Belle and Sebastian's new album features grooving rhythms.
It has already been an exciting year for fans of indie rock from the early 2000s. Sufjan Stevens has made a much-anticipated return to folk with Carrie & Lowell, and Modest Mouse released their first record since 2007. And in January, critical darlings Belle and Sebastian put out their first album in five years.
Led by frontman Stuart Murdoch, the Scottish sextet have dabbled in prototypical indie and pop styles throughout a 19-year career. And though the band’s new album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, favors grooving rhythms over their characteristic twee sound, the song lyrics still read like the pages of a wallflower’s diary.
Isthmus recently spoke with keyboardist and founding member Chris Geddes about the band’s quietly influential career. Belle and Sebastian will perform their first-ever concert in Wisconsin at Overture Hall on April 4.
Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance represents a big stylistic shift from your last record. What influenced the album’s rhythmic sound?
Dave [McGowan], who plays bass on the record, is really important to the album. He’s been touring with us since 2011, so he’s basically a member of the band at the moment. And he was in the rehearsal room the whole time we were getting new songs together, so that kind of changed the dynamic of the group a lot.
In terms of outside influences, [guitarist] Stevie Jackson’s had a disco covers band on the go for a couple of years. So obviously, he brought a lot to things to the recording. And Richard [Colburn] and I both DJ quite a lot as well, and when you DJ you look at music in a slightly different way from how you do if you’re just listening at home. I guess you think of music in more of a functional way.
How was working with producer Ben H. Allen III (Cee-Lo Green, Deerhunter, Animal Collective), and what did his presence bring to the record?
It was great. He brought an awful lot to it. He did quite a bit of programming and actually added parts to the songs, which I don’t think a producer had ever done on our records before. In terms of the vibes that he created in the studio, Ben made it a lot of fun for everyone and gave everyone a lot of freedom to express and enjoy themselves.
With the rapidly increasing availability of music today, have you felt pressure to release material faster?
In all honesty I can’t say that we have, because we’ve had four- or five-year breaks in between the last couple of albums, whereas back in the early days of the band we were banging them out once every six months. I think the one definite desire everybody’s got is to not leave such a big gap between records as the last couple. I think we’re hoping that we’ll stay active.