“I guess that’s what life has come to mean to me: It’s not ever quite right, but that’s okay,” Scott Hutchison told us in 2016. Josh Modell, our devoted ambassador to Frightened Rabbit, had asked him what he liked best about his job. Scott (forget journalistic practice; “Hutchison” doesn’t feel right for someone who’s had such a close relationship with The A.V. Club over the years) described the excitement of writing a song and playing it live, when it transforms into something else. “Private little moments of excitement for all of us in the band become this outpouring of celebratory, ‘We’re all fucked, but it’s okay!’ sort of thing. I really enjoy that feeling.”
That was one of the many charms of Scott’s music. It’s a common theme among Scottish artists (“Leave it to a Scottish band to make a sad song also euphoric,” I once wrote about Chvrches’ “The Mother We Share”), but Frightened Rabbit had a particular way of transforming the bleakest themes—“Sometimes I listen to your records and I worry about you,” Josh told Scott—into something almost celebratory.
Combing through the many, many things we’ve written about Frightened Rabbit over the years, that theme returns again and again. I have only the vaguest memory of In “Dead Now” from 2013's excellent Pedestrian Verse—in lyrics that read pitch-black nearly five years ago, but are now especially chilling—Scott sings, “I’m dead now, can you hear the relief / As life’s belligerent symphonies finally cease?” He returns to that line a couple of times before the song goes from a moody, bass-and-percussion affair to somehow find joy in Scott repeating, “There is something wrong with me.” He makes this sound not like a defect, but something to embrace. Life is never quite what you want, but that’s okay.
That makes Scott’s apparent suicide so much harder to bear. He was the one who helped fans see despair as something to be alleviated with a cutting remark and, probably, a stiff drink. He could smirk at crippling anxiety and depression like they were just a part of life, not impediments to it. We could trust his candor, because Frightened Rabbit songs weren’t full of platitudes about how great things would be if only you tried a little harder or changed your outlook. Sometimes, shit is just fucked—and the ability to understand that and let go of it is practically a superpower. Sure, darkness took hold of him, like it does so many people, but he always seemed able to shake it and turn it into another great album.
In that way, he’d also be the first to tell us that, well, sometimes you can’t shake the darkness. That authorities found his body near the very bridge he wrote a song about jumping from is not unexpected, if a bit on the nose. This was a guy who wrote a (fantastic) song whose chorus was “Swim until you can’t see land.” And I suspect that, even as he watched today’s tributes pour in from fans, fellow artists, and politicians(?), his fundamental point of view would stay the same. He’s gone, but his message remains: We’re all fucked, but that’s okay. Frightened Rabbit fans know that’s as close as we’re going to come to solace. And we’ll take it.