Based in Glasgow, Scotland, Belle & Sebastian released their first two albums in 1996 at the peak of the chamber pop movement. At first, some critics in Britain's music weeklies tied the band into the subgenre, yet the group was too pretty, too delicate, to bear that label. Through their first two years of public existence, the band shielded their personalities, submitting publicity photos featuring a girl that wasn't in the band and reluctantly posing for photo shoots. Furthermore, they performed in odd venues, playing not only the standard coffeehouses and cafes, but also homes, church halls, and libraries.
The idiosyncratic approach to building their career isn't surprising given Murdoch's approach toward beginning a band. A longtime fan of Felt, Murdoch left Glasgow for London in the early '90s in hopes of finding the group's leader, Lawrence Hayward, but he never found his idol. Upon his return to Glasgow, he enrolled in university and he began writing songs and short stories. While at school, he took a music business course where he decided to form a band and release a record for his final project (he had tried to form a band before with no success). For the project, he assembled the seven-piece Belle & Sebastian, featuring himself on guitar and vocals, choosing and recruiting members by instinct in a local all-night cafe in late 1995. He eventually found Sarah Martin (violin), Stevie Jackson (guitar), Chris Geddes (keyboards), Stuart David (bass), Richard Colburn (drums), and Isobel Campbell (cello). All seven members were college students, and all agreed that the idea behind the band was to stay on a small scale, to keep it as a project and not let the band run their lives; they even assumed they would release two albums and break up.