‘We’ve evolved over the years’: Belle and Sebastian on keeping it fresh a dozen albums in

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‘We’ve evolved over the years’: Belle and Sebastian on keeping it fresh a dozen albums in

Belle and Sebastian
Words by Andrew Handley

Scottish band Belle and Sebastian may be known for their twee indie pop, but they’ve never stopped changing.  

This can be heard in the grandiose sophisti-pop of their last two records A Bit of Previous and Late Developers – their 11th and 12th albums respectively. Releasing both within a year, the band shows no sign of slowing down almost three decades into their career. 

Keyboardist and founding member Chris Geddes says the band has always wanted to keep going. 

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“We didn’t get together thinking ‘Okay, yeah, we’ll still be doing it in 30 years’ but it’s never felt like we’ve run out of steam,” he says from his Glasgow home.

“There’s been lineup changes over the years and the people who haven’t wanted to be doing it anymore have stepped aside, and whenever new people have come in it’s always given the band a fresh impetus and a new approach to doing things.” 

Geddes says the band has never felt like they needed to repeat themselves. “The sound that people would think of, the classic sound of the band, would be the 60s folk rock-inspired stuff with a song that starts with Stuart [Murdoch] strumming on the acoustic guitar and maybe a trumpet solo,” he explains. 

“Live, that’s still a massive part of what we do, and we still play a lot of the old songs in the set, and we play them quite close to how they are on the record, but we’ve evolved over the years.

“We’ve always just been led from song to song on how to play it, we’ve never really done a record where we had an overall stylistic thing of how to approach the record, so sometimes I think our albums feel like they’re a little bit all over the place,” admits Geddes. “I think every album, apart from If You’re Feeling Sinister… would have been better if we’d kept things a bit more cohesive.”

Despite this, Geddes says this approach has contributed to the band’s longevity. “We’ve worked in a way that keeps things interesting for us, and we’ve been fortunate that… enough people have kept with us when we’ve taken all these left turns that we’re still able to go and play to people.” 

The band was due to fly to LA to record their 11th album when the pandemic struck, requiring them to turn their rehearsal space into a studio. 

“We’ve had the space for years and just used it as a rehearsal room, and I think some of us in the band had always been keen to try and record there,” Geddes explains.

 “Putting aside the pandemic, the experience of recording at home in Glasgow was really good… just to have the studio where we could go and do stuff every day because there wasn’t anything else to do.

“Initially, to miss out on going to LA and recording with [producer] Shawn Everett was a bit of a kick in the guts, but then we were aware that there was stuff going on that was much worse than that,” recalls Geddes. 

“It was just a case of making the best of it and using the time that we had.” The band went on to record enough material for two records, surprising fans with Late Developers less than a year after A Bit of Previous. 

While it has been a productive period for the band, Geddes says it may be coming to a close. Bandleader Stuart Murdoch plans to promote a new book he has written after their current tour.

 “Then we have a bit of downtime to recharge and come back to it again, with fresh energy,” he says. “But now we’ve got the studio, anyone in the band who’s got a song and wants to get people together to record it can always do that.” 

The band will return to Australia in August for the first time in six years. “I’ve always loved coming over,” says Geddes. “Partly just on a personal level – we’ve got some old, close friends who live over there and these days the only time you ever get to see them face to face is when the band is over there.” 

“On a wider level, I think the band has always clicked with people in Australia, and there are Australian bands like The Go-Betweens who’ve been really influential on us,” explains Geddes.

 “I’d say there’s probably a lot of Australian bands who have connected with our sound and taken influence from us as well. It’s always a treat to come over and play there.”

Belle and Sebastian will be performing at The Palais on August 23. For tickets to their Australian tour this August, head here