Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch and Stevie Jackson on Their New B-sides and Rarities Collection: Past, Present, and Long Term | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch and Stevie Jackson on Their New B-sides and Rarities Collection

Past, Present, and Long Term

Jul 15, 2013 Photography by Reuben Cox Web Exclusive
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It's Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch's first visit to Montréal in seven years, and he has one of its more famous residents on his mind. The Scottish singer/songwriter admits at a press conference that he spent the earlier portion of the day walking around an upscale housing area and thinking about his musical hero, Leonard Cohen. Later that evening, the band will pay tribute to the writer/musician during their set at Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, with Murdoch reading Cohen's poem "The Favourite Game" while the other members improvise jazz licks behind him.

"In regards to Leonard Cohen, where should I go to pay homage?" asks Murdoch hopefully. "Is there an address, or somewhere where he used to live, or a bar that he used to drink at?"

The band does owe a bit to Cohenbut then again, Murdoch reasons, who doesn't? ("He's just great, isn't he?" he says.) But the Glasgow-based musician contends that there was a stronger influence that drew Belle and Sebastian to the orchestral pop, warm harmonies, and wry humor that was first showcased in their 1996 debut album Tigermilk.

"When we started up, in our hometown, there was a feeling like you ought not to do that stuff," Murdoch recounts. "You should specifically avoid melodies and arrangements. In a sense we were moving against the grain...but I think the crucial thing, since it was all done by The Beatles, is that we came after punk. That's the big thing in music for me. Punk changed everything. What you could say through lyrics, how you could relate to the person who's listening. It's not them and us anymore. We're on an equal plane."

Recently, the band has had an opportunity to reflect on their back catalogue, prepping the August 27 release of a new B-sides collection called The Third Eye Centre. The compilation covers the time between 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress and 2010's Belle and Sebastian Write About Love. For Murdoch, releasing another rarities album after Lazy Painter Jane in 2000 and Push Barman to Open Old Wounds in 2005 felt like a foregone conclusion.

"It just seemed like we hadn't put out a record for a while," he says. "Honestly, there's not too much thought put into these things. Someone just woke up and said, 'Let's put a record out. Let's gather up all the loose ends and put it out.'"

Nostalgia is a strong force in Belle and Sebastian's output. Murdoch admits that going through his back catalogue of unreleased songs, B-sides, and remixes was a welcome trip down memory lane.

"It's like going through an old family album," he says, pretending to flip through a scrapbook, "'Oh no, no, ohI like that one. That's a nice one.' So it is for me, but then I did write most of the early songs, so I'm indulging myself and slipping easily into the past."

"Whenever we've done a recordand we've done eight or nine or sowe always do old songs anyway," adds Belle and Sebastian guitarist/vocalist Stevie Jackson. "So they always feel current to me. It doesn't feel like a retrospective, playing songs from 15 years ago. It feels like it's all just happening in the long term. The past and the present exist in the long term."

Although they've yet to begin work on a follow up to their most recent album, Write About Love, all members of the band contend that it will be the first order of business this fall after their slate of summer shows. No one can quite say what it'll sound like. (The word "disco" is bandied around, accompanied by dubious laughs.) But Murdoch notes that it might be time to inject some new lyrical themes.

"Our concerns are different," he says. "You can't write as many songs about fledgling love affairs. In fact, the head of our record label said, 'Don't write any more songs about fledgling love affairs.'" He punctuates the recollection with a self-aware laugh, before continuing to channel his boss. "'We've had enough. You ought to know what to do by now!'"

Murdoch considers what might be next, smilingly wryly. "I just had a child, so maybe I'll write some daddy songs."

(www.belleandsebastian.com)



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