HT Interview: Grant Hutchison – Frightened Rabbit

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Upon first listen to Frightened Rabbit’s new album, Pedestrian Verse, it wouldn’t appear that much has changed with the boys from Scotland. From Midnight Organ Fight to Winter of Mixed Drinks to the this, the overall sound has gotten bigger, but at face value it sounds the same. A big difference did occur this time around, however, as this is the first album that came together as a true full band collaboration. Previously, it was really the Scott Hutchison show with the front man writing all the material and penning all the lyrics based on personal experience. The broader group, including Scott’s brother Grant, essentially served as sidemen.

[All Photos by Chad Anderson]

On Pedestrian Verse, that all changed. With a bigger budget and more time to write and record courtesy of this being the first full length since signing with Atlantic, the band opened up the idea flow and started collaborating. We caught up with drummer Grant Hutchison last week to chat about the new record and based on the conversation, it’s clear that the change was a welcome one.

Hidden Track: I wanted to start our talk with the new record obviously  I read about how you had so much more time in the studio for this one. I’m curious, what kind of impact did that have? We’re you able to do some more experimentation this around?

Grant Hutchison: We had more time even before the studio to write, which was great as well. We were able to go to Atlantic with songs that we thought were right for the album. We haven’t really been able to do that previously. Because of that, we came up with a really strong record. We ended up with a lot more songs than we’ve had in the past. Previously, we would generally record the songs that we had, and they’d go on the record. This time we had a large pile of songs done, maybe twenty songs, so we had to actually cut songs from the record instead of trying to scramble to add more. [laughs]

We had four weeks in the studio as well, which was also great. We still didn’t have everything fully formed when we went in. There were a few songs that were pretty close, but that really came to life in the studio. With Leo Abrahams, our producer, both Backyard Skulls and the Woodpile both sort of took some slight turns when we actually went to record them. We would have had to do those songs as they were if we hadn’t had that time, so that was really good.

HT: Another thing I wanted to talk about is comparing Peter Katis with Leo Abrahams. You worked with Peter for quite a long time, so I was curious both what led you to working with Leo and also how would you compare the processes with each?

GH: Again, we had a bit more time to actually do some trials runs. We certainly weren’t forced into anything. We kind of wanted to just try something new, since the writing process was also different. So, we sort of wanted to start fresh and work with someone else. Leo was mentioned from the very beginning, and he was really enthusiastic. He liked the demos that we sent him, and he had great ideas about where we could take them. And as soon as we met, we knew that was exactly what we wanted.

HT: What have you been working on with your drumming or personally with your own musical development? Any specific directions you’ve been going?

GH: I don’t really get to work on much of anything while I’m on the road, but I’m hoping to maybe get something started with some friends back in Glasgow when I get home. I’ve spoken to someone about that recently. I’ve got some songs I’ve been working on. I think it’d be nice to do something else, not because I don’t like this. I absolutely love it, but it’d be nice to have something else too.

This record for me was different also. The writing process was different. We were all involved from the beginning. So, I had a lot more input with this one, helping shape songs and taking them in different directions. It’s great to be a part of that, to have a real impact on the songs. In the past, I’ve mostly just played drums along with fully formed songs. This time, I was playing along with very basic minimal tracks that Scott would lay down, and many times, it wouldn’t even have a melody yet. So that was new for me. It was great. It really hasn’t been that exciting for me in past, because I work on my drums and then that’s about it. Then it’s Scott playing guitar and keyboards and everything else. I really enjoyed it this way.

HT: I read an article from the UK that mentioned how you guys are so much more popular here in the US relative to the UK and some of the other areas you play. Has that dynamic kind of balanced out? I know you have a bunch of global dates coming up.

GH: Yeah, it’s basically leveling out. We have had a lot of radio play on notional radio in the UK. So that’s reaching a lot of people we hadn’t reached previously. We just played a much bigger show in the UK at a venue that’s about the same size as Terminal 5. It’s always been great to have such a following here [in the US], because we get to come here a lot. But at the same time, we do get a bit put out that back home people are not paying as much attention as they are here [laughs]. But yeah, it’s starting to level out.

It’s been a long time since we’ve been to a place like Australia where it’s difficult to put the money together and go unless you’ve got a big profile, but unless you put the money in the profile is not going to grow. It’s a chicken and an egg thing. It’s great though. because we think this is our best work on this album and people are hearing it.

HT: This is a bit specific with respect to the process, but I wondered how you guys went about sequencing the order of the songs on the album?

GH: It’s difficult [laughs]. First of all, we had more songs than what went on the album, so first we had to decide which ones weren’t going on the album. We actually talked about doing a 15 or 16 track album, but we decided not to do that so figuring out which songs was first.

After that, it was basically sitting there and listening over and over and mixing it around. It’s really quite a delicate and difficult thing to get right. You don’t want to have five heavy rock pop hits at the start of the album and then have a big gap that’s soft where the pacing is off. The label also knows what they are doing. They’ve published hundreds, thousands of records and their input is always important. it’s not as big of thing now, but we still listen to it most on vinyl to make sure it works as a record.

HT: I wanted to wrap up with a question about your charity work. Are you still involved with Invisible Children or is there anything else you’re currently supporting?

GH: We’ve been concentrating on the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which is something for personal reasons for Scott and myself affects our family. We’ve been really trying to do as much for that as we can. Invisible Children has kind of been second place to that since we’ve been more involved with Cystic Fibrosis, but we’re still in touch and we speak with them. We will definitely work with them again. It’s just a matter of when it’s the right time again in the future.

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