For fans of the excellent Scots indie rock band Frightened Rabbit, the past two days have been characterized by the sharply diminishing hope for a happy ending to the story of the band's founder Scott Hutchison, who was reported missing on Wednesday.
That hope was dashed early this morning when Pitchfork, among other sources, reported that a body had been found, then confirmed that it was Hutchison's. The cause of death has not yet been released. He was 36 years old.
Responses of sorrow and sympathy from all over the world immediately flooded the internet.
The BBC reported that Hutchison's family was "utterly devastated with the tragic loss of our beloved Scott.” His bandmates posted a message on Instagram:
Hutchison's friends, acquaintances, and colleagues in groups like Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand, Broken Social Scene, Snow Patrol, the National, and many others expressed feelings of remorse and support.
Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol was especially effusive: "One of Scotland’s most extraordinary song writers," Lightbody wrote on Instagram. "He wrote with such profound insight into loss and longing and listening to his words always made me feel this heady mix of wonder, elation and pain. That pain that also makes you feel someone understands what you’re going through and you don’t feel so alone. He was willing to hurt in his songs so that the listener hurt less. But when you live on the edge of that pain it can sometimes get to be too much to bear. I just wish he knew what he meant to so many. Thank you Scott for every extraordinary song you ever wrote and for the times we shared. Your music brought light to the world and always will."
In The Guardian, journalist Kieran Devlin went further in characterizing Hutchison and his band's particular qualities this way:
"At a time when British guitar music was typified by a singular and exclusionary caricature of manhood, from the blokey likes of Kaiser Chiefs, Hard-Fi and Kasabian, [FR's debut album] The Midnight Organ Fight depicted a masculinity that was self-consciously flawed. Here was a voice clumsily yearning for romance and happiness, genuine and self-deprecating but embarrassed, clueless and occasionally cowardly...
This was a relatable vulnerability for the awkward masses disenfranchised by the stubborn confidence of rock music. In vacillating between contrived irony and frank earnestness, Hutchison was a spokesperson for the twenty- and thirtysomethings who mostly make up Frightened Rabbit’s fanbase. This was an identity we could map ourselves on to, and then feel empowered by the communality."
Hutchison was a gifted singer, guitarist, and songwriter, who repeatedly alluded to morbid ideation and other heavy themes in his music. But, as many of his fans have attested, his songs felt overwhelmingly like affirmations of life—flares sent up from someone who understood and respected the struggle, but believed it was worth prevailing over. It could also be that the mere existence of those songs, and of the man singing them, seemed like evidence that he was winning. The vicissitudes of depression make this kind of success far more difficult to evaluate.
Devlin's article addressed this grim irony:
"Hutchison’s struggles with depression were something he also habitually visited in song. Frightened Rabbit’s most recent album, 2016’s Painting of a Panic Attack, was especially intense, with songs such as Woke Up Hurting and 400 Bones conveying a fragile frame of mind. It’s common practice to wax lyrical about music confronting depression, to praise an artist’s candour around their mental illness, and to project a myth that the process of writing, recording and releasing these songs must be purgative for the artist, because it is therapeutic for the listener. The truth, of course, is more upsettingly complicated...
it’s tempting to desperately scramble for meaning or prescience in this, to derive some significance and symbolism from what has happened. But there is no tragic poetry in this death, only tragedy – and the loss of a wonderful songwriter and a better person."
Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian sounded the bluntest and most practical note in his Twitter message about Hutchison, directed to people who might be suffering similar feelings:
Tragic news about Scott Hutchison. The whole music community in Scotland was praying for a different outcome. Folks, if you are up against it, having dark thoughts, please tell someone, family, a friend or a doctor. There is always another way, though it might not seem like it.
— stuart murdoch (@nee_massey) May 11, 2018