There have been moments when Frightened Rabbit drummer Grant Hutchinson was scared for his brother. The words that vocalist and guitarist Scott Hutchinson wrote for the band’s second album, The Midnight Organ Fight, shocked him.
“It was terrifying to listen to some of those lyrics,” Grant Hutchinson recalls in his light Scottish accent. “At the same time, he takes on a persona in his songwriting. But he did go through some terrible heartache.”
Hutchinson’s concern for his brother has ebbed in subsequent albums. They opened up a dialogue during the creation of the Scottish band’s latest album, Painting of a Panic Attack. Grant says Scott is in a much better place now, but listeners can still expect grim lyrics. “Death Dream,” the record’s opening track, begins: “I stepped in, found the suicide asleep on the floor / an open mouth screams and makes no sound.”
If the album’s title is an indication of the themes the quintet tackles, Frightened Rabbit has long served as a vehicle for Scott Hutchinson to overcome his feelings of depression and anxiety. When the songs are completed, they sound anthemic and inspiring. They could be played during sporting events if they weren’t dealing with such sensitive topics.
“[Scott] is a different person when he’s on stage,” Hutchinson says of his brother. “I think being forced into that situation has helped him a lot with his confidence. He’s a much calmer person than when [the band] started. If he sees or hears about bad reviews, those can still get to him.”
Music writers tend to aggrandize the internal woes every band endures, but Hutchinson explains that the reports Frightened Rabbit nearly broke up after touring in support of their 2013 album, Pedestrian Verse, the group’s debut with Atlantic Records, weren’t exaggerated. Friction and frustration had started to bubble under the surface, and Hutchinson says touring had taken its toll.
“This last [album] did extremely well,” he says, “That translates into [the band] being out on the road the whole time playing it. We just got run absolutely ragged. We were exhausted. We all lost each other and ourselves a little bit. It stopped being fun. That led us all to reassess how we felt about the band and music as a career.”
The problems the band had got resolved because, as Hutchinson puts it, members “faced up to them.” Everyone took a step back to figure things out. Member Gordon Skene had left due to “differing opinions” with the rest of the band. Scott, as a direct reaction to the grueling tour schedule, took the opportunity to record a solo project under the moniker of Owl John.
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With the band back on track and touring, Hutchinson enjoys the opportunity to explore the United States in a different way: on his bicycle. He goes to great effort and expense to send it across the pond so he can use it for exercise and to escape the claustrophobia of traveling in a tour bus. In 2014, Grant jumped on a bike a bit closer to home and pedaled 1,100 miles from Edinburgh to London, then on to Ireland for a
charity event called Great Big Cycle, which raises money for the Cystinosis Foundation UK.
While Scott uses his lyrics and guitar to search for peace of mind, Grant finds satisfaction under a helmet pedaling on two wheels. After spending time talking about his brother’s unhappiness, it seems only fair to ask Grant if he’s happy.
“Absolutely,” he declares emphatically. “I’ve got a lovely girlfriend, a lovely flat in Glasgow, and the album turned out really well, better than anyone expected.”
Frightened Rabbit is scheduled to play Crescent Ballroom on Friday, May 20.