Scotland Week: Belle and Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson on Scottish Independence and Orange Juice | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Scotland Week: Belle and Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson on Scottish Independence and Orange Juice

“It’s a huge leap into the unknown, the whole [Scottish] independence thing on every level.” – Stevie Jackson

Sep 05, 2014 Web Exclusive
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We have a special theme on Under the Radar’s website this week which we’re simply calling Scotland Week. All throughout the week we will be posting interviews, reviews, lists, and blog posts relating to Scotland and in particular Scottish music. For some of the Scotland Week Q&As we emailed out the same set of Scottish related questions to various different musicians from the country.

For this interview we talk to Stevie Jackson of Belle and Sebastian. One of the most iconic Scottish bands of the last two decades, the indie pop six-piece barely needs any introduction (especially to the readers of this website). The band was formed in Glasgow in 1996 by vocalist/guitarist Stuart Murdoch and bassist Stuart David. Their debut album, Tigermilk, was released the same year on vinyl by Electric Honey, with only 1,000 copies pressed. Guitarist/vocalist Stevie Jackson, cellist/vocalist Isobel Campbell, keyboardist Chris Geddes, violinist/vocalist Sarah Martin, and drummer Richard Colburn soon joined the group for their critically acclaimed sophomore album, If You’re Feeling Sinister (also released in 1996, this time on Jeepster Records). The band initially shunned the press, but eventually opened up to the idea of self-promotion. 1998’s third album, The Boy with the Arab Strap, which features more contributions from the rest of the band, hit new commercial heights and helped cement the band as a beloved indie pop institution, grounded in Murdoch’s observational lyrics and quirky characters and backed by delicate string arrangements and a strong pop instinct.

They have an extensive discography of albums, EPs, non-album singles, and compilations. The lineup has adjusted a bit since the early days, with David leaving in 2000 to concentrate on his other band Looper, Campbell departing in 2002, longtime trumpeter Mick Cooke exiting in 2013, and guitarist/bassist Bobby Kildea joining in 2000.

Belle and Sebastian’s last full-length album was 2010’s Belle and Sebastian Write About Love, released in the U.S. on their longtime home Matador, who also put out 2013’s EPs, singles, and rarities compilation The Third Eye Centre. The band is currently working on a new album and God Help the Girl, the feature film writing and directing debut of Stuart Murdoch, is released in theaters today.

Although Murdoch is regarded as the band’s primary songwriter, Stevie Jackson has written or co-written many of their songs as well, including “Seymour Stein,” “Chickfactor,” “Jonathan David,” and “Step Into My Office, Baby.” In 2011 he also released a solo album, the amusingly titled (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson.

Read on as Jackson discusses his favorite Scottish albums, bands, authors, and films, as well as his thoughts on the Scottish Independence Referendum, in which in a few weeks the people of Scotland get to vote on whether or not to secede from the United Kingdom and have Scotland become its own country.

What are your thoughts on the Scottish Independence referendum? Are you for or against independence? Could you explain why?

After much thought, I’m still torn. A lot of my friends think it is a complete no brainer but I don’t agree. Our drummer Richard [Colburn] reckons that no one knows what’s going to happen come independence and that’s true. Ultimately, I think it’s a vote for the heart so I’ll probably go for it. The amount of political engagement in the country has been heartening, I must say.

How do you think Scottish Independence might affect the arts and the Scottish music scene?

No idea, I don’t think anybody knows, even those who say they do. It’s a huge leap into the unknown, the whole independence thing on every level. The arts and the music scene will go on whatever be it under the jackboot or be it in a utopia and all the places in between.

What is your favorite album by another Scottish artist and why?

Orange Juice’s You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever. It’s beautiful. Somehow it conveys innocence and knowing at exactly the same time. Kinda punk rock Byrds mixed with the Velvets but somehow it sounds nothing like those bands, totally original and inspiring. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are kids around now forming bands because of it.

Which Scottish musician/band most inspired you to start playing music?

Orange Juice. At my first rehearsal with my first band when I was 14 we recoded “Felicity” into a tape recorder. I remember hearing that song and being inspired, the world was opening up.

Who is the most underrated or under-appreciated Scottish musician or band?

Errrrr…. Orange Juice. I remember being on holiday with my pals when I was 17 and listening to a compilation featuring all their flopped singles. (They only had one hit.) I remember basking in the sun and the pop genius of their sound thinking, “If this can’t make it, what hope is there for anybody, including me?” I couldn’t understand why they weren’t huge!

What is your favorite film that takes place in Scotland?

That Sinking Feeling. The Glasgow of my early youth is captured pretty much the way I remember it.

Who is your favorite Scottish author and what’s your favorite book by them?

Ian Rankin books are good, I like the way he peppers them with references to The Rolling Stones, which makes me feel a kinship to the author. I can get torn into any of his books.

Can you explain the Scottish aesthetic and how the Scottish music scene is different from others around the world?

Hard to say. I’ve never lived anywhere else so I have nothing to compare it to. People really do their own thing here, the scene is very diverse. It doesn’t appear to be totally propelled by fashion or vogue. That’s one good thing about being Scottish in a U.K. sense. All that stuff feels very far away, well in London I suppose.

What do you most love about Scotland and being Scottish and what do you most hate about Scotland and being Scottish?

I’ve always embraced being Scottish and I like it but it doesn’t totally define me either. I hate nationalism and that kind of “We are the people” mentality. I love Scotland but I love England too. Bowie and The Beatles, know what I mean?


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June 20th 2015

Terrific post however I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this topic?
I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a
little bit more. Bless you!

July 14th 2016

I’m so excited about this project, and as a native Hoosier, I’m excited about the possibility of the Morning Center possibly coming to Inisdnapolia! (I would prefer my hometown of Fort Wayne, but I can live with Indy.) I’m glad you had such a wonderful experience in Indiana!