fbpx

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN: STUART MURDOCH The X-Press Interview


Days Of The Bagnold Summer
is an award-winning graphic novel created by Joff Winterhart, that is being turned into a feature film to be released in 2020. Director of the film (Simon Bird), is a long-time Belle and Sebastian fan and approached the seven-piece to record an original soundtrack for the film. The Glasgow band were happy to oblige. 
Belle and Sebastian’s music is perfectly suited to a tender, coming-of-age story, which tells of a heavy metal-loving teenager’s holiday plans falling through at the last minute, leading to him having to spend the summer with the person who annoys him most in the world: his mum. As a result, they recorded 11 brand new songs as well as re-recorded versions of Get Me Away From Here I’m Dying and I Know Where The Summer GoesCHRIS HAVERCROFT spoke to Belle and Sebastian’s most recognised face, frontman Stuart Murdoch, as the singer was commuting around Glasgow on public transport.

Is it a different cycle than usual when you promote a soundtrack, to when you are promoting a standalone Belle and Sebastian record?

That’s interesting. I had never really thought about that. Once you have the album made, it just feels like another record. The film is not out yet. We always put our heart and soul into records, and we tried to make this record a good listen with lots of song on it, like a typical Belle and Sebastian record. I guess it does feel similar.

Is there a need to do all the touring that comes with a new release, or will the film act as promotion for the album?

Actually, we kind of planned it the other way. The film is a pretty small budget film. We thought the best thing to do would be to get out ahead of the film so that our album would provide the film with some publicity, so it works both ways.

How did you become involved in the project?

The director of the film Simon Bird is quite well known for a TV show called The Inbetweeners. He got a chance to make a feature, and I never knew he was a fan of the band. He actually said to his producer could we try and get someone like Belle and Sebastian to do the music, and his producer said why don’t you just ask Belle and Sebastian, as I bet they’re not that busy. It was actually really good timing and it worked out really well.

Were you familiar with the graphic novel when they approached you?

I wasn’t familiar with it, although my friend was familiar with the graphic novel and she had recommended it to me. As soon as I got word of the project, I read it straight away, and I embraced it from that minute. I started thinking about music ideas immediately.

Did you have songs kicking around that you beat into shape, or did you take total inspiration from the story and develop the songs from there?

It was a bit of both. You can get inspiration from the film, but it just so happened that I was digging through some old tape looking at some old song ideas, and it became a mixture of both. There were some that I resuscitated and redeveloped, and we also wrote some new songs specifically with the film in mind.

Do you usually go back to look at old songs whenever you are making a new album?

Not so much. I usually try to stick to what is more relevant and more modern. It just happened that we had a gap in our schedule and I was indulging myself by looking back. It turned out to be perfect for the film, because there is a mood on the film and this album that is a bit old fashioned and a bit backward-looking and dreamy, like the actual experience of the film itself.

Sometimes when you look back on your life, particularly when you look back over 20 years, that it feels a bit like a film anyway. You might have been having a terrible time, but it suddenly feels like a film and then it doesn’t feel so bad after all. But maybe that’s just me.

There is a cohesive sound to the album. Is this primarily a Stuart Murdoch album, or did the rest of the band contribute in the same ways that they usually do?

Very much it was the usual collaboration, but I think that it became a bit more of a ‘me’ record than a standard studio record. I think that it was more effective to try and keep the one voice on the album. Not so much as a narrator, but it was handier to have one voice coming in for this film. In that regard, the album is slightly more biased in terms of my songs.

There are two main voices or roles in the film?

There is the mother and the son and it is very much based around their relationship. Before the time that he filmed it, we were having chats and one of our references was the film Harold & Maude from the 60s. I do love those movies that just at the right point in the drama, it goes to the music, and the music provides commentary on what has gone before as well as allowing the tension to dissipate a little bit also.

Sequencing of records can be important. In the case of Days Of The Bagnold Summer, did they stipulate that they wanted the music to occur on the record in the same order as it does in the film, or were you able to treat it as a Belle and Sebastian record and place the songs where you thought they best fit?

A little bit of both. There is a short instrumental at the start and then it goes into I Know Where The Summer Goes, which is like the opening of the film so in a sense we were matching the vibe of the film a little bit. After that though, you want to make the album be a satisfying listen.

There was quite a lot more instrumental stuff that we recorded for this album, but Stevie (Jackson, guitars) suggested that we keep that to a minimum. That was the difference between this record and another soundtrack that we did called Storytelling which was a very instrumental-heavy record. Stevie felt that there was enough good songs to make it a consistent listen and then just throw in a few instrumentals. Funnily enough, when we got contacted to do this album, we were already working on an instrumental music project of our own. We plan to release more instrumental music in the future.

Was that part of the reason for bringing back the idea of releasing EPs (How to Solve Our Human Problems was a series of EPs released 2017-2018), as there is a bit more scope to place instrumentals on that format?

Oh, definitely. When we did the EPs maybe we didn’t have that in mind. Once we put them out and everything went ok, and they were reasonably successful, my next thought was that I would like to do 5 instrumental EPs with each of them having a different mood. I didn’t broadcast it to the record company straight away, as I’m sure they wouldn’t be delighted with that idea. It is a nice format though, that feels more casual.

In the news recently has been the idea that Taylor Swift will re-record her back catalogue. You have re-recorded a couple of older songs for the soundtrack. Will you maybe follow Taylor’s lead and rerecord more of your tunes?

I am almost disappointed to report that nothing that Taylor Swift has ever done has been much of an influence. That was actually Simon (Bird) who put those two songs from our back catalogue into the film. That often happens when you are making a film, where you put some temporary music into the film as a placeholder, and then everything starts to build around those songs and they become hard to take out of the film. So, we were happy to re-record those songs for him. I can’t see it being a regular occurrence though.

The character Daniel in the film is into death metal, and yet the soundtrack is provided by Belle and Sebastian…

I am not sure if Simon was going for that juxtaposition, it just happens that the character Daniel is into metal music. There is some metal that pops up in the film, but it represents his character and doesn’t appear to jar with our music at all. I think our music represents the overall character of the film and the metal represents Daniel. I think that it works really well. We were prepared to roll up our sleeves and do metal but they had that covered elsewhere.

Comments are closed.