isobel campbell


isobel campbell

chickfactor: you look like jean seberg.
isobel: big head! big head! I couldn’t believe it. she’s so lovely.

cf: you do. you’re so glamorous. when I was 21, I was wearing big schlumpy clothes…
isobel: schlumpy! I know, people sometimes..I hate people that don’t wear clothes–well, I don’t hate them–they could look so much nicer, and you think, what are you hiding under there? I see some people I would just go–like girls–and they just like, they maybe don’t have the confidence. then there’s other girls that go over the top. it’s funny.

cf: it takes a while. sometimes it’s hard to be comfortable in clothes that aren’t flattering. growing up, I looked terrible in jeans, so if I wore jeans my whole life…
isobel: do you have a big bottom? cause I’ve got a really big bottom.

cf: yes indeed!
isobel: I think as well that jeans are for girls who have no hips. I still wouldn’t mind being thinner but then you just have to…

cf: you’re so cute. you should be happy with the way you are. you’re adorable.
isobel: it’s terrible because, I mean, your partner–maybe I just do, even people like me who — I’m still influenced by it whether I like it or not. even stuart is, you know?

cf: what’s the best reason to live here?
isobel: I sound like a dippy hippie, but the trees and the air. you can take what you want from it, like if you want to go into the 13th note and meet people that you see around then you can or if you want to just sort of forget about that and stay at home and have fun by yourself you can do that as well. or go for walks, the parks are really good. new york’s not like that.

cf: what’s your biggest vice?
isobel: I probably talk too much. I probably say what I think too much.

cf: that’s not a crime.
isobel: it feels like one. I don’t know. I’m a time waster. but my biggest vice is I’m always late for people, always late. my mom always says she’s surprised I have any friends left. she thinks they should all just get up and leave me. that’s the worst one, you get all panicky.

cf: what’s the best thing you’ve found in a charity shop?
isobel: I don’t know.

cf: do you wear real fur?
isobel: no! definitely not, never. fake fur’s much better, it’s much nicer.

cf: did you have a fur on last night?
isobel: yes. a white fur. I suppose I go shopping–that’s a vice as well by the way. it’s so terrible nowadays to admit that you’re like girly. I like buying glittery things and 60s dresses and flares and things that people think are really ugly and I really like them. that’s my best buys and I get excited. last week I got an 18-piece tea set for ¬£4.25 and that was really good. it was white and blue with big flowers all over it.

cf: if your flat was on fire and you had to grab one item as you were running out, what would it be?
isobel: I’m not sure.

cf: do you have a pet?
isobel: yeah, I’ve got a dog [aldo]. I’d probably take him.

cf: what’s his name?
isobel: aldo. he’s a big labrador. if I wasn’t going to take him, I’d definitely take my cello.

cf: how old is your cello?
isobel: I’m not sure. it’s really old. we took it to a specialist and he couldn’t even tell us. he said that because it’s quite small for a cello, and he was kind of confused by it because it’s not exactly the same shape as the way other cellos are, like the corners are cut off and stuff. so it could be quite old but I have no idea.

cf: when did you start playing it?
isobel: when I was 11.

cf: did you play other instruments too?
isobel: piano. that’s what I took lessons in.

cf: did you like it?
isobel: yeah, I do but I felt easier to play the cello because I was behind something and with the piano I had lots of space and if you’re nervous you can grab round it and not have to look straight in front. when I played piano I had to look straight in front and sometimes you could see the teacher’s reflection in the piano and that would really make me go off my head, it would get faster and faster.

cf: do you play piano in b&s?
isobel: yes. I do different things.

cf: what’s your favorite thing to play?
isobel: my favorite thing is when I come up with something that I think works really well and then I get really excited and then I always look forward to playing that song. I love singing as well. I like it all. the only time I’m not happy is when I’ve not thought up a good enough part and I feel as though I’ve missed a chance. recently I love playing cello on stevie’s song, that “chickfactor” song, it sounds really good — it’s like a ’60s nirvana or it’s really kind of psychedelic and melodic or like the beach boys or something.

cf: what’s your favorite song to play? I loved it when you did “seeing other people” and the three of you traded vocals.
isobel: that’s one of my favorites. I like that. I like doing that. but some of them I like just so I can sit back and listen and then come in later. I don’t even play very much on “judy and the dream of horses” but that’s my favorite song.

cf: what’s your favorite snack food?
isobel: everything. everything. tofu. I love couscous and beans and spicy things and chocolate. the 13th note has good food, it’s really cheap as well.

cf: we ate there today.
isobel: what did you have?

cf: veggie burger.
isobel: spicy or normal?

cf: spicy. What’s your drink of choice?
isobel: alcohol? gin, definitely gin. gin and tonic. and wine.

cf: what were you like at age 14?
isobel: I didn’t have any friends.

cf: that’s terrible.
isobel: people used to go to school desk halls and I didn’t go, I used to stay home and paint and listen to the beatles and fret. I used to worry all the time and be really paranoid and self-conscious.

cf: do you still paint?
isobel: yes, I’ve been painting a lot.

cf: what kind of stuff do you paint?
isobel: sometimes I imagine it before I paint it and sometimes it has words on it as well. sometimes it’s really messy and other times it’s more realistic or something. but sometimes it’s more like splotches. I painted a picture of stuart and me and I gave it to him for his birthday and that’s one of my favorite ones because it’s one of the best ones.

cf: do you find it to be therapeutic?
isobel: yeah, if I have energy. it’s good because three hours can pass and I’ve been completely absorbed, and I really like that feeling when everything’s really quiet. It’s just really lovely. I’m not very good, but I love it. I like going to the art place and buying all the oils and squeezing them.

cf: do you like to go look at art too?
isobel: yeah. I really like…

cf: aggi?
isobel: aggi’s really good. I really like renaissance, the mythological ones, and I quite like botticelli and some of picasso’s stuff. I really like indian art for some reason.

cf: do you get to help design CD art?
isobel: I helped stuart, we did the last two Eps–but up until then it was just him. I love visual things anyway, so I’m bound to stick my nose in. I’d like to do it again, and design t-shirts for the band and badges and things. I get really happy.

cf: are you from glasgow?
isobel: yes. my dad worked in thailand for a couple of years and I spent my time between there and edinburgh at boarding school. so I feel as though I have lived here most of the time but it was good to see another culture because it was so different and it was quite shocking and it gives just you a wider understanding of people. cause I think if I’d stayed here I wouldn’t know any different. same at boarding school, like I was with people who were really rich, and I’ve never been envious about those sort of things but it just makes you so aware of there’s so many different people and things. but I like to be made aware of that because then I feel excited. even if what you learn isn’t necessarily positive it can still help you.

cf: we were just in madrid and none of us spoke much spanish and it made me want to run home and take classes.
isobel: yeah, it makes you feel quite small but I think it’s good to be made to feel like that. otherwise you’ve just got a false sense of yourself and security. when we were in barcelona, no one spoke much english at all. I’d forgotten what it was like.

cf: have you met anyone you admire a lot since you’ve been in belle and sebastian?
isobel: yes. robert forster and grant mclennan.

cf: I love them.
isobel: but I almost didn’t want to meet them because I didn’t want to be disappointed. but they seemed really lovely but at the same time I was just a bit…

cf: did they get along with each other?
isobel: yeah, they did. but it wasn’t the original band. stuart and I went to see them at the forum.

cf: you’re so lucky.
isobel: I know. it wasn’t the original band, it was the two, but they all seemed quite laid-back and happy. it was all their old songs.

cf: I love them.
isobel: I love them. robert forster’s solo work as well. calling from a country phone and danger in the past. “I’m a lucky man / I’m a lucky man”–that makes me cry. and the other one, “a passing angel offers me a cigarette.”

cf: is there anyone else you want to meet?
isobel: I don’t really want to meet anybody because I have my own ideas of what people are like, even like the pastels. I sort of see them around but I still have my own like ridiculous idea of what they’re like from listening to all their old stuff. I really like the smiths, but I wouldn’t want to meet morrissey for some reason.

cf: no way.
isobel: felt and I suppose all that ’60s music, I would rather just daydream about what they were like. I feel really, I mean, a lot of people get into a situation and they want to meet famous people because they were famous and I’d much rather stumble into any person and like them because they’re so special, because they’re them. I get a bit worried cause sometimes when we’re playing and people think flattery will get you everywhere and they say the most ridiculous things and you know they’re not true, and you’re just like really crazy.

cf: you guys made a great record, and I’m sure the praise can be overwhelming sometimes, especially in person.
isobel: I like it like when we played the union chapel I met a lot girls afterward who came up and spoke to me, and I write to them and I like doing that because they’re just the same age as me.

cf: do you get fun things in the mail?
isobel: yes. I got silver angel wings. that was a great present. the worst thing was a big envelope full of sweets but then it had a big three-inch thick book with questions on every page, and it said “you can’t have the sweets till you answer all the questions.” but I didn’t listen to them and I still haven’t answered the questions. I really liked meeting dean wareham, I didn’t expect to or anything but I thought all luna seemed lovely.

cf: what’s your favorite book, movie, and tv show?
isobel: the bell jar. I cried. I keep telling stuart to read it cause I think it’s better than catcher in the rye, though I liked that as well. I can just understand how pissed off she is and I love it. the crime of miss jane brody, and for esme with love and squalor and franny and zooey. and I like dorothy parker–before we came to new york I was reading some stuff. I suppose I’m a bit of a clich√© cause I like to read a lot of literature by women and listen to a lot of music by women because men just suppress, they fail to mention it so often, even in school. I think it’s really important and I think women are really clever. maybe a lot of my feelings are a stereotype of an angry little lady. people might think it’s a bit boring, but I think it’s funny.

cf: do you do music outside B&S?
isobel: yes.

cf: do you have your own band?
isobel: I work on 4-tracks by myself. I like that. It’s a bit indulgent but I like that.

cf: do you have a name?
isobel: no, I haven’t thought of one yet but I’d like to. I recorded two of my songs for the band recently. I play music in orchestras as well. and sometimes other bands ask me to play cello for them. I do music a lot.

cf: will you do it all your life?
isobel: I want to be dignified. I don’t want to be like the rolling stones.

cf: who’s the funniest person in the band?
isobel: I don’t know, they’re all funny. We’re all really quite eccentric. stuart david is really funny cause he’s really dry and really cheeky and he always says really cheeky things to me. he always tickles me. he’s the funniest. I know I shouldn’t like him sometimes but I can’t help it. he’s my favorite.

cf: what’s the best band you’ve seen lately?
isobel: I saw a band called eva six and I know some of them and they’ve got a girl drummer and she’s fantastic. they sound really authentic–it sounds just like orange juice. there’s a lot of controversy surrounding them because it’s rumored they might be a wee bit racist, but I like them. you could be put off cause they’re quite beautiful as well. but I just like the style, it’s sort of punky, authentic punk rather than new punk.

cf: do you collect stuff?
isobel: no, but I buy lots of things.

cf: barrettes?
isobel: I collect barrettes even though I don’t have much hair. I see things and I buy them.

cf: what do you like to do when you’re not making music?
isobel: paint. write. walk. see my friends.

cf: what do you write?
isobel: poetry, or I write in my diary, or I’ve written a couple of short stories. I like to see my friends and catch up with them and be an armchair politician with them. I suppose we do gossip but we’re quite discreet about it. my girlfriends.

cf: what did you like about america?
isobel: central park. I loved downtown, near the gramercy and stuff, I much preferred it. I love the schoolbuses. where we played, I really liked that. I liked the men there. that was the best thing. sometimes new york is a bit intimidating, it’s so big. I loved the angel orensanz place, the man was really twinkly. did you meet him? he was one of these lovely people who was big and cuddly and totally unaffected.

cf: are you superstitious?
isobel: probably a small bit, like umbrellas in the house and if I say something bad I touch wood. so I must be.

cf: do you believe in astrology?
isobel: not in the newspapers but my friend does charts and they’re much more specific and I do. I don’t know too much about it. I only believe it if it’s good.

cf: what makes you really angry, besides the NME?
isobel: liars, that’s why the NME makes me angry. lying, people that pretend things, unkindness, things like that. I think only good comes from good. at least if you’ve been honest, you’ve tried to explain yourself and you can’t do any more. I hate having to bite my tongue but I have to do that a lot because of what we do. I suppose I get quite mad.

cf: who do you have a crush on?
isobel: who do you have a crush on?

cf: robert forster. boys that I shouldn’t have a crush on. you’ll probably hate this, but I think ewan mcgregor’s pretty cute. I read an interview with him and he seemed kind of dull but he’s probably okay.
isobel: I imagine crushes and when I listen to music, like the smiths’ “cemetry gates,” I imagine a sort of person who would be singing that to me and it’s not anyone. It’s just up here. famous people who are out right now, my favorite person–cause I think he must be a very nice person and I’d be very sad if he wasn’t–is finley quaye. I don’t know if you like him. I’m not crazy about the music, but he seems really sweet. I like tall men. I never plan it, but I always end up with skinny boys, always. steve mcqueen’s nice. paul newman’s got lovely eyes. I’ve never got excited in that way but I know these people are attractive. john cale’s really sexy.

cf: do you do interviews with a lot of fanzines?
isobel: no, I’ve never done this before. never ever.

cf: oh, I’m honored!
isobel: I’m a virgin.

cf: do people mail them to you?
isobel: yeah, but some of them aren’t very good. I like to see people doing things like that but a lot of them are really petty. chris’ girlfriend does a good one called 100%.

cf: is there a place you hope to visit?
isobel: I want to go to olympia. I want to go there.

cf: thanks isobel!