“I’ve never thought about confetti cannons until now,” admits Frightened Rabbit singer and songwriter Scott Hutchison, as he semi-seriously ponders ways in which the Selkirk band could choose to visually embellish their Friday headline slot at the Electric Fields festival.
“I did think about it briefly ahead of this show,” he goes on. “But then we were like, f*** it, we’ll get a few more lights than we usually have, but we’re not gonna do much else. We’ve been booked to play our songs and that’s what we’ll do. We’re approaching it as a low-key headline, we’ll let the songs do the talking. I’m just so flattered to be asked by the festival. It’s the right size for us and it’s in Scotland and it’s going to be a really special evening.”
Frightened Rabbit and Electric Fields feel made for one another at this stage in their respective developments. The Glasgow-based group will cap a successful campaign for Painting of a Panic Attack – their fifth album to date and their second for Atlantic Records, produced by Aaron Dessner from US indie idols The National – with their first ever headline performance at a major Scottish festival, a 5,000 capacity event at Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway.
Electric Fields meanwhile really comes into its own in its fourth year with its most impressive line-up yet. Dizzee Rascal headlines on the Saturday, while other artists on an eclectic bill include The Jesus and Mary Chain, Arab Strap, Kate Tempest, Band of Horses and Jackmaster.
“It’s pretty wild,” reflects Hutchison, of their being invited to headline. “It’s not something we expected. When the offer came in we were really flattered that a festival organiser thought that we had the goods to be in that position, it’s not one we find ourselves in ever, let alone often. So it makes it an exciting and nerve-wracking prospect at the same time. Because what do you do? You’ve been booked to play our songs. And then weird thoughts start coming in about confetti cannons.”
Judging by the rapturous receptions Frightened Rabbit tend to get at their Scottish shows, as best exemplified by their triumphant run of three sold-out pre-Christmas homecoming gigs at the Glasgow Barrowlands last December (the first night of which was one of the most fervent outpourings of emotion by a crowd this journalist has witnessed at a Scottish concert) they’ve got little to worry about.
Having filled out handsomely over the last 14 years from a ramshackle duo playing Glasgow pubs – Scott on guitar and vocals and his brother Grant Hutchison on drums – to a sturdy, top 10-bothering five-piece now also featuring Billy Kennedy, Andy Monaghan and Simon Liddell, with their rousing, anthemic, romantic, witty and sometimes brazenly crude songs, they’re not a group people tend to get into lightly.
Take the guy who once came up to Hutchison at a gig to proudly show off the fact that he had the singer’s autograph tattooed on his arm, for instance. “I can’t really knock that level of commitment,” Hutchison laughs. “It wasn’t even a good autograph. If I’d been warned first I would have taken my time. But the guy never said that he planned to do this. It was just a really hurried scribble. He didn’t give a s**t, he was hammered.”
Tattoo guy and other hardcore Frightened Rabbit fans hopefully won’t have too long to wait before a follow up to Painting of a Panic Attack emerges – they’re already “ahead of the game” with writing a follow-up, says Hutchison, who is rooted back in Glasgow now after a few years spent living in Los Angeles (the band are presently looking into the purchase of a permanent studio in Glasgow). But they’re in no rush to put out new material, as Hutchison looks forward to what he describes as “a break from the day job” for a spell that will include some solo acoustic tour dates throughout the autumn and winter.
As a former Glasgow School of Art student, he’s also been enjoying a slight return to one of his other favourite creative outputs in illustration, working on projects including a book of poems by his friend Michael Pedersen, and sleeve art for the forthcoming debut album Conflats by new Scottish group Out Lines (a collaboration between Kathryn Joseph, the Twilight Sad’s James Graham and acclaimed producer Marcus Mackay). “It’s been a lot of small breaks from Frightened Rabbit which didn’t need to be as big a statement as ‘I’m going to go and make a solo record’,” Hutchison comments, on his various extracurricular activities.
But before he can fully concentrate on his “break from the day job”, there’s the small matter of that headline slot at Electric Fields, a festival which looks to be successfully seizing a space in the Scottish music calendar – arguably wide open ever since the highly regarded Connect Festival at Inveraray Castle was discontinued after just two installments in 2007 and 2008 – to become the country’s premier boutique weekender.
“This is amazing for us,” Hutchison enthuses again of the opportunity to top the bill. “There’s no way we would be headlining another festival. It’s not small too it’s not big. Hopefully we don’t embarrass ourselves.”
l Electric Fields is at Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfries and Galloway, 1-2 September, www.electricfieldsfestival.com