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Mastersystem

Band of brothers (Frightened Rabbit team up with Editors and Minor Victories)

By • May 15th, 2018 • Category: features

The piece below was planned to go live on the site like any other interview – featuring one of our favourite artists who’d made another great album.

Events rather overtook us with the tragic events of last week – Scott Hutchison’s disappearance, and eventually, news of his passing.

Although, Scott wasn’t just any songwriter, heading up any old band. Looking in our archive there are over 120 occurrences of Frightened Rabbit alone – of course, 80 or so are ‘mentions’, the highly influential band’s name cropping up in other reviews.

But there are 37 pieces on the Frabbits alone, a pretty big percentage of the 6000 or so items on the site. Given that they’re a band with a back catalogue of half-a-dozen albums and a bunch of singles, it certainly shows that our writers revered them so much they were always covering their shows, or grabbing a chat with the band. We’d not usually interview a regular band more than once a year (and certainly not if you were in print) but FR were no ‘regular’ band.

In fact, itm?’s relationship with the band goes way back, to the days when we were a printed publication. They crop up in a live review supporting Kid Carpet at King Tut’s in in 2005 – an inauspicious start, with Megan Faye merely remarking on their “enthusiasm and energy.”

It was John Paul Mason who first spotted them properly, sending us a (their first, we believe) live review as they launched ‘The Greys’ in 2006 (below, left).

He then pitched a feature on the band (below, right) and having heard the album we were only to happy to put them in print (and ‘Be Less Rude’ on the covermount CD) – if memory serves, JP interviewing them after a show at Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire, where the photo was taken.

FR

From then, we started to put reviews online and Scott and the band garnered fans across the country, and world, including amongst writers from various publications, this one included.

Sadly, we have no record of a memorable gig put on by writer Chris Boyd at Glasgow’s 13th Note, which broke all fire regulations – despite their recent signing to Fat Cat, they were still happy to go ahead with a show in a venue already far too small for an act of their growing stature. The Note show also introduced the band to support act We Were Promised Jetpacks for the first time – the two acts would eventually become labelmates, joining The Twilight Sad on the London-based imprint and celebrating it with a set at the label’s Christmas party.

FR

We did cover them at the venue’s bigger brother, the Barfly, the next year, and a Miller show in Edinburgh around the same era.

They were also interviewed by the site after being booked to play Tigerfest at Dunfermline’s Carnegie Hall.

It seemed that they had become everyone’s favourite band, helped by the warm and generous nature of all its members, and as the case with a ‘voluntary’ website, writers queued up to regularly chat to Scott and his crew. Chris O’Hanlon and then Hollie Smith interviewed them, while a piece by Lalita O’Neill at Nordoff Robbins’ Tartan Clef Awards shows – where they picked up the Live Act award – shows how fast their rise to stardom was.

Brimming with talent, Scott also used his Owl John persona as a creative outlet – and gain was happy to share time with us as he launched his solo album.

As the band headed for global stardom our Frightened Rabbit pieces became a little less frequent, but it was always a pleasure to briefly bump into Scott – in simple terms, he was as well as being a hugely talented musician and artist, a genuinely warm and nice guy.

Earlier this year, we learned that Scott along with brother Grant had teamed up with the Lockey Brothers as Mastersystem, playing what would be his last live shows. Along with his new bandmates, he had produced another excellent record, and was only too happy to take time to chat with us about it.

As I’ve said elsewhere, articles like this are pretty hard to write. And they can come across as being less about those lost and more about the writer. Which is why we’ve stuck with our relationship with Scott and the band, which was far more fleeting than for most who will read this – the singer being such a popular person, such easy company, always happy to chat, never too busy for a fellow musician, or fan. And that’s to say nothing of those who his lyrics and actions helped, those who were often going through tough times similar to those he experienced. That’s why we’ll remember him, and that’s why we’re sharing some of those memories in the form of these old interviews.

Which brings us to the last interview we did with him, as he told us about his latest, as ever brilliant piece of work, as part of Mastersystem.

Band of brothers – Frightened Rabbit team up with Editors and Minor VIctories

Having an ‘angle’ can make an interview a lot easier. But you can be spoiled for choice when it comes to interesting discussion topics.

Take Mastersystem. Scott Hutchinson is best known as founder and songwriter of Frightened Rabbit. But now there’s the ‘supergroup’ he’s formed with brother Grant (the FRabbit’s drummer) and Justin and James Lockey – yes, another family affair. Surely there must be some tales of sibling rivalry?

“Nothing yet!” Hutchinson laughs.“ We’ve all worked together on various things together before so I can’t see any fisticuffs in the future. Brothers in bands present more benefits than problems in my experience. It rarely escalates beyond well-rehearsed bickering, and the Lockeys have an excellent brand of that.”

The seeds of Mastersystem were sown in a Frightened Rabbit tour of the Highlands more than five years ago, with the Lockeys videoing the whole trip – filmmaker James has since hooked up with sundry members of Mogwai and Slowdive in Minor Victories along with brother Justin of chart stars Editors.

So the supergroup tag is again merited, but for Hutchinson, it was more a chance to do something different. “Justin and James presented me with the instrumental tracks pretty much fully formed, so I didn’t have to play any guitar on this album at all,” he revels. “It was nice to have another outlet that was simply lyrics and vocals.”

Frightened Rabbit fans may fear that their favourites may neglected the ‘day job’ with this new diversion, but Hutchinson is quick to allay these fears. “Maybe some of these themes could have ended up on a Frightened Rabbit album,” he admits, “but we weren’t really writing a lot at that time, so it all went into Mastersystem.”

The new album has been described as “middle-aged angst”. “There’s always more where that came from,” laughs the singer, who has approached depression and mental wellbeing in previous Frightened Rabbit works. “I feel like the next Frightened Rabbit album should maybe have a bit less of that on it anyway, as it’s all getting a bit tried and tested. What I’ve taken from writing for Mastersystem is that there can be really pleasing results in NOT overthinking the lyrics.”

However, fans should have no fears of Frightened Rabbit winding up business just yet. “Fifteen years is a decent shift,” concedes the singer, “Only having one facet to your work life can get pretty boring and dipping the toes in elsewhere can only benefit the band as far as I’m concerned.

“I think we’re all restless,” he continues, “which is why we do things like this. Simon was recently involved in making music for a theatre production, Grant’s looking to start a cider import business – genuinely!”

All that lies ahead, as does the First Incident festival, the band putting on a one-day summer event in Glasgow.

“There came a time recently where we recognised that what we have now in terms of success and reach is probably not going to increase much, so we felt the need to attempt to grow other branches on the tree,” Hutchinson admits.

“All the side projects and endeavours are actually aimed at sustaining Frightened Rabbit, not ending it. I think we would like this festival to be properly curated in every sense, from the music to the drinks, the food and the rest of the night after the bands are done. Although ours is taking place in the city, not a field, we’d take inspiration from wonderful festivals like End of the Road or Electric Fields. They both present a great consistency in the experience.”

Despite all this forward planning, we could as easily be looking backwards, as Frightened Rabbit are also celebrating the 10th anniversary of breakthrough album ‘Midnight Organ Fight’.

“A lot of it was luck,” he admits. “I didn’t sit around constructing a story or narrative to the album, but it did end up having one. Heartbreak, hurt, sadness and emotional anguish will never go out of fashion.

“I think it’s a very human album and as long as there are humans, I hope it will still have a few ears tuning in.”

Mastersystem’s album Dance Music is out now.

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