TWENTY years ago, Glasgow indie darlings Belle & Sebastian were asked to join Radiohead on tour but turned it down as according to keyboardist Chris Geddes, they “didn’t have their shit together to go out on the road and open for such a big act”.
Fast forward a couple of decades though and it’s a very different story. Now boasting their own formidable live reputation, the Glasgow favourites will be supporting the indie giants this Friday on their own turf at the very first edition of TRNSMT Festival.
“It’s exciting”, Geddes tells TTV. “We’ve played some outdoor shows in Glasgow before and it’s always fun. This is on a bigger scale than anything we’ve done before though”.
“We’ve played the same bill as Radiohead at the likes of Benicassim and Coachella. I’ve seen them at a number of festivals over the years and they always put on a really big show. The first time I ever saw them they were supporting Kingmaker so they’ve come a long way since then!”
As a band rooted in Glasgow, the Belles were an obvious choice to play the first edition of TRNSMT. However, even though it’s a hometown crowd, Geddes is aware it will be very different to their usual shows: “It will be different for us playing to a festival crowd. Our crowd are always up for a party but not in the way that they go completely mad. The night we’re playing, us and Radiohead, I think it will be a party; but a serious party”.
Given the band’s righteous place in Scotland’s rich musical heritage, it’s surprising to hear that Belle & Sebastian have never played T in the Park. “We never played it. There was one year we were meant to and our manager had double booked us with a show at the Hollywood Bowl in LA. I guess we always had a bit of a fear of playing TITP as people do go totally mad”
“The last time I went it was still down at Strathclyde Park. I was only 18 or 19 at the time and my brother was a couple of years younger. We got separated on site and it was the days before mobile phones so I didn’t know how I was going to tell my parents. I eventually got back to my flat and found he’d broken in and was kipping in my bed!”
The show at TRNSMT will mark the band’s first Glasgow show since their triumphant gig at the O2 Academy as part of the BBC 6 Music Festival back in March. It was a special night for all those involved but one that could have perhaps had better timing for Geddes: “The gig was good fun. I’d injured my back a week before and it was really bad at the time so I spent the whole weekend in a lot of discomfort. So on a personal level it wasn’t that enjoyable purely because sitting down and playing piano was quite uncomfortable.”
“The whole 6 Music thing was good though and it was nice that it fell on a weekend when it was really sunny. I think it makes a real difference to the atmosphere and the crowd. Even though it’s a hometown crowd, it’s nice when the gig is part of an event like that”
The lasting memory for many that night will be the massive stage invasion that occurred at the end of the show. Will there be something similar at TRNSMT? “Yeah, anyone who’s seen the band over the years will know hardly a show goes by without a stage invasion. As long as it’s ok’d with the festival security people, I’m sure we can expect another one”
Friday night may be all about delivering the hits but fans will be pleased to know that the band are well underway with new material: “We’ve been working on new music on and off over the past year. We’ve been recording a lot in and around Glasgow this time instead of going away like we have the previous few records. There’s a lot of songs finished or close to being finished and it’s just a matter of getting them done before working out how we’ll present them to people.
“There’s definitely an appetite to get new stuff out there. In the past we liked the idea of getting up onstage and playing a new song but these days we have to be more wary”.
Geddes’ comments confirm a growing concern for bands that they have to be more cautious in releasing new music nowadays because of social media. Just recently, LCD Soundsystem asked their fans not to record live footage of their new songs before they were officially released. It’s a sentiment Geddes wholeheartedly agrees with: “When you’re aware everything gets filmed and ends up on social media, you don’t want people’s first encounter with a song to be through a shaky video or when you make a big mistake in the middle of it. At least if that version is out there, you won’t the real version you worked on to be out there. It’s a shame, you do need to be a bit more cautious live than you’d like to be. It’s nice to play stuff live when it’s not out there as it creates a special bond with the audience. But then someone spoils it!”
Despite these concerns though, it’s exciting to know that the band still have an appetite to create new music. Geddes says: “In terms of musical inspiration, there’s quite a few of us in the band picking up new toys that we make new sounds with. Bob who plays guitar is always getting new pedals and I’m always getting new keyboards.”
“Half the band have got kids now so that takes up a lot of their time. I’m not in that situation though so I’ve got a lot of time to sit down and play the piano. I like to think that I’m at that point in my life where I’m finally getting better at playing”.
Since Belle & Sebastian first made their mark twenty years ago, the Glasgow music scene has gone from strength to strength and we now have a plethora of venues to choose from around the city. It’s a fact Geddes knows all too well as he still tries to get down to as many local gigs as he can. Citing Cate Le Bon and Sacred Paws as two of his favourite contemporary artists, he says: “I still try and get out quite a lot. A lot of the shows I’ve seen recently have been at The Old Hairdresser’s or the ABC for bigger bands. My favourite room to see live music is probably ABC.”
However, don’t expect the band to be living a rock & roll lifestyle: “It’s probably the opposite! I was emailing my dad last weekend for gardening advice and he told me to watch Beechgrove Garden!”
Expected to be one of the highlights of the weekend, Belle & Sebastian take to the Main Stage at TRNSMT Festival this Friday at 7.25pm. Tickets are available here.