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Interview: Stuart Murdoch on The Boaty Weekender

Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch tells us all about this August's cruise.

Belle & Sebastian are celebrating 20 years since their iconic Bowlie Weekender by taking the party onboard a ship for four nights this August.

Sailing from Barcelona to Cagliari, Sardinia, from 8 – 12 August 2019, The Boaty Weekender line-up includes performances from Mogwai, the newly reunited Camera Obscura, Django Django, Alvvays, The Buzzcocks, Japenese Breakfast, Honeyblood, Hinds, Kelly Lee Owens, Nilüfer Yanya, Whyte Horses and many more to be announced.

This exciting and eclectic line-up will welcome multiple sets across the four nights alongside organisers Belle & Sebastian, who curate and headline this very special mediterranean music festival.

We caught up with Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch to find out more.


How would you describe what The Boaty Weekender is about?
Well we did a festival, I guess, 20 years ago now called the Bowlie Weekender, and the idea of that was just to get a bunch of like-minded music lovers together and just spend an intense long weekend with some of their favourite bands – and to kind of break down some barriers a little between the bands and the guests.

You know, we always had this notion that we’d like to do something on a boat, so really the idea is just that: we’re taking the Bowlie Weekender on to a boat!

And funnily enough, the seeds of this idea are 20-years-old. When the band first formed, we had this idea that we could tour around Britain on a ferry! And it wasn’t so outlandish, really; the idea was that we were kind of lazy, so thought that if we set up once on a stage on a boat and then had people come aboard to see the show, we could then just collapse into our bunks or hammocks at the end of the night. We thought that would be great!

But we didn’t quite pull it off back then. We got so far, but we just couldn’t manage it – and now 20 years on we’ve got a bit more pull, so we’ve managed to take it to the Med.

Yes, so now you’re really doing it – a four-night cruise from Barcelona to Sardinia. How is the preparation going?
Actually, I’m meeting with the team very soon to go over some of the finer details of exactly who is playing where and when and looking at the layout of the ship, and then planning some of the extracurricular activities.

So, it’s pretty exciting and we’ve been working quite hard on this. You almost feel like you’re running a hotel or a holiday camp when you’ve got people who will be “captured” for four days, so you really need to make sure you can entertain them throughout.

 

And you mentioned some of the extracurricular things there. What can fans expect onboard outside of the music that’s on offer?
We’re quite lucky that hopefully we’ll be in the sun, so a lot of people will probably just be happy lounging around the pool with a cocktail. But we’re also going to be running a sort of mini film festival, where we’ll have the bands choosing screenings and introducing some of their favourite films.

We’ll be doing a pub quiz tournament as well, to pitch the bands against the guests, and I think yoga is a really good thing to do on a ship too; you know, there won’t be as much room to run around with a football or whatever, so, for a bit of fitness, yoga on the deck as the sun comes up sounds like a great idea to me!

And I guess all this goes back to what you were saying about breaking down those barriers between the artists and fans, and them getting to spend time together offstage as well as when the acts are performing?
Yeah it will be hard to avoid us! We’ll be knocking around the whole week, and probably on first names terms with everybody by the end. Maybe we should have everybody wearing Hello My Name Is… nametags? That would be good.

And you mentioned films there. Any idea what you’ll be choosing as a screening?
Funnily enough, we’ve just finished a film soundtrack actually. It’s directed by Simon Bird from The Inbetweeners and it’s called Days of the Bagnold Summer and is based on a graphic novel. So we’re hoping that Simon will be able to come along and introduce the film that that’ll hopefully be a little bit of an exclusive.

 

And so alongside all of this stuff, there’s also an incredible host of bands performing – how did you go about curating this line-up?
With previous festivals we’ve done, we’ve really just got the band around the table and everybody chucks in the names they’d like to see perform. And the rule has always been that you must be a real fan of the band you’re putting forward, and that’s certainly been the case here. I guess, though, this time, we have taken a little more guidance from the promoters as well because we really want this to be the best line-up it can be: it’s the first time we’re doing this, is possibly going to be a one-time only experience, so we really wanted it to be as perfect as it could be.

And I think we’ve got a great line-up! Especially when you consider the size of the festival – it’s not huge – and a think some these acts will really work in a much more intimate setting. And it will be interesting because we’ll get into discussions with the line-up later on about who wants to do an acoustic set or a session of covers of another band, and there’ll be a bit of cross-collaboration as well, which I really exciting.

And so looking back at the Bowlie Weekender – does that just feel like a lifetime ago now?
The original Bowlie? Yes, it feels like it’s from a completely different era. It’s funny because we’ve got Camera Obscura playing this time – and we’re dead chuffed to have them because they haven’t played for a while – and they actually played the original Bowlie 20 years ago. And they did it because they were friends of ours, they didn’t really have a record to play at the time, and so it’s really nice to have them back. I mean, I remember we had the likes of The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and the Divine Comedy playing, it was great!

We arrived by train then, turning up with a load of the other guests and attendees. We just bowled off the train all together – us with our guitars and equipment – and no one really knew what we looked like, there wasn’t that many photos of us as a band then. And so we did arrive all together and just soft of thought: let’s do this!

 

For those guests coming to join you this time around, what would you say are your must-pack items for the cruise?
Ha! Good question! You know I’m the sort of person who really just packs a bag at the last minute, but I guess some consideration must be given to what one might wear when one is parading around the deck all week. So maybe lots of sailor gear: stripy tops, a jaunty hat. Maybe I should invent a rank for myself… Chief?

Admiral? You could be an admiral?
Yes, Admiral! And I’ll wear a pointy hat off to the side.

And so how are your sea legs? Are you well versed on the high seas?
Untested for a while, I must admit; but never had any problems before. I actually come from a seafaring family, so hopefully we’ll be all good. It’s funny though, because I used to date Tracyanne from Camera Obscura years ago, and at the time she didn’t like flying, so I surprised her with a holiday and we drove to Newcastle to get a ferry to Amsterdam, and she was sick the entire time. She hated it! So, I hope she’s got used to it by now…


The Boaty Weekender will welcome Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai, Yo La Tengo, Camera Obscura, Teenage Fanclub, Django Django, Alvvays, Buzzcocks, Japanese Breakfast, Honeyblood, Hinds, Kelly Lee Owens, Nilufer Yanya, Whyte Horses, Tracyanne & Danny, and more.

Tickets for Belle & Sebastian’s The Boaty Weekender are on sale now. Get yours here.

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