Frightened Rabbit hops the Atlantic with another emotional album
March 28, 2013 8:00 AM
By Scott Mervis Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Frightened Rabbit is a little indie-rock band from Scotland with a sensitive heart and occasionally epic sound. The kind of indie band -- not too far removed from Mumford & Sons or Of Monsters and Men -- that's been breaking big in the wake of Arcade Fire's success.
This band, touring on "Pedestrian Verse," its fourth album and first on a major label, doesn't see that on the brink.
"Nah, everything for us has been about smaller steps," says frontman Scott Hutchison. "And I think moving to a major does appear to be a bigger step, but it didn't feel like it. It was a very natural progression for us. And I think we want to move in a slow, organic way. Blowing up, I don't see that happening for us. Slowly, we'll kind of widen our scope and will reach a lot of the ears who might not previously have heard of Frightened Rabbit."
Where: Mr. Smalls, Millvale.
When: 8 p.m. Friday.
Tickets: Sold out; i.ticketweb.com; 1-866-468-3401.
Frightened Rabbit formed in 2003, taking its name from a nickname that the singer's mother applied to her shy son. His shyness did not extend to getting his songs on paper and performing them in front of people. His countrymen provided all the inspiration he needed.
"When I first started writing songs it was because of bands like the Delgados and Mogwai and Teenage Fanclub and Belle and Sebastian," he says. "And now I'm influenced by our contemporaries and peers like The Phantom Band, The Twilight Sad, Withered Hand. There's such a rich history of Scottish bands, and so much to like and be influenced by, so it's been so integral to everything I've done."
Frightened Rabbit debuted in 2006 with "Sing the Greys" and released it in the States a year later, accompanied by a tour. Pitchfork's 7.5 review praised the band for displaying Glasgow's love of "rough-edged, unpolished indie rock." The 2008 follow-up, "The Midnight Organ Fight," drew wider acclaim for being a near-classic breakup album fueled by his emotional writing and honest, beautiful delivery. (The tour brought the band to Carnegie Mellon University.) Two years later, the buzz continued to build with "The Winter of Mixed Drinks," another acclaimed and deeply personal effort that he said was "about an escape and maybe even a slight breakdown."
The band made its U.S. television debut on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and toured here with Death Cab for Cutie, including a show at Stage AE.
For the band's fourth record, Mr. Hutchison found a new approach to making an album.
"We started from the outset writing with the band," he says. "That was a new thing for us. That's a very important step to make. I think I maybe became bored with the way it was working before. I could see patterns in the way I was writing, and I don't think that's healthy. It was a necessary shot in the arm. They got involved and it was the right time, the right thing to do."
Likewise, he started out writing from less of a personal point of view.
"Really, the intention was to write the entire record about other people's records lives," he says. But then he experienced another breakup, resulting in more anguished romance songs such as "If You Were Me" and "The Oil Slick."
"Some things happen in my own life that I need to work out through the songs," he says. "I wasn't going to ignore that it was happening and continue writing in the same way for the sake of it. However, I did keep forward a mode of language that I started with songs like 'State Hospital,' 'Acts of Man,' 'Backyard Skulls,' so it wasn't a total about face turn. I needed to figure it out, I guess."
Being an indie jumping to a major label, Atlantic, was all positive, he says.
"If anything it was much more freeing. We had more time, we had more resources. There was very little major-label meddling. As far as I'm concerned we never had so much freedom or time to make a record."
A common complaint for indies going major is the label's demand for singles.
"That dirty word never came up once," he says. "We just wrote in the way that we've always written, and they got singles anyway. I've always been writing pop music anyway. It's not the standard out-and-out kind of boy-band pop music. But it's a verse/chorus, it's clear simple melodies And that's been the modus operandi of the band from the outset."