Spent Too Long Alone Tonight - A Tribute to Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit

In Memory Of...

May 16, 2018 Bookmark and Share


There is no timeline, no deadline, for grief, especially when death is involved. You stare into the abyss, searching for answers, for reasons, for some sort of sense to emerge from the infinite blackness, but nothing comes except tears.

Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchison had been missing since Tuesday night on the 8th, having last been seen-and caught on CCTV-leaving a hotel near Edinburgh at about 1 a.m. That afternoon, he had written two tweets. The first, sent at 2:50 PM, UK time: "Be so good to everyone you love. It's not a given. I'm so annoyed that it's not. I didn't live by that standard and it kills me. Please, hug your loved ones." The second, just 19 minutes later: "I'm away now. Thanks."

Like most people who knew him-either personally or through his songs-I feared the worst, but I was hoping he had just drunk himself into oblivion and passed out somewhere, that he would emerge the next day dazed, disheveled, and confused, shaking off the hangover and get back to life, to living. Over the years, we'd shared a number of heavy, post-gig evenings when the booze and words and emotions flowed freely, and I was hoping this was just another one of those. It wasn't. There was no gig. There was no hangover. There was no next day.

That's something I found out a few minutes before 7 a.m. New York time on the morning of May 11th, via an email from the music editor of a national newspaper in the UK. The previous November I'd pitched a feature about the forthcoming tenth anniversary of The Midnight Organ Fight, the Scottish band's breakthrough second record. The editor rejected it, on the grounds that Frightened Rabbit were a band "only a small fraction of our audience are already familiar with" and that a piece on the band "just won't get read."

Add death to the equation, however, and suddenly Frightened Rabbit were enticing. No longer were they a band that the audience wouldn't care about but one who will drive people to the paper's website. The deadline for that tribute had already passed by the time I woke up, but I wouldn't have been able to write it anyway. I spent much of the day in tears, trying to work through blurry eyes as grief swept through me repeatedly, overwhelming waves of sadness consuming me physically and emotionally-emptiness, nausea, the brittle fragility of my bones bristling beneath my skin. I listened to 2013's Pedestrian Verse on repeat-especially the song "December's Traditions."

I broke down at regular intervals, checked up on friends who had also known him, following the advice of that penultimate tweet as if his life still depended on it, all while trying to ignore the anger and rage I felt at how I'd found out about his death, and the fact it was being reduced to clickbait. That is, I suppose, the world we live in, but I naively expected more. I don't know why. After all, death-just like sex-sells, and sells well.

The first time I saw Frightened Rabbit live was at The Borderline in London in December 2007, supporting The Good Life. The first time I interviewed Scott was over the phone in 2008 for a UK magazine in August 2008, a few months after the release of The Midnight Organ Fight, and the first time I met him was a few months later in October in Brooklyn, where they were playing while I was on holiday. I bumped into a couple of Scottish people on the subway there and asked if they were going to the gig. They were. They also knew the band, so after the gig I found myself in a nearby Brooklyn bar hanging out with them and the band, getting very drunk with Scott as we bared our souls and hearts to each other.

Over the decade that followed, we met and spoke a number of times, whether for interviews or after gigs, swapping the occasional texts and emails. I got to watch as he transitioned from that shy and self-conscious person onstage at The Borderline to a consummate professional who was able to headline large sold out venues with charming confidence and who offset the darkness of his songs with (often very funny, and occasionally inappropriate) jokes. Anybody familiar with Frightened Rabbit's music knows it could get dark. Scott's songs were often riddled with booze, with despair, with death, with the weight and the burden of living as a fragile, tortured soul carrying around a bruised and damaged, drunken heart, one that was full of love but also weakened by of loss. And yes, there were references to taking his own life-most obviously in "Floating In the Forth," a song that envisages his body in the place it would eventually turn up but resisting the urge-but there was always a glimmer of light, a sense of hope that, despite all the trauma, things would work out okay in the end. "I think I'll save suicide for another day" he sang on that song.

Scott's superlative lyrical dexterity, combined with the band's hauntingly beautiful, tender melodies, had the ability to turn melancholy into a cure, however temporary, against itself. That's what caused their fans to fall so hard and so fast in love with them. Yes, the abject sorrow and self-loathing of "Poke" could thoroughly destroy you if you were feeling vulnerable, but years later it could also stand testament to what you'd been through, what you'd fought against and, eventually, beat, however long that might have taken. The same was true of Scott himself. His songs served as his own lifeline, but they had the same effect on countless other people, offering them solace when they were at their lowest, giving them a reason to keep going, to keep smiling, joking, laughing in face of everything-just as Scott himself had. He was inquisitive and intelligent, a man who was wide-eyed with wonder at the world, one who could always see all of its beauty despite the wall of darkness that often obscured it.

It had been a while since the last time I interviewed Scott properly, at the start of 2015. He had recently moved to Los Angeles, and instead of talking about Owl John-the solo-ish record he had just put out-he just wanted to quiz me about life in America, me having done the same thing a few years before. LA didn't work out for him, nor did Upstate New York, where he settled briefly before returning to Scotland. But the band were always travelling here to the U.S., where their fans breathe and bleed their songs as intensely as they do anywhere else, something that was always a joy to witness. Sadly, I was out of town the last Frightened Rabbit played New York. "Never mind," I told myself. "There'll be a next time." There won't. Like so many others-and the so many others who knew Scott much better than I did-there is only emptiness, an ocean of sadness. There are only these words, insufficient and self-indulgent and which bring little relief. There is no timeline, no deadline, for grief. This will last forever. But at least his songs will, too. Farewell, my friend. I am left only to hope you found in death the peace you couldn't find in life. 

 

(Also read Michael Hall's tribute to Hutchison and the one put together by Paul Bullock that featured tributes from music publicists Caroline Borolla and Tim Plumley.)

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Melissa
May 16th 2018
1:30pm

I really appreciate this beautiful piece. I was as sick and shocked as any of his fans when he went missing. I’m still googling him days later. I’m worried he will fade from my memory as he has from the headlines. I am sick with worry that the manner of his death might be what he is remembered for. This life is cruel and fucked and quite a bit colder in his absence.

VR
May 16th 2018
7:37pm

I’m really really sorry to nitpick about this, as it’s obviously not anywhere close to being one of the more important aspects of this devastating situation, but his final tweets were sent out at 10:50pm UK time and 19 min after that, just a little while before he was last seen. That aside, I wish you much comfort in processing Scott’s death. As a relatively new fan of his, I’m finding myself quite deeply impacted by the news, and my heart is just blowing up thinking of his family, friends, and all the people who’ve followed him and his music for so many years.