Since his death in 2018, Scott Hutchison’s legacy hasn’t been difficult to keep going.
Although Frightened Rabbit, the band he formed at home in the Borders town of Selkirk in 2003, are no longer a going concern, the five albums and assorted other songs he recorded continue to fascinate and speak to new fans.
Throughout the years since, his bandmates have also continued to respectfully celebrate and shed new light upon Frightened Rabbit.
In 2019, a covers record was released in tribute to their 2006 album The Midnight Organ Fight, featuring contributions from Biffy Clyro, the Twilight Sad and members of Chvrches and the National.
Now this week has seen the release of The Work, a book which collects Hutchison’s complete lyrics, alongside a selection of his own illustrations.
Unlike the vast majority of lyric books, the words work just as well without the music alongside them – as a poet, it seems, he was also extremely talented.
“I don’t think Scott would ever call himself a poet, but you’re right,” says Hutchison’s brother and Frightened Rabbit’s former drummer Grant, who moved to Anstruther from Glasgow with his wife and daughter last winter.
“They stand up on their own as prose that you could hand to someone that’s never heard of the band, and it would still have an impact upon them.
“There was nothing in Scott’s lyrics that he ever used as a mask to cover his true feelings,” he continues.
“This format lays it all bare, for something that was already pretty bare anyway.
“It was a difficult process – actually pulling lyrics together in text format and sending them to Dave (Thomas, designer) was a shared responsibility with the band, but once it came to proof-reading, Dave and I took the responsibility on.
“That meant I basically hit play on The Grays (the first song on their first album), and went through every single song and sat and read these lyrics.
That was the first time I’d listened to most of the songs since Scott died, so it was difficult, but because I had a reason to do it, because it was a functional process, maybe that was easier.
“What was quite common was… you know when you’re reading a book and you float off into the world of what you’re reading?
“That happened a lot, and it’s part of what’s beautiful about these lyrics and their storytelling, that they pull you in and engage you in a different way from just putting on the music.”
Much like the Midnight Organ Fight covers record, the decision to complete the lyric book was easier for the band (alongside Grant, that’s Billy Kennedy, Andy Monaghan and Simon Liddell) because Scott had instigated the project himself.
“Scott had spoken about a book, and about making it as much a visual, artistic piece as a band collection,” says Grant.
“That process started not long before he died, so knowing that he wanted to do this made it an easy decision.
‘What would he have wanted?’
“A lot of things have come up where we’ve had to make decisions on his behalf, (to have) that mental battle of ‘is this what he would have wanted?’
“We knew this was something he was keen to see have a life, though, and it felt appropriate, in that enough time had passed for us all to reconnect with the music and the lyrics to create something special.”
The book is designed by Cardiff-based album sleeve designer Dave ‘DLT’ Thomas, whose other clients include Mogwai, the Twilight Sad and Travis.
He met Scott and the band way back at the beginning of their career, when they signed to Brighton’s FatCat label and he was assigned to illustrate their 2006 album Sing the Greys.
Over the following decade the ongoing collaboration with Scott, who was also an illustrator, became a friendship.
“We had a shared love of books, especially from a design point of view,” says Thomas.
“It had come up many times – ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could do something with fold-outs and little things hidden inside?’, and that led to talk about fully illustrated versions of the lyrics to stand alongside the Midnight Organ Fight reissue.
“Scott had already started working on three or four of these, with hand-rendered typography, lettering with illustration around it, all the things he was a genius at.
A celebration of creativity
“With this project we’ve been able to find a space for what he had started working on. Obviously the book isn’t everything it would have been had Scott been here to continue, but we felt it was important to put it together as a collection and celebrate Scott’s creativity.
“We both had backgrounds in art college and doing illustration, so it was very easy to bounce ideas off each other, and one of the easiest long-term collaborative relationships I’ve had, because everything that came back was just brilliant.”
Scott’s life is also celebrated through the work of the Tiny Changes charity, which was set up by his family after he died.
Although their mum Marion and brother Neil are still involved, Grant has stepped back, mainly because he isn’t an experienced charity administrator; instead, he’s recently opened Aeble, a cider shop and wholesaler in Anstruther.
A part of his legacy
“Tiny Changes is a big part of Scott’s legacy as a brother, a son and an uncle,” says Grant.
“That his struggles with mental health aren’t all just compacted into the story about how he died (by suicide), but that we can make as much of a positive thing happen out of a tragic event as possible.
“We wanted it to be something that didn’t act or speak on behalf of young people and children, but that allowed them to speak – that listens and hears what they’ve got to say, not just from the older generation who think that young people can’t voice their own concerns.
“What they tell us is important.”
‘He was my friend’
Sandra Gordon was a friend of Scott’s in life, and since recently moving back to her home town of Montrose from Glasgow, she’s begun working for Tiny Changes.
“Scott was and always will be such an important person in my life,” she says.
“His friendship, patience, empathy, understanding and kindness can be felt through the work we do.
“Every project we undertake, and every fund that’s launched feels like he’s right there, guiding and leading us.”
How Tiny Changes works
She explains more about Tiny Changes’ work: “Many organisations intervene when young people are already having a mental health crisis, and because they’re so incredibly under-resourced, young people are often left waiting for up to a couple of years before they get any help.
“The projects we fund and develop allow us to support the mental health of children and young people before it reaches crisis point. Early intervention can change long-term mental health outcomes and that’s what we’re trying to achieve. I can’t imagine a better way to honour Scott.
“We recently launched the Make Tiny Changes fund, a national small grants program to support innovative ideas with up to £10,000, for projects which will make tiny changes towards equality and mental health for young people in Scotland.
“We were keen to encourage applications from young people, and we’re thrilled that 34% of the applicants are under the age of 30.”
She also mentions a Tiny Changes fundraising gig at St Luke’s in Glasgow on 28th November and an as-yet-unannounced “lovely little thing Coldplay are doing for Tiny Changes to celebrate Scott.”
Getting back to music
Away from the cider industry, Grant wants to stay in contact with music.
“I’ve been feeling very aware I’m losing touch with the drummer that I am, so I’m conscious I need to start playing again, even just for myself,” he says.
“Maybe at some point I’ll play with other people, but at the moment it’s just about sitting behind a drum kit and playing some songs, playing along with Jimi Hendrix and Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World, like I used to when I was growing up.
“That’s what I want to get back to right now.”
Scottish Modern Classic Album Award
Whatever he does next, the legacy of what Scott, Grant and the rest of Frightened Rabbit created is still strong.
Grant realised this recently when Sandra and the Twilight Sad’s James Graham handed the band the first Scottish Modern Classic Album Award at this year’s Scottish Album of the Year Awards, for The Midnight Organ Fight.
“It opened my eyes to how important that record still is to current bands and musicians,” he says.
Frightened Rabbit’s legacy
“It’s as much the responsibility of everyone else to continue Frightened Rabbit’s legacy, because it’s not ours to own and tell people what to do with.
“It’s yours and it’s new listeners’ and it’s other current bands, and through people’s passionate love for it, they’ll share it with friends and children and bandmates.
“That’s how it will continue to grow.”
The Work, a book of lyrics and illustrations by Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, is available now from Faber Music through www.frightenedrabbit.com. For the charitable work being done in Scott’s legacy, see tinychanges.com, and for Grant’s cider shop in Anstruther, go to www.aeble.co.uk.