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Stuart Murdoch Signing At Origami Vinyl, Monday September 1st 2014

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Stuart Murdoch and Emily Browning

I got the note just after noon, Stuart Murdoch (of Belle & Sebastian) was about to make an appearance at Origami Vinyl in a few hours, and if I was hoping for an in-store performance as it is often the case in this tiny store, … but it turned out to be just a signing with no singing. It tells you how out of touch I am with the Scottish band, who hasn’t released anything for 4 years, and haven’t performed for quite some time.

They are actually not a very prolific band, they seem to take their time, ‘Dear Catastrophe Waitress’ was released in 2003, ‘The Life Pursuit’ in 2006 and their last in date, ‘Belle and Sebastian Write About Love’, in 2010. However, Stuart is about to release ‘God Help The Girl’, a musical feature film starring Emily Browning, Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray, which, according to Wikipedia ‘tells the story of a troubled young woman who finds her footing and direction over the course of a summer in a town that’s not quite Glasgow.’ I also read that the film is about ‘female travails amongst the hustle and bustle of an imaginary Glasgow’, a ‘coming-of-age story set in the bohemian fantasia of Glasgow’s West End, which is populated by mods, rockers, and emo kids who have no qualms about breaking into song and dance’. But the New Yorker, which has a full article on the movie, gives a better insight: it’s about Eve (played by Emily Browning), an anorexic girl living in a hospital. She once sneaks out to form a band with two new friends, James (played by Olly Alexander) a guitarist-lifeguard, and Cassie (played by Hannah Murray) an ingénue-chanteuse, ponders God and visits a Christian faith healer,… and this is not too far from Murdoch’s own story, as he did turn to Christianity and was living for a time in a caretaker’s apartment at a Glasgow church before forming Belle and Sebastian in 1996. But beside this, the film is about ‘the joy of getting a band together, finding a sound and camaraderie at once—all acoustic guitars, shoo-bops, sunshine, and canoes, like a Belle and Sebastian fever dream.’

It is not often that a songwriter writes, directs and soundtracks a movie, however all this was originally just songs which eventually morphed into a full-feature film, set to hit theaters September 5th. ‘The songs were a blueprint for the film’, he said to the New Yorker, ‘When Eve first came along as a character, she came as a singer, and her songs came fully formed. Quite often, you wake up with songs. I just had to write them down.’ Wow this sounds like a religious experience, right? The rest of the cast came very easily as he explained: ‘I’m talking like a child with invisible friends. You’re used to listening for something else, I just sat down and let the characters talk. It was a bit like ‘Seinfeld,’ without the gags. It’s on my mind here. ‘Seinfeld’ is like my second family. The gang.’ What a curious gang indeed, Seinfeld and God?

Origami was offering a sneak preview of the soundtrack and many people had even pre-ordered the vinyl, days in advance. I don’t do vinyl, I am a casual fan of Belle and Sebastian, but I decided to go to the store nevertheless, out of curiosity. I saw Belle and Sebastian years ago at the Hollywood Bowl, they were just one of the bands on the bill, and although I found their set charming (that’s the term that fits the most with my memory) I never really got into them. Still, they have a style and some unique harmonies that define their delicate sound, and may be the Hollywood Bowl was not the perfect place to appreciate them.

When I go to signings and don’t buy the album, I always feel a bit weird, hanging out there with nothing in my hand and no real purpose, just armed with my camera, and snatching pictures of people posing with the star. The Origami store is extremely narrow and I had to force my way in the opening to get to see Mr. Murdoch. He looked and acted like the nicest guy in the world, making sure to talk to everyone, looking at the line to check on people. He welcomed us with a ‘Hi guys, thank you for coming’ and didn’t stop smiling the whole time. He was also accompanied with one of the actresses, the charming and pretty Emily Browning and they both did the signing with a lot of grace. There is something fragile about his physic and personality, no wonder that all these serene and sad songs come from this guy! Also, there was a little girl, she may have been 6 years old and she was wearing a Belle and Sebastian shirt (her favorite band, as her mom said) while holding a notebook that she made them sign… awww it was the cutest picture of the day for sure.

You can watch the trailer of the movie below — or go to GodHelpTheGirl for much more about the film, as Pitchfork has been all over it for some time. The one-minute of music is pure Belle and Sebastian, sweet and nostalgic of the 60s, totally breathing youth and innocence. And when you know that the movie was produced by Wes Anderson’s ‘Rushmore’ and ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ producers and received a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival last January, you’ll know you have the perfect movie for hipsters, who ponder the God question.

More pictures of the signing here.

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