Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch has been working on his “God Help The Girl’ project intermittently for the last five years. God Help The Girl will play their first (and last) shows this month starting with a performance with Tegan and Sara at the Crossing Border Festival in The Hague. More details below.

God Help The Girl will also be playing at the 100 Club in London (November 21st) and at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh (November 29). Each show will be unique – in The Hague, they will be appearing with Tegan and Sara, and in Edinburgh the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra will join in for a special BBC Scotland curated show. The 9 piece band includes three of the vocalists who featured on the album – Catherine Ireton, Celia Garcia and Alex Klobouk – and will be playing songs from the album and its counterpart EP, “Stills.”

The New York Times wrote a feature article on Stuart and “God Help The Girl” earlier this year:

More Songs About Feelings and Women

On a damp April night, Stuart Murdoch sat at the piano in his Glasgow West End apartment and struggled to finish another sad song. It’s not as easy as it once was. Now beautiful women distract him. Perched next to Murdoch was Catherine Ireton, a singer from Ireland who features prominently in Murdoch’s new project, a movie musical he hasn’t quite finished writing. She texted while Murdoch hummed a melody. His wife, Marisa Privitera, was curled up on a nearby couch. She bears a striking resemblance to the French New Wave actress Jean Seberg, Murdoch’s favorite screen heroine — a likeness that was hard to miss, since she sat under a poster of Godard’s “Breathless” that featured Seberg. Murdoch played a few notes, but then stopped abruptly.“Marisa, what are you doing?”

Privitera looked up guiltily from her laptop. “Oh, sorry, I was just Facebooking,” she said. “That probably can wait.”

Her husband sighed dramatically. “Yes, please wait if you don’t mind,” he said. “We can give you a shaker if you need something to do.”

He started playing again. “When I was sick and alone, songs came out fully formed,” Murdoch had told me earlier. “I became obsessed with writing about people in terrible situations, people who didn’t have a voice.” He ran his slender hand through strawberry blond hair. “Then I tried to get happy, that happiness you feel when you start acting like a 12-year-old again.” Murdoch let out a mirthful laugh. “I started thinking about girls. The sad songs don’t come as fast anymore.”

Since 1996, Murdoch has been the lead singer and primary songwriter for Belle and Sebastian, the critically acclaimed Scottish indie-pop band. (Indie pop is literate, low-fidelity, oft-downbeat music that doesn’t sell very well and is usually distributed by undercapitalized independent record labels.) Even more than in mainstream rock, misunderstood outsiders populate the songs of the indie-pop universe. Murdoch is uniquely qualified to write about them. As a teenager, he worked as a roadie at rock shows around Glasgow, and his co-workers nicknamed him Primrose because of his slight build and shy demeanor. He then spent much of his 20s alone, suffering from myalgic encephalomyelitis, a chronic-fatigue-syndrome-like illness. His songs are filled with lonely girls who dream of stolen horses, misfit students constructing clay models of the Velvet Underground — the ur-indie band — and iconoclasts worried about, as a line in one of his songs puts it, becoming part of “another century of fakers.”

Murdoch recruited the other six members of Belle and Sebastian for their shared sensibility rather than their musical chops. The band provided the perfect accompaniment to Murdoch’s wistful, sometimes lisping voice. Swirling guitars and jaunty piano and horns sometimes created a deceptively upbeat counterpoint to his wry yet bleak wordplay but could also combine to create serotonin-lowering tunes reminiscent of the sadly beautiful songs of Morrissey and Nick Drake, two of Murdoch’s great influences.

But writing sad songs can mean a harsh life. Drake committed suicide at 26, and Morrissey remains miserable at 50 — a vegetarian, he recently delayed a show because he smelled cooked meat from the stage. Murdoch just turned 40 and is trying to escape the cul-de-sac of outsider angst. He has reinvented himself as a Glaswegian Burt Bacharach on the band’s last two albums, replacing world-weariness with a more mainstream pop theme: a weakness for the ladies. One song from 2004, “I’m A Cuckoo,” more Motown than Scottish bed-sit music, became the band’s highest-charting single in Britain to that point, but not everyone was happy. Belle and Sebastian’s fans are famously devout — Murdoch is a regular churchgoer, and one fan showed up at his parish with Murdoch’s song lyrics tattooed on his arms — and many were angry with the new direction.

Murdoch’s health has improved remarkably, but he still moves gingerly, as if he doesn’t want to wake his own body. After playing for a while, he rose slowly from the piano and refreshed everyone’s drink. “We lost a lot of the original fans when I stopped being miserable,” Murdoch told me recently. “But the only thing worse than being miserable is sentimentalizing misery as a desired state.”

Read the full article at:

‘More Songs about Feelings and Women’ by Stephen Rodrick, New York Times, June 26, 2009

The aforementioned ‘Stills’ EP – which contains five more tracks from the 2007 recording sessions for God Help The Girl, is now available digitally from all the usual online outlets.
You can preview the title track here – and download high quality audio files of it for free in exchange for an e-mail address, here:

www.godhelpthegirl.com

Comments

  1. I hate the New York Times. Blah diddy blah…looked up guiltily…. misunderstood teenagers…Get to the point!!!

  2. I actually quite like this story. The full article is very well written too but probably better suited for a lazy sunday morning read.
    I had no idea that he suffered/suffers from M.E. I do prefer their earlier stuff to the more recent stuff, but if it means that Stuart is happier now then good for him.