Belle & Sebastian Biography
Last updated: 04/06/2012 12:00:00 PM
Belle and Sebastian were formed in an all-night café in Glasgow, January 1996. Stuart Murdoch (singer/songwriter) and Stuart David (bass guitar) met on a government training scheme and recorded some demos, which were picked up by a Jeepster scout who was taking part in the Stow College Music Business Course. The course, run by ex-Associate Alan Rankine, produces and releases one record every year on the college label Electric Honey Records, usually a single. However in the case of Belle and Sebastian they had enough songs to record a whole album, and so the elusive Tigermilk was born. Recorded in three days and one thousand copies released on vinyl only, original copies now change hands for up to £400 per copy.
Belle and Sebastian then signed to Jeepster in August and the critically acclaimed LP "If You're Feeling Sinister" was released November 18th. The support slot for the Tindersticks ICA gigs, followed by a headline show at the Borderline in early November brought the joys of Belle and Sebastian live to the South for the first time. The band then set about with the plan of spending the summer of 1997 releasing EP's, the first of these being "Dog On Wheels" on the 12th May. This release contained early demos of the band, previous to all the current members joining, including the demo version of "The State I Am In". Mark Radcliffe had played the mastered Tigermilk version of this track relentlessly and for those without a copy of the vinyl masterpiece, the Dog EP appeased the fans thirst enough to put the single in at Number 59 on the singles chart.
The second EP "Lazy Line Painter Jane" was released on July 28th, the week of the seminal Union Chapel gig in Islington, London. Despite the poor sound, the band had the crowd dancing in the aisles (and pews) of the chapel. For most, this gig was their first B&S gig and a religious experience was shared by all. The "Lazy Jane" EP narrowly missed the top 40, crashing in at Number 41, much to Chris Geddes (keyboards) amusement, as he had made a bet with Jeepster boss Mark Jones that it would not get in. The band played two more gigs on their mini tour of the South in Oxford and Colchester, preparing them for their American debut.
The "Sinister" LP had been licensed in North America by EMI Records subsidiary label The Enclave since February. Belle and Sebastian journeyed over to New York in September to take part in the CMJ (College Music Journal) festival. They played two gigs at the Angel Oransanz Foundation Centre for The Arts, an old chapel in Greenwich Village. The excitement levels were so high, parts of the ceiling decided to join the band onstage, as Belle and Sebastian - literally - brought the house down.
The band were also invited to play at the Barcelona BAM festival in late September. This time their venue was an ancient courtyard at the Plaza Del Rei, and under a starry moonlit sky, beneath the gaze of a thousand gargoyles they captivated another audience.
"3..6..9 Seconds Of Light" was the last of the summer EP's released on October 13th, and the music press finally realised just how important B&S were, when both the Melody Maker and the NME made it their single of the week. Despite the lack of radio play, it became the bands first top 40 hit, debuting at number 32 on the charts.
1998 saw the release of "The Boy With The Arab Strap", which became the biggest hit yet, hitting the charts at number 12, before disappearing without trace. The band disappeared too, but fortunately left a trace which led to the US and Europe on their first overseas tour.
Oh, and the band won "Best Newcomer" at The Brit Awards, much to the chagrin of Dennis Waterman, whose re-mix of "I Could Be So Good For You (Theme from Minder)" was deemed ineligible on grounds of being shit. However, Waterman's tears turned to cheers the next year when he was presented with an honorary award for "Best Thing To Happen To Rula Lenska".
The fourth single "This Is Just A Modern Rock Song" was released, backed by the sublime "Slow Graffiti".
1999 was a reasonably quiet year for the band. The only highlights were the re-release of "Tigermilk" and The Bowlie Weekender, Belle and Sebastian's own festival, held at Pontin's Holiday Camp in Camber Sands. The festival featured Mercury Rev, Teenage Fanclub, Flaming Lips, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Mogwai and Broadcast among others, and spawned All Tomorrows Parties.
The rest of the year, and the first half of 2000 saw the band locked in CaVa studios with Tony Doogan, recording the songs that would eventually make up Belle and Sebastian's first Top Ten LP "Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant". The accompanying single "Legal Man" was a top 15 hit, and gave the band their first "Top Of The Pops" appearance, and their first brush with the law. It was a riotous appearance that degenerated into a blur of monkey butlers and roses.
The ever-expanding Belle and Sebastian line-up had a bit of a blow when Stuart David departed to concentrate on Looper and writing books. But it's alright. Playing the Bass isn't exactly rocket science!
The remaining members of the band took the rest of the year off to concentrate on other projects: Bel's Gentle Waves, Mick with the Amphetameanies, Chris and Stevie with V-Twin and Richard with Snow Patrol.
They reconvened in January 2001 to record some new songs, again with Tony Doogan. The first of these, "Jonathan David", is to be released as a single on June 18th, and will be accompanied by the band's most extensive tour to date.
The only other event of note is the soundtrack to Todd Solondz's new film "Storytelling", which the band recorded in NYC and Hoboken, NJ in February. The results of this are likely to be released in either autumn or the fall, depending on where you live.