Facing Fears

When it comes to songs about the most crippling of human emotions, the Scottish rock band Frightened Rabbit has never run away. Since forming about 10 years ago, they have continued to tackle topics such as loneliness, uncertainty and inner turmoil with an admirable determination and subtle courage.

On second thought, perhaps “tackle” isn’t the right word. It’s more as if they look weariness in its eyes, give it a nice, strong handshake and welcome it in for a pint of heavy ale. For every moment of skittishness that may plague them, it seems they shake it off and keep moving.

“Late March, Death March” — the new EP released in the U.S. on Sept. 10 — is another step forward for Frightened Rabbit. Earlier this year, they released the full-length album “Pedestrian Verse,” their first since transitioning to a major label, Atlantic Records, to favorable reviews. Featuring an alternative version of “Late March, Death March” from that album, as well as three new songs and a live recording, the EP is a solid follow-up.

Lead singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist Scott Hutchison spoke with Folio Weekly by phone last month in a conversation he joked was “almost like a therapy session.”

Folio Weekly: It’s fairly well-known the band’s name came from your mom, a nickname she had for you because you were very shy as a child. Tell me about that. What were you like?

Scott Hutchison:
I think I was just, you know, not socially adjusted, and I’m still, in spite of my job and everything now, I still struggle with that. For instance, this was my nightmare as a kid: When your parents’ friends are having a party and you have to go and socialize with their kids. … I would just completely submit and also clam up. Nothing would come out. … Part of me wishes I was able to be a social magician. I just don’t have it in me, and I can’t really function when I’m in a room with a bunch of people I don’t know. I just don’t know how to navigate that.

To a certain extent, you must have overcome that nature in order to pursue what you’re doing now. You’re in the spotlight and often being asked questions by strangers like me.

S.H.: … There’s the idea that it’s a performance and you’re kind of flipping a switch. The same thing occurs when, you know, when I am required to be social for my work. … But when you’re off the clock and you have to just be normally sociable, that can be difficult. So, it’s strange. It is like flipping a switch and you’re in performance mode again. That I find easy. It’s slightly tiring, but I find it easier.

F.W.: Aside from the band’s name, how does that part of your personality find its way into the music?

S.H.: I think that the music exists maybe solely because I have that nature. I think a lot. I get quite contemplative and introverted. In that sense, when you think about things so much — I also don’t express them very well in the normal way, which is through conversation. I think that when I do come to need to say something, it comes out in the lyrics.

F.W.: There’s a definite grim side to your songs, a melancholy that seems to creep in. Where does that element come from?

S.H.: I’ve always found it a nice release to focus on those aspects, you know, things that trouble me, reasons why I’m sad. … I tend to attach humor to the darkest moments. I think that’s a Scottish trait. … The melancholy just comes naturally to me, but I really enjoy putting it in a setting that’s far from that.

F.W.: You mention that it’s a Scottish trait. [In a lot of Scottish folk music,] there’s this pervasive, mournful tone. If someone isn’t dying in every other verse, then someone’s heart is being crushed.

S.H.: Absolutely.

F.W.: How much is that Scottish culture relevant to your music, and how much does it affect what you write?

S.H.: My mom and dad, when I was growing up, they used to play together in folk clubs … so there was always that type of music around in the house. … I think there’s this tradition of telling a story and also talking about hardship within Scottish folk music that you can’t help but be influenced by. When your content is real — in Scottish folk music, it’s a process of telling stories of normal people who have struggled or fought. I think that is absolutely relevant to what we do. Although I’m mostly the protagonist in our songs, I think it’s still important to have that storytelling aspect where you have a start, middle and an end, and there’s a narrative. That’s what people connect to. It’s what I’ve always connected to.

F.W.: How would you describe your live performances? What can people expect here next week?

S.H.: … We’ve been talking about the melancholy aspect to the music. There isn’t that when we play live. It can be a really joyful, uplifting experience for everyone. The majority of that feeling doesn’t even come from us. It comes from the audience, and there is this release that happens. I think that we respond to that in kind, and that the show has maybe a lot more energy than people are expecting. We sweat a lot. It’s just a very, hopefully, visceral experience for everyone.