THE BIGGER PICTURE: Frightened Rabbit & Bear Driver

It’s a lot of people’s dream as a kid growing up to be in a famous band, right? Nothing but the open road and playing shows every other night around the world. While at first that might all seem like a very luxurious lifestyle, there’s a lot more to it. I caught up with Scott Hutchison, frontman of Scottish national treasures Frightened Rabbit, and Oli Deakin, frontman of burgeoning fuzz-pop band Bear Driver, to discuss touring, the ups and downs of being on the road, songwriting, and more.

Talking to these two people gave me unique insight into being in a band at two different points in their career. On one side we have Frightened Rabbit, a well established, critically-acclaimed indie folk group who are on the eve of their fourth album, and on the other, there’s Bear Driver, relative newcomers to touring and gigging, who have just released their debut album this past summer.

Being in successful bands has afforded both of the front-men the luxury of exploring territory away from their usual surroundings. This is no doubt one of the most obvious highpoints of being in a band. Scott said “I love exploring new places, trying the food and visiting cultural spots.” While Oli said “I think the further afield you go the more fun you have because of that sense of adventure”. With similar sentiments to Scott, he stated “the best thing about playing abroad is that you get to wander into strange motorway services and buy strange foods that you can’t pronounce or recognise. It’s a fun game”.

As with almost every job, there is always going to be some downsides, when asked what the most obvious example was, two different points were made. Scott said “There is a lot of time spent waiting and hanging around. It can be quite mundane and dull”, while Oli said “everything costs so much. We have no great aspirations to be rich rock stars but it’d be nice to always be able to afford the slightly nicer bus with a TV in it. Sometimes you have to settle for the dodgy banger”. This differs from Frightened Rabbits experiences now, as Scott said “there is more time now that we have a tour bus and it’s made a huge difference to my enjoyment of touring”. It just shows how far a band can come when they’re given time to grow and progress.

The bottom line is about enjoying what you do. I asked Scott what his favourite thing about touring was overall: “Meeting new people, seeing new places. Of course, the whole reason for going on tour is to play shows, which is fantastic, but it’s the good times that go with the shows that make it worthwhile.” While Oli added “you can’t beat it”.

It’s been well documented that there is a vast difference between experiences playing shows in America and playing shows in the UK. Scott said “They are quite different experiences. It’s always a wee bit more exciting to be travelling through the States, but as far as the audiences go, both have their merits.” While Oli said “playing in the US is always such an adventure that it feels more special regardless of how the shows go”.

For most bands, the most monotonous part of touring is all the parts in between actually playing the shows. With so much ground to cover while traversing different countries, there is a lot of downtime. Many bands have different ways of conquering this boredom, and Scott Hutchison’s method of choice is to “watch DVDs. Look out the window, think about stuff. It can be quite a contemplative time. We tend not to talk much in the van.”

Every career has a high point; that one moment in time that will stay with you forever. It’s no exception for Scott or Oli. Scott said ” I think the last time we played T in the Park in 2010 was incredibly special. I’ll never forget that” while Oli said ” There’s been a few really special gigs for us. We played with …And You Wil Know Us By The Trail Of Dead at SXSW and they let us use all their amps which was very cool.”

Over a band’s career, it only makes sense that it would get harder and harder to pick the songs that make it onto a set-list. While that’s not exactly an issue for Bear Driver yet, I asked Scott how he balances between the old and new: “The old stuff gets the crowd going, whilst new tunes feel exciting and fresh for us. It’s a good combination”.

Songwriting is a vital element to being in a band. Musicians find ways of being creative in a huge variety of different ways; I asked Scott his preferred method: “I generally like to go and write lyrics somewhere out of the house so it feels like I have my ‘writing head’ on, and there fewer potential distractions”. When I asked Oli how he came to write the band’s debut album, he said ” We had quite a lot of it written already but we did and extra burst just before recording to see what else we had in the  tank. From that came quite a few key songs for the album, and a couple that we’re working into the second one”.

A clear downside to being on the road is the sheer amount of hours spent travelling between shows. I asked each musician their preferred method of keeping monotony to a minimum. Oli said “We started watching quite a lot of Arrested Development on one tour. But most times its listening to and arguing about music.” While Scott said “I watch DVDs, look out the window, think about stuff. It can be quite a contemplative time. We tend not to talk much in the van”.

As the year is drawing to a close, I decided to quiz the two singers on what they’ve been enjoying the most from the last twelve months. Oli said “Sharon Van Etten – album of the year.” while Scott said “My favourite album this year was by Django Django, but I’ve been listening to Angel Olsen, This Is The Kit, Right Away Great Captain! and Richard Hawley, to name a few.”

Frightened Rabbit’s new album, The Pedestrian Verse, is out in February 2013, and they embark on an 18-date UK tour that month in support of it too. Bear Driver are in the process of recording their second album which is aiming for a 2013 release, you can listen to a song from it on their website.

Frightened Rabbit 2013 Tour Dates:

8/2/2013 – The Waterfront, Norwich
9/2/2013 – HMV Institute, Birmingham
11/2/2013 – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
12/2/2013 – Concorde 2, Brighton
13/2/2013 – The Forum, London
14/2/2013 – The Junction, Cambridge
16/2/2013 – The Fleece, Bristol
17/2/2013 – Exeter Phoenix, Exeter
18/2/2013 – The Sugarmill, Stoke
20/2/2013 – Leeds Metropolitan University SU, Leeds
21/2/2013 – The Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
22/2/2013 – Gorilla, Manchester
23/2/2013 – O2 Academy Liverpool, Liverpool
25/2/2013 – The Sage Gateshead, Gateshead
26/2/2013 – HMV Picture House, Edinburgh
27/2/2013 – Aberdeen Music Hall, Aberdeen
28/2/2013 – Barrowland (1 & 2), Glasgow

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