Geopolitics are never a good starting point for conversation. But considering Scottish twee group Belle and Sebastian have named their new album Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance, it only makes sense to start there.
“The world is made up of individuals and a conscious peace should come from within. It’s up to each individual to make a contribution,” says guitarist Stevie Jackson over the phone. “It’s not like I wouldn’t be at a demonstration or throwing a brick or something, but sometimes that can be negative. It can make things worse. A calm, general friendliness in everyday life is the best thing to do.” When put that simply, his advice makes me question why he isn’t running the country.
On their new album, Belle and Sebastian have gone electronic. “We wanted to surprise ourselves,” says Jackson. “We left our comfort zone, but the songs and their pallet, even in an extreme territory, still feel like us.” In terms of the dance elements and the rhythms, that’s nothing new. “Funny Little Frog” is still meant for dancing and “Electronic Renaissance” is definitely electro-pop. Their synth overindulgence this time, however, is definitely a new path.
Much of their music outlines sensitive admissions, and the album’s opening number “Nobody’s Empire” cuts right to the chase. It gets personal. Yet when they face huge crowds every night, that openness is celebrated. It’s a room of tea-loving fans bearing their emotions simply to dance through the evening. “You turn up at the airport and someone has made a big Belle and Sebastian banner. It’s very heartwarming,” says Jackson of their fans. “I was even given a quilt once.”
“Me and Stuart [Murdoch] were singing the Star Spangled Banner the other day,” he laughs. “The first time I went to America I was so excited. Funnily enough, I’ve never really lost that. We love it.” He starts laughing to himself before lowering his tone and saying, “God bless America.” I swear, if only for a moment, I hear him salute in the background, as if there is no divide between our cultures. There’s only dancing, and this album suggests it’s high time we celebrate peace.