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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 7:14 am | Fair 43º


Jeff Moehlis: Belle & Sebastian Making First Visit to Santa Barbara

Indie pop band will play at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Wednesday

Belle & Sebastian’s early days are legendary. The Scottish indie pop band quickly recorded their first album, Tigermilk, in Glasgow in 1996 as part of the yearly project for a music business course at Stow College, pressing 1,000 vinyl copies that they could barely give away.

But the law of supply and demand kicked in as interest in the band grew, thanks to the popularity of their follow-up, If You’re Feeling Sinister, which had a much wider release, and copies of Tigermilk started commanding prices in the hundreds of pounds. Meanwhile, the band laid low, with singer and main songwriter Stuart Murdoch refusing to do interviews for years. But the buzz continued to build, and the band cracked into the American market.

Fast-forwarding to the present, Belle & Sebastian has by now released eight albums and loads of EPs and singles, with their music drawing favorable comparisons to notables such as The Smiths, The Velvet Underground and Nick Drake.

Belle & Sebastian will be making the only California appearance of its current tour on Wednesday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl, with openers Best Coast. The show starts at 7 p.m., and tickets are available by clicking here.

The band’s keyboard player, Chris Geddes, talked to Noozhawk by phone about the band’s upcoming visit to town. The full interview is available by clicking here.

Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming show?

Chris Geddes: It’s kind of a selection of songs from throughout the band’s career. I guess because we’re not plugging a new record at the moment, we’re not leaning too heavily on any one particular album. So we’re just playing songs from throughout the back catalog.

In terms of what the show is like, there’s quite a lot of people onstage. We’ve got a string section with us, so we’re about a dozen strong onstage. I guess it’s all singing, all dancing.

JM: Have you visited Santa Barbara before?

CG: No, I never have. We’ve only really been in the big cities in California. It’ll be nice to do a show somewhere a bit different this time.

JM: I think you’ll find that it’s a very beautiful venue.

CG: Yeah, I’ve seen the venue online. It does look really great.

JM: It looks like you’re playing a number of festivals on your current tour. How does it compare to play festivals versus a headlining gig like the one here in Santa Barbara?

CG: It varies a lot, just depending on what the other acts at the festival are like. Sometimes you can play a festival show, and if it’s the right audience or the scheduling is right and you’re in the right circumstances, you can feel like you’re playing to your own crowd, except there’s three times as many of them as you would normally play to. Then obviously, sometimes, for the crew and sound engineers the lack of control means it’s hard to work for them. But in general I really enjoy festival crowds because people go to festivals to enjoy themselves. If you go to watch a band at a festival, you’re kind of there with the mindset that you want to enjoy them.

JM: I’ve read that the band will be working on a new album after this tour. Can you confirm that and let us know what we can look forward to with that?

CG: Yeah, that’s very much the plan. Because of personal circumstances with people in the band, with Stuart working on his movie [God Help the Girl], and Bob [Kildea, bass and guitar] and Stuart both having had new babies recently, we haven’t gotten together and worked on any new music in the run-up to the tour. But the plan is, as soon as we’re back home, to get in the rehearsal room and start writing stuff, and see what the writers have already come up with and start working on new music.

Because we haven’t really started yet, there’s nothing I can really say that would shed any light on what a new record might be like, or what kind of direction things might take, or anything like that. But there’s a definite plan to start on new music as soon as the touring is finished.

JM: Here’s a question you probably don’t get very often. I understand that you have a degree in physics, and it turns out that I do as well. My question is, how do you think your education in physics still influences your worldview?

CG: I guess I believe in science. I believe that that’s the way you get factual knowledge about the world. If you want to make rational decisions about things, they should be informed by evidence. I guess that’s kind of how it’s shaped my worldview.

I must admit, to my shame, I’ve probably forgotten most of what I learned in the degree, certainly in terms of being able to do the mathematics. I mean, I can still sit and read a popular science book or an article in New Scientist and get something out of it, but I very much doubt if I could even do first-year undergraduate physics these days, actually do the math.

I guess if you did cosmology, modules in that sort of thing, and quantum physics, it gives you an appreciation of how big and strange the whole universe is. And also what a miracle it is that through evolution taking place on Earth we ended up with brains that in some way are able to comprehend what’s going on on a really big scale.

It’s a better conversation to have on the tour bus after a couple of beers than it is in the middle of the day. [both laugh]

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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