On December 11th, Matador Records will release Belle and Sebastian’s What to Look for in Summer, a live double album gathering choice selections from the band’s 2019 world tour, including last summer’s epic “Boaty Weekender” cruise.
Check out the video for ‘My Wandering Days Are Over’, below:
“We’d been badgered by our fan base to put out recordings of the shows,” frontman Stuart Murdoch teases.
So they began multi-tracking their 2019 tour, including all three sets from the “Boaty Weekender” festival, which took place on a cruise ship. Which of those things feels more like an out-of-reach fantasy right now, simply seeing some live music, a festival, or getting on a cruise ship?
When Murdoch polled Belle and Sebastian fans on Twitter, most said that their favourite live LPs were of a single concert. But hey, the fans don’t get to make the set list either. The band decided picking the best recordings from different shows was the way to go, taking their inspiration from such live albums as Yes’s Yessongs and Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous.
“For a while, the working title of the record was Live and Meticulous,” Murdoch says. “The record company really wanted it to be called Live and Meticulous. But I don’t like derivative things really.”
Neither a retrospective nor a back-door greatest-hits, What To Look For In Summer is the sound of a band that’s always moving forward, a picture of Belle and Sebastian in 2019 that gives equal weight to early days (“My Wandering Days Are Over,” “Seeing Other People”) and recent years (“Poor Boy,” We Were Beautiful”), with a track selection Murdoch says was almost random. “I’m a Cuckoo,” #2 on the band’s Setlist.FM stats, didn’t even make the cut. But you get three songs from 2000’s Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant (which the band played in full at the Boaty Weekender).
“It just feels like you’re having your friends around for dinner and you want everything to be right,” he says. “No matter how miserable your songs are ‑ maybe most of the fans have learned to love these songs in a bedroom or a kitchen – when you come out to a show, it’s a different thing. You just want everybody to feel good.”
Never is that more true than towards the end of every show. “The Boy With The Arab Strap” is both Belle and Sebastian’s “Born To Run” – they’re never not gonna play it – and their “Dancing in the Dark” to the nth degree, as scores of fans end up on stage for a bit of participatory dancing. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime highlight for the kids, an occasional nightmare for the band’s production manager, and the greatest bit of fun for everybody else. Sometimes Jackson has to fight his way through the dancers to get back to the mic for his harmony vocals, while Martin gets a close-up view of people surrounding Murdoch on stage, or sometimes even hijacking the song. “I kind of enjoy it when people overstep the line,” Martin admits. “But not with me!”
Murdoch never gets tired of playing it “I genuinely look forward to it,” he says. “If the concert’s going great, it just feels like a natural vibe. And if the concert’s going okay – maybe it’s a Sunday night and everybody’s a little bit flat, or still in their seats – it’s definitely the time to send it home.”
He also never gets tired of playing, period. “Touring the band is something that I never thought we’d do. It’s turned into the thrill of a lifetime, really, in a manifest, physical way. It’s just the nicest experience that I think I’ve had in my life.”
Pre-order the What To Look For In Summer on CD and 2xLP HERE.
Check out the video for ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’, below: