Mention Scottish indie pop band, and Belle & Sebastian immediately comes to mind. The band has reached such heights that they are often compared to some of the high-ranking indie bands like The Smiths.
Belle & Sebastian was assembled by Stuart Murdoch and Stuart David in Glasgow in 1996. Their first recordings were part of a Stow College student project under the label Electric Honey Records. Because of the promise they showed, they were later allowed to do a full-length album, entitled “Tigermilk”. The demand for the album was overwhelming, and so the pair recruited guitarist Stevie Jackson, cellist Isobel Campbell, drummer Richard Colbum, and keyboardist Chris Geddes to turn the band into a full-time project. They learned early on to use music rehearsal studios.
The band’s follow up album, “If You’re Feeling Sinister”, shortly came up, and this was already released under Jeepster Records. Before recording this, vocalist/violinist Sarah Martin became part of the band already. This second album was hailed as Belle & Sebastian’s masterpiece, but the reaction at the time was a little bit muted. There was very little touring done, and the promotions for the album was not really a focus, as the band members then were rarely photographed or interviewed regarding this most recent release. After Sinister, the band released a series of EPs, until their critically lauded third album came about. “The Boy with the Arab Strap” came out in 1998, often referred to by critics as the band’s best album ever. It debuted at #12 in the UK charts and paved the way for them to be awarded as the Best Newcomer in the 1999 Brit Awards. During this time, trumpet player Mick Cooke was already a full-time member of the band, after being a session player on their other albums.
“The Boy with the Arab Strap” is probably the album that did most to raise the Belle & Sebastian profile, because after its release, not only was Tigermilk given a full release by Jeepster Records, the band also released their first top 10 album in the UK, entitled Fold Your Hands Child You Walk Like a Peasant, and released “Legal Man,” the single that showed them the way towards a Top of the Pops guesting. Apart from these, Belle & Sebastian’s music was also gaining popularity in the film and television industry. Founder Stuart David then left the band and was replaced by V-Twin’s Bobby Kildea. After recording for a soundtrack album and while touring North America, Isobel Campbell also left the band as well.
Belle & Sebastian then signed under Rough Trade Records after leaving Jeepster. Under this new label, the band was able to record and release two albums, the first of which was “Dear Catastrophe Waitress”, an album that marked Murdoch’s return as the band’s songwriter. “The Life Pursuit” was the most recent full-length album, the band’s seventh. Released in February 2006, this album later became their highest charting release to date, making it on both UK and US charts.
As of the moment, Belle & Sebastian is on hiatus, as its band members work on individual projects. No new studio album is being planned, but the band promises to continue their story when everyone is ready.
Drew Mers writes about music practice spaces.
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