Belle and Sebastian

Belle and Sebastian are a fey Glaswegian band who made a name for themselves with witty, understated songs about unhappy schooldays, and quietly amassed a following of millions as if in spite of themselves.

Their first couple of albums, Tigermilk and If You're Feeling Sinister, were essentially bare folk-rock vehicles for Stuart Murdoch's writing and singing, aside from oddities like Electronic Renaissance; on The Boy with the Arab Strap Stuart David, Stevie Jackson and Isobel Campbell also joined in, and the result was more musically varied. On Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant, Murdoch stepped further back from centre-stage, and Sarah Martin joined the other singer-songwriters with the excellent Waiting for the Moon to Rise; but by and large the album was a little disappointing. Their EPs have never been a let-down, however, and their latest offerings - the Storytelling sountrack album and Dear Catastrophe Waitress - have several tracks about as good as their best work, although Storytelling is conspicuously short and not served very well by the fragments of movie dialogue scattered throughout.

Stuart David left the band some time before Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant came out, in order to concentrate on his own band Looper, and on writing books (Nalda Said, The Peacock Manifesto). 'Belfast' Bobby Kildea from Glasgow, who is also in V-Twin and The Reindeer Section, joined the band as a bassist and guitarist at around the time of Jonathan David.

Isobel Campbell, the group's most hesitant singer and perhaps their most versatile instrumentalist, left not long after I'm Waking Up To Us came out, amid rumours that the title track - a tunefully catchy but scathingly bitchy number about a former lover - was about her. Her final contributions to the band can be found on the Storytelling LP. Before that, she released two albums of her own as The Gentle Waves (featuring most of Belle and Sebastian): Green Fields of Foreverland and Swansong for You. Her next album, Amorino, was released under her own name.

A while after Storytelling came out, Jeepster - the record label they had largely sustained since its inception - quietly announced that due to a lack of money it was not going to put out any more records, and its signings would be looking for new contracts elsewhere. Although some doubted that they would keep going at all after the demise of their label and the exit of Isobel Campbell, in the end it didn't take them long to sign up for a four-album worldwide deal with Rough Trade Records; they put their names to the contract on July 12, 2002. The contract also marks the end of their association with Matador Records in North America. The latest Belle and Sebastian album, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, came out on the 6th of October.

For the record, Belle and Sebastian weren't really formed during a three-day stint in an all-night café, whatever you might have read - the sleeve notes of Tigermilk are a tissue of lies. The current line-up of the band is as follows:

The records

Radio Sessions


The original Belle and Sebastian was Belle et Sébastien by Mme Cécile Aubry: A French children's story about a boy and his Pyrenees mountain dog, on which a well-known cartoon series was based. The band also share their name with a song from the Dog on Wheels EP. The song is probably not really about the band - they have always insisted that the Belle of the title is not Isobel Campbell, although I don't know if Stuart Murdoch has ever denied being Sebastian...


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