The American music Bible Spin named them as one of the twenty most important bands working today. Their last EP made the Top Forty. Their concerts sell out in hours. Yet it's only now, on the release of their third album, that they have released this photograph of themselves.

Just who are ? Words: Fiona Shepherd


SOME BANDS WILL DO anything to grab the media’s attention. Take Stuart Murdoch of ram- pant self-publicists Belle And Sebastian. Only a few weeks ago he was standing outside The List’s Glasgow office throwing bits of paper bearing the traditional greeting 'hello’ through the window, as part of his efforts to make us listen to his new CD, The Boy With The Arab Strap, which he delivered personally on being admitted to our writers’ garret.

This story - true apart from the 'rampant self- publicists’ bit is only one of many delicious ironies about Glaswegian troubadours Belle And Sebastian. The singer, who is prepared to deliver all his group’s albums by hand to this publication and presumably other interested local parties, hasn’t conducted an interview in eons, a potentially frustrating state of affairs for the ardent breed of fan his group attracts. The rest of this affable bunch are hardly hermits, fre- quenting many fine West End hostelries on a reg- ular basis, yet they won’t readily pose for group photos.

This tendency to play their cards close to their chest has led to accusations of preciousness from a snubbed press; but has this, or the infrequency of their live appearances, stunted their appeal? It seems not. What their wilfully unco-operative approach to promotion has done is throw all the attention onto their lilting, wistful, graceful, pastoral, huggable songs three albums and various EPs (the most recent of which made the Top 40) which have carved an idiosyncratic niche for a group whose music may echo the past, but has no peer in the present.

Stuart Murdoch’s baby took a variety of forms before becoming Belle And Sebastian. He first honed his fey 60s-inspired soundtrack pop in a ’group’ and one-off club night called La Pastie De La Bourgeoisie. Later he recorded a demo under the equally pretentious name Lisa Helps The Blind and accompanied it with a note saying: 'You may lambast me for not being "rock" enough. But I've always



14 THE “31’ 10—24 Sep 1998

preferred baby animals and cake to rock. La Pastie was such a flop that I had to write a song of the same name to redeem the evocation.’ The song an ’Alone Again Or' for the 905, if you will, pop- pickers finally surfaced on Belle And Sebastian's ’3...6...9 Seconds Of Light' EP.

Belle And Sebastian, as they now appear, started to take shape under the moniker Rhode Island, but it wasn't until they named themselves after Cecile Aubrey's children’s book about the friendship between a boy and his dog later a TV series that the current line-up was assembled in its entirety.

I first saw, or rather heard, them perform at a party in Garnethill. They played in the bedroom and I listened through the door because the room was full. Even in the early days, it was difficult to gain entry to their gigs.

In 1996, the debut Posed band album Tigermi/k was released to general phOtOQraphs delight and felicity on were Stow College's Electric definitely out, Honey label, and a record - company bidding war so the" press would have ensued if the ShOtS group hadn’t already consisted of signed to their current . home, Jeepster Records, vanous from where they have tableaux waged a mischievous - campaign against music fe_aturmg industry norms. frIENdS arm At first, interviews cudd|y toys

would only be conducted

if at all when all members of the band (six at the time) could be present. Posed band photographs were definitely out, so their press shots consisted of various tableaux featuring friends and cuddly toys, including a Last Supper homage. This has proved a great wheeze, and one which did elusive groups like The Residents no harm. Gigs have been relatively sparing, compared to the prevailing ’gig yourself into an early grave' philosophy of some bands, and in unusual venues where possible.

All of which seems just about right for a sublime, talented and perpetually in-demand group propelled by a man who prefers baby animals and cake to rock. And one who, for all his aversion to the fame game, fulfils the showbiz adage of always leaving ’em wanting more.

The Boy With The Arab Strap is out now on Jeepster Records. See page 42 for concert review.

{a '. 3 x”