Belle & Sebastian have announced a surprise new album ‘Late Developers’ and shared the single ‘I Don’t Know What You See In Me’. Check it out below, along with our interview with frontman Stuart Murdoch.
Set for release on Friday (January 13), the Scottish indie veterans’ 12th studio album comes previewed by the unabashed pop of ‘I Don’t Know What You See In Me’ – the band’s first ever co-write, composed with producer and performer Pete Ferguson.
“We’d actually been talking for a couple of years before we got this together,” Murdoch explained of Ferguson. “He’d just signed to a major label, he was a fan of Belle & Sebastian, and he asked if there was anything we would want to collaborate on, or could I contribute some lyrics.
“He would reciprocate, and when this song came in I said, ‘Let’s do this one with the band, we’ll sing it for you and you can be in complete control, produce and mix it’. We thought it was strong enough to go on our record.”
With a strong electronic pop and “90s power ballad” influence, the song breaks new ground for the band. “[Ferguson] is so much younger than me, so there’s a whole swathe of music that’s passed me by, things I would never think of, which is what you want from a collaborator,” said Murdoch.
The fact that Ferguson, who is in his 20s, is a fan of the Belle & Sebastian is gratifying, Murdoch said, and representative of the group’s continuing appeal to new generations.
“My friend Amelia [Fletcher] from the bands Heavenly and Talulah Gosh got in touch the other day to say she was in the kitchen and could hear Belle & Sebastian coming from her teenage daughter’s room, and that she had discovered the band without being pointed that way,” he explained. “I thought it was terrific. We get that generational churn at concerts, where you’re just thinking people are getting too old to come out, but then you realise there are some young people poking through too. It’s nice!”
Arriving just eight months after their last record ‘A Bit Of Previous’, ‘Late Developers’ was born of the same sessions in the band’s native Glasgow in 2021. After plans for to record in Los Angeles were abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic, the group converted their rehearsal space into a COVID-safe makeshift studio. Murdoch explained how after the downtime of lockdown, he entered sessions for ‘A Bit of Previous’ “with about 30 songs”.
“I just said to the band, ‘Come on, let’s make it two LPs!” he said. “Let’s give the record company what they want first, and then keep the second one back as a secret.’”
Murdoch told us how the two albums are distinct from one another, with ‘Late Developers’ exhibiting a more playful side. “The first one was the one where the record company were saying, ‘We’re going to do this and that,’ and we were thinking, ‘We’d better take it seriously and give them value for money!’,” he recalled. “But then after that we could be more relaxed.”
He continued: “The second LP is the fun LP. Even if some of the songs have serious subject matter, it was fun to put together. It’s my job to sequence the records, and putting two LPs together from 30 songs gives you a lot of options for having a nice flow.
“With the first record you’re trying to shape something that’s a little bit more cultured, maybe with the voices sitting at the same level and a constant narrative, whereas the second record is more all over the place, you’ve got more voices coming in.”
With a sonic palette ranging from spiky guitar-led rock to expansive psychedelia, ‘Late Developers’’ boasts an adventurous sound along with moments that also look backwards. Penultimate track ‘When The Cynics Stare Back From The Wall’ was originally written in 1995, before the release of the band’s debut album ‘Tigermilk’, now recorded for the first time.
“If I ever get a pocket of time to look in old jotters or listen to old tapes, something will come up,” said Murdoch. “I’d say on most of our LPs there’s one track that comes from pre-Belle & Sebastian.
“I remember writing this song very clearly. It was about my best friend Ciara [MacLaverty] who was on the cover of [1996 album] ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’. I wrote it in the Grosvenor Café where everyone used to hang out. It’s a pure song that goes right back to those days. I was writing so many songs at the time that there were quite a few that got left behind and never recorded.”
Although not initially written as a duet, Murdoch enlisted Tracyanne Campbell of fellow Glasgow indie stalwarts Camera Obscura to share vocals. “She got one of my favourite voices in the world and she lives just around the corner,” said the frontman. “Camera Obscura are probably my favourite band of the last 25 years, so that was nice.”
Opener ‘Juliet Naked’, meanwhile, is sourced from unused contributions to the 2018 romantic comedy of the same name. “A friend of mine, Barry Mendel, was producing the film, and he said ‘We’re not quite sure what we’re doing with the music – Ethan Hawke is meant to be singing in it,”said Murdoch. “We chipped in a couple of songs, I just used the brief synopsis of the movie as a jumping off point, but then Ethan ended up singing his own songs instead. I thought, ‘Well I still quite like the one I wrote!’”
Murdoch continues to work on a new book which will be “a fiction, but based around my early adventures before the band were together, when I was struggling as a hapless musician for ages” – adding that he’d love to turn it into a movie or a TV show, something a bit different.”
For now, however, Belle & Sebastian’s attentions are focussed on the new album. “It feels like mission accomplished, because it was ambitious trying to get all these songs over the line,” Murdoch said.
In summer, the band will embark on a number of British tour dates, postponed following a health emergency last November. “I like the idea of a summer tour, it makes you think of getting ice cream on the pier somewhere.”
‘Late Developers’ will be released on January 13. Check out the full tracklist below.
1. Juliet Naked
2. Give A Little Time
3. When We Were Very Young
4. Will I Tell You A Secret
5. So In The Moment
6. The Evening Star
7. When You’re Not With Me
8. I Don’t Know What You See In Me
9. Do You Follow
10. When The Cynics Stare Back From The Wall
11. Late Developers
Belle & Sebastian are also set to embark on a UK tour this summer. Dates are below. Visit here for tickets and more information.
Monday 3 – Belfast, The Limelight 1
Wednesday 5 – Newcastle Upon Tyne, O2 City Hall
Thursday 6 – Hull, Asylum Hull University Union
Saturday 8 – Liverpool, Olympia
Sunday 9 – Edinburgh, Usher Hall
Monday 10 – Aberdeen, Beach Ballroom
Wednesday 12 – Sheffield, O2 Academy
Thursday 13 – Oxford, O2 Academy
Friday 14 – Birmingham, O2 Institute
Saturday 15 – Cardiff, Cardiff University Students Union
Monday 17 – London, Roundhouse
Tuesday 18 – London, Roundhouse
Wednesday 19 – Brighton, Dome
Friday 21 – Manchester, Academy
Saturday 22 – Cambridge, Corn Exchange