Belle and Sebastian – Going Through The Emotions

4 months ago   |   Words: Sue Bennett   |   Photography: David Boni

Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch is without a bike. It’s been stolen right at the moment we’re scheduled in to speak. I’m listening to his answerphone message; hovering – silent. It says not to leave a voicemail as he doesn’t pick them up. I text instead, and wait. 

In his 20s Stuart Murdoch was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that rendered him absent from the rites of passage he is so associated with. It was an experience that harnessed his imagination and turned him into one of the most gifted musicians and writers we have today.

The outsider trapped indoors constructed the lyrical narratives we would all eventually move through, lovesick, on a sunny afternoon, while trapped in an office, or free at the park with a boy with a filthy laugh – and so many more mundane landscapes that became populated with the indie-kid romance of his characters. Stuart’s inner life has allowed his audience to feel like the contents of their lives is soundtracked by a novelist. His songs are established in the collective consciousness of an entire generation.

The phone rings. Thoughtful and generous with his time in spite of the missing bike, Stuart delivers his answers with warmth and calm. He tells me he is soon to leave for Moscow on tour.

Just before the interview ends I ask him if Belle and Sebastian are ever going to run another competition to put their fans on a record cover. This is what they did with their current three-part EP How to Solve Our Human Problems; it’s on my bucket list to be a Belle and Sebastian girl. 

‘Maybe in ten years’ he says.

‘Ten years?! Stuart! I’ll look terrible by then’.

‘You won’t look terrible, you’ll look experienced and distinguished. Older people are beautiful’.

I want to grow old with Belle and Sebastian.

I put the phone down and I realise, that as it was an incoming call, only my voice has been recorded. The interview along with the bike has been lost. Colour my life with the chaos of trouble.

A few days later I get an email from Stuart on tour in Moscow. He’s written his answers down for us and sent them back. From Russia with love to the readers of The Mind Map.

They say don’t meet your heroes. If your hero is Stuart Murdoch I’m a witness to the fact that he’s one of the great ones. Here he is not once, but twice reborn (with a big thank you) for Going Through The Emotions…

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

I got sick with ME/CFS in 1990. It changed my life fundamentally and forever. I’m still very much dealing with it day to day. Such a chronic condition is bound, I think, to have a deep effect on one’s mental health. It has!

What advice would you offer a young person struggling with CFS/depression? What have been your main coping strategies over the years and reflecting now which have been most successful?

Try not to be alone. Try to connect with people the best you may. You might even reach that magical stage when you realise that your presence is doing someone else some good, which is very good for your spirits also.

It might be furthest from your mind at the minute, but it might just be that the whole point of your travails happening to you is so that you may gain compassion for other people, and therefore set out to help. But I realise this a lot to ask if you are at an acute and difficult stage.

When I first got sick with ME/CFS, we formed a support group, specifically for young people. It was good to be with people who understood what was going on without having to explain everything.

Was it a lonely experience being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome? I read that it made you feel like an outsider, but that it helped you to daydream and become a songwriter – was that your way of coping with the loneliness of it?

At times, the ME/CFS was very isolating. My lifestyle was so strange, emerging like a weird insect into the light for an hour a day, staggering for a short walk.

When I realised I might be able to write songs, I clung to every word I wrote. I knew it was the only worthwhile thing that was happening to me. I felt like a character in a story who had to endure terrible things, but who was given a secret power to help them prevail.

What advice would you give people in situations where they find themselves feeling isolated?

Don’t be afraid of taking a chance. Use your ‘difficulties’ as an excuse to ignore social norms! Try something new, join a class or a club.

We always felt that we had so little energy that it made us bold in ways that would have embarrassed our old selves. Leave that self behind. Don’t be afraid to leave behind out of date plans and ambitions. This is you now. You may be hurting, but you are unique, you are special, you definitely have a special power somewhere! Find it.

Does connecting with the community of people who also suffer from ME help? What strength have you gained from speaking and reaching out?

I actually didn’t talk about ME/CFS for years. I went through a patch when I seemed to be functioning better, and I just wanted to forget about, put it behind me.

Over the past eight years I was plunged back into ME/CFS, and I realised I couldn’t NOT talk about it. It was affecting my ability to do my job, so couldn’t be ignored.

I figure now that it’s up to me to help when I can, to try to elucidate the position, and to be part of the search for a diagnosis and cure. It might be the most important thing I ever do.

Tell me about your interest in Buddhism and yoga. How did that begin, and do you feel spirituality is something that supports your wellbeing?

When I first got ill, so many material things in my life fell away – work, studies, friends, athletics. When the buzz of your life has quietened, new thoughts arise. Mine happened to be of the spiritual kind.

So I went to church, and I still do. I used to meditate too, but in the past five years I’ve thrown my lot in with Buddhists big time. I don’t see a clash. One spiritual practice seems to enrich the other. I love the philosophy of Buddhism, the way that it suggests a path for living. It’s very practical and helpful.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

I would say, a family day that I could enjoy, without feeling ill. Just having good energy to be with my boys. I’d take one on an adventure in the morning, the other in the afternoon. Then a nice barbeque with friends later.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

One of the monks at the Buddhist centre pointed out that everything in your life, everything that you have and have had in the past, was given to you, made for you, prepared for you by others. Food, clothes, water, the house you live in, etc. Therefore, you can practice being grateful at every turn, to everyone, from the person who made your sandwich, to your mum for having you!

Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”

Going to bed feeling excited about the adventure of the next day.

What do you eat to stay healthy?

Well, I’m not healthy, so I’m not absolutely sure that it makes any difference whether I eat chocolate or salad! But if good healthy food is around, I’ll definitely eat it. Fish and greens, and soups and salads and fruits. I love it when we go on tour because I get loads of lovely green veg to eat.

Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along?

I walk, slowly. I have no routine, I just go where the wind blows. I love my bike. It’s a road bike. The reason I couldn’t speak to you straight away was because my bike was stolen just before I spoke to you.

Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground everyday and loving it – can you share a similar memory?

Yes, I have lots of good memories. I had really good energy as a kid. I always loved the Scouts and Cubs and canoeing on the lochs. It’s the little things. I remember a long walk through the Scottish countryside on holiday, when I was 10 or so, singing all the Beatles songs I knew, while my brother played air drums.

What three songs lift your spirits?

I’m currently making a playlist for my 50th of songs from each era. Songs that lift my spirits are:

Sam Cooke – What a Wonderful World

Nina Simone – I Wish I knew How it Would Feel to be Free

Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want to Have Fun

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?

Sometimes when people are truly overwhelmed, I’m likely to tell them anything they want to hear. It’s not the best time to challenge them with Buddhist wisdom.

When I come back from my class and my wife has just put the kids to bed and is knackered on the sofa and I try to tell her something I learned that night, she often says

“Don’t give me the Bhudda..”

I usually go get her a beer instead.



Idles – Going Through The Emotions

4 weeks ago   |   Words: Mark Taylor

At sold-out venues across the world, an ever-increasing fan base is singing along to IDLES’ songs of torment, frustration and personal disaster. The bands sonic aggression, along with singer Joe Talbot’s lyrical candidness is an appeal to many who harbour frustrations of their own.

IDLES are mastering the art of turning the bad into good by creating powerful music with messages of defiance and positivity. Whilst commercial success has arrived, Joe tells The Mind Map that real success is understanding your own mental health needs, building community, and creating music on your own terms.

What are you working on at the moment?

We’ve not long come back from touring the US and Canada. We’re playing sold out shows around the UK now. The tour is good. I’m struggling with sleeping patterns if I’m honest. I can’t get to sleep at night on the coach. I’m normally getting up at 8 in the morning full of beans. Apart from that the gigs are amazing – the best gigs we’ve ever had. Album 3 is happening. We’re writing it now. Next year we’re going to Australia and New Zealand to play shows.

You got to number 5 in the UK Charts with your new album. Does it matter to you?

It matters that we got number 5, absolutely. The whole point of our narrative is to change the populous and its narrative. The problem at the moment is there’s a stranglehold on popularity, commercialism and artistic license. An example is Kings Of Leon. They made two great albums. At the time, they sounded great, they looked great. They did everything you wanted as a young person listening to bands. Then they began writing for bigger audiences and they sacrificed their artistic license for money. That’s awful. What I want to do is be able to headline the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury – but not have a single song in our catalogue that I’m ashamed of. I want to change people’s minds instead of changing my mind. We want to keep writing songs we love that are within our artistic language without sacrificing any of that. We want to make people like good music again.

The aptly named Joy As An Act Of Resistance seems to tackle the stigma around mental illness head on. Was it intended? Do you feel obligated to give people a feeling of positivity about themselves?

The reason I attack those things is because they’re concerns of mine in life. Be transparent on stage – be believable. Play and sing about the things you believe in and that you’re concerned with. The album was written in a period of life where I needed change. I needed to approach my mental health and my cyclical behaviour. I wanted to tackle ideas of masculinity because I was reading a book by Grayson Perry on toxic masculinity. These were things I was talking about in my life so I’m gonna write about them because that’s what’s important to me. The time we’re in at the moment, people feel so much more isolated than ever before because of the internet, because of social media. I’m not interested in singing about stuff I’m not interested in.

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

Without any shadow of a doubt, losing my daughter. I think giving advice on grief is a double edged sword. Sometimes there’s no right answer. The thing with grief that you should always remember is to never feel like you’re a burden. Sharing you’re feelings and your emotions. You’re supposed to be sad, so feel sad. Don’t apologise to yourself or anyone else for feeling sad, or down, or angry. Go through those feelings, be in those feelings and live through the sadness of grief. Don’t fight it, you’re supposed to be sad. What you do is you embrace sadness and you talk about why you’re sad. You keep doing it until you feel less sad, then you keep doing it until you feel ok, then you keep doing it until you feel better. But, you know – you’ll never, ever be the same after losing a child or a parent. Everything changes after those moments. You can’t fight it. You’ve just got to embrace those feelings. Embrace anger, embrace sadness, embrace loss. You’ve got to talk and accept that things are going to be that way for a while.

There’s some specific personas and characteristics you call out in the lyrics of Joy As An Act Of Resistance. Is there a face of the darkest parts of society you are fighting against?

Ant & Dec. Saturday night TV. People clustered around watching C-List celebrities jump through hoops for loads of money, whilst they’re at home eating out of food banks. There’s millions of faces of it. The whole point is that we’re now in a place that is driven by money. Perfect aesthetics. Performance driven economics and performance driven ideologies that makes people feel like they’re not good enough. So they get drunk on the weekend and then they work more hours then they they should, for not much money. For people that get way too much money. And they’re not investing back into the community or into the country. So there’s a constant cycle of isolation. Not one of those people in that cycle feel like they’re connected to the next. And isolation will make you feel like sh*t – and then you die.

There’s an open letter to your Mum on the inside of your first album Brutalism. Do you hold resentment towards alcohol or alcoholism?

I’m not angry at alcoholism. I’m at angry at my Mum, and the people around her for not helping her out – the adults around her when I was a kid. My step-father was good. I never got to the bottom of her alcoholism because she lost her speech before I could be adult enough to sit her down and ask her ‘Why do you feel the need to drink yourself into a stupor everyday?’ I’m sure it’s down to insecurities, isolation, two divorces, lots of things. But I can’t answer for her because she’s dead now, because of kidney disease. I resent the fact that she didn’t feel safe enough to talk about her problems. If she was in therapy and she had good friends around her, a good support network, and an awareness of what it was doing to her – she would’ve been able to stop drinking.

I don’t have any resentment towards alcoholism, I hold resentment towards my Mum’s situation. I don’t have any resentment towards my situation and my alcoholism because I’m on top of it. I’ve got a great network of friends who individually sat me down and told me I’ve got a problem. I’ve got a father who’s allowed me to make mistakes and who’s always told me he’ll be there for me no matter what. This allowed me to make my own decision to stop drinking. In the kitchen, on my own. No conversation was had. It was a Monday – and it was the first Monday I hadn’t been hungover in a long time. I felt good and I hadn’t messed anything up. There was nothing wrong with my life at that very moment. I wanted to sustain that idea of equilibrium where nothing’s wrong. I can’t control everything in the world but I can control my drinking. I remembered all the good conversations with the people who told me I needed to stop. So I stopped drinking and I stopped doing drugs. It’s not easy. I’m 34, I had been in that cycle for a long time. I worry about having conversations about alcoholism because I don’t want make it sound like ‘Yeah, just stop’. If it was that easy there wouldn’t be any issue, we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place.

The Mind Map – please note that alcohol withdrawal can cause seizures. If you are affected by addiction and are looking for sources of support and advice please see Mind’s addiction and dependency support service here. 

What do you eat to stay healthy?

On tour you get a rider. We’re a bigger band now so we can be specific with our rider. We have raw green spinach and kale, broccoli, blueberries, peanut butter, bananas. We make a smoothie out of all the green stuff with ice cubes and mushroom powder. I’ve been fasting in the mornings and day time and for mental health because it really makes me feel better. When you get in the cycle of it, fasting is incredible for your mental health and your physical health. Me and Bowen (IDLES guitarist) talk a lot about diet as a way of treating yourself better and looking after yourself.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

My partner, my friends, the AF GANG community. It’s on Facebook, there’s 10,000 members and they built it up around our music as fan club type thing. Our music is a catalyst, I wouldn’t go further than that. After a while that subsided and it turned into a community of people supporting each other. Their motif is ‘All is love’. People go there with their problems and they go their with stories. One dude was agoraphobic, he wouldn’t leave his house. He made friends through the group and they encouraged him to come to a show. When they met him, they realised he needed help and they got him a job. Stuff like that happens all the time. One person tried to commit suicide and put a call for help up on the group page. Two people figured out where they lived and called an ambulance. It’s the best thing on the internet. The people that built it should be proud of themselves because it’s amazing.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

I’d wake up next to my fiancé. We’d have sex, I’d make us breakfast and we’d go for a walk through Westonbirt Arboretum. Then I’d have beans and toast with cheese on it. Then I’d meet up with he boys, we’d have a pint of Guinness in Dublin, then we’d play a show and my fiancé would be watching.

Your lyrics are complex. Moving seamlessly from hilarious to bizarre, to angry. Is there an intent to be funny in songs that discuss serious topics around mental health and politics?

Yes it’s meant to be funny. I don’t go around crying all the time. Everything’s funny if you look at it in one way. Like – I’m not laughing at the poor. I’m not going ‘haha – that’s funny’. I’m laughing in a sense that it’s ludicrous. The cycle that we’re in is a wheel of absolute archaic rubbish that needs to break. We’ve got more money in our country than we need, yet when I was working in care homes, you had to not quite ration their food, but you needed to be careful. There’s just not enough facilities for the care system or for working class families. When you see pockets of it – it is funny, yet most of it is a tragedy. I’ve written about the worst times in my life, but there’s hilarious parts to it that would have only happened if I’d have been an utter toe-rag. Tragedies and comedies are one line away from each other.

What music lifts your spirits?

Otis Reading

The Walkmen

The album Astral Weeks by Van Morrison always cheers me up.

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed

If you feel like you’re unhappy then you’re going through cycles of behaviour. The worst thing you can do is accelerate those things with alcohol and drugs. You need to talk, you need to open up and you need to make yourself vulnerable to the people around you to learn about yourself and be able to progress forward. If you don’t have anyone you can trust around you, or you don’t feel you can talk to about your innermost problems, seek counselling. There are lots of charities all around the country that offer free counselling via different networks. I think it’s the best thing anyone can do. People aren’t talking enough and isolation is the thing that leads people to the worst behaviours. So I think the sooner people talk, the sooner people feel connected and the sooner people heal.

Idles are currently on tour – keep up to date with them here.

White Lies – Going Through The Emotions

1 month ago   |   Words: Natalie Lorimer

White Lies are on the cusp of a new chapter in their history. The trio has found a new home with a new record label and will mark the tenth anniversary of their inception with their forthcoming album, ‘Five.’ With their sound evolving into something bolder and more complex than previous efforts, the band has found themselves pushed to new creative heights. Their latest single, ‘Believe It,’ embodies this shift in direction; a four-minute, synth-powered singalong that explores the process of therapy from multiple angles.

We spoke to White Lies bassist and lyricist Charles Cave about the mindfulness of weightlifting, his advice for helping friends out of a dark place, and an epic table tennis match with Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill.

What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?

I’m reading ‘Hombre’ by Elmore Leonard, I’m also re-reading Salinger’s ‘For Esme….’ collection of stories for a fiction-writing course I’ve been part of for a few years, and then I’m also dipping in an out of a non-fiction book about the fall of Rome by Bryan Ward-Perkins. And finally I have a book called The Daily Stoic by my bed, for a little daily dose of helpful and practical philosophy.

I tend to seek comfort in things I know and love: ‘Scritti Politti, Pantera, ‘Hats’ by the Blue Nile….’The Far East Suite’ by Ellington. These are all records that just sit permanently by my hi-fi, poised for action. But slowly I’m educating myself with classical music I missed out on growing up.

I don’t watch much TV. My girlfriend somehow manages to watch everything, so I wait for her to tell me something is really worth watching before I do. The last amazing thing I remember watching on TV was the War and Peace dramatisation with Paul Dano. Also, the Quincy Jones documentary on Netflix is fantastic!

What has been your biggest life challenge so far and what did you do to overcome it?

I think if we keep being open, stay in a constant state of studentship, and always try to view everything from different perspectives, then we can overcome anything. Easier said than done, of course, most of the time.

What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?

Brunch, a long Autumn walk somewhere beautiful, an evening in one of my favourite pubs with friends, food, perhaps some really great live jazz, and some beautiful dogs.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I’m completely aware of my privilege and the opportunities I’ve been able to act on because of it. I think most of all I feel so grateful for my home, and for the close friends I have around me, and for the resources with which to express myself in all the failed and successful ways I have so far, and continue to do.

Complete this sentence: “Ace mental health for me means…”

The ability to react in an emotionally useful way to the multitude of experiences life puts before us.

What do you eat to stay healthy?

I compensate for my sweet tooth with exercise. I try to base my core diet around boiled eggs, fresh vegetables, lean meat and fish, and plenty of water. You really can’t drink enough water. I’m also becoming a fan of intermittent fasting. It makes me feel good.

Do you have a daily routine of exercise or do you make it up as you go along? 

I try to go to the gym three times a week, where I mostly lift heavy weights and do very short sprints. I really love lifting weights for the focus it requires. I’m loathed to throw the ‘mindful’ word around too much, but I’ve found lifting weights more than cardio exercises really keeps my mind focussed in the absolute present. You can’t start daydreaming, or worrying about what’s going on in your personal life, because you will drop a heavy steel bar on your chest or back! On the days I don’t go to the gym, I really do try to walk a good six miles a day.

Here at The Mind Map we remember playing football and ‘tag’ – running around the playground everyday and loving it – can you share a similar memory?

I spent most of my primary and secondary school years trying as best as I could to avoid any physical exertion. To say I wasn’t ‘sporty’ is a massive understatement. In secondary school, after the age of 15, you got to chose your own sport option on a Wednesday afternoon. I spent five years trying to find ‘the easiest sport’. Unfortunately, I made some term-long mistakes. Turns out fencing is really hard, and sweaty, and the outfit stinks. Also turns out the table tennis at a fiercely competitive level is equally strenuous. I have to say though, that came in handy when – cut to ten years later – I beat Caleb Followill at a heated game of table tennis in an arena dressing room somewhere in the midwest. Big crowd watching – [Caleb’s wife] Lily Aldridge included…

What three songs lift your spirits?

Paul Simon – Mother and Child Reunion

Yellow Magic Orchestra – Sportsmen
Scritti Politti – Perfect Way

What advice do you offer to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed?

Chose a sport or exercise that demands your full focus, attention, and strength. Also, for a bit of very very specific advice –  search for ‘Michael Sealey’ on YouTube. You have to get over his oddly porno tone of voice, but his videos have worked absolute wonders for me. I really mean it. Give them a go.

I’d like to twist the question now, to add a last comment on something I feel quite strongly about. Instead of offering advice to friends when they are feeling overwhelmed, I’d like to offer advice to friends who want to help their friends who are overwhelmed.

There is a lot on the internet regarding mental health awareness about TALKING. About providing a safe space for those suffering to talk, and to feel comfortable talking and opening up about their experience and agony. This is of course very important, and beneficial. Someone caught in a depressive state with nobody to talk to is a lot worse off than someone with a friendly ear to chew. HOWEVER – I really think too much emphasis has been put onto this, and we need to shift awareness to the practical things we can all do to help those in need. I’ll be honest with you, if you’re friend is having an AWFUL time, your text saying “I’m here to talk whenever you want” is probably not enough. Think of talking as mild painkiller. We need ways to actually help this person recover quickly from what they’re afflicted with.

So here is my, possibly controversial advice: Lie. Make up a big fat lie that gets this person you are worried about to come and be with you doing something slightly strenuous, something that requires focus, and something that requires a degree of sociability. Have you been meaning to re-paint a wall in your bedroom for a while? Perfect. Call, text, or go an physically collect your friend that you’re worried about from their home and say: “I need a massive favour, mate. I’m really sorry. I started painting my bedroom wall and I’ve just bitten off more than I can chew. Can I borrow you for a few hours? I’ll owe you a MASSIVE FAVOUR. And I’ll buy you brunch to make up for it.” That’s just one example. Borrow a dog, and call your mate and say “You’re good with dogs aren’t you? OK so I said I’d look after Rex but I literally don’t know what I’m doing and I’m scared its going to run away when I have to walk it….”

White Lies will embark on a European and UK tour in 2019. Dates and ticket details available here.


Tyson Fury details his battle with depression

2 months ago   |   Words: Wes Pilgrimage

“The worst thing someone suffering with their mental health can do is get into drugs and alcohol” said heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury in his candid interview with podcast host Joe Rogan this week.

Talking to Rogan ahead of his upcoming WBC title fight with Deontay Wilder on December 1, the 6ft 8 Mancunian opened up about his battle with depression and 2016 suicide attempt.

“I was waking up and I did not want to be alive,” Fury said. “Nobody could talk any sense into me at all and I felt very low.

“I had just bought a brand new car – a Ferrari convertible in summer 2016 – and I was on the motorway. At the bottom of about a five-mile stretch, there is a massive bridge and I got the car up to 190mph and did not care about anyone.

“I didn’t care about nothing, I just wanted to die.”

But Fury revealed how the thought of leaving behind his wife and children made him pull over.

With the help of a psychiatrist, Fury is back where he belongs, living a healthy life and fulfilling his ambitions.

Ending the interview in fighting spirits. Fury warned his upcoming opponent: “You’ve fought the Europeans and you’ve fought the Americans, but you’ve ain’t never fought the Gypsy King before!”

Fury’s response to his depression is a common one. The NHS state: “When life is getting them down, some people try to cope by drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs. This can result in a spiral of depression.

Cannabis can help you relax, but there’s evidence that it can also bring on depression, particularly in teenagers.

“Drowning your sorrows” with a drink is also not recommended. Alcohol is categorised as a “strong depressant”, which actually makes depression worse.”

To get help with depression or suicidal thoughts call Samaritans on 116 123 24 hours, 7 days a week or visit

There are also many services available in our ‘find help‘ section on our homepage.

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