Full circle - Looper's Stuart David on Rebus, Belle and Sebastian, and the business of music

It’s almost two decades since Belle and Sebastian founding member Stuart David left the band. Often a euphemism for other things, in this case ‘concentrating on other projects’ meant his book writing, and his band, Looper.

And appropriately, things have come full circle.

“At the moment, it’s just me and Karn again, like it was right at the beginning,” he says of the trio, sometimes quartet. “My brother Ronnie says he’s too old to be in a band now, even though he’s seven years younger than me.”

The band are celebrating by recording an album of acoustic reworkings of their favourite tunes.

“It seemed like a good time to look back at the old songs,” he says, “and give them a fresh interpretation.”

Despite Looper’s under-the-radar persona, David does find it hard to shake off mention of his former band, who have gone on to more mainstream acclaim. However, he’s more relaxed about questions, well, just like this one. “I don’t mind it too much anymore,” he admits. “It’s nice to be associated with the classic period of Belle and Sebastian now. It used to be annoying that Looper would be compared to B&S, when it doesn’t make any sense to do that musically.”

Looper are a band you’ll have heard without realising – appearing on soundtracks to films including Tom Cruise sci-fi flick Vanilla Sky. One of the tracks from that movie, ‘Mondo 77’, has appeared all over the place, including a photocopier advert seen round the globe. So, it seems that hit singles really aren’t the holy grail any more.

“There was a long period where we were able to fund Looper purely from syncs in ads and films,” he admits,”even when people stopped buying records – but even syncs try not to pay you any more, if they can get away with it. ‘It’ll be great exposure’ is the main line. To which the reply is usually, ‘Exposure to people who don’t buy records?’.”

And it’s this rather than purely record sales that allows David to pursue his other career, as a novelist. After debut Nalda Said, the musician-turned-writer has found himself at home in the underworld of scheming Glaswegian hard man Peacock Johnson. Some will already be familiar with him, thanks to his appearance in Ian Rankin’s ‘A Question of Blood’ – David buying the character a place in the book via a charity auction, and then returning the favour by placing Rankin himself in ‘Peacock’s Tale’.

The title character had already been brought to (larger-than)-life, thanks to a piece of real ‘fake news’ in the run-up to the publication of Peacock’s Manifesto, where the ‘gangster’ intercepted David’s emails as a revenge for a book deal turned sour. But is there any humanity in the gangster’s DNA?”

“Initially, Peacock was based on my grandpa and my dad,” David reveals. “I grew up in Alexandria, (where) most people are like Peacock and his wife Bev. I don’t have to make anything up, I just write it down and move it to Glasgow to protect the guilty.”

And despite Peacock’s dark doings, there is light and shade in this slice of tartan noir.

“I love the sense of humour of those people. I often hear it said that certain writers are speaking FOR the working class. I always think: ‘Can’t we speak for ourselves?’ The world of Belle and Sebastian was always a bit of a mystery to me. I was bit bewildered in that environment. But, to me, being with Peacock and Bev is just like being at home.”

Peacock’s Alibi is out now. , as is a new album of acoustic versions of old favourites, 'Quiet & Small'.

For more on Looper, see www.facebook.com/looperama