationships that makes you feel they are impossible to get rid of, like skin?
SH: Yeah, I guess relationships are like that, kind of permanent. I always wanted to express that. I like using disease metaphors because like skin, yeah, it makes you tangibly understand when something's wrong with you. Funnily enough, I have eczema, not too bad; but it's something I've had to deal with since I was born. When all that stuff was happening, it kept getting worse and it kind of takes over when I'm stressed or not quite right; so there's a real element to that.
With a lack of sleep, or drinking too much - which is what was happening at the time - it kept getting worse and worse, and I guess that was a way for me to let my audience know that this is a real thing and not just a song. So yeah, I do think relationships resemble skin diseases, and I literally have to deal with it. Not leprosy or anything, but you know.