Part 1 of Trilogy Of EPs!
A new Belle and Sebastian release is always something to cheer. So three new releases leads to the inevitable conclusion: three cheers! Here is the latest installment in a career that has always pursued a singular and delightful vision of what pop represents and what it can achieve, a career that has seen them triumph against the odds to win a Brit award, be one of the first bands to curate their own festival, and play at the official London residence of the US ambassador (the last presidents ambassador, not the current ones).
Murdoch, as ever, is not the only writer. Sarah Martin (violin/vocals) brought in the delicious The Same Star, which marries Belle and Sebastians melodiousness to a pounding Motown backbeat, and was produced by Leo Abrahams (Ghostpoet, Wild Beasts, Regina Spektor). Wed met Leo in February of 2016, and Id say that meeting and the recording of Ill Be Your Pilot were the first tangible steps of this EP project, Martin says. We didnt have a stack of songs to play him, but we liked him and he became a part of the plan from that point - and when Id got to a point with The Same Star where it just needed to be recorded, I thought it could benefit from having a producer to steer things, and fortunately we had a slot in the diary marked Leo coming up. Its not a song wed laboured over playing for months - it fell together quite quickly thanks in large part to Bobs [Bobby Kildea, guitarist] enthusiasm and Stuarts willingness to dismember an old song and repurpose the break, so that it wasnt just the same three chords over and over and over.
Theres one big reason why 15 songs are coming out on three EPs, rather than one album. "Wed made a couple of LPs, Tigermilk and If Youre Feeling Sinister, within the space of six months," Murdoch says, remembering the early days of the bands career, and how that fed into their decision-making this time.
Harkening back to their 1997 release of three consecutive EPs (Dog On Wheels, Lazy Line Painter Jane, and 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds Of Light), Belle and Sebastian now release three new EPs under the umbrella title How To Solve Our Human Problems. The EP trilogy culminate with a limited vinyl box set containing all three EPs, with the option of a box just for EP3 for those who have already purchased 1 and 2.
Belle and Sebastian's song titled Ill Be Your Pilot can be found on EP2. The single takes as its subject Stuart Murdochs young son: Having your first kid is a huge event, so I wrapped a lot of things I felt about Denny into the song. Being a dad made me feel a little like the pilot in The Little Prince, hence all the references to the Sahara!
Just as those three early EPs are a crucial part of the Belle and Sebastian canon, these three new releases arent merely a detour between albums, but as definitive releases in their own right. How To Solve Our Human Problems is both an era of its own, and part of a long, rich history. How To Solve Our Human Problems is, if you like, Belle and Sebastian Redux.
When Belle and Sebastian felt new music percolating, they decided to break from the working methods of the recent years and instead stay at home, record the tracks as and when, often producing themselves, working with friends and collaborators to see what emerged. Working in Glasgow gave them the freedom to work without the constraints that making an album can impose: they could take their time honing and experimenting.
One thing that has defined Belle and Sebastian has been their relationship with fans, and thats apparent in the new EPs. For the three sleeves, the group issued a call to fans to come to be photographed by Murdoch at a studio in Belsize Park in North London. Fifty were selected, and all those photographed were also recorded answering the question: How do you solve your human problems?
12' Vinyl EP (Part 1)
Lyrics printed on back cover
1. Sweet Dew Lee
2. We Were Beautiful
3. Fickle Season
4. The Girl Doesn't Get It
5. Everything Is Now