Belle and Sebastian are back ... but did they ever really go away? With their biggest UK headline gig at The Hydro arena in Glasgow later this month and the small matter of a date at Glastonbury soon after, the band are again in the public eye after what seems like an eternity out of the limelight.
But B&S have not exactly been flying under the radar. The Scots have cult-hero status on the other side of the pond, playing to packed-out venues regularly as well as featuring on countless film soundtracks and TV shows.
In Scotland, they’ve still got a loyal fanbase who have taken them to their hearts ever since lead singer Stuart Murdoch formed the band in 1996, but a smattering of UK shows in four years has left those on this side of the Atlantic wondering why a new tour has taken so long.
“We feel like odd ones out everywhere,” says Stuart. “We’re not American, so we have that when we’re over there, but in the UK, we were never Britpop or anything, so we didn’t fit in with that and those bands that started when we did.
“We’re this indie, Eighties-influenced band that’s outgrown its roots. That’s fine, I think there are plenty of great bands in that position.”
Their forthcoming tour is in support of ‘Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance’, their ninth album, released earlier this year, which has been well received in the US.
The band was born out of adversity at university. Back in the late Eighties Stuart was struck down with ME and unable to work for seven years. That’s when he dreamed up Belle And Sebastian, named after Cecile Aubry’s 1965 tale of a young boy and his dog, and started recruiting members along the way.
Now Stuart, guitarist Stevie Jackson, violinist and singer Sarah Martin, keyboard player Chris Geddes aka Beans, bass/guitar Bobby Kildea and drummer Richard Colburn are ready to let us fall in love with their catchy, quirky melodies all over again.
“It took a long time to feel like the band was going to be a career,” says the 46-year-old. “I was in very different circumstances in 1994, before the group got together. I was past the age I thought I would be a pop star or in a band, it felt more like I was writing my own obituary, really.
“I didn’t think it would stretch out past an LP and a couple of singles. I think it was when we got to album five that things settled down; we got a crew together and playing live got more comfortable, and we had a solid line-up.”
Not even winning a Brit award in 1999 for Best Newcomer – they had released three albums by that point – made Stuart feel at ease.
“That didn’t have much impact on me whatsoever, things were pretty tumultuous in the first few years,” he says. “We were thrust into the spotlight straight away, and people were still deciding whether they wanted to even be in the group.”
It’s a far cry from today, when Stuart’s thoughts turn to their show at Glasgow’s Hydro arena, their biggest headline gig to date – and they’re bringing along an orchestra for the occasion.
“Now we’re playing on these bigger stages, I just want to get up and have fun,” says Stuart. “If I can’t enjoy myself, no one else is going to, and that’s what we want. We want everyone to enjoy our shows as much as we do.”
‘Beans’ agrees the Hydro show is sure to be a night to remember. “It’s a good chance to catch up with friends and family you’ve not seen for a while when you’re overseas on tour.” he said.
“The Hydro will be great and the first time we have played with an orchestra in Scotland. We played the Hollywood Bowl with an orchestra before and it was brilliant, so the Glasgow show should be really exciting.
“This will be the first time people in Scotland will get to hear the new album live so we are looking forward to that and also playing some of our well-known tracks too.”
Sounds like the Belles are back with a bang!
‘Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance’ is out now. For UK tour dates visit www.belleandsebastian.com