Head here to read part one of this interview.

Whilst Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance might be the rejuvenation of Belle & Sebastian, there is still the small matter of how their fans will react to the new music. Whilst not as slavishly obsessive as other pop bands' fan bases, Belle & Sebastian have attracted - over the years - a dedicated group of supporters that see the Glaswegian group as being more than a simple band. The group's colloquial approach to music has kept them grounded, whilst allowing them to continually release deeply personal, relatable music. Surely any move away from this should be taken with caution?

"I think people, ultimately, like tunes," Martin responds.

Jackson, meanwhile, takes a slightly different approach. "I stopped being concerned after the second album," he says. The process of recording an album is so intense, Jackson explains, that you can't really allow yourself time to think about how it will be received by others. Instead the questions of quality become personal interrogations - is it working? is the band happy? and so on. "But I always want people to like it," he admits. "You know if you put out something substandard that people are going to be disappointed by it. Thankfully, I've not had that feeling too often."

In the past, Jackson has admitted being disappointed by If You're Feeling Sinister, Belle & Sebastian's second and most adored record. "When we made it, it just sounded weak to me and, compared to the previous album, flat. I just couldn't get my head around it and it's our classic album - the one everyone loves. I hear it now and I get it, but I think I just had a different record in my head at the time." He suggests that this has helped him realise that often your aspirations and personal feelings towards a record can't always match the reaction from those removed from the process of writing and recording, and as enduring popularity for If You're Feeling Sinister shows, this can be a positive, as well as a negative.

He expands on this by saying that he never had a problem with the songwriting, identifying this as the reason why it's their most popular record. "It's got the best songs on it. It's got a consistent vision and is just glorious." By comparison, Tigermilk's sound was far more influenced by Velvet Underground, while the follow-up was quieter, more introspective in tone, almost confessional.

"Perhaps that's just what I liked," Jackson says, "and the second just wasn't fucking Velvets enough for me."

"You wanted to be Sterling Morrison again," Martin adds.

"Yeah I don't get to," Jackson proceeds to mime a harsh, Velvet Underground-inspired riff.

"You've just softened in 20 years," I say.

"I know, how fucking shit," Jackson replies. "I remember I was at a party years later and someone put it on. It was really powerful, much more than I remembered."

Those first two albums were written entirely by Murdoch, but following the release of If You're Feeling Sinister, he began to encourage more members to contribute to songwriting. Nowadays the album liner notes credit the whole band with writing and composing the tracks, but the source of the song can be anyone.

"It kind of ebbs and flows," Jackson says. "There was a period [The Boy With The Arab Strap and Fold Your Hands] where it was quite specific that who wrote the song would be the person singing it, but from Storytelling on, it's probably not quite so clear. Like I could write the music for something and then Stuart would be singing it."

"But then on Fold Your Hands, there are things that Beans [keyboardist Chris Geddes] originated and Stuart sings," Martin adds, referring to 'Don't Leave The Light On'. Along with 'Legal Man', that was one of the first times the band wrote a song as a group. Jackson describes it as being "completely collaborative", with each band member pitching something into it. From that point on, more songs would start to originate from different members, perhaps beginning life as a guitar riff or a set of lyrics.

"Like the intro to 'We Are The Sleepyheads' [from The Life Pursuit] -- Mick came up with that. Whilst the lyrics came from a song Stuart had, and we stuck it all together."

"That did happen quite a lot," Martin adds. "He [Stuart] is a bit like Ben Allen really - using the band as a sample farm. He's been doing it for years, just lifting a little musical unit that don't necessarily have anywhere specific that it goes and giving it somewhere good to go."

For Girls In Peacetime, Jackson felt reminded of the old days: Murdoch allowing himself a concentrated period to write new music -- music he'd then bring back to the rest of the band. Amongst the other band members, there were still things sparking, though. 'Perfect Couples', a track Jackson refers to as his main contribution, came when he played guitar over some samples and loops that Beans has been working with. It was then taken by the band and finished.

"It ebbs and flows. The good thing about having so many members over the years is what generally tends to happen is people rise up," Jackson tells me. One of those risers was guitarist and bassist Bobby Kildea. "He kinda went 'I've got an idea for a song', but he had it all mapped out in his head - all the riffs and chorus - he got Stuart to write words for the verse and sing." That track was 'Party Line', and became the album's lead single. As an introduction to the album's confident new direction, you really couldn't have asked for a more appropriate track. Lyrically it's exactly what we've come to expect from Belle & Sebastian, an instantly relatable story, whilst musically it harkens back to the band's first album and their first flirtation with dance music on 'Electronic Renaissance'.

Aside from that foray into electronica, Belle & Sebastian's music otherwise remained rooted in the pop stylings of the '60s, referencing Velvet Underground and Loving Spoonful. Never simply replicating, they brought those influences up to date with contemporary production, resulting in a back catalogue that genuinely feels timeless. Tigermilk is still an exciting record 20 years later, whilst their later albums still seem as relevant and relatable today. Martin explains that the band have always tried to make things which sound a little more modern, but for them, that's the late '80s.

"I remember for a while Stuart would say, 'Belle & Sebastian is like punk never happened.' We just encapsulate everything up to punk without ever quite crossing the threshold," Martin says. "We're kind of pop kids, and I suppose you have that era which for you is modern -- and for most of us that's the late '80s and early '90s. It's kind of scary."

Jackson, meanwhile, seems more aware of how the band's influences have characterised their sound but admits that when he looks at cutting edge music today, he has difficulty distinguishing it from the music of his youth. "I don't know if it's a thing about being really old, or I'm just not getting it," he says. "I'm like 'I saw that in 1984.' In a sense it's like pop really has eaten itself. I know what '80s music sounds like, even the '90s - for me it was sort of techno - but everything else is just regurgitation. You know when we came out, it was less The Faces, or whatever the Britpop bands were doing. It was more Loving Spoonful, The Left Banke -- that was the template we were working with right from the start. It just needed somewhere to start, really."

Whilst he seems to suggest that the fact they displayed different influences than the other bands of the era helped them stand out, Jackson's clear that the reason people stuck around, and the reason why the band's songs have this timeless quality, is all due to the songwriting. At their core, they're stories. "The kind of kick people get off them is not just 'it's a nice '60s-sounding pop record' but that there are stories they can relate to." The stylistic identity of the songs may have changed and the band may have delved deeper into their influences and pop music in general, but writing story songs has always been at the heart of Belle & Sebastian.

Linked to this is the way the band approaches their subject matter - issues of a personal, societal and spiritual nature are handled with a subtlety and nuance that seems to be lacking from contemporary pop music: never heavy-handed and often allowing re-interpretation to fit the listener's own personal experiences. Surely the band must see this as critical to their success?

"I think it just gives it depth," Jackson replies. "What you've just described, that's our singer. He has his faith, he takes part in church and he's in the choir - but that's just part of who he is and what he does. You would never really know. It's not heavy handed -- it's just something that he does, and you don't really get the sense that he's a religious guy, he's just -"

"Unless you try and get him to do something on a Sunday morning," Martin jokes.

Both Martin and Jackson refer to Murdoch's faith as having an "everyday quality." It's not something he tries to actively promote, but it is deeply integrated with his life and that bleeds into his songwriting. Despite always being a church-goer Murdoch has struggled to express his spiritual identity. In the past, he's described himself as a Christian without faith, but when questioned as to whether he can identify as such without faith, he was known to reply, "Well, I can't be a Christian then." Today he has, in Martin's words, "found his way", but that his experiences of attempting to understand his spiritual identity have informed songs such as 'Act of the Apostle' and 'If You're Feeling Sinister', whilst more personal, direct religious references have become apparent in Murdoch's lyrics as the years pass.

"I love that song 'If You're Feeling Sinister,'" Jackson says, "because it deals head on with some of those issues, and anyone can relate to that song because whilst religion is its backdrop, it has that feeling that any human being goes through at times in a relationship." A non-believer himself, Jackson is nonetheless appreciative of the band's leader and the lyrical depth his spiritual side brings to their songs, which has helped the band evolve and draw in a loyal supportive fan base.

This devotion is something the band recognises and attempts to engage with as much as possible. For years, they've allowed fans to post questions to individual members via their website, and aside from posting responses online, will sometimes include them in liner notes (most notably for The Life Pursuit). For Write About Love, they recorded a fake TV show, inviting fans to join them, whilst at live shows they would invite the audience on stage to sing covers.

"It's really nice when people are involved," Martin says. "We got a hilarious email off a guy in LA who wrote - basically complaining - that he wanted more of a barrier between the band and the fans. 'I'd expect you to rise above this kind of thing ... there needs to be some sort of mystique ... I don't want to see a load of my cohorts on stage.' It was just really funny we thought, someone's having a laugh, complaining about too much fun - that we're not distant enough."

Earlier in their career these activities were far more organic - a natural communication between the band and an audience who had stumbled upon what was, back then, a cult band. Now they have to be a bit more structured, though Jackson hesitates and admits he almost described the band as "professional." "There used to be," he says, "when we first started properly touring in 2001, a bit in the middle [of the set] where anything could happen - it was just sort of a break." They might get someone up to sing or take requests for covers or just do something else entirely. The idea was to make the shows more inclusive, allow the band and audience to blend in together and prevent the shows from feeling like what he describes as "come and pay homage." Mark Radcliffe once remarked that the early gigs reminded him of The Happy Mondays simply because you couldn't tell the difference between the band and the audience.

In a sense what the band were doing, whether they planned to or not, was creating a sense of a community. With their often bittersweet, sometimes optimistic songs, they were providing a space and a focus for people who discovered something comforting and honest in their music.

"I always liked that," Martin adds. She describes the pilgrimage she made to New York in the early '90s, traveling by train from Boston just to see the city that spawned Sonic Youth. She got chatting to another Brit abroad, in fact a Glaswegian HMV employee, who was reading The Independent in the same carriage as her. He asked Martin what brought her to New York. She explained that she wanted to see where Sonic Youth's music came from. "They're not a band, they're a way of life," she told him.

"I think there's maybe a mental map of Glasgow in our songs in the same way that Sonic Youth are like a map overlaid on the arts scene of New York," Martin says, back in the present day. "I think it's good when it's not just a single dimension, when you're not just a band, but you have more points of contact with a real place - a real sort of backstory."

In essence, that's Belle & Sebastian at their most fundamental. A band that has grown and evolved along with their fans. A band that through, some of the most beautiful, evocative pop songs have told tales of heartbreak and hope, faith and friendship. They tell stories so that we their audience might not feel so alone, so that we can make sense of our own struggles and find joy. They are more than just a band, they're a way of life.

Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance is released via Matador on January 19th. Head here to read our review.