Belle And Sebastian talk new album ‘A Bit Of Previous’ and share lead single ‘Unnecessary Drama’

Frontman Stuart Murdoch talks to NME about the band's first studio album in seven years, the war in Ukraine, and the eternal influence of God, sickness, Buddhism, family life and public transport

Belle And Sebastian have announced their 10th studio album ‘A Bit Of Previous’, and shared an offbeat video for the first single ‘Unnecessary Drama’. You can find the therapy-themed visuals below, along with our interview with frontman Stuart Murdoch.

The Scottish indie veterans’ first full album in seven years – not including 2019’s soundtrack album for the film Days Of The Bagnold Summer was recorded in Glasgow, after plans for sessions in Los Angeles were scuppered by the pandemic. It’s the first time the band have recorded in their native city since 2000’s ‘Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant’.

Converting their long-term rehearsal space into a COVID-safe studio, Murdoch told NME that the lack of time pressure benefitted the recording process. “The year between when we started recording with a vengeance last February, and this point now, almost became a sacred year,” he said. “We got to do what we loved with a concentration that perhaps we’ve never had before.

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“You also start seeing the city in a different way. Even, for instance, around our space in the last couple of years. We’ve been there for 15 years but it’s only the last two years that a little community has grown up around where the studio, with workshops and artists, and a little brewery in the corner. There’s also a decent taqueria that’s just opened, so it all felt very accommodating. It felt like it was put on for our benefit!”

The record’s spirited lead single ‘Unnecessary Drama’ comes along with visuals that feature the band resolving their tensions with the help of a therapist, and some team building exercises. “The label said, ‘For God’s sake, let’s just see the band for once’,” Murdoch joked of the video. “There’s a famous Metallica documentary [2004’s Some Kind Of Monster] where they all go and see a psychiatrist and it’s really funny. Somebody suggested those team-building exercises. To me that seemed funny. The band gets on great, usually!”

The forced restrictions of social-distancing rules also caused Belle And Sebastian to mix up their creative process. “Some people weren’t able to come into the studio as much as me and Chris [Geddes, keys] and Sarah [Martin, violin and vocals], but every aspect of it was positive. Even the fact we’d start in different ways, building up a song with just one or two people in the studio. Because only a limited amount of people were coming in it left space in my mind to try things.”

A number of the album’s 12 songs were written sporadically in the studio, including nostalgic opener ‘Young And Stupid’. “When I first suggested the order of the tracks, Stevie [Jackson, guitarist] was like, ‘really?’ But I think that song does set a tone for the album, not so much in a lyrical sense,” said Murdoch. “I just love the way it sounds. One of my favourite albums is The Go-Betweens‘ ‘Tallulah’ and it starts in a similar way.”

The album’s title is also the name of a bonus track not included on the album, but will be included on a limited edition 7″ vinyl sold with LP editions of the album. It comes from a turn of phrase the band’s bassist Bobby Kildea’s father used to refer to one of his son’s past relationships. However Murdoch stressed that the band were no more nostalgic than usual during the sessions. “Wherever you are in the world, when you go into that vocal booth which for me me is a very nice womblike space, you become nostalgic for places, people, times and events that could never happen,” Murdoch told us.

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Belle And Sebastian perform live in 2019
Belle And Sebastian perform live in 2019 CREDIT: Barry Brecheisen/WireImage

Despite its impact on the recording process, Murdoch insisted that the pandemic didn’t influence his writing. “I don’t mean to be disparaging, but I think many people maybe experienced that loss of freedom or sense of isolation for the first time in a long time. Whereas because of my circumstances, having coped with an illness for many years [Murdoch has chronic fatigue syndrome], none of the restrictions put me off,” he said. “I also have two kids, [one of whom is] an autistic child. With any young children it turns your life upside down. Everything suddenly becomes very restricted because you’ve got to keep the guy safe.”

Instead, Murdoch said, the album was written about familiar themes. He continued: “My top 10 don’t ever really change. These things are eternal, they just keep going around in my mind: God, sickness, Buddhism, family life, public transport, consolation – just having a general moan about life – and everyday beauty!”

Belle and Sebastian a bit of previous artwork
‘A Bit Of Previous’ will come in four different covers, depending on format

Howver, some of those themes have also taken on particular significance in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine, Murdoch revealed.

“We’ve got a track on the album called ‘If They’re Shooting At You’, and in a sense it has a wider theme of ‘What do you do when might makes right?’,” he said.

Murdoch added: “I was tweeting this morning about feeling beauty. I generally just woke up, thinking about this music. I just generally woke up thinking about this music, thinking about this friend, a good feeling, and then what’s happening with Russia.

“The people prosecuting this war are the opposite of that. They don’t know any beauty. I’m 100 per cent sure that beauty always comes out in the end. It’s immortal, it’ll last forever. Maybe our art wont last forever, but art does last forever.”

‘A Bit Of Previous’ will be released on May 7. Check out the full tracklist below.

1. Young And Stupid
2. If They’re Shooting At You
3. Talk To Me Talk To You
4. Reclaim The Night
5. Do It For Your Country
6. Prophets On Hold
7. Unnecessary Drama
8. Come On Home
9. A World Without You
10. Deathbed Of My Dreams
11. Sea Of Sorrow
12. Working Boy In New York City

Belle And Sebastian are also set to embark on an extensive tour across the US and UK this year, with European dates to follow in 2023. Their British dates, rescheduled from earlier-announced shows for the spring, are as follows:

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Sunday 13 – Cardiff, Great Hall – Student’s Union
Monday 14, Tuesday 15 – London, The Roundhouse
Thursday 17 – Sheffield, O2 Academy
Friday 18 – Liverpool, Olympia
Saturday 19 – Hull, Asylum, Hull University Union
Monday 21 – Aberdeen, Beach Ballroom
Wednesday 23 – Edinburgh, Usher Hall
Thursday 24 – Newcastle Upon Tyne, O2 City Hall
Friday 25 – Manchester, Academy
Sunday 27 – Cambridge, Corn Exchange
Monday 28 – Birmingham, O2 Academy
Tuesday 29 – Southampton, O2 Guildhall
Wednesday 30 – Brighton, Dome

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