December 6, 2013: New video via YouTube… Prides – Messiah.
New video via YouTube… Rachel Sermanni – Everything Changes, taken from Everything Changes EP, out on January 27.
Free mini-album download via Bandcamp… We See Lights – Every Autumn, Every Winter.
New gigs… Kid Canaveral at Glasgow’s Stereo on February 14, Aberdeen’s Tunnels on March 7 and Dundee’s Beat Generator on March 8.
December 5, 2013: Fatherson, The LaFontaines, Cairn String Quartet, Garden Of Elks and The Holy Ghosts have been announced as The Big Apple Award competition finalists. All five acts play free sets at Glasgow’s G2 on December 11, with an all-expenses-paid trip to play New York City in April 2014 up for grabs for the winners.
New gigs… Silibil N’ Brains (stars of The Great Hip Hop Hoax film) play Dundee’s Buskers on December 27 and Glasgow’s Pivo Pivo on December 28.
December 4, 2013: Mick Cooke has left Belle & Sebastian. The band made the announcement in their latest mailshot, stating: “We wish him all the best with any future projects and hope to work alongside him again in the future.” The multi-instrumentalist, who had been a full-time member of Belle & Sebastian since 1998, will now focus on his work as a composer and arranger.
New gig… Song, by Toad Records’ 5th Birthday Party at Edinburgh’s Henry’s Cellar Bar on December 21 featuring PAWsault, Tom Collins Shatner and assorted label friends and guests.
December 3, 2013: Budding musicians aged between 14-19 can register for Hit The Road, a project that offers workshops, seminars and information sessions about performing live, before they are given the opportunity to tour across Scotland. The next set of tours will launch in January, with each one taking three acts on the road.
New video via YouTube… Red Sands – Too Short A Season, taken from debut album Red Sands, out on December 9.
New video via YouTube… Mickey 9s – Ammunition.
New EP release via Bandcamp… Jo Mango – When We Lived In The Crook Of A Tree.
December 2, 2013: New video via YouTube… Mogwai – The Lord Is Out Of Control, taken from their forthcoming album Rave Tapes, out on January 20.
New album release via iTunes… Cold Crows Dead – I Fear A New World, featuring The Xcerts’ Murray Macleod.
Free album download via Bandcamp… Kobi Onyame – Glory.
November 29, 2013: Brew at the Bog have announced the first 25 acts for its festival in Inverness on May 3. The line-up includes Kid Canaveral, Stanley Odd, Friends In America, Fake Major, Randolph’s Leap, Call To Mind, Beerjacket, Campfires In Winter, Shambles Miller, The Little Kicks, This Silent Forest, Woodenbox, Jo Mango and Atom Tree.
The Holy Ghosts have set up a Kickstarter page for pre-orders of their debut album Ride Them Down, due out in April.
November 28, 2013: New video via YouTube… Over The Wall – Radiator.
New video via YouTube… Book Group – Victory Lap, taken from Victory Lap / The Lowdown Of A LOUD Sound single.
New album release via Bandcamp… Scott McWatt – A Ceíst Amá.
November 27, 2013: New song streams via SoundCloud… King Creosote – Dial C For Cradle; Meddling Gut Wrenches; Impossible To Resist.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Rachel Sermanni – Everything Changes.
Findlay Napier has set up a PledgeMusic page to fund the recording of VIP: Very Interesting Persons, an album of songs co-written with Boo Hewerdine.
November 26, 2013: Free album download via Bandcamp… Olive Grove Records Sampler featuring Call To Mind, The State Broadcasters, Randolph’s Leap, The Moth & The Mirror, The Son(s), Woodenbox, Jo Mango and Pensioner.
Free album download via Bandcamp… Mini50 Records Winter Sampler 2013.
New song release via iTunes… Withered Hand – Black Tambourine. Dan Willson will play solo gigs at Glasgow’s Glad Cafe on November 27 and Aberdeen’s Tunnels on November 28 as well as Glasgow’s Platform on January 24 for Celtic Connections.
New video via YouTube… Kid Canaveral – A Compromise, taken from A Compromise EP.
November 25, 2013: New album release… There Will Be Fireworks – The Dark, Dark Bright on CD and download.
Detour will hold their fourth Wee Jaunt in Glasgow on December 7, and the allocation of free places has already been snapped up. Email your name to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the reserve list.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Sparrow And The Workshop – One Brush.
Blindfolds have split up after three years together – they bow out with the release of new video Lucid.
November 22, 2013: New video via YouTube… Young Aviators – We’ve Got Names For Folk Like You.
New video via YouTube… The Pastels – Kicking Leaves.
New video via YouTube… Conscious Route feat Werd & Jordan Butler – Friends Til The End.
New gig… The Xcerts at Aberdeen’s Downstairs on December 21.
New gig… Glasgow’s Dirty Weekender across five venues on February 28-March 1 featuring Mark Morriss (The Bluetones), Mark Gardener (Ride), Bombskare, etc.
November 21, 2013: New song stream via SoundCloud… Withered Hand – Black Tambourine.
New video via YouTube… Jo Mango – When We Lived In The Crook Of A Tree, taken from When We Lived In The Crook Of A Tree EP, out on December 2.
CHVRCHES’ gig for TYCI’s Christmas Party on December 21 has been moved to Glasgow’s SWG3 due to a delay in the reopening of The Vic venue at The Art School.
New gig… The Jezabels at Glasgow’s Oran Mor on February 26, plus ticket bundles with new album The Brink.
November 20, 2013: Arctic Monkeys have been announced as the one of headliners at next year’s T in the Park on July 11-13. Tickets go on sale on November 22.
New gig… The Christmas Songwriters’ Club at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall on December 22 featuring Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, Kid Canaveral, Broken Records, Miaoux Miaoux, Siobhan Wilson, TeenCanteen with Eugene Kelly, Karine Polwart & Findlay Napier, We See Lights and Very Well.
New song stream via SoundCloud… SOS – Fake Hallelujah.
November 19, 2013: New video via YouTube… Franz Ferdinand – Bullet.
Free EP download via Bandcamp… King Post Kitsch – The Silver Screen.
New video via YouTube… The Amazing Snakeheads – Flatlining.
November 18, 2013: CHVRCHES have been confirmed as the live band for TYCI’s Christmas Party at Glasgow’s Art School on December 21.
New album trailer via YouTube… Withered Hand – New Gods, due out in February.
New Beerjacket album Darling Darkness will be released on January 27.
New tour… The Winter Tradition at Glasgow’s King Tut’s on February 6, Stirling’s Tolbooth on February 7, Aberdeen’s Cafe Drummond on February 8, Inverness’ Mad Hatters on February 9, Galashiels’ Heriot-Watt Student Union on February 10, Dundee’s Duke’s Corner on February 11 and Perth’s Twa Tams on February 15.
November 17, 2013: Glasgow venue King Tut’s has unveiled it line-up for the fourth annual King Tut’s New Year’s Revolution on January 3-16, with the likes of Campfires In Winter, Cherri Fosphate, Book Group, Garden Of Elks, Saint Max And The Fanatics and Quinny featuring on all-local bills.
Labels, musicians and fans are being invited to register albums released by Scottish artists in 2013 for consideration for next year’s SAY Award.
November 15, 2013: French Wives will play their last ever gig at Glasgow’s Mono on December 19 after announcing they are splitting up.
New video via YouTube… There Will Be Fireworks – Youngblood.
New album release via iTunes… Ministry Of Stories – Share More Air, an album of children’s lyrics set to original music including Rachel Sermanni’s Love Story.
New song stream via Bandcamp… Water Of Life – Sources And Springs / Abercrombie, 1949, an art-science collaboration between Tommy Perman and Rob St. John exploring flows of water through Edinburgh.
November 14, 2013: New gig… The Wee Chill Festive Weekender at Glasgow’s SWG3 on December 22, featuring Admiral Fallow, Washington Irving, The Little Kicks, Call To Mind and Atom Tree.
The Big Apple Award has launched its annual competition, with an all-expenses-paid trip to play New York City in April 2014 up for grabs. The deadline for applications is December 2, before the winner is picked from a shortlist of five Scottish performers at Glasgow’s Garage on December 11. The last two victors were Stanley Odd and Song Of Return.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Mike Nisbet – Traveling Blues (demo)
November 13, 2013: Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations will incorporate an afternoon of free live music on January 1. Starting at the National Museum of Scotland at noon, the guest-curated SCOT:LANDS event will feature performances across nine Old Town venues by the likes of King Creosote, Withered Hand, RM Hubbert, Lau and FOUND as well as a production of Whatever Gets You Through The Night.
New video via YouTube… Washington Irving – Palomides , director James Houston claims it’s the world’s first autostereogram music video.
New video via YouTube… Nightmare Boy – Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover).
New video via Vevo… KT Tunstall – Made Of Glass.
November 12, 2013: New album release via Bandcamp… Medals – Disguises, new project of Sucioperro’s JP Reid.
New event… Vic Galloway – Songs In The Key Of Fife book reading + Withered Hand + Kid Canaveral at Glenrothes’ Rothes Halls on November 29.
New album stream via SoundCloud… Kobi Onyame – Glory, available to buy on iTunes.
November 11, 2013: Next year’s MTV Europe Music Awards will be held at Glasgow’s Hydro on November 9.
Arches singer Michael Rice has left the band, with guitarist Barry Morrell taking over vocal duties.
New EP release via SoundCloud…. Casual Sex – The Bastard Beat, streaming on SoundCloud.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Mike Nisbet – What Will Be Will Be (demo).
November 8, 2013: BBC ALBA programme Buskers has returned for a second series, with the first two episodes available to watch on iPlayer. Episode 2′s spotlight on Glasgow features Donald Macdonald, Alan Tennie, Anna Shields and Holly Wilson.
November 7, 2013: New gigs… Fireside Acoustic Sessions (organised by Comets & Cartwheels) at Glasgow’s Drake Bar featuring free stripped-back sets from Friends In America + Prehistoric Friends on November 7, Finn LeMarinel on November 14, Randolph’s Leap on November 21 and Honeyblood + LightGuides on November 28.
New gig… There Will Be Fireworks + Friends In America + The Youth And Young at Strathaven’s Old Mill Studios on December 7.
November 6, 2013: New video via YouTube… Prides – Roar (Katy Perry cover for Vic Galloway session).
New song stream via YouTube… Fridge Magnets – Chase The Sun.
Rachel Sermanni has set up a PledgeMusic page for pre-orders of her Everything Changes EP.
Free song download via SoundCloud… This Silent Forest – Root To The Seed, taken from debut album Indivision.
New song stream via Gold Flake Paint… Book Group – The Lowdown of A LOUD Sound, taken from Victory Lap / The Lowdown Of A LOUD Sound single, out on November 25.
New video via YouTube… The Button Men – Man With A Plan.
November 5, 2013: New song stream via SoundCloud (today only)… There Will Be Fireworks – Elder And Oak.
New video via YouTube… CHVRCHES – Lies.
The Birthday Suit have a PledgeMusic campaign featuring various incentives and packages to go with pre-orders of their third album A Hollow Hole Of Riches, out in April.
BrewDog Records has been set up by the Scottish craft beer company with its first official release being The Shiverin’ Sheiks single Guided Missiles, taken from the band’s debut album A Curious Case Of…, out on November 20.
November 4, 2013: New album release via Bandcamp… Washington Irving – Palomides: Volume II.
New album release via iTunes… Kobi Onyame – Glory.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Over The Wall – Radiator, taken from This Is How We Did It EP, out on December 9.
November 1, 2013: New gig… There Will Be Fireworks + Friends In America + Kevin Harper at Glasgow’s SWG3 on November 22.
Arctic Monkeys have rescheduled tonight’s show at Glasgow’s Hydro to November 21 as singer Alex Turner has laryngitis. All original tickets remain valid.
New video via YouTube… Michael Cassidy – Everybody’s Scared. He plays with Beerjacket + Julia And The Doogans at Glasgow’s Mono on December 5.
October 31, 2013: New video via YouTube… Nightmare Boy – Mary (first solo offering of ex-Kassidy member Barrie-James O’Neill).
New video via YouTube… Frightened Rabbit – Holy.
A fan-led campaign to boycott all of Idlewild’s side-projects in the hope of spurring them to make new music has been attacked by band member Rod Jones. The guitarist, who also fronts The Birthday Suit, wrote: “If anything this just has the opposite effect in that it made me really consider whether I wanted to make music anymore. My other band The Birthday Suit and its touring and releasing records has absolutely no bearing or influence on whether and when an Idlewild tour or album might happen.”
October 30, 2013: New gigs… The Reflektors (Arcade Fire) at Glasgow’s Barrowland on November 15 and November 16 – general sale from November 1; presale passwords are available to those who pre-ordered the band’s new album from their official website.
New album release via iTunes… Cairn String Quartet – One (streaming on SoundCloud) featuring orchestral covers of Lana Del Rey, Coldplay, Oasis, The Stone Roses, Ocean Colour Scene etc.
October 29, 2013: Free song download via official website… Mogwai – Remurdered (streaming on SoundCloud), taken from eighth album Rave Tapes, out on January 20.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Pinact – Brew.
New video via YouTube… The LaFontaines – All She Knows.
Free song download via SoundCloud… SOS – ROCK N ROLL.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Madison – Mending, taken from Mending EP, out now.
Gig venue change…. Katie Sutherland plays Glasgow’s Faktory instead of Mackintosh Church on November 2.
October 28, 2013: New album release via Comets & Cartwheels… Blood Relatives – Deerheart.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Call To Mind – A Family Sketch.
New album release via Lost Map… Monoganon – F A M I L Y, streaming in full on Gold Flake Paint.
October 25, 2013: Born To Be Wide will host a seminar on record shops at Edinburgh’s Electric Circus on November 7. Panelists include Rose Norton (Coda), Sandy McLean (Love Music) and Darren Yeates (VoxBox).
New gig… Blood Relatives album launch at Glasgow’s Bar & Fly on October 26.
New gig… Scottish Fiction presents Beerjacket & Friends + Julia And The Doogans at Glasgow’s Mono on December 5.
New song stream via SoundCloud… The LaFontaines – All She Knows (Prides remix).
The 1975, Nina Nesbitt and The 10:04s have been added to the Concert in the Gardens bill at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay alongside Pet Shop Boys. Other stages feature CHVRCHES, Django Django and King Creosote.
October 24, 2013: New gig… TYCI Christmas Party featuring secret live act plus DJ sets from CHVRCHES + Pretty Ugly + Adele Bethel at Glasgow’s Art School on December 21.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Honeyblood – Kissing On You.
New gig… Starz In Their Eyes featuring RM Hubbert + Eagleowl + The Pictish Trail + Kid Canaveral + Two Wings (each covering a female artist of their choice) at Edinburgh’s Pilrig St Paul’s Church on November 23.
October 23, 2013: New video via YouTube… Siobhan Wilson – All Dressed Up.
New video via YouTube… TeenCanteen – Honey.
New video via YouTube… Young Fathers – Low, taken from forthcoming album Dead, out on February 3.
New video via YouTube… Biffy Clyro – Sounds Like Balloons.
New EP release via Bandcamp… End Of Neil – Less.
October 22, 2013: Local Natives’ Nik Ewing had his Fender Coronado bass guitar stolen during their gig at The Arches in Glasgow last night – contact police if you spot it.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Michael Cassidy – Everybody’s Scared, out on November 28.
October 21, 2013: New song stream via SoundCloud… TeenCanteen – Honey, out on October 28. They play Edinburgh’s Summerhall on October 25, Glasgow’s Rio Cafe on October 26 (free) and Aberfeldy Festival on November 3.
New album release via Bandcamp… Saint Max & The Fanatics – Saint Max Is Missing And The Fanatics Are Dead.
New video via YouTube… Kobi Onyame – Goodbye World, Hello, taken from new album Glory, out on November 4.
Free download via official website… Plum – Death Comes With A Bow, taken from Betsy Thunder EP, out now.
October 18, 2013: Dumfries Music Conference has announced its upcoming four-day programme of free events in the town.
October 30: Screening of LCD Soundsystem documentary Shut Up And Play The Hits at Robert Burns Centre.
October 31: Music Industry Experts seminar featuring The Pop Cop and others at The Stove (ticketed).
November 1: Songwriting Workshops featuring Findlay Napier + Finding Albert’s Robert Shields at The Stove.
November 1: Live showcase featuring Hector Bizerk + Honeyblood + Barstow Bats at The Stove (ticketed).
November 2: Record Fair featuring Rebecca Vasmant (Ministry Of Sound) + Jason Reid (Sub Club) at The Stove.
October 17, 2013: New song stream via SoundCloud… Washington Irving – Babble. Their track Palomides is also available for free download. Both are taken from Palomides: Volume II album, out on November 4.
New video via Clash… The Birthday Suit – A Bigger World, out on November 4.
New video via YouTube… Atom Tree – Die For Your Love, taken from Tide Of Thorns EP, out on October 18.
Free gig… Rachel Sermanni at Glasgow’s Love Music on October 21 (5pm).
October 16, 2013: New video via YouTube… Colin Macleod – Devil Pavement (Live from the Green Bus), taken from The Anchor EP, out on October 21. On the same day he will play instore sets at Edinburgh’s Coda Music (1pm) and Glasgow’s Love Music (5.30pm).
57ᵒ North have published their Guide To DIY Gig Promotion – a useful resource for anyone venturing into this side of the music business.
Michael Cassidy will play at the opening night party for Glasgow’s The Bar & Fly on October 19.
Free gig… French Wives + Randolph’s Leap + Laki Mera + The Graveyard Band + Donald Macdonald And The Islands + The Mademoiselle for 1st Birthday Bash at Glasgow’s Broadcast on October 25 (RSVP required).
October 15, 2013: New video via YouTube… Travis – Mother.
New video via YouTube…. Casual Sex – Nothing On Earth, taken from The Bastard Beat EP, out on October 28.
October 14, 2013: Anna Sweeney, who spoke out on The Pop Cop about her mental health issues after quitting her solo career, has started a new project with Maeve McCrorie called The Scarlings. They play their first gig at Glasgow’s Oran Mor on October 31.
October 12, 2013: New documentary via BBC iPlayer… The Great Hip Hop Hoax.
New song stream via Clash… Washington Irving – Palomides, taken from Palomides: Volume II album, out on November 4.
Free download via SoundCloud… Beerjacket – Glow (demo).
Free album download via Bandcamp… Louie & Bigg Taj – Paranoise.
October 11, 2013: New gig… Withered Hand at Edinburgh’s Whale Arts Centre on October 19 (free tickets) with free return coach travel from Waterloo Place as part of Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival.
New tour… Travis at Edinburgh’s Picture House on November 17, Inverness’ Ironworks on November 18, Aberdeen’s Music Hall on November 19 and Glasgow’s Barrowland on December 20.
October 10, 2013: The venue splits and stage times for Haddowfest in Edinburgh on October 11-12 have been released.
New video via YouTube… Honeyblood – Bud. The band play Glasgow’s Broadcast on October 29 and Edinburgh’s Electric Circus on October 30.
New video via YouTube… Camera Obscura – Troublemaker. The band’s Break It To You Gently double 7″ single is out now.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Saint Max & The Fanatics – Soul Surrender, taken from debut album Saint Max Is Missing And The Fanatics Are Dead, out on October 21.
October 9, 2013: New video via YouTube… Katie Sutherland – Canvas. She plays Glasgow’s Mackintosh Church on November 2.
New gig… Rachel Sermanni + Bwani Junction + Vigo Thieves at Edinburgh’s Liquid Room on November 23 (for War Child). Rachel’s The Boatshed Sessions EP is out on October 21.
The Great Hip Hop Hoax will be broadcast on BBC Two Scotland on October 11 at 9pm.
LCD Soundsystem documentary Shut Up And Play The Hits will be shown for free at Dumfries’ Robert Burns Centre on October 30 as part of Dumfries Music Conference which runs from October 30 to November 2.
October 8, 2013: CHVRCHES, Django Django, King Creosote, The Rezillos, Treacherous Orchestra and Fiddlers’ Bid have been announced to play Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party alongside headliners Pet Shop Boys.
New song stream via SoundCloud… SOS – ROCK N ROLL.
October 7, 2013: New song stream via YouTube… The LaFontaines – All She Knows, out on October 27; B-side My Yo-Yo available now on iTunes.
New album release via iTunes… The Fratellis – We Need Medicine.
New album release via Bandcamp… The Grand Gestures – Second.
New album release via Fortuna POP!… The Spook School – Dress Up.
October 6, 2013: New video via YouTube… De Rosa – Spectres. The band play their first gig in four years as part of Kid Canaveral’s Xmas Baubles IV at Edinburgh’s Portobello Town Hall on December 14.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Beerjacket – Androgynous (The Replacements cover).
New album stream via SoundCloud… L.Pierre – Neverland Transmission, A Disney Mix (tracklist on Dazed and Confused).
October 4, 2013: 57º North will run a free music journalism training course at Aberdeen’s Seventeen every Wednesday for four weeks from October 23. Email email@example.com to apply for one of six spaces.
New song stream via SoundCloud… Katie Sutherland – Canvas, out on November 18.
New gigs via Ticketmaster… The Twilight Sad performing debut album Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters at Glasgow’s King Tut’s on December 20 and December 21.
New album release via Bandcamp… The Little Kicks – Put Your Love In Front Of Me.
New video via BBC iPlayer… Rapal – Series 7, Episode 8, featuring Vukovi, Donald Macdonald And The Islands, The Velveteen Saints, The River 68′s and Conquering Animal Sound.
October 3, 2013: The Glasgow venue formerly known as The Barfly, which shut in February 2009, will reopen as The Bar & Fly at the same location on Clyde Street on October 18.
New video via YouTube… The Deep Red Sky – Kids (MGMT cover), out on October 7.
New song via YouTube… Finn LeMarinel – Love Is Waves (demo).
October 2, 2013: Free album download via UK Rock Radio… Free Sample Issue #03 featuring songs by The Xcerts, Sparrow And The Workshop, Admiral Fallow, A Band Called Quinn, Mull Historical Society and Unkle Bob.
Meursault frontman Neil Pennycook will be a guest speaker at Born To Be Wide’s seminar on promoting gigs, which takes place at Edinburgh’s Electric Circus on October 3.
New video via YouTube… We Were Hunted – You Know Me Now.
What The Blood Revealed have announced they are splitting up.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Lorraine McCauley & The Borderlands – Belong.
October 1, 2013: Free song download via iTunes… CHVRCHES – Tether. Singer Lauren Mayberry has written a Guardian article about the online misogyny she has been suffering, it’s well worth a read.
Free song download via SoundCloud… Julia & The Doogans – Love At First Sight (Kylie Minogue cover).
New song stream via SoundCloud… Cold Crows Dead – Ghost That Burned Your House Down, taken from debut album I Fear A New World, out on December 2. The band is a collaboration between The Xcerts’ Murray Macleod and Brighton songwriter Paul Steel. They play Aberdeen’s Tunnels on December 10 and Glasgow’s King Tut’s on December 11.
Location: The Left Bank, Glasgow
Interview subject: Stuart Murdoch, Belle & Sebastian/God Help The Girl
Background info: Let’s go back nine years. It’s a late afternoon in spring and I’m a passenger in a car. We’ve rolled up to a set of red lights at a pedestrian crossing on Gibson Street in the West End of Glasgow. After a couple of seconds the lights change to flashing amber. There’s not a soul around but the car doesn’t move. Still they flash, on and off, on and off. Why won’t he drive on? It feels like minutes have passed. Nobody says a word. I glance nervously at the rear-view mirror, another vehicle approaches from behind. I crack. “Stuart, I think it’s OK to drive thr-”. The lights turn green. Stuart hits the accelerator.
The last time I met Stuart Murdoch, most of the interview was conducted while he drove around town in his 1973 Ford Granada. Nine years later, I’ve somehow ended up a passenger in his car again, only now it’s a decidedly more modern black Astra, stuffed with Fruit Pastilles and Polo wrappers. Stuart was running late and didn’t want to leave me waiting at our pre-arranged Hillhead Underground meeting place, so he picked me up and we head, with terrifying inevitability, towards Gibson Street. This time the lights stay green.
Stuart takes a right and executes a textbook reverse park. As I open the door to get out, I ask him if I need to push down the button. He shakes his head. We start walking away from the car. “But it’s not locked,” I insist. Stuart doesn’t reply. Without breaking stride, he puts his hand in his left pocket, clicks the key, and the reassuring clunk of the central locking does its job. Smooth.
We head into The Left Bank and the waitress ushers us to a table smack bang in the middle of the cafe. It’s not the most discreet spot for an interview, so Stuart folds his arms over my dictaphone to make this look more like an everyday conversation in a coffee house. The man is clearly clued up in tape recorder camouflage techniques.
“I’ve got a little Toshiba one,” he says. “I quite often get song ideas when I’m walking along, so I turn the thing upside down and pretend I’m on the phone and sing into it. Nobody would know.”
Stuart’s new project is called God Help The Girl. It is a film that the 40-year-old is still in the process of writing, but the soundtrack that accompanies it can’t wait. Fourteen tracks have made it on to the album, which is released on Rough Trade in June, with four leftovers earmarked for a future EP.
Catherine Ireton is predominantly the lead singer, but there are cameos from several others including The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon, while two guest vocalists – American pair Britanny Stallings and Dina Bankole – were found through an online competition set up by Stuart.
Did you feel like Simon Cowell sifting through all those wannabes?
“A little bit. But I must admit, I’ve never watched any of those programmes. I am aware that there is a phenomenon called… is it called X Factor? [I nod] This is my little thing and it would have happened regardless of the latest fads. At first I thought I was going to have a girl group, three singers together. They would move into the same house and be a force, but that never happened. We had about 380 audio auditions and 50 videos on top of that. [Stuart sighs] By the end, I didn’t listen to some of them all the way through but I pretty much knew.”
Stuart submitted the first draft of the God Help The Girl film to the producer last October (“he politely suggested I needed to write some more”) and is working on another version.
What’s the concept of the movie?
“The main protagonist is Eve, the girl who sings most of the songs on the record. She starts off in a mental hospital, at her lowest ebb. She’s not too crazy but she’s crazy enough. She’s in there for a long time and she discovers that she can write songs and she sees that as her way of getting out of the trouble she’s in. She makes it out of hospital eventually and runs into James and Cassie and the three of them make music over the course of a summer and become really close.”
If you are familiar with the Belle & Sebastian biography, you might recognise that Eve’s predicament bears uncanny parallels with Stuart’s own life story. Before forming Belle & Sebastian, Stuart spent seven years saddled with ME, a condition that sapped his energy and often left him housebound, crippling him for most of his twenties.
The film is biographical, isn’t it?
[Stuart takes a gulp of coffee] “There are biographical strands with Eve being in such a poor way. But I had to make Eve’s condition more dramatic because I would challenge anybody to write a good drama about ME. It’s like watching paint dry. Maybe one day somebody will make a good film about ME… it would be a sleeper hit [laughs]. Sorry.”
How did you ultimately get better?
“I tried lots of different therapies and doctors and eventually – and this happens to Eve in the story – I went to a healer. She was a Christian healer and I wasn’t a signed-up Christian at the time but the woman said, ‘You don’t have to be to benefit from this so don’t worry about it’. She charged me nothing. She just put her hands over me and said I might feel a bit warm. I was just lying there and felt very relaxed. She spent a whole hour, just moving around. I went away and thought that was the end of it. About a week and a half later I had what could only be described as a nervous breakdown and had the worst six months of my life, mentally as well as physically. But my physical condition got better from that point and I spent the next three of four years slowly recovering from ME. It might sound like a crazy story but she really helped me.”
Do you regard that as the turning point?
“Absolutely. Absolutely! [Stuart gets visibly animated] The turning point of my LIFE. I’ve tried to track that woman down since but she moved from Mosspark and her neighbours don’t know where she went. I think she cut hair in hospitals and while she did that she gave the old ladies healing, although they didn’t know it. I’m not going to name her but I do wonder where she is.”
It was through ME that Stuart met his best friend Ciara MacLaverty, a fellow sufferer who has campaigned vigorously to raise awareness for an illness that she had for 20 years. Her ‘miracle’ fix was a treatment programme, developed by a Scottish doctor, called Mickel Therapy which, incidentally, has also cured two other chronic-fatigue sufferers I know personally. Like Stuart’s healer, Mickel Therapy is unavailable on the National Health Service despite a 92% success rate.
“Back in the day, and probably still to this day, ME was a network because there’s not the support through the NHS,” he says. “So you have to find out things from people around you. Ciara and I formed our own ME club in the West End of Glasgow for like-minded sufferers and we used to hang out. The funny thing is, when I was feeling a lot better and Ciara was feeling really low, I used to try healing on her, just for half an hour. I don’t know whether it did any good but I tried [laughs]. I think you’ll find what’s for you if you go looking for it.”
Stuart has become more open about the subject of religion as he has grown older. After our 2000 interview, he sent an additional quote by email which I segued into the published article. It read: “My favourite book is the Bible, and my favourite book in the Bible is St John, and I’ve lifted freely and happily from that since I read it.” Similarly, religious references have become commonplace in Belle & Sebastian’s songs. If You Find Yourself Caught In Love is a paean to “the man above”, while the band’s last album, The Life Pursuit, opens with the lyrics “morning prayers”. His recent online diary entries are also peppered with religious content: “May 3, 2009: What I meant to talk about tonight was hymns. The greatest hits of God! I’m going to write hymns one day.” And, it’s so blatant you might have overlooked it, his new project is called God Help The Girl.
Do you feel a duty to spread the Word?
“If you’re a Christian, there’s meant to be a feeling of mission. But I think it’s mission enough just to act in a certain way. People will be drawn into stuff if it appeals to them. I would never chase somebody up the street with a club trying to get them to convert.”
Does it concern you that society as a whole, certainly in Britain, seems to be becoming less religious?
“Organised religion has fallen away for many reasons over the past 20 or 30 years. It doesn’t bother me at all. Come on, it’s not like I’ve got shares in the Church of Scotland. People might turn away from the Church but a lot will end up finding spirituality elsewhere. You can’t really expect in this day and age when we’re a world culture for us to simply accept Christianity when we’re a “Christian country”. The areas where other faiths and religions cross over are much greater than many people would imagine. But I can see people’s problems with organised religion, I’ve got no argument with that. I’m not into tribes. I wouldn’t go to war on anybody’s behalf.”
Do you think about death?
“Not so much, but I do have a constant notion about another life, another place. I think about spirituality. It lives with me like another dimension all the time. It guides me along. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a Holy Joe or pious but I like to lean on that stuff. It makes life so much more interesting. Maybe this developed out of my ME years of nothingness. I wasn’t able to work and live as much as other people. Sometimes you’re only on 30%. You’ve got to fill in the other 70% yourself and that can be when spirituality jumps in, so maybe some people just don’t need it or their lives are full enough.”
Stuart officially joined the Church last month, along with his wife of two years, Marisa Privitera. An American born to Italian-Cuban parents, she appeared on the cover of The Life Pursuit and was pictured topless on the front of Belle & Sebastian’s Fans Only DVD, with her modesty preserved by a carefully-position book.
How did you meet Marisa?
“I met her briefly in Boston and then we met again at the Benicassim music festival in Spain. I think it was 2002. We met at the go-karts and she’d had a couple of gins and I told her to be careful. [He pauses] She’s phoning just now!”
Stuart digs into his pocket and plucks out his vibrating mobile – the kind you’d describe as a ‘brick’ – and has a brief, predominantly one-way, conversation (“Yeah… oh yeah… I’ll do that”) before he takes up the story again.
“She always hates that bit when I say that she’d had a couple of drinks. So she went on the go-karts and smashed it straight into the bales of hay and broke her foot. I was going to Barcelona and she had a couple of days before she went back to the States, so I had to carry her around the city. You get to know someone pretty well that way.”
Marisa moved to Scotland to do a Masters degree in film. They got married in New York and spent their honeymoon in Sicily, where they were invited to a typically Italian celebratory dinner with the extended Privitera family.
“We just had to stand there taking envelopes of money,” he says. “It was like The Godfather. I’m telling you, if you marry a Sicilian, you do OK.”
How did you propose?
[Nervous laugh] “I didn’t exactly get down on one knee but we talked around it for a while. So I said, ‘Look, I’ll get hitched if we go to New York and do it in the public office and we don’t tell anyone’. So that’s what we did. That’s as magic as it gets! She always feels ripped off. She says, ‘I can’t believe I’ve got the most unromantic guy. You write all those songs and you can’t even say such-and-such. If only they knew the truth.’ I can’t imagine being married to any other person because she’s so tolerant of my entrenched ways. I’m a pain in the arse.”
Stuart’s relationship with Marisa and the way his eyes light up when he talks about her couldn’t be more different from his affair with former bandmate Isobel Campbell, which was largely kept hidden until she quit the band in 2002.
“If it wasn’t common knowledge then it was probably my fault,” he admits. “I was a little bit ‘one foot in, one foot out’ with that and I put my hand up and say that’s not an ideal way to run a relationship. It’s definitely not an ideal way to run a band. It had, shall we say, an interesting dynamic that really wasn’t very positive. In saying that, for a couple of years the static between us was like an engine that ran the band for good or bad. I hear from Isobel less than it’s possible to hear from a person who lives in the same town as you. I’ve maybe bumped into her twice since she left, which is quite a feat. Just shows you how much we had in common.”
Is Morrissey still an idol for you?
“Yeah, a little bit. But I wouldn’t really want to meet him. I don’t think he’d be that nice. I’d rather keep him as an idol of the 80s – The Smiths, the first solo album. Whenever Morrissey plays the same festival as us he cancels. Up until a few years ago I would have really liked to have met him and hung out, had a coffee, but like I say, he just kept cancelling when we played. I figured he didn’t want to meet us.”
Do you have any other idols?
“I think Andy Murray is pretty great. Who would have seen that coming? A Scottish tennis player in the top three. It will be a great psychological weight lifted from the country if and when he finally wins a major. I think that would have happened if Colin Montgomerie had ever won a major.”
On April 23, exactly two months ahead of its release date, the full God Help The Girl album leaked onto the internet. However, Stuart isn’t too troubled.
“The hard fact is, we’re going to make a lot less money,” he acknowledges. “Our sales will go like that [arrows hand done], they have done. But up until the point where I’m having to seriously think about getting another job to get by, I can’t really complain. What’s the point in getting mad? The internet is a sort of approximation of what Belle & Sebastian was all about when we started. It’s a democratisation. It’s not so much them and us any more. When we started we felt we weren’t different from the audience and they got that feeling from us, and that has been carried on with the internet. You maybe lose a bit of glamour on the way but it’s good for music.”