Tag Archives: Interview

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Five Questions with Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison

May 26th, 2017

For more than a decade, Frightened RabbitScott Hutchison (vocals and guitar), brother Grant Hutchison (drums), Billy Kennedy (guitar and bass), Andy Monaghan (guitar and keys) and Simon Liddell (guitar)—have been making global noise on the strength of soaring, melancholic arena rock with resonant lyrics that stay with you. Since then, the Scottish rockers (above, doing “I Wish That I Was Sober” live for KTBG FM) have become as equally well known for their fiery live performances as for their recorded output. The band’s fifth LP, Painting of a Panic Attack (stream it below), which came out last spring, was produced by the National’s Aaron Dessner. “Though Hutchison’s talent for crafting beautifully dark stories hasn’t changed much, Frightened Rabbit’s sound most definitely has, thanks in part to Dessner behind the mixing desk,” said the Line of Best Fit. “The usual aching melancholy that has the capability to flip to captivating exuberance at a moment’s notice is ever present but Dessner’s experience with the National gives a whole new, often gloomy, depth to their sound.” Frightened Rabbit play Brooklyn Steel next Tuesday. And ahead of the band’s North American tour, The House List contacted the frontman to answer Five Questions.

Painting of a Panic Attack features electronics more than your other albums. Was that a conscious choice ahead of time or is that just the way things went as you wrote? I think we all wanted to move in that direction a little more with this album, but it wasn’t forced. Through necessity, I was figuring out how to use music software for the first time and exploring the raft of sounds held in Logic. Andy has always been interested in electronic music, so for him it was a natural place to go.

So many Frightened Rabbit songs are anthemic, somehow sounding like upbeat tales even when they’re about downer topics—not many bands could get crowds to lustily belt out lyrics about loneliness or “It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep warm.” Is that something you set out to do? I’ve always been looking for that contrast within the songs. From very early on I knew I wanted the melodic qualities of the music to act like an open door, warm and welcoming, sometimes anthemic. Then once you’re in the room, you hear all these dark lines and it might be a little jarring, but we’ve already shut the door behind you. Ha!

What’s your process for recording new material? Is everything written and fleshed out in advance of going into the studio? Or do you just have sketches and ideas of songs ready to go? We’re usually relatively well prepared but recently we’ve enjoyed developing songs from rough sketches in the studio. Being overprepared or too certain of the songs can result in losing those little moments of studio magic. That’s our excuse for not knowing what the fuck we’re doing.

Once a track is recorded and released, does it stay like that in perpetuity, or do songs grow as you play them live? They always grow, they absolutely should. Often it’s just through boredom within the band, but sometimes the audience drives it forward. I never thought “The Loneliness and the Scream” would be a set-closer, but that had nothing to do with us. It was the crowds latching on to a melody and sticking with it. That was a surprise.

Do you have any crutches when writing a song—are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much? Absolutely. It’s a big danger and I’ve caught myself repeating themes again and again. However, I do think it’s important to develop your own world within the songs, and repeated lyrical themes are a big part of that. And the thing is: I am still a bit of a drunken failure. I’m not making it up. —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog

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Five Questions with Jim James

November 17th, 2016
(Photo: Gregg Greenwood)

(Photo: Gregg Greenwood)

My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James (below, covering Mazzy Star’s “Fade into You” with Twin Limb) released his second solo full-length album, Eternally Even (stream it below), earlier this month to some considerable praise, and now he’s out on the road in support of it. The affable performer’s tour brings him through New York City this weekend to play Terminal 5 on Sunday night with dream-pop outfit Twin Limb opening. And despite feeling let down by the election (“Such a shame to see fear win out over love. But we have to remember this is just one contest and we still must have faith that humanity can win the greater game”), earlier this week, James connected with The House List from “beautiful Boston Commons underneath my favorite tree” to answer Five Questions.

When you’re writing, do you know as you’re doing it what it’s for—solo album, My Morning Jacket, something else—or is it that you just begin writing and see where it takes you? Songs usually speak to me and tell me what they want to be. Usually a song becomes a solo song because it is something I have just enjoyed working on like a puzzle alone in the studio, and then an MMJ song is a song I want a performance of.

Do you have any crutches when writing a song—are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much? Great question. Hmmmm, I feel like my main crutch is that I never have any idea what the fuck I am doing either personally or professionally.

How did My Morning Jacket end up backing Roger Waters at Newport Folk Fest? Did it stem from the Love for Levon show? Yes, we had such a time with Roger at Love for Levon. When we parted ways, we all said let’s do something again, not knowing if it would happen or not, and then it did for Newport, which was so beautiful. And then it did again for Bridge School, which again was unreal. What a thrill to share the stage with one of the greatest composers of the modern era. Roger is humble and friendly and fiercely intelligent and aware of exactly what he wants from each moment. It is incredibly intense working with him but ultimately very rewarding.

You lived in New York City for a while before returning to Louisville. What was your favorite part of living here and what do you most look forward to about coming back here to perform? I love NYC. I mean there is no place on earth like it. I love the rhythm and the flow and the sea of people every color of the rainbow in there together, just flowing trying to get somewhere, trying to get shit done! It’s incredibly inspiring and I carry its energy with me for quite some time after I leave each time.

What can we expect at Terminal 5 on 11/20? And how would you describe a Jim James show to someone who hasn’t seen you live? I’m not sure what to expect. It has been very exciting putting this new live show together and it’s feeling really fresh. I hope the show can be an outlet to get rid of bad energy as well and a place to come feel supported and loved and dance and scream! —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog

(Jim James also plays the Civic Theatre in New Orleans on 12/17.)

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Five Questions with Savoir Adore’s Paul Hammer

August 10th, 2016

Savoir Adore (above, performing “Giants” for We Found New Music) play The Bowery Ballroom on Friday night, and The House List recently reached out to the band’s leader, Paul Hammer, to discuss a new lineup, a new album, The Love That Remains—which comes out on Friday—and to answer Five Questions.

Your show at The Bowery Ballroom celebrates the release of The Love That Remains. What can we expect that night? Will you play the whole album? We’ll be playing most of it, yes! It’s a strange new (good) problem to have for us—figuring out a set list with three albums is a whole new challenge. This will also be the first time we’re playing most of these songs, so it’s exciting for us on that level too. 

For some bands, touring is like a theater piece in that the set list doesn’t change too much from show to show, but everyone onstage is aware of the different nuances in each performance. But for others, every night has a totally different set list and feel. Where do you land in that spectrum? I think a little bit of both, but definitely leaning toward the theater-piece approach. We have a pretty specific flow and idea for transitions, and our sound is also very electronic and sequenced at times. That’s the tricky part about being an electronic band without the ability to hire a nine-piece traveling group. Would love to have three dedicated synth players in the future, but for now we’ll give a little bit of the work to Mr. Ableton.

How has a change in the band’s lineup changed things? It’s interesting ’cause it’s obviously different with a different group of people, but in some ways it hasn’t changed much at all. We’ve also been a band that’s sort of evolved and changed lineups over the years, so in that sense we’ve become a bit used to it. But I think the biggest change is just that I’m more in a position of being the sole leader now. It’s a pressure that was pretty overwhelming for a long while, but now that I’m used to it, it’s actually really liberating. 

As a Brooklyn band, what does it mean to do an album-release show at home in NYC? And is there any personal significance to playing The Bowery Ballroom? Big time. It means a lot. Honestly, most of my favorite shows in New York have been at The Bowery Ballroom, and I often call my happy place the upstairs bar looking out at the arched window. As soon as I started writing this record I knew I wanted to have the release show here, and this being our first time headlining makes it even more special. 

Friday’s show has ended, and at the after-party we give you a buck for the jukebox. Which three songs do you choose? Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime,” Tom Petty, “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and Fleetwood Mac, “Gypsy.” Then again, if this was a party of some kind, I might pick different songs. —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog