LOS ANGELES – Stuart Murdoch, frontman and founder of Scotting band Belle & Sebastian, has been juggling a couple projects over the past year. First was his God Help the Girl music side project, then “God Help the Girl,” his first film foray as writer and director, and then a brand new album for B&S.
It's the one in the middle, he said in our interview this week, that changed everything. He called the big-screen musical “a whole new thing, I won't ever go back.”
“God Help the Girl” — starring Emily Browning, Hannah Murray (Gilly on “Game of Thrones”) and Olly Alexander — has been on the festival circuit since January. It's set in Murdoch's homebase in Glasgow, with Browning starring as Eve, a young girl struggling with anorexia and other mental health issues, finding temporary relief in songwriting with two new friends. For any fan of Belle & Sebastian, the songs are definitively Murdoch, with the aesthetic, pacing and sound frequently playing like a visual companion or expansion on the band.
And if that's what audiences get from it, then sure, “Just let it be Belle & Sebastian: The Movie,” Murdoch said. He said he didn't try at all to stray from his comfort zone, aesthetically, thought working in movies has got his mind whirling about other places to take his “Girl.” “I can't imagine this on the stage,” he said, though maybe a TV show would fit the bill, “a good half hour thing. 'Seinfeld' without the gags and add a song,” he smiled.
Murdoch also gave an update on Belle & Sebastian's as-yet-untitled ninth album, which they recorded in Atlanta with producer Ben Allen, two firsts. The set has a much “open sound, forceful sound… we just left everything out on the field, to use a sporting analogy. A very soulful record.”
He confirmed that fans can expect the album in January, and that it will have guest players and singers, including a duet with Dee Dee Penny from the Dum Dum Girls. He'll have his hands on the masters in two weeks, giving him plenty of time to promote what he calls a “Spring record.”
Watch the rest of our chat above, for more of Murdoch's thoughts on the link between mental health and creativitiy, the influence of locale on creativity, the musicality of his cast and working out his own demons.
“God Help the Girl” went wide to theaters this weekend.