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Dark matters

Misery loves company, they say, but with Scott Hutchison it appears it's company that loves his misery.

"We played Aberdeen the other week, and I was talking about a new song I'd written and said I've been feeling more miserable of late, and I got this huge cheer from the crowd," says the Frightened Rabbit singer.

Perhaps the cheers were more out of relief than anything else. With Hutchison's band having moved from the cosy confines of Fat Cat Records to major label Atlantic Records, some may have wondered whether Scotland's most melancholy, and arguably best, band were losing their edge by moving to a bigger environment.

Ahead of an appearance at the HMV Picture House tonight as part of The Next Big Thing shows, there is something reassuring when the Selkirk-born singer confirms that matters remain as dark and gloomy as ever. "With the last album [2008's The Winter of Mixed Drinks] it was maybe more of a surface album, and not quite as verbose as before," says Hutchison.

"This time I've gone against that. I've gone in-depth with the lyrics and it has, as a result, been quite intense. It's more interesting imagery when you're being dark, it's more difficult to be cheesy when you're writing dark lyrics. It's hard to write a happy song without coming across as a total cheese ball."

Writing sessions for the band's fourth album have now yielded a glut of material, some of which was road-tested earlier this year at a selection of small gigs, and studio time is set for May with producer Leo Abrahams, with a release planned for the end of the summer.

For Hutchison, the material that will form their major label debut marks a significant change in that he's collaborated on the songs with the rest of the five-piece band.

Given that Frightened Rabbit started off as Scott on his own – then as a duo with brother Grant, before the rest of the band joined one by one over the years – the current state of shared songwriting must seem strange?

"There's a point where you feel a song's mine, and to let that go was slightly difficult," he admits. "But to be honest, around the end of the last album I found I was starting to repeat myself. The whole writing process was getting a bit stagnant, so to introduce this was something I had to get used to in order to make the band better and more interesting. It's done nothing but benefit the new songs as they've all got different tastes, different fortes: Andy [Monaghan, guitarist] is a technical wizard, he's got the engineering and electronic side, and that introduced a lot of experimentation beyond just guitar music."

That desire to move things on lies at the heart of accepting the deal with Atlantic, instead of seeking to re-sign with Fat Cat, where they had made their home since 2007. "After three albums on Fat Cat we liked the way they ran things, but our ambitions have always been wanting to push ourselves forward and be a larger band," he says.

"So it's a natural step, we're quite happy with the way it's going so far - I think a major label can, especially at this stage in a career, help. Maybe early in a career they can do more harm than good when a band don't know what they're doing. But we've seen enough of the industry and touring life to understand our place in things, and not get messed about."

That didn't mean some of their fans weren't taken aback when the news was announced. He says: "I saw some ridiculous things like folk saying, 'I'm never going to listen to your music again', which is making a broad assumption that our music is going to become s****.

"But it was mostly positive. The nice feeling I got was that people had followed us for a while, and there was a sense of pride and justification that we'd do this."

They'll be able to test the new material when they swing through the Highlands and islands in April, stopping at small venues and mixing the full band with acoustic-only events that the singer hopes will lead to some banter.

"I like the idea that some of the audience will know the songs and the band, but there's often an atmosphere of, 'There's a band in town, let's go to see them and see what they're like'. If you've got some people in that you need to bring round and onto your music then that's one of my favourite challenges -

"With smaller shows in general you can banter, it's one of the things you miss when you start playing larger venues, as it's more difficult to get that personal aspect, and I really thrive off people shouting at me and getting a conversation going."

While that tour will provide a change of pace, 2012 is clearly shaping up as a big year for the group. Yet Hutchison appears by it all.

"The most pressure is applied by ourselves, rather than anyone else," he says." Our expectations are as high as anyone else's, and I think pressure is a good thing. I try not to see it as a negative, because if I didn't feel pressure I'd be getting cocky about the whole thing, which I'm not, I just want to make music that's as good as possible."

Frightened Rabbit play the HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, tonight, and will tour the Highlands in April.

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