Frightened Rabbit's The Winter of Mixed Drinks
Midnight Organ Fight, the last record by Scottish band Frightened Rabbit, chronicled the despair — and logic-defying moments of elation — that accompanies a grueling breakup. It was a brisk, bracing affair, full of bile and bitterness spat out over marauding guitars.
The Winter of Mixed Drinks explores what happens after the pieces have been picked up, reexamined and placed back together in untested formations. Produced and mixed by Peter Katis (Interpol, the National), Drinks adds new levels of complexity to the genial Rabbit guitar-drums-keyboard-angst tableaux with ambient electronic washes, a solemn backing chorus and a subtle, quirky string section. Water is a recurring image on the album, and frontman Scott Hutchinson hints at its significance in "Swim Until You Can't See Land," when he sings, "Let's call me a Baptist/ Call this a drowning of the past." It's clear that water not so much a metaphor for death as a painful and necessary rebirth.
eMusic's Adrienne Day spoke to Hutchison about some of Winter's standout tracks.
On the nautical imagery in the album:
We had come off the hardest tour we had ever done and I just needed to recover. So I went to write the album in a small village in Scotland. It was by the sea, so lots of oceanic imagery crept into the record. But except for small bursts of company, I was completely alone for five or six weeks. I intended to go out there to get healthy and get sane again, but once I got out there, I found I started writing pretty quickly, and before I knew it I had a bunch of songs. And I think that [songwriting] process helps the album sound like an album instead of a selection of songs. It's a slice of life, and it feels coherent from start to finish.
On boredom abetting creativity:
I've always been a great believer that boredom is a catalyst for creativity. Being bored forces you to look into other aspects of your psyche. And I definitely think that isolation is a necessary part of it. It's a really good way to file through the parts of your head you don't normally access a lot. Once you've worked through certain parts of your brain, you discover new parts.
I didn't have a lot of stuff out there. I had what I needed, and it kind of made me realize how much crap you gather in life. In the end, everything apart from the really important things is just trash. [For me it was] a really good place to start again, without all the shit. So I tried to keep things as simple as possible. No other decisions had to be made besides what I was going to work on that day. For example, I ate the same three meals each day. I had porridge in the A.M., two rashers of bacon for lunch, and then some rice and vegetables at night, and that was it. I like nice dinners, but they weren't necessary, and I was trying to focus on what was necessary at that point. So I think this song is a good opener — it opens up the feeling of where I'm coming from with the album. And it's also the start of the journey — if you get rid of all your stuff, all you are left with is human.
On "Swim Until You Can't See Land":
I had seen a film, The Wackness, starring Ben Kingsley. It's not a great film. But there's one scene where he starts swimming and you think he's going to try to keep going, and eventually die or whatever, but he comes back. That supports the idea of a journey that you can take to the outer reaches of your mind — or how far you can take things in a physical sense — and how you feel when you come back from that. The first two songs act as a pairing, but this song is the kick-off point for the whole record. There's the part where you are getting rid of all the shit, and then you see what you actually need as a human. But it needn't be interpreted as a literal journey out to sea. There many forms of this — drinking until you can't see straight, or running until you can't breathe. It's about seeing how far you can take yourself and where that might leave you. It's about testing yourself after having gotten rid of all the things that once helped you through life.
On the line "Let's call me a Baptist/ call this a drowning of the past":
Religious imagery is a very easy way to express ideas because it's kind of universal, whether you are Christian or not. I just enjoy using the imagery; it's there to be messed with. My mum's dad was a Church of Scotland minister, but my mum completely grew away from the Church and never inflicted it on us. I don't believe in any kind of God, but for me it still resonates, and the power it has over people is interesting.
On "The Loneliness and the Scream":
I went [to Crail] to see where my mind might take me, and sometimes it took me in weird cabin-fever directions. And this song stems from that. There are good and bad points to isolation. A slight madness creeps in. Maybe it's a little bit about paranoia as well. Again, it's not about missing the things that don't matter; it's about missing people. Once you are alone for a few weeks, you start to crave human contact.
On "The Wrestle":
[This song] didn't really quite work out in the way I intended. It's either about a journey out to sea and wrestling with a shark, or it's a night where you are losing your mind in other ways, because of a fight or a romantic encounter. I was thinking at the time of old seafaring tales, and there's a huge beast, and you have to wrestle it and stuff. The choral aspect at the start of the song kind of fits into that theme too. It's a dramatic, completely physical encounter with an animal. Might be one of the most oblique songs I've ever written, and I'm happy to keep it that way.
On "Not Miserable":
This is my least favorite song on the record. We're probably not going to play it live. It took so long to record for stupid technical reasons, so it felt very, very laborious to complete. To me, on a purely listening level, I'm not really keen on it anymore. It's also a reference back to the last record, kind of a joke, or a rebuttal for people who assumed that we were incredibly miserable. We'd meet people on tour, and they'd always be so surprised to find out that we were nice, gentle, jovial people.
On "Nothing Like You"
This song is about trying to get back in the game after having left a long-term relationship. The melody and the lyrics to this song are the only leftovers from The Midnight Organ Fight. I was quite happy for it to be in there. This [theme] came before and there was a reaction to it, so it maybe sticks out a little bit on the new album. And I didn't want to waste the chorus — though I know people who fucking hate the chorus — but I'm still a fan of it. Regarding the seafaring journey stuff, this has no relation to any of that whatsoever. It's just a reminder of the last record. And in case anyone was expecting a breakup song, well, there you have it.