Belle and Sebastian

belle & sebastian

Interview with Richard Colburn from Belle & Sebastian, originally commissioned by End of the Road Festival for use in their official festival programme.

Project description: Music feature / interview with Belle & Sebastian
Client: End of the Road / Line of Best Fit
Date: July 2013
Image courtesy of Reuben Cox and Matador Records

Belle & Sebastian reach the End of the Road

There’s something inescapably British about Belle & Sebastian’s brand of success. After seventeen years, eight critically acclaimed albums and numerous sell-out tours, this Glaswegian septet have earned the kind of quietly cultish status of which most bands can only dream. They’ve played the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Philharmonic. They’ve curated a weekend at All Tomorrow’s Parties. They’ve recorded exclusive sessions for the BBC. They’ve even found time to score a movie. And yet – as the band themselves freely admit – even their most ardent fans would probably be hard-pushed to pick them out from a festival crowd.

“That suits us just fine, to be honest,” laughs Richard Colburn, who’s been lodged behind the drums for Belle and Sebastian since the band’s inception in 1994. “We never really set out to be household names. For us, it’s always been a case of exploring who we were as a band, first and foremost. I still remember how amazing it felt to see our name pressed onto a piece of vinyl for the first time. And somehow, here we are all these years later, still together, still playing music. Honestly, if you’d asked us back then, I don’t think any of us thought we’d last seven months, let alone seventeen years.”

But last they most certainly have. From early albums such as Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister through to more recent releases such as 2006’s The Life Pursuit and 2010’s Belle and Sebastian Write About Love, their blend of literate lyrics, arch storytelling and perfectly-crafted pop tunes has turned them into one of the nation’s most beloved alternative bands. Now signed to Rough Trade, the indie label par excellence, they’re heading into a US tour and several summer festivals before their much-anticipated headline set at End of the Road. All good news for aficionados, except for the fact that it’s now been over three years since the band’s last full-length album, and so far signs of a new release have been frustratingly elusive.

“We’ve got into the habit of leaving some time between records,” Richard admits. “In many ways making music becomes easier as time goes by. You learn more about each other and the kind of music you want to make. But we find those breaks really useful, from a creative point of view. They allow us time to recharge our batteries, explore different projects, and come back to the band fresh. That’s important when you’ve been together as long as we have. But we will definitely be recording a new album this autumn. It’s early days yet, but I think this one will probably be more of a concept, and tell one whole story, rather than just be a collection of disparate songs.”

With a summer of shows in front of them, it’ll be a while before the latest incarnation of Belle and Sebastian begins to take shape, then – and for now, the band is focused solely on the here and now.

“Hopefully this tour will be a good way of bringing this chapter to a close before moving on to new things,” continues Richard. “But honestly, we’re just glad that we still enjoy playing together, and that people still want to listen to us after all this time. And as a band, I suppose that’s really all you can ask for, eh?”