WHAT do you think about when you think about love? That is almost the last question I ask Frightened Rabbit this afternoon. We have been talking for an hour now and I want to know, I tell them, what does that word mean to each of the band.

Scott Hutchison, the band’s songwriter and frontman – “Scorpio, single and ready to mingle,” he has already told me – is the first to speak up.

“I love making things,” he says. “I love bringing things into existence that weren’t there before. That doesn’t,” he quickly adds, “include babies.”

Simon Liddell, guitarist, keyboard player and Hamilton Accies fanatic, picks up the baton and carries it further down the same road. “The idea that going into a studio to write songs and work on our music is a job, that’s amazing to me.”

And then it’s the turn of Grant “I hate cats” Hutchison, Scott’s younger brother and the drummer. “Whenever that word comes up,” he begins, “it’s always my family I think of first.”

“Well,” Simon butts in from across the table, “that makes me look a dick.”

On the first day of the second month five mostly bearded thirty-something men are gathered together in the Old Hairdresser’s Bar in Glasgow’s Renfield Street a few hours before opening time to laugh and joke and talk; talk about the past and the present, about fear and masculinity and, yes, about love. All that and why they won’t be making an electro album any time soon.

Alongside the Hutchison brothers and Simon, there are guitarist Andy Monaghan and bassist Billy Kennedy, who tells me his other claim to fame is that he created a drink called “the slimer” (no, I don’t want to know what it tastes like either) and isn’t much one for interviews. (In the conversation that follows just assume that Kennedy is sitting over in the corner quietly.)

The five of them are easy in each other’s company, which is what you might expect given that they have been working together for the last decade or so. Unless you cleave to the Fleetwood Mac or UB40 model of band harmony, of course. 

Conversationally, it’s Scott and Grant who do most of the heavy lifting, with Simon and Andy pitching in from the sidelines.

These days the members of Frightened Rabbit are indie rock veterans, mainstays of the Scottish music scene. They’re five albums in and signed to Atlantic Records and established enough to be in a position to look back as well as forward.

Their next move exemplifies that. Come March they will be back onstage for a series of special gigs in which they will play their 2008 sophomore album The Midnight Organ Fight in full for the first time because … Well, because they can. And because it’s an album Frightened Rabbit fans hold close to their hearts.

“A record shop owner in the United States once told me it’s our business card record,” Scott says. “If you’re going to like this band this is the one to start with. And if you don’t like it then you’re not going to like the band, full stop. It’s an album I feel lucky to have made because it doesn’t go away. It keeps on having a life. That’s not true of all our records. In three years we’re not going to do a 10-year anniversary of the one that came after because I’m not that keen on it.”

For those of you who don’t know it, The Midnight Organ Fight is an album that is all flayed skin and raw emotion – Hutchison senior’s diary of that time put to music. It’s a record full of male vulnerability and desperation; a break-up record, the band’s Blood on the Tracks or Vulnicura, you could argue.

“The weird thing about the record is it makes people very open to telling any of us about really personal things in their life,” the singer says. “Quite often it’s a break-up, but it could be any kind of significant event.”

Does the man who wrote those songs all those years ago seem close or far away, Scott? “I’m a completely different singer now. My vocal sounds like a teenager’s to me. Some of the moves lyrically are cringeworthy and not moves that I would make now.

“However, looking back, there’s an exuberance to it that I envy. But, no, I don’t really associate with that guy at all. It’s odd to have such a very visceral marker of who I was at that time.”

The mechanics and repetition of touring has, he adds, hammered the feeling out of the songs for him, but whenever he sings them a film runs in his head. People he doesn’t speak to any more pop up. The past lives on in the words and music. And isn’t that true of all of us?

“The honesty and forthright nature of the lyrical content, people have just continued to connect with,” Scott continues. “They feel close to the band and feel ownership of the band. And I’m happy with that.”

There’s another reason why The Midnight Organ Fight is special to all five. It’s the reason why the band are still around, they say. Touring that record, Grant believes, is what laid the foundations for the next ten years. “We wouldn’t be doing this now,” he says.

The story of Frightened Rabbit started in Selkirk, where Scott and Grant Hutchison hail from, but the band grew up in Glasgow and on the road. They know who they are now, what they are. Teenage dreams might be hard to beat but they’re not always realistic.

“I’ve settled into what we are,” Scott says. “Maybe for the first three or four years you think: ‘This is really going to take off’. And then you realise that’s not even desirable.

“We were close to major label deals when we started out and then we were snubbed at the last minute. I’m so glad that happened because our trajectory would have been all wrong.” The growth since then has been slow, organic, they say. An evolution rather than a revolution. “We’ve never said, ‘Here’s our electro album’,” Scott suggests.

“There will be bands who get superhyped from the get-go,” adds Simon, “who probably won’t have had that experience this band had of touring in a splitter van.”

Who was the designated driver? Scott, they say in unison. “Thinking back, I now feel that I should never have been driving,” the singer agrees.

Why not? “Listen to the record,” says Grant, laughing. “After an hour of driving, Scott would go, ‘You know when you’re doing something and you realise that you’ve been doing it for an hour and you’ll wake up’. We’d go, ‘Right, time to pull over’.”

Or maybe be pulled over. There was the time in the United States, Scott says, when he was trying to make up time by breaking the speed limit. Cue police sirens.

“The cop was like, ‘Where are you from then? Scotland? Aw, holy shit, my grandfather was in the military there’. And I got off with it.

“He did say, ‘You don’t play none of that Coldplay shit, do you?’”


When they’re not on the road they all live in Glasgow, including Scott, who has tried living in the US in recent years. He’s moved back and is happy to call the city home. “It’s absolutely here,” says Scott. “I’ve tried other places and I never had that feeling.

“It’s given us a lot of stuff and it’s not just visible, tangible things,” he adds. “It’s what it makes you want to do so. You come to Glasgow and you start seeing bands three nights a week getting on with it and being amazing.”

Coming here, he says, taught them that being in a band was a realistic notion after all. “People doing things not with the view of making loads of money out of it as well,” Grant adds. “People putting on shows wherever just because they love bands. Not feeling like, ‘I see something in this band. I could promote them to Hampden one day’.”

This is vital, they believe. Bands and a support network leading by example. “Young bands need to see their predecessors finding success,” says Simon. “They need to see Frightened Rabbit, Chvrches, Twilight Sad doing well, making a living out of it in order to believe they can as well. That it’s possible for a Scottish band to do it.”

Frightened Rabbit are an example of possibility then. But how does that possibility play out? Is Frightened Rabbit a democracy? “Aye, totally,” says Simon.

“If something’s bothering you you bring it up rather than have it fester away,” adds Grant.

Well, that’s very good, I say. And it brings me to something I want to talk to all of them about. Gentlemen, can we talk about masculinity? Because it seems to me that Frightened Rabbit do not live up – or should that be down – to the stereotype of the Scottish male. If you write songs entitled I Wish I was Sober, or write songs about committing suicide by jumping off the Forth Road Bridge (Floating in the Forth), then emotionally closed in is the last thing you can be accused of. Music allows you to be open, they say. “Men can have trouble communicating how they feel,” agrees Grant, “and I think to express your feelings via a Frightened Rabbit song is okay. It doesn’t emasculate. I don’t find it emasculating.

“When we were doing the Organ tour the majority of the audience were males who had gone through a break-up or some trauma. Thankfully the balance has changed,” says Scott. “It’s not just sad beardy guys any more. They are there, but they’re happier now, I think.”

Maybe it’s a generational thing, suggests Andy. “Our generation and younger generations are potentially more in touch with our feelings. Socially online they’re open to to sharing their whole lives.”

Scott, meanwhile, is still worrying away at the idea of the changing nature of the Frightened Rabbit audience. “The lads are turning up but it’s a much more female fanbase, it’s much more diverse than it used to be. I’d love to think of a bunch of Rangers fans pouring their hearts out to each other over a Frightened Rabbit album. That would be great. That’s progress …

“Or Celtic fans,” he adds in the spirit of ecumenicalism.

When he was a boy Scott’s mother used to call him a frightened rabbit. Which gave the band their name. So what frightens them all now?

“Performing in this band is one of the few places in life where I don’t live in fear,” Scott says. “Thankfully I spend a lot of my time doing it. It’s me at my most comfortable and most myself. The rest of the time I can be a bit of a challenge. Things bother me. I’m an anxious person.”

His brother isn’t so sure. “I don’t see a lot of frightened rabbit in you anymore.”

From the quiet corner Billy Kennedy breaks his silence. “Flying’s always been my biggest fear.”

Really? Playing in a band that’s always touring the world might not have been the best career choice then.

“Billy was hoping we wouldn’t have any success,” laughs Simon and then fails to answer the question himself. “I’ve got nothing. Andy, what are you scared of?”

“I’m scared that someone’s going to call me out as not being a good musician,” Andy says. “I didn’t go to the Conservatoire. I’ve never had a guitar lesson. It used to really worry me.”

“I would never have thought you would think that,” Grant tells him, “because I think you’re a great guitarist.”

They’re talking to each other and not to me now. “Do any of you guys fear the prospect of re-entering a normal life?” Simon asks his bandmates. “Maybe having to find a normal job, because that’s something that enters my mind sometimes.”

“I think about it quite a bit, but it doesn’t scare me because I don’t think we would necessarily have to go into a nine-to-five job,” answers Grant. “It’s easy to forget how much experience we have built up in this industry which would allow us to do other things within it.”

“So, I’ve got an irrational fear,” replies Simon. “I’m totally unemployable,” says Scott. “The last thing I would put on my CV would be working in Peckhams in 2009.”


And this is when I ask them about love. They talk about making music and family members and fiancees (that’s Grant).

“Do you love me?” Scott asks his brother.

“At times, no,” his brother answers, laughing.

Then Andy Monaghan gives his definition of love. “It’s being able to create something out of nothing with your friends and seeing how other people you have no connection to can find joy in that. There’s this thing moving through everybody’s life that people can respond to in. It’s great to see that.”

What is left of us is love. It’s the best tune any of us get to play.

Frightened Rabbit will perform their Midnight Organ Fight album in its entirety at the Liquid Room, Edinburgh on March 12 and the Glasgow 02 Academy on March 17