Belle and Sebastian were formed
in an all-night café in Glasgow, January 1996.
Stuart Murdoch (singer/songwriter) and Stuart David
(bass guitar) met on a government-training scheme and
recorded some demos, which were picked up by a Jeepster
scout who was taking part in the Stow College Music
Business Course. The course, run by ex-Associate Alan
Rankine, produces and releases one record every year
on the college label Electric Honey Records, usually
a single. However in the case of Belle and Sebastian
they had enough songs to record a whole album, and so
the elusive Tigermilk was born. Recorded in three days
and one thousand copies released on vinyl only, it now
changes hands for up to £400 per copy.
Belle and Sebastian then signed
to Jeepster in August and the critically acclaimed
LP "If You're Feeling Sinister" (JPRCD/LP/MC001)
was released November 18th. The Support slot for the
Tindersticks ICA Gigs, Followed by a headline show
at the Borderline in early November brought the joys
of Belle and Sebastian live to the south for the first
time. The band then set about with the plan of spending
the summer of 1997 releasing EP's, the first of these
being "Dog On Wheels" on 28th April. This
release contained early demos of the band, previous
to all the current members joining, including the
demo version of "The State I Am In". Mark
Radcliffe had played the mastered Tigermilk version
of this track relentlessly and for those without a
copy of the vinyl masterpiece, the Dog EP (JPRCDS/12/7001)
appeased the fans thirst enough to put the single
in at Number 59 on the singles chart.
The second EP "Lazy Line Painter
Jane", was released on July 28th, the Week of
the seminal Union Chapel gig in Islington, London.
Despite the poor sound, the band had the crowd dancing
in the aisles (and pews) of the chapel. For most,
this gig was their first B&S gig and a religious
experience was shared by all. The "Lazy Jane"
EP narrowly missed the top 40, crashing in at number
41, much to Chris Geddes (keyboards) amusement, as
he had made bets with Jeepster boss Mark Jones that
it would not get in. The band played two more gigs
on their mini tour of the south-west in Oxford and
Colchester, preparing them for their American debut.
The "Sinister" LP had
been licensed in North America by Virgin subsidiary
label the enclave since February. Belle and Sebastian
journeyed over to New York in September to take part
in the CMJ (College Music Journal) festival. They
played two gigs at the Angel Oransanz Foundation Centre
For The Arts, an old chapel in Greenwich Village.
The excitement levels were so high, parts of the ceiling
decided to join the band onstage, as Belle and Sebastian
- literally - brought the house down.
The band were also invited to play
at the Barcelona BAM festival in late September. This
time their venue was an ancient courtyard at the Plaza
Del Rei, and under a starry moonlit sky, beneath the
gaze of a thousand gargoyles they captivated, yet
again, another audience.
"3..6..9 Seconds Of Light"
was the last of the summer EP's released on October
13th, and the music press finally realised just how
important B&S are, when both the Melody Maker
and the NME made it their single of the Week. Despite
the lack of radio play, it became the bands' first
top 40 hit, debuting at number 32 on the charts.
1998 saw the release of "The
Boy With The Arab Strap", which became the biggest
hit yet, hitting the charts at number 12, before disappearing
without trace. The band disappeared too, but fortunately
left a trace which led to the US and Europe on their
first overseas tour.
Oh, and the band won "Best
Newcomer" at The Brit Awards, much to the chagrin
of Dennis Waterman, whose re-mix of "I Could
Be So Good For You (Theme From Minder)" was deemed
ineligible on grounds of being shit. However, Waterman's
tears turned to cheers the next year when he was presented
with an honorary award for "Best Thing To Happen
To Rula Lenska".
The fourth single "This Is
Just A Modern Rock Song" was released, backed
by the sublime "Slow Graffiti".
1999 was a reasonably quiet year
for the band. The only highlights were the re-release
of "Tigermilk" and The Bowlie Weekender,
Belle & Sebastian's own festival. Held at Pontin's
Holiday Camp in Camber Sands, the festival featured
Mercury Rev, Teenage Fanclub, Flaming Lips, Godspeed
You Black Emperor, Mogwai and Broadcast among others,
and spawned All Tomorrow's Parties.
The rest of the year, and the first
half of 2000 saw the band locked up in CaVa with Tony
Doogan, recording the songs that would eventually
make up B&S' first Top Ten LP "Fold Your
Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant". The accompanying
single "Legal Man" was a Top 15 hit, and
gave the band their first "Top Of The Pops"
appearance, and their first brush with the law. It
was a riotous appearance that degenerated into a blur
of monkey butlers and roses.
The ever-expanding B&S line-up
had a bit of a blow when Stuart David departed to
concentrate on Looper and writing books. But it's
alright. Playing the bass isn't exactly rocket science.
The members of the band took the
rest of the year off to concentrate on other projects;
Bel's Gentle Waves; Mick with The Amphetameanies;
Beans and Stevie with V-Twin and Richard with Snow
They reconvened in January 2001
to record some new songs, again with Doogan. The first
of these, "Jonathan David", was released
as a single on June 18th 2001, becoming a minor hit
in the UK and a major hit in Brazil. The band celebrated
by playing a 13-date tour of the UK, as well as sell-out
trips to the USA, Spain, Japan and Brazil. Having
survived various gruesome tour initiation tests, "Belfast"
Bobby Kildea was poached from V-Twin, joining the
band as full-time bassist. He lacks the boy David's
dry, cutting wit, but is somewhat easier on the eye.
The second and final single of the
year was called "I'm Waking Up To Us", and
was released in November 2002. It was the first time
the band had collaborated with a producer; the producer
in question being Mike Hurst, the man behind several
great '60s hits, and loads of dodgy '80s stuff.
Large chunks of 2002 were also spent
recording "Storytelling", the soundtrack
album to Todd Solenz's film of the same name. As it
turns out, a lot of the album doesn't feature in the
film, but the film at the very least, inspired all
the music. Alright?
The rest of 2002 was spent on the
road, or so it seemed, performing shows in the UK,
Denmark, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, France, Italy,
the USA, Canada, Norway, Germany, Greece, Portugal
and Spain. Sadly there was another casualty along
the way; Isobel was the next to falter, returning
home midway through the US tour. Shed never
tried to pretend the rocknroll life suited
her, and the cons had started to outweigh the pros.
So that was that.
Another significant change occurred,
with the band leaving Jeepster Records. Times had
changed for both parties and there was a mutual understanding
that everyone would be better off trying something
new. As far as B&S were concerned, that something
new was Rough Trade Records. For Jeepster it was ceasing
to release B&S records, in favour of a long-planned
B&S DVD compilation.
One of the highlights of the year
was in December, when B&S went to London to play
at John Peels Christmas party. Some new songs
were aired, and a drunken choir joined the band for
some carols. For many though, the climax was a unique
take on The Twelve Days Of Christmas where
Richard finally got to do his bird impressions.
Which brings us to 2003. Belle &
Sebastian have completed what must be, ohh, their
6th studio album. Recorded in Sussex and London with
80s maestro Trevor Horn (Buggles, Yes, ABC,
TATU, Frankie Goes To Hollywood), Dear Catastrophe
Waitress is the first album to feature Bobby
and not Isobel and is released worldwide on October
6th. The band played their biggest ever headline shows
in NYC, LA and San Fran in August. They werent
sure whether Neil Diamonds Love at The
Greek was recorded in the LA or San Fran Greek
Theater, so they did both to be on the safe side.
Theyll be off to the US again in late October
and making it around the UK in December to showcase
the new tunes from the record. The rest of you will
unfortunately have to wait til 2004, but theyll
hopefully make it to Outer Mongolia then.
The Jeepster DVD will be released
on October 20th, and it tells the story of B&S
1996 2003 in a far more eloquent and entertaining
way than this. Theres loads of unreleased and
unseen footage as well as a few dodgy haircuts
on there which should hopefully make you giggle
as much as it did us.
November 17th sees the release of
the bands first single from an album in the form of
Step Into My Office, Baby. The video is
in the style of the seventies Confessions
films and stars Richard as the Window Cleaner come
Office Piece of Fluff. Graham Linehan he of
Father Ted fame graciously accepted B&Ss
request to write and direct the video, which instigated
the biggest amount of back slapping I love your
work you could imagine.