Fans never know what Scottish indie rockers Belle and Sebastian will do when they hit the stage.
“We’re not sure what’s going to happen either sometimes,” drummer Richard Colburn says while calling from his Glasgow home. “Some unusual things have happened onstage at our shows.”
During the middle of a Belle and Sebastian set a decade ago, the band introduced the gorgeous cut “Fox in the Snow” but left the stage for opener, cello trio Rasputina, who expertly covered the delicate tune.
“I absolutely loved watching Rasputina play ‘Fox in the Snow,’” Colburn recalls. “It was different.”
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So was singer-songwriter Stuart Murdoch, making like Rob Halford of Judas Priest while attempting to ride a motorcycle onstage during the ‘90s.
“That was great in theory,” Colburn says. “The only problem is that Stuart doesn’t know how to ride a motorbike. Fortunately when he was on the edge of the stage, the motorbike stalled. If it didn’t stall and he made one wrong move, the motorbike and Stuart are out in the audience. It would have been like (late stunt performer) Evel Knievel. So much for starting off the show with a cover of ‘Leader of the Pack.’”
But Belle and Sebastian doesn’t need to perform other recording artists’ material. The twee-pop act, which crafts elegant, poignant and occasionally humorous material, has a ten-album canon and a pair of EPs on the horizon.
Expect the band to preview a few of the new songs from the as yet unnamed initial release, which is slated to drop in August, when they perform Monday at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh.
“The new songs are eclectic,” Colburn says. “Some of the songs are electronic and some sound like well, older Belle and Sebastian songs.”
Belle and Sebastian will break down the show in segments. “It’ll be four different parts, with about five songs each,” Colburn says. “Each will have a different mood.”
Perhaps the band will play more tracks from “If You’re Feeling Sinister” this time out. The classic 1996 album was barely touched upon during the band’s last tour in 2015.
“I’m glad you said something since I wasn’t aware of that,” Colburn says. “I’ll say something about it and see what we can do to add more ‘Sinister’ songs to the set. We try to look back at set lists and change things up the next time out. I understand why people love ‘Sinister.’ The lyrics are great and I love playing those songs from ‘Sinister.’”
For the first half of Belle and Sebastian’s 20-year career, Colburn would sport the same t-shirt – Perthshire Advertiser, a Scottish newspaper – while performing. “It’s funny talking about that now since I’m packing shirts for this tour,” Colburn says. “But it’s true. I would wear that shirt every night. It’s a shirt for where I’m from and it’s the local newspaper.”
Local newspapers can use all the support they can get, Colburn is reminded. “I’m aware of that,” Colburn says. “Maybe I should dig that shirt up. But it’s not about the fashion, since we’ve never been in fashion.”
That’s not quite true. There was considerable buzz surrounding Belle and Sebastian around the turn of the century, when the group was awarded Best Newcomer at the Brit Awards in 1999. The band was showered with critical acclaim and name-checked in such films as 2000’s “High Fidelity.”
“Things were going really well for us but we didn’t become one of those big bands and I think that’s a good thing,” Colburn says. “When you get to that level, you have a long way to fall. We’ve been fortunate since we’ve been at this same level for years. Somehow we’ve gotten away with this all these years and I’m not quite sure how.”