Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch: Being out of time and out of fashion works for us

As the award-winning indie band played Hong Kong, Murdoch revealed the secret behind their staying power

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 February, 2015, 1:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 February, 2015, 4:08pm

Despite winning an NME Lifetime Achievement Award last year, Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch is somewhat ambivalent about mainstream recognition.

“If you manage to stay around long enough they need to talk to you because you won’t go away,” the 46-year-old Scot told the South China Morning Post ahead of the band’s recent Hong Kong show.

Formed in 1996 during the heyday of Britpop, Belle and Sebastian always stood out from their more commercially successful contemporaries as more sincere and introspective.

“We were certainly producing more sensitive music than the average group around the time, I’ve got no apologies for that,” Murdoch said.

While their early records were more stripped down, "feather soft" in the words of Pitchfork, the band's indie pop sound has become more complex and layered over the years. More heavily produced and dancier than previous records, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, released last month, may seem like a musical departure for the group, but has its genesis in earlier tracks like 2003's Stay Loose.

“I think it’s a mood we’ve happened to embrace on most of the record rather than hinting at it like we have in the past,” he said.

With Girls however, Murdoch said the band went into the recording process “looking for that sound [and the] kind of producer that would realise that sound for us.”

The lyrics however, are classic Belle and Sebastian. The album opens with Nobody’s Empire, a deeply heartfelt song about Murdoch’s seven year struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome.

“My concerns have been quite consistent over the years … I like being honest with lyrics about feelings and about what I see,” he said.

He thinks this consistency is what has held the band together over almost two decades of recording and performing.

“I think it’s a case of being out of time and out of fashion constantly, being stubborn … once you build up a following, they can’t really knock you back.”

Belle and Sebastian play The Gathering in Singapore on February 14, and at Hostess Club in Taipei on February 16.