In Conversation: Frightened Rabbit’s Grant Hutchison and designer Dave Thomas on Scott Hutchison’s posthumous book “The Work”
Before being a critically acclaimed songwriter, scared bunnyFrontman Scott Hutchison was an artist and illustrator, something that continued throughout his tenure with the band until his untimely death in 2018. Together with album creator Dave Thomas, the two have created the band’s unique aesthetic and came up with an album cover that reflects the deep feelings and feelings in Hutchison’s lyrics, which have touched countless fans around the world.
We caught up with Thomas and Frightened Rabbit drummer (and Scott’s brother) Grant Hutchison to chat the work, a limited edition hardcover book they’ve compiled that features all of Scott’s lyrics plus handwritten notes and unpublished illustrations. If you are a fan of the band, The work is an excellent companion to Scott’s songs and is a tangible document of the creativity, skill and depth he put into every lyric and artwork throughout the band’s discography.
During our conversation, we also discussed Thomas and Scott’s creative relationship, how writing this book has benefited those involved, and whether the band will ever release new music. based on the demos Scott was working on before his death.
How was this project born? Is that something you talked about with Scott?
David Thomas: Yeah, that was something Scott and I talked about mostly around the [tenth] birthday of [2007’s] The midnight organ fight. We were talking about how to put books together, and a lyric book was one of the things that was discussed at length. Scott had begun some illustrations with this in mind; fully expanded versions of the lyrics with old artwork all around, just embedded with them. I think he had done maybe three or four, and some of them found their way into this book in a slightly different form than how it was originally discussed, but they were such beautiful things and we thought this was the perfect place to piece them together. among other types of notebook sketches and things like that.
That’s how things started a few years ago, and we sort of picked up the conversation a year ago. It seemed like one of those easy decisions to be made between everyone involved; it was something we wanted to finish in any way we could and get it out into the world.
“There’s been a creative evolution in Scott’s writing, not just with the lyrics but also in the music. You could say that his writing has become more sophisticated over the years. —Grant Hutchison
Grant, where were all those artifacts, and what was that process like for you creatively?
Grant Hutchison: I have several boxes of Scott: illustrations, lyrics, sketchbooks that we got from his apartment. I kept a kind of “Scared Rabbit” box. I’ve been through it many times and find it quite a pleasant thing to do, even if it’s difficult. I guess that might be the closest and most real thing to him that isn’t music, because to me sitting down and listening to music doesn’t really make sense.
When they imagined Midnight Organ Fight anniversary, some of these handwritten sketches appeared at that time when we were making the covers disc called Small changes. At that point it was discussed and we realized that this might not be the place for these artifacts to exist. So when we decided we were going to put together a lyric book, I went through them all and picked out the bits that I thought would have been the most appropriate, the most interesting, and the funniest as well. One thing we tried to do was put some of Scott’s humor in there. I sent him as many as I could and let Dave choose the tracks he thought would work best for the lyrics.
In the foreword to the book you are writing, “These words will always bring us into Scott’s world, often with brutal honesty.” Grant, as a member of Frightened Rabbit, what was it like to look at these songs in a more linear fashion for the book?
Hutchison: As for the proofreading, which myself and Dave and obviously the editor took responsibility for, I sat and listened to the songs while reading the lyrics just to make sure everything was okay Good. Live it like that – as opposed to live, where we’d play a song from this album and a song from this album and kind of jump around –there has been a creative evolution in Scott’s writing, not just with the lyrics but also with the music. You could tell that his writing has become more sophisticated over the years. As it says in the foreword, I hope people can get in and out of Scott’s world. The path [each album was written] is a timestamp of his life basically because he wrote about himself. They are all biographical to some degree.
“With Scott, it’s like there’s an evolution in his songwriting and in the music, so we were playing similar games with the artwork. There was always a common thread because it was personally created by me and Scott together.—Dave Thomas
Besides just seeing progress as an artist, it was also like, “OK, this song might be especially hard for me to listen to because I know the origins of it” – the latest record [2016’s Painting of a Panic Attack] being probably the heaviest. It was the last he wrote, so obviously whether you look at it from the outside or the inside, it’s pretty obvious he was in the wrong place. But overall, I can approach it the same way a lot of fans do because we were never involved in the lyrics. This book has nothing to do with me, so I can look at it and maybe enjoy it the same way you do, which feels pretty unique to me being in the band myself. So alongside everything I mentioned about difficulty, it’s also incredible for me to see and celebrate how brilliant Scott was, as the letter says.
Something so distinctive about Frightened Rabbit is the aesthetic continuity between the albums – they all sound very different but also connected. Dave, how much of that aesthetic came from working with Scott?
Thomas: I guess that’s something I love about working with a band on multiple records; I was able to do similar things with bands like The Twilight Sad, where each album has its own feel, so you approach each record as much as possible as something new because the ideas come from a different place. But still with Scott, it’s like there’s an evolution in his songwriting and in the music, so we were playing similar games with the artwork. There was always a common thread because it was personally created by me and Scott together, and I guess when we specifically chose that cross around the time of the first single from [2010’s] The winter of cocktails, it began to appear more and more.
“Scott’s ideas were the seed, but without someone able to turn them into something more tangible, they would have simply remained as they were, which was sketches on a sheet of paper. So it’s pretty amazing that Dave and Scott managed to meet. —Grant Hutchison
We had conversations about its use, but never really explained why, and it would sort of take on its own meaning. I really like the fact that as a symbol this two or three folded cross actually did what we’ve been talking about for years which is each brought their own kind of thing to it. and now it’s legs developed and it’s associated with the thing that’s going on around Small changes and talk about people’s mental health. It almost became a symbol of that without us ever deciding what was going to happen.
Hutchison: I think [Dave’s] The role he played in bringing Scott’s vision and sketches to a place where people could see and love them was a vital part of the band’s overall aesthetic. Scott’s ideas were the seed, but without someone able to turn them into something more tangible, they would have simply remained as they were, ie sketches on a piece of paper. So it’s pretty amazing that Dave and Scott managed to meet. [Otherwise] wWe wouldn’t have had the same attachment to our imagery and aesthetic that we do because of the way Dave brought Scott’s art to life.
I recently found an email Scott wrote to me in January 2018, in which he talked about how he was working on the demos for the upcoming album. I wonder if the process of creating this book made you want to review any of the demos.
Hutchison: It’s a conversation the band has had since Scott’s death. We have demos and I think right away we were like, ‘OK, with the current state of music and recording and technology these demos will probably never go away, someone will find them at at some point and will want to take them out.” So, we thought, “This is Scott’s last job and if he would have trusted anyone to finish it, it would be us.” I think that project and just re-listening to all the songs…I played drums for the first time in a few years, just playing along to songs that I learned to play drums on. I think we feel like maybe [this] year at some point, we could either sit in a room or just pick up our instruments separately and play along to those demos and maybe review them and put them out. Whether it’s in album form or we just decide to release them when we think they’re ready, I think we feel responsible to finish the unfinished business for sure. Florida