Scott Hutchison is feeling much better now, thank you. The Glasgow-based singer-guitarist and songwriter is responsible for what was surely one of the most emotion-wracked breakup albums of the past decade, Frightened Rabbit's sophomore disc The Midnight Organ Fight. Although it flew under the radar of the mainstream, that record received much critical adoration and ended up on a number of best-of-2008 lists, including Pitchfork's.
The lyrics of Frightened Rabbit's latest release, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, make it abundantly clear, however, that Hutchison has no intention of dwelling on the events that inspired The Midnight Organ Fight. “I'm not miserable,” he sings on the aptly titled “Not Miserable”, “So the hymns that I sung/Prayers for the fucked, from a bitter, forked tongue/Sing of history now.”
Hutchison has described the new album as “semi-fictional”, noting that its protagonist isn't him, exactly. But when the Straight rings him at a tour stop in St. Louis, the singer acknowledges that the songs are a pretty accurate depiction of where he was at when he was writing them.
“I was absolutely feeling like a lot of the things that happened in the past, and that I had written about in the past, were to be left behind,” he says. “I wanted to get past all the nonsense that you gather, and all the stuff that you don't really need—that kind of feeling of just starting again. Sort of a rebirth, if you like.”
That theme is summed up neatly in “Things”, which opens The Winter of Mixed Drinks and finds Hutchison announcing: “So I shed my clothes, I shed my flesh/Down to the bone and burned the rest/I didn't need these things.”
The lyrics speak eloquently of stripping things away, but Frightened Rabbit took quite the opposite tack when it came to recording. Produced by Peter Katis (the National, Jónsi), the 11 tracks are brimming with string arrangements, choral vocals, and multitracked guitars, lending an epic quality to what might otherwise be described as straightforward folk-rock songs.
“Last time, we didn't have the opportunity to make the album that we really wanted to make,” Hutchison offers. “It was a short recording process. We didn't have the budget to get strings and stuff involved, and I always wanted to do that. And this time around we just didn't want to make that mistake again. So, in many ways, we overdid it. But it was necessary for the forward propulsion of the band.”
So can fans expect an even more expansive sound next time out—a collaboration with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, perhaps? Don't count on it.
“No,” Hutchison says. “It's been done. That's kind of the reason for doing it so big and huge this time. We just wanted to make that record, and now we can move on, and we don't have to make it again, ever. We can change the way we do things. I'm not interested in that sound anymore, really.”
Frightened Rabbit plays the Biltmore Cabaret on Saturday (May 15).