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Frightened Rabbit

Modern Medicine

Jul 07, 2016 Photography by Dan Massie Frightened Rabbit
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Painting of a Panic Attack, the fifth full-length from Glasgow’s Frightened Rabbit, comes on strong with the stately grandeur and confidence of a group in absolute control of its faculties. From the first notes of the opener “Death Dream,” these songs are soaked in self-assurance. They’re built on the foundation of 2013’s Pedestrian Verse and principal songwriter Scott Hutchison’s solo album as Owl John, but manage to push beyond the boundaries of that previous work. They dive deep, thoroughly investigating themes of illness, aging, alcohol, and love. And, with the help of producer Aaron Dessner (of The National), the band has swung into more ambitious sonic territory, incorporating a host of samples, synths, and strings as well as using Logic and Ableton to aid in new writing and production techniques.

“On album number five you start questioning what the point of the band is, where do we go from here,” says Hutchison the day after their first show debuting the new material. “We achieved a certain amount with our last album and I thought, ‘Well, you just do whatever the fuck you want.’”

That attitude is reflected in every facet of the conception and execution of the record. For the first time the band worked apart, with Hutchison in Los Angeles then Hudson, New York and drummer Grant Hutchison, bassist Billy Kennedy, and multi-instrumentalists Andy Monaghan and Simon Liddell in Glasgow. Starting in August of 2014, they experimented with ideas and traded demos back and forth over the Internet. “That kind of shifted the sonic palette in a positive way,” says Hutchison. “I think it’s funny how when you’re all in a room together there’s a sort of hesitancy, perhaps expressing how you feel about something, but over email it’s a lot easier to be blunt. So, in a strange way, that actually improved communication.”

This new ethos even extended to director Greg Davenport’s video for the explosive lead single, “Get Out,” which follows two young women as they exchange a series of intimate, sometimes violent, embraces while exploring an otherwise empty city. The band is notably absent. “I still haven’t met Greg. He just submitted his idea. I liked the way that he presented it and what he was talking about capturing,” says Hutchison. “It was a lovely way to express the theme and present it in a different light.”

When the band finally got together in the studio, Dessner’s expert guidance helped organize, shape, and clarify their separate contributions into one cohesive vision. “It was a constantly evolving process. Some of the songs started off in one mode and then ended completely turned around,” says Hutchison. “In his mind nothing is finished until it is mastered and the artwork is done. There’s always a percentage, even if it’s one percent better. He will try and squeeze that one percent out of a song if it’s not quite there.”

Now, on the eve of a massive U.S. and U.K. tour, Hutchison is excited about sharing the album with fans. “The spectrum of sound is much, much broader than it used to be and I think that’s to the benefit of the whole. It’s really, really nice to play a set as we did last night and feel like the new songs fit really well around the old material.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar’s May/June 2016 Issue, which is out now. This is its debut online.]


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