Interview – Frightened Rabbit


Stumbling around Oxford with a friend at Christmas-time is a fun thing to do, especially when you have three glasses of high quality wine in you. It was in this cheerful and moderately gobby state that I was introduced to an Oxford journalist who, it seemed, had only one mission in mind that evening. At least he did, after he realised that I was not well-enough acquainted with the musical legacy of his favourite band: indie quintet Frightened Rabbit. Despite his initial overly evangelical overtures, I paid attention and followed the encounter up with a little YouTube research. I was delighted, then, to come across an opportunity to interview one or many of them in person prior to the Birmingham date of their UK tour.

And lo, a couple of months after Oxford, I found myself deposited in a freezing and unexplored wing of the HMV Institute, sitting across from a dark-haired, dark-hatted and dark-humoured Gordon Skene. I discovered Gordon to be one of Frightened Rabbit’s multi-instrumentalists and was left to enjoy 20 minutes of enlightenment wrapped in a broad Scottish accent…

How’s tour-life been treating you?

We have been doing some in-store acoustic stuff for the past week, but this is only the we second day of the tour proper. We haven’t done full scale touring like this in Britain for ages, so last night went as well as could have been expected really. We had a week of rehearsals before we came, but there’s nothing you can really do to prepare you for the real live thing, other than just do it! ‘Cause no matter how rehearsed you’ll be in a room, it’s always a bit different to when you get on a stage and suddenly there’s all these people in the room distracting you, and it’s darker and (pause) you’ve had a beer…


Yeah, one’s okay; two would be a bit tricky?

Yeah two is, y’know, gettin’ there, but when you first start out in a band you think “Right, I’ve got to get drunk before we play, because just that’s necessary!”, but then you get to this stage and you realise that: no, you really shouldn’t. One beer to calm the nerves is enough.

Well, I can’t promise that you won’t look less Rock ‘n’ Roll for saying that! Can you tell us about the new album, Pedestrian Verse?

Yes. We recorded it down at a studio in Wales in March of last year, so it’s nearly a year since we started making it. It was in a residential studio called Monnow Valley which is famous from the Britpop days. It was kind of surreal to be in there, but a really good experience. we went with our producer Leo (Abrahams – who has worked with Imogen Heap, Ed Hardcourt and Pulp to name a few) and just made a home there for a month. Before that we had been working on a pool of about twenty songs for about a year. We wanted to choose songs that we felt were standing the test of time. It was a nice, long process!

We also decided that for this one, sound-wise we wanted to make it a bit more stripped back like the first album (Sing The Greys), so that every little thing has to be essential. That way you actually end up with a lot more energy and drive. It’s a nice mix of simplicity and more polished production, so that hopefully your end up with (pause) not a ‘happy medium’, ’cause no-one likes the sound of that, but kind of a new, strange hyper-beast.


“Hyper-beast”! We like the sound of that! I once heard your frontman, Scott Hutchison, described as ‘one of the best poets of his generation’: care to comment?

I would agree. I was thinking about it the other day. Certainly, lyrics aren’t necessarily the first thing I listen for when I listen to a band, but they are eventually what make you decide whether you like the music or not. When I first heard (Scott’s) lyrics I was pretty blown away, to be honest. He’s definitely on form; his metaphors are striking. That was when I wasn’t even in the band, but I would have put him up there with one of Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) who people have compared to Bob Dylan. It seems like some people just have a great way of making you imagine that you are in the situation they are singing about. It’s a story-telling thing, I guess. Interestingly, when we’re recording we’re just concentrating on the music, and we don’t always get to have a proper listen to the lyrics until the very end, and then get a pleasant chance to say “Oh! So, that’s what that song was about!”

Do you get much chance to write on the road?

We’re not the sort of band that’s all like (laughs – adopts American accent) acoustic guitars on the bus! Jamming out! We’re too Scottish and self-conscious for that. There’s so many distractions – we need to be in a comfortable, isolated environment to be writing.

How does touring in the US compare with touring in the UK?

Well, there’s the distance thing. (In America) you have no idea how far you’ve really travelled, except for the changes in pressure and temperature. There’s a certain exotic quality to when American bands come over here, so it’s nice to be on the receiving end of that for a change! You can play up to the Scottish accent thing. People are always like: “Hey man, you wanna whiskey?” Although whiskey isn’t my drink of choice.

What is your drink of choice?

I find Cognac to be smoother.


Frightened Rabbit has been a slow-building band project that has a career spanning almost ten years, which seems like a bit of a rarity in the music industry’s current climate: do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?

Anyone who wants to genuinely be a musician, they just have to keep at it. What I mean is that you can see the people who are only in it for a ‘quick fix’ because they give up after a while. The people who really love doing it don’t want to be doing anything else, really. Its definitely helped us that (FR) started out small and we’ve been able to organically grow like that, because the faster you rise, the faster you fall, it seems.

Can you tell us more about the concept for the video of the newly released single The Woodpile?

We worked with the Hand Held Cine Club, who’ve been with us since the very beginning of this album. They came up to the Highlands with their cameras and they’ve made a whole bunch of videos for us. We filmed this one in a grocery shop in Queens, New York. We’d been playing the night before so we’d got not much sleep, but I think that kind of helped because everybody looks pale and kind of shocked. The idea is that some guy’s collapsed but no-body’s bothered to check what his actual status is. It all escalates out of control and there’s a twist at the end. It took 35 shots (the whole video is filmed in one continuous shot!) to get it right.

35 shots??

Yeah, I think it was the second to last one they used. I think they were waiting for the right dusky light and used the whole day as a practice! It was worth it for the result. We had a lot of our friends from other bands in New York in it as extras – we just called them and asked them to come down! It’s a nice thing to have to look back on, y’know? All these people you know just poking their heads up in the background and actually doing a pretty good job of looking like extras.


Finally, what can people expect from your live shows on this tour?

I feel like our fans, particularly the ‘right from the start’ types, part of the reason they are that is because of the live shows. You hear the album first, sure, then you come and see the live show and then there’s something – I think it’s the honesty actually, especially coming from Scott – that’s what I first enjoyed. Everybody just feels that there’s no barrier between the band and the audience. You just feel like you’re ll having a big piss-up, y’know? It’s cathartic. It’s a shoulder to cry on – both ways. It would also be futile to try and recreate the exact sound on the record, plus it’s nice to hear different versions of things to keep interest and create new energy. It’s generally just pretty loud and sweaty, but we have a pretty backdrop this time with crosses and fancy lights! Hopefully all those things will combine to make a lovely, lovely time.

We hope so too, Gordan!

Interview by Jenny Bulcraig

About Author

1 thought on “Interview – Frightened Rabbit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *