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Belle And Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch On 'Days Of The Bagnold Summer'


For more than two decades, the Scottish band of Belle and Sebastian have made beautiful melodies, written witty heartfelt lyrics and gathered some really, really passionate fans. But let's say somehow, you are discovering them just now. You should know this. They are from Glasgow. And no, they are not just two, but seven. The leader of the band is not a Sebastian, but a Stuart. And there is no Belle in the band; there is a Sarah. Sarah Martin is the violinist and vocalist. The band has nine studio albums and multiple awards. And now they are out with their 10th, and it's a very different project - a soundtrack to a movie - and it's called "Days Of The Bagnold Summer."


BELLE AND SEBASTIAN: (Singing) I know where the summer goes when you're having no fun, when you're under the thumb.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Stuart Murdoch joins me now. Welcome.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hi. This movie is based on the 2012 graphic novel by Joff Winterhart, and it's about a teenager who spends his summer listening to heavy metal music and trying to get along with his librarian mom. Remind us what the film's about.

MURDOCH: So it's really about sort of disappointment. The mom and the dad had split up, and the dad had gone off to live in Florida with a new woman. And the boy had been left behind with his mom. And he was meant to visit his dad for the summer, but his dad was having another baby, so it all fell through. And all his hopes for a glamorous summer in Florida were dashed, and he ended up in, you know, the south of England with his mom with really nothing planned. And it's just - sometimes it's in those situations that aren't planned that frustrations start to boil over, and that's pretty much what happens during the summer. It's not like they have any great adventures. They're just faced with each other across the kitchen table.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The movie won't come out until later this year, but your song is playing on the trailer.


MONICA DOLAN: (As Daniel's mother) Daniel, are you OK?

EARL CAVE: (As Daniel) I'm fine.

DOLAN: Don't fall asleep in there.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You see the teenage boy sink into the bathtub. He appears to be depressed. And you're singing a song called "Wait And See What The Day Holds."


BELLE AND SEBASTIAN: (Singing) Same old fear, just a different place. Taxi, take me to somewhere exotic. Taxi, show me the look on her face, oh boy, to the way you are feeling now.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me about the song.

MURDOCH: That's nice. Actually, I didn't realize they were using that in the trailer. But I remember when Simon showed me that scene with this song, I thought it matched really well. It matched really well together. That is an old song with an old lyric, but maybe because I was quite a lot younger when I wrote some of these songs, it's actually closer to the age of the protagonist in the film. And although, you know, it was - it's been a long time since I was a heavy metal fan, maybe there was something - maybe I was feeling his pain.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is it different working on a film than working on an album? I mean, I guess you're working with a specific purpose. Maybe you're not so focused on your fans and the listeners, and you have to think about matching scenes. Is that sort of how you conceived of it, or is there still that intent - that musical intent about the listener?

MURDOCH: Well, there's always intent, but it does - as you point out, the intent is slightly different. And you're not thinking so much about the fans. You're trying to do a job. You're trying to do a good job for the director. But the beauty part is that you can kind of float along on top of the narrative and be inspired by the story. And it's almost like you're illustrating the world that is being presented to you rather than having to do all the groundwork yourself. So it's a different perspective, and sometimes you feel - when you've done a soundtrack, you feel like you've made an album for nothing, for no effort.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And how did you divide the work between the seven of you?

MURDOCH: That's a good question. We don't usually sort of divide up stuff as such. By this stage, everything just seems to happen naturally and...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's not, like, a - something on the wall with, like, names and tasks and checkmarks. No.

MURDOCH: We try - you know, we tried to do that once, like, many years ago, and it involved tidying the office. And it...


MURDOCH: It just doesn't work.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It didn't work.

MURDOCH: It doesn't work. You're better to let people - you know, we're like cats. You know, you're better to let people do what they want to do.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There are people who literally grew up with you. And I don't want to make you feel old, but your first album came out in 1996, and you've been making music for over two decades. You defined indie pop. And you now have kids. So I'm just curious how it feels to be in the music scene now.

MURDOCH: Well, I feel very lucky. I think we all feel very lucky. We all have this - we have this thing now that we just think that anything goes in terms of our music. We feel very free because, after having gone for this long, it feels like nobody's going to throw you out anymore. You don't feel so much like a charlatan. You feel like - actually, do you know what? We can - by this stage, we can just do the music that we want to do. We don't have to...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The bouncer's not going to come and get you.

MURDOCH: Yeah, we're not going to get the hook. But - so yeah, we're very comfortable.


BELLE AND SEBASTIAN: (Singing) Now I know this letter is right out of the blue. All I ever wanted was to talk to you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian. Their latest album is "Days Of The Bagnold Summer: The Soundtrack." Thanks for joining us.

MURDOCH: Thank you so much.


BELLE AND SEBASTIAN: (Singing) Honey, can I call you that in secret print? Words will never... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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