Frightened Rabbit brings new sound to town

Frightened Rabbit brings new sound to town
Scott Hutchison (center) with Frightened Rabbit. The group is embarking on a month-long tour of the U.S., including a stop at the Belly Up Tavern this month. Photo courtesy of Tim Richmond

SOLANA BEACH — “Just dying to be unhappy again/ Oh where love won’t grow/ I’ll build my home/ And if happiness won’t come to me/ Hand me the nitrous gas.” 

So sings Scott Hutchison on “Nitrous Gas” one of the tracks on Frightened Rabbit’s newest album “Pedestrian Verse.”The lyrics are as darkly humorous and cutting as they’ve been over the band’s nearly 10 year existence.

But there’s the music. The music contained in the 12 tracks of their new album has fully developed those plaintive Scottish melodies into a modern pop-folk sound that, before you know it, you’re tapping your foot and feeling the thoughtfulness behind Hutchison’s Scottish-accented vocals.

Frightened Rabbit, the Scottish quintet is back in the U.S. embarking on a month-long tour that includes a stop at the Belly Up Tavern March 12.

Hutchison, the front man and band’s founder said he’s excited to be back in the U.S. and even more so having new stuff to play.

For the past four weeks they’ve been touring the U.K. and Hutchison said that at this point they’ve broken in the new songs and are really hitting their stride with the new stuff.

“Pedestrian Verse,” which was released in early February in the U.S. is the band’s fourth album and their first since joining Atlantic Records, having released their previous three albums under the independent label Fat Cat Records. The album also comes at a point where Hutchison said the band’s creative freedom is at its highest level ever.

Hutchison, who has been the band’s main source of songwriting, also took a small step back from handling all the writing duties, while the other bandmates, including his brother Grant, Billy Kennedy, Andy Monaghan and Gordon Skene added to the overall sound and tone of the record.

“It was absolutely essential,” Hutchison said. “It was really a case of ‘I started to bore myself,’ as well as wanting to involve everyone and everyone wanting to be involved,” he said. “I wasn’t excited about what was carrying on when I was working on my own anyway, so it was just absolutely necessary to (have made) a step forward and make something that felt exciting and new and slightly more diverse,” Hutchison said.

The sound on the album, he said, is the closest to what he’s heard in his head. “It’s definitely the one I feel is most complete and mature…I’m only finding a few faults with it where as opposed to previously, the records, the faults have been fairly evident…I think I’m most comfortable with this record.”

The record, which was recorded in Monnow Valley in Wales, gave the band their freedom to create and experiment, and still contains that Scottish tradition that Hutchison said is essential to everything they do.

“I think if you take our songs down to the core elements, they’re folk songs…They are modern Scottish music…and it’s a storytelling…and a certain chord structure,” he explained. “There’s a certain way of presenting a song. And there’s also, within the lyrics, a sort of self-deprecating humor, a dark humor that is very Scottish.”

With almost seven years between their first album, “Sing the Greys” and this year’s “Pedestrian Verse,” a lot has happened with the band, Hutchison said.

But personally, for Hutchison, that time spent in between albums has just been about learning how to get better, especially learning how to use a studio properly. “I just think that your first record is never going to be your best and that’s the approach that we’ve taken, is just slow improvement to the point where we are now.

“And obviously we’re a five piece (band) as opposed to a three piece that we were back then and it’s just getting better. We should be, because seven years should bring on some improvement.”

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