Tag Archives: Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit, ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’ review

Sometimes – especially in Scotland – life has a way of reminding you that everything isn’t all smiles, sunshine and unreserved romance, and that to that effect, Frightened Rabbit serve a purpose like no other band.

As veritable champions of their own brand of ‘healer-rock’, the band, backed by Scott Hutchison’s reflective, tormented internal monologue, craft a blend of melancholic woe and optimistic splendour that washes down like a sweet, warming malt whisky.

With their fifth studio album ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’, produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner (Sharron Van Etton, Local Natives) in New York, Frightened Rabbit release their most challenging, mature and immediate album to date.

Hutchison’s adroit, cathartic lyricism remains present as homage is paid to familiar themes of religion, sobriety and breakups, although disappointingly scarce is the astute wit of previous releases.

Small matters aside, there’s a distinct, welcome shift musically, as explosive soundscapes marry up against folk-tinged acoustic laments to splendid effect.

With former touring guitarist Simon Liddell replacing Gordon Skene, his presence, whether subconsciously or not, has pointed the band towards a more layered, dream-like vista, with walls of fuzzy, distorted noise, electronic touches and sharp drum loops opening the floodgates to a more expansive sound that adds superimposes more colour to the otherwise grey.

The almost dance-like, brooding, synth-driven ‘Woke up Hurting’ and haunting, dark ‘Lump Street’ best evoke this impression, with the latter’s dystopian feel far removed from any Frightened Rabbit work to date.

The solemn, piano-based Opener ‘Death Dream’ sets an early marker of tone, as a chorus of ‘You died in your sleep last night’ finds the accompaniment of ambient instrumentals and brass flourishes, a feat repeated later on with the majestic, ukulele-tinged ‘Little Drum’.

The flawless ‘Get Out’ and its ode to the consuming addictiveness of love sparks the album fully to life, followed by the rhythmic, meaty ‘Wish I Was Sober’.

Hutchison’s anxious, anthemic vocals take centre on ‘Still Want To Be Here’ as he sings “Junk fiends dance at the bus stop next to the rodeo clowns… But I still want to be here,” sings Hutchison in “Still Want to be Here”, while album highlight ‘Break’ adds formidable layers of pounding percussion and scything, fuzzy licks of guitar.

Following this is the morbid love ballad ‘400 Bones’, before the acoustic-guitar driven, tavern-esque lament of ‘Die Like A Rich Boy’ ends the album with a soaring ode to hydrocodone dreams and switchblades.

With ‘Painting Of A Panic Attack’, Frightened Rabbit’s pursuit of a more musically expansive, synth-backed sound marks a change from ‘Pedestrian Verse’, one which allows for diverse flirtations against the introspective melancholy and unbridled optimism that Hutchison’ lyrics offer. One that ultimately pays off.

Frightened Rabbit talk new album ‘Painting Of A Panic Attack’

Scotland’s finest exporters of woolly jumper wearing indie rock, Frightened Rabbit, are back after a two year hiatus to clothe us with their signature brand of charming, heart-warming and spirited anthems that keep us the right mixture of warm and emotionally delicate.

With April’s release of their fifth studio album ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’ fast approaching, the band are currently knuckled down in a Glasgow studio in rehearsals ahead of a short three date UK tour and subsequent mammoth 29 date North American jaunt.

Band members Andy Monaghan (guitars/keyboards) and Simon Liddell (guitars) took a bit of time out of their schedule to talk about the new album and their readiness to return to the live scene, alongside how Simon’s addition to the band – graduating from guitar tech and live musician to replace Gordon Skeene – has changed their dynamic.

“I guess it’s a combination of looking forward to playing some shows and anxious to play some shows. I mean the set-up has changed, it’s a bit of a new set up, new sounds, new songs, you never know how its gonna go down, as Andy begins.

While Simon adds, “That’s especially true of playing the new songs as well, for me, cause they are the first ones I’ve had involvement in part of the recording of those ones, as much as its fun playing the other ones.”

With the response so far to the release of new singles ‘Death Dream’ and ‘Get Out’ reaching fever pitch, both Andy and Simon seem in high spirits, as Andy mentions:

“We have put out two very different tracks out so far, so people have been reassured hopefully by the first one (Death Dream) and then saw that things are a bit different with the second one (Get Out).

Whereas Simon, in respect to the hauntingly beautiful ‘Death Dream’, says: It was not meant to be like a proper full on single but more like a ‘can u remember us’ thing. I’m sure some people think it’s a pile of shite but if they hate it they are keeping quiet about it.”

Talk then turns to the new record, produced in both Brooklyn and Upper State New York last year during a swelteringly hot heat wave last summer, that saw the band, in between lying down on floors to escape the heat, remove themselves fully from their distinctly Scottish-tinged overcast, drizzle inspired sound and embrace the flips flops, shorts, and bucket loads of ice-cream.

“The record is the same in that (lead singer) Scott’s narrative shines through but it’s a different band. The creation of the record was very different to any of the other records we’ve made and we were trying a few new things as well. So it sounds a bit different but at the same time it is rooted in Scott’s songs. Without that we wouldn’t be Frightened Rabbit,” says Andy.

As to the new things mentioned, Simon offers more: “There is probably a bit of a dip in the tone, a more electronic approach.  I mean it’s not by any means a dance record, there’s just a few more textures in there that would take it a wee bit further away from the normal.”

The addition of a certain ‘electro’ vibe is partly down to Andy, who lists Glasgow’s very own Optimo as one of his favourite musical influences.

“It’s my scene, I’m all about that. Owl John (Scott’s solo album released in August 2014) brought Scott more in line with that sort of approach. I think he felt a bit more comfortable using some synths on some of the demos he was sending over.  I was like, this sounds mental! This is great! This sounds nothing like the old Frightened Rabbit, but it still is to an extent.”

With Scott moving over to Los Angeles in the aftermath of touring Pedestrian Verse, both the distance from the rest of the band – who remained in Glasgow – and the arrival of Simon, brought with it new obstacles and different challenges to face up with. But both Andy and Simon see that as having an ultimately positive effect on the current (new) direction of the band.

It’s totally a 5 way street now,” says Andy.

“There’s like different approaches to different songs. Cause Scott was over living in the States with some songs he would come up with the main body of it himself, while there was others that me and Andy and Billy and Grant would have worked on in Glasgow and sent to him, and then he would kind of add to it. And then there was stuff we had from the writing sessions in a couple of studios in Wales and a bunch of songs came out of that, when we were all kind of the same room, so it was kinda different approaches that all yielded diferent results,” continues Simon.

And with all members of the band keen to step outside of their comfort zones and change things around a bit instrumentally, it made for a rewarding experience, as Andy details.

“There were points like when we were getting to rehearsals and we were like ‘who is playing what here’, maybe Billy wasn’t playing bass he was playing guitar or Simon was on keys, I was on keys, Scott played all the guitars but then It’s like Scott plays the keys and I’m playing the guitars…and it’s like nobody is playing what they wrote in the studio or like live on stage and it was all just like people throwing in ideas and seeing what worked.”

Simon agrees. “Everyone felt comfortable enough when we were writing the album to say they had an idea and put it down, and not be like “you’re not the bassist so don’t touch my bass”.

With that, Simon refers back to the importance Scott’s solo record had on the new Frightened Rabbit material.

“I guess it was like, I mean it was my first time in the studio with the full band but when we did Owl John that was the approach to that was so relaxed, we’d (himself, Andy and Scott) gone into that with nothing so it was a case of having to go into the room and record something, try something.  There were no nerves, so that sort of carried through onto this record.”

He continues, “I think the touring schedule (for Pedestrian Verse) had hit everyone pretty hard so for Scott it was like, I think it was a really positive thing for him u know.  He took all the pressure out of the creative process and it was brilliant.”

Interesting to note is that although ‘Paintings of a Panic Attack’ took the best part of a year and a half to write and record, with the band writing and recording in excess of 30 demos before whittling it down to the 12 that made it on the album, they started thinking about it as soon as they played what was their last show, at Laneways Festival in Australia on the 8th February 2014.

 “The first writing session happened straight away after a festival we played in 2014. We got in a van after the festival and went straight there – to the studio and got started. At that point event Scott didn’t have anything – ‘Lump St’ came from that, ‘I Wish I Was Sober’ was born there and ‘400 Bones’ also, Simon reveals.

Having formed a close bond with The National after touring with them throughout America, it seemed a natural fit that Aaron Dessner would take up production duties, although his methods took some getting used to by the band, as Andy explains.

“He (Aaron) is a very talented guy. It was good. I guess when u put so much energy into something and someone else does the same there is going to be a little bit of friction. We wouldn’t know where he was going with something and he would never reveal his cards and then we would be like ahhh we see, we can see where it’s going. There were moments when we were like hallway through the sessions and we were questioning things, what was going on. But I think it worked out in a positive way.”

On a personal note, the move from guitar tech to fully fledged Frabbit was one Simon speaks volumes about, with a real sense of appreciation as to how things came to be.

“It’s amazing. I mean it was obvious for me as a member as I already playing as a live musician for a few years, the first show being us  playing woodpile on BBC Hogmanay a few years ago with Jackie Bird.  I always felt like part of the group on a personal level. It was always an inclusive thing and it has always been that way so that made it creatively so easy to slot in.”

To which Andy adds, “The internal vibe is different I guess with Simon being around. He is so enthusiastic and on it. It was an easy transition as no one was like ‘who is this guy’. With all the directions the others pull in, Simon pulls us in a different direction.”

With Simon finishing, “I love my reverb”.

And with a hard day’s work in the studio beginning to take its effect on their ability to keep awake, Simon and Andy ended by advising me not to make plans for Tuesday of next week, and to keep my eyes peeled for a show being staged by a band using a name of one of the songs off ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’.

I wonder how long the secret remains a secret.

Man of Moon reach for the sky.

Man of Moon haven’t quite got the hang of using chopsticks, as the fresh-faced two piece from Edinburgh, looking decidedly jaded after an early morning return home from opening last night for The Twilight Sad in Manchester, tuck into some Asian inspired vegan food in Glasgow’s Hug and Pint, scene of tonight’s headline show and precursor to tomorrow night’s supporting slot for the Sad at a sold out Barrowlands.

Their mannerisms tell me they are not too sure about they are eating, but it tastes bloody good. Belly’s full and a pint down Chris and Mikey, who formed the band after being paired together during their sound engineering course, are ready to take a breather and look back on quite an eventful 2015, a year that saw both of them blow out just the 20 candles on their birthday cakes.

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So how does it feel being back on the road with the Sad again? “It’s been really good, they are such sound guys. It’s the same kind of crowd we get so people that go to see them dig us I think as well”, said Chris.

“It’s good for them to have us as well because it’s small, us being only a two-piece it’s really easy for them. Its good fun and not a lot of hassle, chips in Mikey.

Has there been anything learned from The Sad that they will bring to their own shows? The answer was a resounding “Oh aye, definitely” from both.

“I guess watching their live show and just seeing the stage presence they’ve got and watching them sound check and stuff. They are such pros. Learning that kind of stuff is so useful,” says Chris, with an air of gratitude for the Sad that speaks volumes.

The band were more than buzzing about tonight’s show, as they cast their minds back to the last time they played the Hug and Pint in April earlier this year, a gig that for them ranks as their highlight for 2015.

“That was an amazing gig. One of my favourites we have played, really really proud of it. The fact that we do so many support gigs, to play a sold out show in Glasgow is such a good feeling,” said Mikey.

Chris followed that by declaring his love of the city. “The crowd was so good. We are quite used to playing loads of shows in Edinburgh and seeing so many familiar faces, but to walk out into a sold out crowd and not knowing any people that were there…that’s when we knew we were doing something right.”

“Glasgow crowds are always the best crowds, it beats Edinburgh.”

Controversial, coming from a band that hail from the capital? Not to Mikey…

“I think just overall it’s a better scene and people are more into and from that we get a better response”.

Not taking anything away from tonight’s headline slot, it was obvious the bright neon lights of the Barras were more than visible on their respective horizons.

“Tonight’s a warm up for tomorrow. That’s the reason we booked tonight in the first place”, said Mikey.

Although I’m trying not to think about it until we walk out”. I think if it was further down South somewhere not so familiar  it wouldn’t be as nerve-racking, but Glasgow, it really is one the best places around”, thought Chris.

With Mikey adding, “The Barrowlands. The biggest gig of our career. Our families and friends are all going to be there as well. It’s such a good opportunity, with the amount of people that are going to be there who haven’t seen us before”.

Are The Sad in the same boat?  Not according to Mikey. “They are playing it cool I think”.

For The Moon, having their sound play out beneath the famous blue and white tiled ceiling is as big a deal as any band could ask for. “If you look at just a list of everybody who has played there. Playing on the same stage as all these legends. It’s just crazy, it’s cool.”

Perhaps the only down point for the band was not picking up the Best newcomer Act earlier this year at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, although they felt Bella and the Bear were more than worthy winners. How they found out was a story in itself, as Chris shared.

“It would have been nice to get it. It was great to be voted though. I remember bus’ing it through from Edinburgh and the traffic was murder and I got into Glasgow late, so I had to sprint up Sauchiehall Street to try and make it to The Garage in time. When I got to the door someone just told me, ‘Aye you’ve no won’. And true enough, we went in and it turned out it had already been announced.”

What about their debut single, The Road, being heralded by one member of the music press as the best British debut since New Order released ‘Ceremony’ way back in 1981, many moons before Man of Moon came into the world.

“It was great. It’s mental. It was quite a statement. I genuinely don’t know what to take from that but it’s cool to see that someone likes it, said Chris. ”

And how did the song come about? Surprisingly easily.

“The Road was written really quickly. The basis of it anyway. We got it down in about 2 minutes. I mind doing it in Chris’s attic,” said Mikey.

With Chris adding, “I had just started using a Wah pedal that Mikey let me borrow and just switched that on and Mikey started playing along. It’s just mental the response we have had from it.”

As for 2016, the band see themselves doing at least a few festivals as they take their sound out to fans across the country.

“Really keen to do Green Man next year. It’s such a good festival and I think it would really suit us”, said Chris, with Mike adding, “I’d love to play Secret Garden Party again but like a different slot. We opened up for the festival pretty much last time and pretty much nobody was there.”

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Fans will be happy to note that the band expect to release a four track EP early next year, which they will be touring at a later date, with Mikey confirming it, “It’s completely recorded, it’s just getting mixed and mastered. I don’t think there’s a real rush to get it out but when it does I think that will give people something to listen to”.

With Andy Monaghan from Frightened Rabbit on production duties, the band felt that he got the best out of them. It was amazing, he would fire ideas at us and we would be like ‘We didn’t think of that’.  He was just really encouraging. That’s what you need,” said Chris.

And even though they have been playing together for the past three years, the band still don’t see themselves as the finished article quite yet.

“I think we are still essentially finding what we are sounding like. We still buying more pedals and expanding our sound. Even now, some of our tracks sound really different from each other, they could almost be put into two different sets,” answers Chris.

As for influences from fellow Scottish acts out with the likes of The Sad and Frightened Rabbit, the band were keen to add The Phantom Band, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Errors and Kathryn Joseph to that list, with Mikey keen to thank them for their support.

“Playing with these bands makes us feel so lucky. Its crazy as well cause a lot of these bands have been playing for years and we are just really starting. For that we are pretty grateful”.

As the band put in their pretty low key rider request with a joint “Tennents” shout, their final assertion, in response to a heady future on making more waves in the music world, was a firm “We are ready to go”.

With some bands making relatively small steps up the music ladder, Man of Moon have been leaving footprints the likes of which others could only wish for. One giant step after another it seems indeed, for a band that, with a night at the Barras soon to be under their belt, have the sky as their limit.