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New Frightened Rabbit Compilation 'Carries On' The Songs Of The Late Scott Hutchison


A lot of the songs by the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit are dark, like wince-when-you-listen-to-the-lyrics dark.


FRIGHTENED RABBIT: (Singing) Twist and whisper the wrong name. I don't care, and nor do my ears.

KELLY: But in a lot of these songs, there's at least a flicker of hope.


FRIGHTENED RABBIT: (Singing) The twist is that you're just like me. You need company. You need human heat.

KELLY: Sometimes they feel almost like a celebration, so it made sense that when the band wanted to mark the 10th anniversary of their breakout album, they basically planned a birthday party, an album of Frightened Rabbit songs covered by their friends and tourmates. Then, last year, before they released it, the band's lead singer and songwriter, Scott Hutchison, died.

The album is out now. It's called "Tiny Changes." NPR's Connor Donevan has the story. And before we begin, a warning to listeners that this story, which is about eight minutes, includes frank discussion of suicide. Here's Connor.

CONNOR DONEVAN, BYLINE: "The Midnight Organ Fight" came out in 2008. It wasn't Frightened Rabbit's first record, but it was special.

GRANT HUTCHISON: The honesty and the raw emotion that's in there really hit people quite hard.

DONEVAN: That's Grant Hutchison, Frightened Rabbit's drummer, also Scott Hutchison's brother.

ANDY MONAGHAN: And seeing them connect to it in such an intense way, we felt that we could make this a career at that point. So, yeah, it definitely was the one which made the band, in a sense.

DONEVAN: And that's Andy Monaghan, who plays keyboard and guitar. When they talk about the new project, the cover album, "Tiny Changes," you can still hear their excitement, the uncanny thrill of hearing their songs from new angles. Take the opening track, "The Modern Leper."


FRIGHTENED RABBIT: (Singing) A cripple walks amongst you, all you tired human beings.

DONEVAN: It's a song in which emotional turmoil becomes a physical breakdown. When Scott Hutchison sings...


FRIGHTENED RABBIT: (Singing) And vital parts fall from his system and dissolve in Scottish rain.

DONEVAN: ...His delivery teeters somewhere between a pained grimace and an exhausted laugh. Fellow Scottish rock band Biffy Clyro plays "The Modern Leper" on the anniversary album.


BIFFY CLYRO: (Singing) You must be a masochist to love a modern leper on his last leg, on his last leg.

MONAGHAN: Amped up to a thousand, much more aggressive and almost comedic a little bit.

DONEVAN: That's Andy Monaghan again. By last spring, the band had collected covers of every song on "The Midnight Organ Fight," plus a few extras. They were recorded and mastered and ready to go.

Then in May of last year, Scott Hutchison died. He sent out a couple of cryptic, troubling tweets. Then he went missing. Not long after, his body was found at a marina near the mouth of the River Forth in Scotland.


DONEVAN: In the days after Hutchison's death, tributes poured out from critics and fans. They shared stories of how Frightened Rabbit's music nursed them through dark periods, how the music changed their relationship to their own pain. One fan posted a message he received after his own struggles, a personal letter from Scott Hutchison. I hope you don't mind me sending this note, he wrote. Your kind parents got in touch recently to tell me you'd been having a difficult time.

Some of the remembrances also wrestled with a more ambiguous feeling. There's a song on "The Midnight Organ Fight" called "Floating In The Forth." Scott Hutchison sings all the way through an imagined suicide, but at the end of the song, he steps back from the brink.


FRIGHTENED RABBIT: (Singing) I think I'll save suicide for another year.

DONEVAN: Fans and critics openly wondered how to listen to these songs which confronted so directly the darkness that apparently claimed the life of the musician who wrote them. Was there something voyeuristic or exploitative about the relationship between anguished artist and fan? Some concluded that they couldn't listen anymore, at least not for a while. Grant Hutchison, the band's drummer, Scott's brother, doesn't listen either.

HUTCHISON: I'm not looking for clues or signals or signs or, why did he write this? Why did he write that? It's more a personal thing for me of how he felt as a brother and what our relationship was like as brothers.

DONEVAN: It's memories, not lyrics, that stick with him.

HUTCHISON: Things that he said or decisions he made. And I think that would be the case of anyone who's been affected by suicide. You know, there are just so many questions that will continue to go unanswered regardless of how often you listen to someone's album.

DONEVAN: Scott Hutchison was open about his mental health struggles. In interviews, he was a big advocate of asking for help, not feeling ashamed. After he died, Grant and the rest of his family set up a charity devoted to mental health.

HUTCHISON: Scott had this voice when he was alive that he used to help people. Whether it was purposeful in that way or not, he changed people's lives through his art, and we have to continue that.

DONEVAN: Both the charity and the anniversary album are called "Tiny Changes." That's a lyric from the song, "Head Rolls Off."


FRIGHTENED RABBIT: (Singing) When my head rolls off, someone else's will turn. And while I'm alive, I'll make tiny changes to Earth.

HUTCHISON: That song was one that, after Scott's death, people clung on to it. You know, and while I'm alive, I'll make tiny changes to Earth has become a mantra for people since.

DONEVAN: Craig Finn sings that cover on the "Tiny Changes" album. In his hands, it sounds like a preacher at a postmodern tent revival.


CRAIG FINN: (Singing) I believe in a house in the clouds, and God's got his dead friends 'round.

DONEVAN: Life, as the song/sermon lays out, is fleeting. We are insignificant, but we can make a mark anyway.


FINN: (Singing) When it's all gone, something carries on.

DONEVAN: Finn says he's performed the song live a few times since Hutchison's death with a more somber tone now.


FINN: (Singing) You can burn me 'cause we'll all feel the same, the same way.

DONEVAN: That's him at a tribute concert in New York last year organized after Scott Hutchison died.

FINN: At the end, people were not ready to leave for one reason or the other, and they wanted another song. We really didn't have one.

DONEVAN: So the sound guy put on an actual Frightened Rabbit song with Scott Hutchison on vocals.

FINN: And the crowd sang along, really at the top of their lungs. And people were hugging. And it was probably the most moving thing I've ever seen around music.

DONEVAN: Craig Finn says at the end of the show, it felt like people had taken the songs with them that night to live on out in the world. Grant Hutchison and Andy Monaghan say that's what they want for Frightened Rabbit's music.

HUTCHISON: Not because Scott's dead, or not even because they feel it can help someone - just because that's what you do with music, isn't it? You get something from it. I mean, that will never stop, even when we're gone. Yeah, long may it continue.

DONEVAN: Scott Hutchison is gone. In his friends' voices, his songs carry on.

Connor Donevan, NPR News.


FINN: (Singing) And when it's all gone, something carries on.

KELLY: And if you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, help is available. You can call 800-273-8255 and talk to someone from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime, day or night.


FINN: (Singing) When my head rolls off, someone else's will turn. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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