Don't be shy ear
There have been changes at camp BELLE & SEBASTIAN but they’re all the better for them. Words: Camilla Pia
t may be subtle. but Belle & Sebastian have
definitely changed. As people they‘re the same.
Keyboard player Chris (Beans) Geddes and singer/violinist Sarah Martin are their usual self- deprecating selves. describing the seven-piece as the ‘Ayr United of rock music. second from the bottom of the first division~ during our conversation in a busy but catastrophe-free cafe in Glasgow's West End. However. over the past year. original member and singer/cellist Isobel Campbell left. the hand signed to in vogue London label Rough Trade and took up legendary Frankie Goes to Hollywood producer Trevor Horn‘s offer to work with them — surely the most bizarre move in their career since they covered Thin Lizzy at a Christmas charity gig.
‘He invited himself up to listen to us practising and the general consensus was how do you say no. and well. it will be something to tell the grandchildren anyway and then he was just really nice.‘ explains Martin. ‘The things that he thought he could bring to us were the things we were looking for. and he helped people‘s confidence more than anyone had expected. This album was a move forward for us and we got a bit closer to what we'd been aiming at with the last couple.‘
As well as releasing what many are regarding as their most accomplished and adventurous work to date in Dear Catastrophe Waitress. which finds the band treating their trademark beautiful melodies with forays into soul. rock‘n‘roll and innuendo-ridden lyrics. Belle & Sebastian also seem to have found a new enthusiasm for publicity. The once mysterious outfit who would shy away from interviews. press shots and even touring. now seem happy to appear on breakfast television. play gigs around the world and advertise their latest LP on the underground. Geddes offers an explanation for this
‘HAVING MADE A RECORD EVERYONE IS HAPPY WITH, WE FIND IT EASIER TO TALK ABOUT'
apparent shift in attitude.
‘I suppose partly it‘s from us being a bit more confident and having made a record that everyone is relatively happy with. so we find it easier to talk about. Also when we signed to Rough Trade they indicated that they might like us to work a bit harder.’ he laughs. ‘There‘s folk in the band who have always liked the idea of people switching on the telly and finding us grinning away like idiots but we just never got the opportunity before.‘
Both agree that the changes made this album feel like a fresh start. but they maintain that their split with Isobel Campbell was entirely amicable despite not having heard from her since she left.
‘She had her own band and I think it's hard to do two things properly which is why she went.‘ explains Martin. ‘It's different now because we‘re all concentrating pretty hard on
the songs that Isobel played on so you‘re always aware. with Stuart David as well. that they‘ve left an indelible mark on the work we've done. I've not actually seen her in months but I‘d hate to not count her among my friends. It‘s weird being the only girl left in the band.‘ she adds. ‘But Stuart [Murdoch] has started to sing falsetto so that doesn‘t make me feel as bad.‘
Having recently returned from New York. the band are already thinking about the next album. The awkwardness of the Brit Awards win seems like a lifetime ago. six albums in and Belle & Sebastian finally seem relaxed and ready for wider success while still retaining their musical integrity and indie charm. And it’s genuinely exciting to watch where it will take them.
Belle and Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand play the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Sun 14 Dec.
the one thing. but we still play a lot of
Mus/c editor Mark Roberston picks hrs parr of perfect live performances
N*E*R*D with Justin Timberlake shouldn't have been that good, really. They may be the best studio producers in the world and have released a pretty OK album, but the feverish excitement of MTV's presence in Edinburgh on the eve of this gig only added to the hysteria. What we got was one of the sweatiest. dirtiest funkiest performances ever to rock the prison-like environs of Edinburgh's Corn Exchange. Timberlake provided a shining star centrepiece. giving all those who missed out on Leith's main shindig something to smile about. It's a rarity to see big international names so up close and very personal (bear in mind Timberlake has sold out three nights at the SECC in January) so this felt very much like the sneak preview it was. Real sexed-up pop music. executed style and grace.
Rock music isn't readily known for its style and grace but Queens of the Stone Age have a certain swagger and confidence that sets them just that bit above the hoards of seemingly emotionally disturbed rock kids stomping their jack boots across our stages.
QOTSA displayed raw power with moments of pop sawy and the sheen of pitch black humour that coats their lyrics carries over in their live performances. Oh, and they had Joey Castillo aka the Hulk playing drums for them — who makes Dave Grohl look like Karen Carpenter. Josh Homme. or the ‘ginger Elvis' as we know him round here. is the only man who can can get away with standing in front of a sold out Barras tossing out pummelling rock rifts while doing girly hula hip shakes. He'd be vaguely camp if he wasn't six foot four. and looked like he could twist your head off like he was removing a bottle top. This was a last chance to see them in a space they could be truly comfortable in, as the arenas beckon.
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