The indie world is in mourning this weekend following the news of the death of Scott Hutchison, the 36 year old lead singer of Scottish indie band Frightened Rabbit. Hutchison’s body was discovered on the evening of May 10th, after he had gone missing from a hotel in the early hours of the day before, a matter of moments after he had posted two messages on Twitter that had alerted his friends and family that he might be feeling suicidal.
As evidenced by the heartfelt tributes from Hutchison’s family, his friends and colleagues and his legions of fans over the past few days, Frightened Rabbit was a vessel through which he channelled his mental health issues, as well as talking openly about them in interviews, having lived with them for much of his adult life.
While his bandmates, including his brother Grant, deserve credit for sculpting the band’s distinctive aesthetic over five studio albums, Scott Hutchison was the chief architect of Frightened Rabbit’s sound and themes. They didn’t sound fey or quaint, as their name might suggest – rather, Hutchison’s intimate, small-screen stories were projected onto a much bigger canvas of ambitious, dramatically-arranged indie rock. In this way, vulnerability became virtue, and private issues normally surrounded by social taboo became something that could be shared, discussed, admitted without shame.
But, much more than slotting into a fine tradition of slightly miserable Scottish indie, Scott Hutchison’s lyrics also had a disarming honesty, both in terms of how he delivered them and how they could uncannily reflect the listener’s feelings. Indeed, many have remarked in tributes on social media that Hutchison’s ability to essay emotions helped them to tackle their own issues, or simply to lend them comfort, letting listeners know they were not alone in feeling that way. While their output was undoubtedly weighty and delivered with gravitas appropriate to the subject matter, it never fell into the obvious traps of being burdensome or workmanlike, with Hutchison’s dark and often self-deprecating humour scoring through it to provide proceedings with a certain levity. It may have dealt with depression, but Frightened Rabbit’s music was never depressing.
As well as Frightened Rabbit’s five acclaimed studio albums – Sing The Greys (2006), The Midnight Organ Fight (2008), The Winter Of Mixed Drinks (2010), Pedestrian Verse (2013) and Painting Of A Panic Attack (2016) – Hutchison also regularly performed solo under the moniker Owl John, releasing a solitary self-titled album in 2014. Just this year, he released a ‘supergroup’-style album titled Dance Music with brother Grant and two other brothers, Justin and James Lockey from Editors and Minor Victories respectively, under the name of Mastersystem.
There’s not a particularly obvious entry point into this catalogue, other than simply diving in at the beginning and listening to it chronologically. Frightened Rabbit’s music demanded a lot of emotional attention and investment from the listener, and they didn’t deal in radio hits or obvious singles.
However, if you’re a newcomer to Frightened Rabbit and Scott Hutchison’s work, here’s a brief Spotify playlist of essential tracks from his discography that’ll allow you to scratch the surface.
If you’ve been affected by the news of recent days or are suffering from mental well-being issues, contact the Samaritans’ National Suicide Prevention Alliance.
Tags: Frightened Rabbit, Grant Hutchison, Owl John, Painting Of A Panic Attack, Pedestrian Verse, playlist, RIP, Scott Hutchison, Sing The Greys, The Midnight Organ Fight, The Winter Of Mixed Drinks
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