Scott 'Owl John' Hutchison speaks out on the future + defeating online bullying
Andrew Trendell

15:16 31st July 2015

"You know, just the same old shit!" laughs Scott 'Owl John' Hutchison from the studio in New York, thinking about the typically macabre mood of Frightened Rabbit's upcoming next record. "It's never quite settled, my life. I don't know why."

Whatever you do, we advise, don't call the next album 'Same Old Shit'.

"It's not!" he insists. "It's not the same old shit, just a different colour."

Well, that's good to hear. While there's an unmistakably Scottish intrinsic melancholy that drenches all that Frightened Rabbit do, it has been a pleasure to behold the journey of F'Rabbit, always adding more colour to the corners as the scope of their sound grows with the ambition of the ideas within. 

We catch up with the frontman at an essential crossroad in the band's career. Pedestrian Verse, the band's fourth album, was their first released on a major label. While the band had always dabbled in anthemics, this was the first time they'd flirted with the mainstream - culminating in becoming the band they'd always threatened to be; one that could headline Brixton Academy

Photo: Gigwise/Justine Trickett

So, where do we go from here? 

"The new stuff sounds sparser, it's less guitar driven," replies Hutchison. "I mean, for this record it's strange to say but it's the first time I learned how to use music software - I've always relied on Andy for that. We were writing remotely a lot and investigating the many properties of the software with demoes and it just has a lot more interesting sounds on it. It's less of a band-y sounding album, and definitely more pieced-together.

"Potentially darker as well, but we'll wait and see. The way that it's coming together, I don't know how it's going to sound until the last day."

The reason that Frightened Rabbit fans are so invested, is that their records are always very much a snapshot of where Hutchison is personally at the time - especially with Pedestrian Verse and his solo work as Owl John. The mood of this record hasn't dropped the darkness heard on 'Poke' and 'Modern Leper', despite Hutchison moving to sunnier climbs. 

"Moodwise it's been a very difficult record for me," he admits. "There's a lot more darkness on it, which is strange because I've been living in Los Angeles and it's constantly bright. I've gone through various states of turmoil there and I think that's going to be evident. There was a little while when I was writing songs and editing out emotion, everyone was wondering if I was alright because I wasn't expressing anything particularly meaningful.

"These were demoes that I was doing at the tail-end of last year - then about three weeks before we were due to start recording, I went away to a cabin and was writing completely fresh on my own. That ended up being like a quarter of the record. I just poured a lot of stuff out, so part of it is going to be a snapshot of how I felt at that time."

But when dabbling in such brutally honest admissions of one's life (Hutchison has been known to sing of depression, alcoholism, domestic violence, loneliness and crippling self-doubt), is there ever a conflict in knowing that Frightened Rabbit will be returning to a much wider audience than ever before?

"Oh, I don't know about that," he modestly shrugs. "There's always that fear that you could have just lost everyone's interest in the interim period. Things move so fast and I'm a natural pessimist so I never think a lot of people will be particularly interest. I'll be happy enough if we can do the same as last time.

"For example, playing Brixton always seemed beyond anything I thought we'd be able to do. If it's diminished, I'll understand - people move on!"

And when can we hope to expect to hear new material?

"I imagine there will be at least be a song out by the end of this year and maybe be out on the road with a few little shows to whet the whistle, but the full album won't be until next year," says Scott. "It is a long time - it's going to be three years between records, that's the longest we've waited."

But in the meantime, with world domination out of mind, Scott has smaller fish to fry. This week he responded to the mindless berating of an internet troll in a typically classy style - by turning their hatred into an awesome t-shirt.

The band found themselves interrupted in the studio after receiving scores of bizarre criticism from an internet troll who slammed them as 'meat eaters fatties', 'furry brick built men', 'ugly fat ass man', being 'built like a cruise ship' and encouraging them to 'get caught in a housefire'. Fortunately, frontman Scott Hutchison has quite a thick skin and a sense of humour, turning the scorn into a t-shirt emblazoned with 'FURRY BRICK BUILT MEN: UGLY, HAIRY AND BUILT LIKE A CRUISE SHIP SINCE 2004'.

Have they ever received that level of scorn before?

"No, that was the thing that shocked me - we don't really get that," says Scott, before laughing "the worst thing we usually get is 'I really like your first two records but not the last two, do you want to stop sounding like U2?' It's non-personal, not an attack on how we look - and then this thing came in.

"It was last Wednesday, just checking the Twitter as you do, then we got this and I thought it was quite fucking hilarious. It was borderline brilliant in terms of the creativity: saying we were built like cruise ships, 'brick-built' was another one, 'furry' which I'm quite happy with - I've been growing fur on my face for like 13 years. It was weird."


Then, Hutchison was contacted by friends at Edinburgh-based company Something Something, and within ten minutes they had knocked up the t-shirt. Soon they were in production, and hundreds have been sold worldwide - to fans, and those who simply agree with the cause. 

"It's amusing for us, because I generally don't give a shit if anyone doesn't enjoy the way that I look, but there is the other side where we wanted to give the money to this bullying charity called 'Ditch The Label' because if there's someone slightly less secure in their chubbiness then they could be more slightly more effected by that - the thing that trolls throw at more sensitive people can be really damaging. We need to say 'fuck yeah and kick back'."

Kicking back is just what fellow Scot and friend of F'Rabbits Lauren Mayberry did, when the Chvrches singer shone a spotlight on the heinous misogyny and generally deplorable nature of the comments she receives - many of them threatening rape

"That's exactly it," nods Scott. "It's little people trying to exert some power, like Lauren I thought it was time to take the obvious power that we have and use it with the mass of people who are going to get behind us. That's the heartening thing that's been so wonderful, we've turned into a positive and I'm sure the troll will look back at it in ten years' time and think 'what a fucking idiot I was, but that's amusing'."

So has the F'Rabbit troll reacted to their campaign?

"I don't know if they're aware now," he smirks. "I've muted the troll, and because I blurred out their name I don't know if they got the traction that they were so desperately searching for."

If we can't have 'Same Old Shit', then perhaps 'Muting The Troll' would be a better name for album No.5?

"It is, ha! I'm writing that down." 

- The t-shirt is available to buy here

- For more information on the Ditch The Label charity, visit here

Photo: Press