The Scottish bands that make a name in the United States often lean toward a sound that doesn’t shy away from the big emotional moment, the cathartic release (see: Waterboys, Simple Minds, Big Country). It’s certainly not the only kind of rock ’n’ roll made in Scotland, but it’s the kind that seems to translate best.
James Hutchison heard it all firsthand while growing up in Selkirk, Scotland, and it sunk in. Hutchison’s band, Frightened Rabbit, has recently been earning an audience stateside and over the course of four albums has delivered a growing stack of anthemic pop songs.
“I love a big chorus and I like emotional honesty,” Hutchison said. “When I was starting to write music, Scottish bands like the Delgados, with these sort of grand, lush arrangements, really opened my ears up to a new way of making music.
“Previous to that, I was into sort of testosterone-fueled, riff-heavy music, Jimmy Page type stuff, and then when I went off to college I got much more into the emotional side of things and that has just stuck around until now.”
Frightened Rabbit’s new album, “Pedestrian Verse,” sounds big enough for festivals — there are plenty of Hutchison’s big choruses, and maybe even some testosterone — but the lyrics reflect his need to look inward. On the hyper-pop “Holy” he balances the energy with a narrative about unrepentant isolation in which he sings “don’t care if I’m lonely, ’cause it feels like home.”
“Pedestrian Verse” is an important record for the band, which performs Wednesday at Headliners Music Hall. It’s their fourth album, but the first where the music was written as a group; in the past, Hutchison has handled all of the writing.
That’s because Frightened Rabbit actually began in 2003 as a solo project, and its growth into a five-piece has been gradual. Hutchison’s brother, Grant, joined on drums in 2004, followed by guitarist Billy Kennedy (2006), multi-instrumentalist Andy Monaghan (2007) and guitarist Gordon Skene (2009).
“I was not in a hurry to throw a band together and see if it worked,” Hutchison said. “The records did kind of determine our fate for us in that we needed more instrumentation, but also I was conscious of needing to take our time with it and getting the right people as opposed to just anyone.
“I could have gone ahead and put an advert in a music paper or in a bar, but it was more important to me to get the right people into the same things that I was.”
Remarkably, “Pedestrian Verse” doesn’t sound any different beyond a higher production polish applied by Leo Abrahams. Still, it represents a new phase for the band.
“It’s a really new, important step and I would never go back to the old way of writing,” said Hutchison, who still writes the lyrics. “It’s strange to feel like album number four is actually a really fresh start for the band rather than a kind of settling in.
“Now we have this process in place that we can use and expand on over the course of however many records. It’s exciting. It’s v2 if you like, definitely.”
Frightened Rabbit is making another push at the United States with this tour. Even in a world where the way records are marketed and sold has radically changed, bands still want to make a mark in America.
“I try not to think about it,” Hutchison said. “You can get very preoccupied with all that and it’s actually very stressful. The main thing for me is that we’re always moving forward, however that takes shape, moving forward creatively and not getting stagnant.”