Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch Does Not Want to Bore You

Categories: Q&A
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Carrie Schechter Studios
Belle and Sebastian in the studio for the SF Weekly cover shoot.
In the hour I spoke with Belle and Sebastian singer-songwriter Stuart Murdoch for this week's SF Weekly cover story, we got to talk about a lot of things that I didn't end up using in the larger piece. Rather than doom Murdoch's thoughts to the dustbin of my hard drive, I thought I'd share a bit more of our conversation before his band headlines the Treasure Island Music Festival this Sunday. Read on for Murdoch's take on the band's rough early live shows, why it's not doing much publicity for the new album, and how the Internet is changing the music industry. The photos here are outtakes from our shoot with the band in New York City.

What you were thinking when Belle and Sebastian started? Did you have any idea that it would develop into what it has?

I definitely didn't have that ambition. There are some people in pop music ... and I call them lifers. I'm talking about the people who know that this is what they were born into, and this is what they're going to do from now until the end of time. They love nothing more than simply holding a guitar or just singing to people -- and that's not me. I just like to make stuff. I kind of stumbled into pop music as a way of expressing what had happened to me, being ill for so long. But it just so happened that Belle and Sebastian were way more than I had bargained for, a living, breathing, 14-legged thing. Also it became in a sense a therapy for rme as well. It was hard, at first, to catch up physically with the group, but eventually I think it was a great stimulus for me.

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Carrie Schechter Studios
Your early live shows were pretty rough, from what I've heard and read. How do you remember them?

We went three or four years [where], on the small occasions when we did play live, there were - they were some good times, flashes of good times, but on the whole it was a very trying experience. I couldn't really keep up with it, health-wise. [Later], Stuart [David] left the group, and then Isobell [Campbell] sort of left the group, and then suddenly the remaining members sort of huddled together and everything became much more organized and easy. I'm telling you, the major pleasure of my life was to actually start playing live and enjoy these tours with our crew and everything. Nothing has been consistently such a pleasure or a joy to do as that.

Do you think Internet has made things better or worse for bands? How do you see it changing things?

I think it will be better and worse, I think it will be easier and harder. It's easier for bands to make records, it's cheaper for bands to make records. They can make them fast and they don't need to be chosen by a record company. Let's not forget that back in the day, only a tiny minority of bands were chosen by record companies before they could make a record. But now pretty much anyone can make a record. So this is a good thing, because music is good. And it should be democratic. But it does mean that the quality of what's beng produced might be a bit more erratic. It's going to be harder for groups to kind of bust through if there are so many records being made.

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Carrie Schechter Studios
You made a conscious decision to hold back on advancing the new album for reviews, and haven't done much press for it. Why?

It was easy, nothing furtive. As I said, you get a little bit older, you feel like you have nothing to prove. And sometimes, talking about music, there's only so many times you can do it. This is maybe my second interview since we made the record, and it's nice talking to you, but if I have to do many more, it would get boring. Basically stuff gets boring, you know? 'Cause I'm 42 now, and if there's one thing you learn in this business of entertainment, you just don't want to bore anyone.


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