Belle and Sebastian have announced the release of three new EPs entitled ‘How To Solve Our Human Problems’. Check out our full interview with frontman Stuart Murdoch along with new track ‘I’ll Be Your Pilot’ below.
Following on from recent single ‘We Were Beautiful‘, the trio of EPs will each feature five new tracks and be released on December 8, January 19, and February 16 respectively – when they’ll also be compiled for a CD and vinyl box set release. Pre-order them here.
“With every track, we’ve been trying to push it a little bit, trying to take an idea and run with it,” Murdoch told NME. “We did them in a bunch of different studios in Glasgow, producing ourselves and just getting our sleeves rolled up which was great. It was good for us and it feels like we can be a bit more adventurous and genuinely takes the music in all of the directions that we want.”
Check out the tracklisting for each EP below:
How To Solve Our Human Problems Part 1:
1. Sweet Dew Lee
2. We Were Beautiful
3. Fickle Season
4. The Girl Doesn’t Get It
5. Everything Is Now
How To Solve Our Human Problems Part 2:
1. Show Me The Sun
2. Same Star
3. I’ll Be Your Pilot
5. A Plague On All Other Boys
How To Solve Our Human Problems Part 3:
1. Poor Boy
2. Everything Is Now (Part Two)
3. Too Many Tears
4. There Is An Everlasting Song
5. Best Friend
You guys have covered quite a few genres over the years. Are there any that are strictly off limits?
Stuart: “We played a concert in Holland a couple of weeks ago and we always play ‘The Boy With the Arab Strap’. At the end I quite often take it down and reflect about my thoughts on life. I noticed that the band had suddenly gone into this reggae kind of thing behind me. I don’t really know how it happened. I don’t know how good we’d be at reggae. You’ve got to be careful that you don’t experiment for the sake of experimenting which I think is terrible – imagine a band getting together and saying ‘let’s try this’ or ‘let’s try that’. It usually happens very naturally because there’s so many of us in the group, and we all have quite different tastes so it just depends who we follow.”
So with these three new EPs, is there a sound or idea or theme that holds them all together?
“Yeah, there’s the title – ‘How To Solve Human Problems’ part one two and three. That’s a title from a Buddhist text I’ve been studying for the past couple of years so there’s a little bit of philosophy that seeps into some of the songs. But music-wise and project-wise it was a case of ‘let’s go back to Glasgow, let’s do the songs, let’s follow the songs’. Sometimes when you’re doing an album you have to prepare 20 songs and then go somewhere and perform them. This was just case of waking up with a song and booking a studio and just doing it and keeping it fresh, so that was the theme.”
Would you say there’s a lyrical string that holds everything together?
“Not so much. A lyrical string is usually a warning sign that you’re in for something quite shocking. Every song has its own identity but the music percolates from things that have happened. Perhaps some of them come from a similar sort of theme – there’s some little bits of philosophy sneaking in there, but there’s not an overall arc.”
So the current political climate hasn’t inspired you at all?
“I think I’ve been inspired by the dystopian nightmare, but sometimes its OK to not be freaked out by what’s happening in the world. Sometimes you can further yourself as an individual or as an artist by changing yourself or trying to change the small environment you’re in and not actually worrying about the dystopia. There’s always a dystopia going on somewhere in the world at anytime, so it’s egotistical of us to imagine that this is our own disaster and calamity that’s happening.
“I mean we’ve got fucking food on our table, there’s far worse things happening to people around the world. If you wanna go out and help them that’s a very practical thing that you could do. I like the idea of trying to actually change myself or the people around me quite subtly. I want to be a better person, and I think that’s something to aim for. I think if we were generally kinder to the people next to us, whoever they are or whatever they look like, then really our problems would just disappear.”
So you want to keep the world of Belle and Sebastian as quite a positive and escapist one?
“I like that a record can offer some escapism, but at the same time you can challenge someone to look at the world in a different way. Not in an angry way, but just a practical way – doing something quietly themselves.”
So beyond these EPs, is there an album in the pipeline?
“We ended up with about 20 tracks, they’re all coming your way in the next few months. This is it. When the group started we used to have a thing called ‘the 12″ single’ and we loved it. And when we first started, instead of talking of albums occasionally we’d make 12″ singles so this is us trying to get back to making EP’s and 12″ singles.”
Noel Gallagher recently said that music, culture and fashion felt kind of freer in the 90’s and a lot more was possible. Do you feel that way? Do you ever get nostalgic about that kind of stuff?
“Nah – he’s just saying it’s freer because he doesn’t realise he’s so rich and privileged. That’s probably his perception of freedom. On the whole, people are probably freer to express themselves now more than any other time in history. Anybody can make a record these days.”
You’re regarded as quite a ‘seminal’ band, for want of a better word. Do you ever hear your influence on other artists?
“I’m not such a listener to music these days – I don’t listen to enough music to actually hear our influence in anybody else. My wife will say ‘there’s something on Radio 6 that sounds like you’ and I’ll be momentarily flattered. I think if we were influential, it was more our independent spirit rather than the sound we made – which after all was pretty traditional, handed down from the 60’s rock n roll and pop.”
You have very dedicated fans. What do you think it is about what you do that inspires that kind of devotion?
“We’re very lucky to have a resilient audience year after year; I could wax lyrical about it. From when our band started I certainly didn’t think that we were any better than the people that were coming to see us, or what we did was really spectacular. To me there wasn’t much of a division between fans and bands and I think maybe over the years that feeling has become much more prevalent but you’ve got to have the tunes and you’ve got to say something or you might as well not make a record. I don’t care if you’re a crazy narcissistic arsehole, at least say something narcissistic!”
Do you feel that after 20 years, people now ‘understand’ the band now more than ever?
“Probably not, it just depends who’s taking any notice. You can’t be so egotistical to think that the man in the street knows your back catalogue, he probably notices you once every 20 years. I don’t really care about that, the groups that I loved back in the 80s were pretty small bands like Cocteau Twins or Felt, to me they made these miraculous records and they didn’t have many material rewards for making them because they had to make them, they created this sort of world. We’re really lucky that we’re still all together playing well together and everybody is still healthy making music. It’s a real bonus, like let’s make more music while we’re still here and add to this cannon.”
I can’t imagine you guys have any massive rockstar arguments either
“No, especially not since the Buddhism came into it. The other day we all started talking about that, yeah we all get on pretty well.”
Belle & Sebastian tour
See the band’s full UK and European tour dates below. Tickets are available here.
5 Antwerp, Belgium – De Roma
6 Strasbourg, France – La Laiterie
7 Paris, France – Salle Pleyel
9 Nantes, France – Stereolox
11 Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg – Rockhal
12 Zurich, Switzerland – X-tra Limmathaus
13 Milan, Italy – Fabrique
14 Bologna, Italy – Estragon
16 Munich, Germany – Muffathalle
17 Berlin, Germany – Admiralspalast
18 Frankfurt, Germany – Batschkapp
19 Amsterdam, Netherlands – Carre
21 Copenhagen, Denmark – DK Studio 1
22 Stockholm, Sweden – Munchen Brewery
23 Oslo, Norway – Sentrum Scene
24 Gothenburg, Sweden – Studios
6 Cornwall, England – Truro Hall
8 Cardiff, Wales – Millenium Center
9 Aberystwyth, Wales – Arts Centre
10 Nottingham, England – Rock City
12 Manchester, England – Bridgewater Hall
13 Cambridge, England – Corn Exchange
15 Brighton, England – Brighton Dome
16 London, England – Troxy
17 London, England – Troxy
19 Liverpool, England – Philharmonic
20 York, England – Grand Opera House
22 Gateshead, England – Sage Gateshead
23 Perth, Scotland – Perth Concert Hall
24 Edinburgh, Scotland – Usher Hall
26 Dublin, Ireland – Vicar Street
27 Dublin, Ireland – Vicar Street