Tuesday, 29 January 2008

INTERVIEW: Los Campesinos

Well, aren't you lucky - two posts in about half an hour of each other. Crazy stuff.

Anyway...here's an interview I did with sickeningly chirpy Welsh based pop-cherubs Los Campesinos! at Cab Vol in November last year. Having heard the new album I must admit I am a lot less enamoured with the septet now than I was back then when You! Me! Dancing! was swirling round my skull like a dizzy shot of amphetamines and chased by murky half gram of Red Bull. Still, they were lovely and very polite and, well, new music's all about the kids ain't it? Not old bastards like me.


If 2007 taught us anything it was that indie is the new pop. The chin-stroking, clique fostering genre that evolved in the mid 80’s is wholly unrecognisable in today’s commodity-orientated musical climes. Whereas once it was a novelty to browse through a weekly rag and spot a 100 word blurb on some obscure grotty-faced act who’d just released their first 7” through Too Cool For School Records, it’s now common place to find a clutch of fresh-faced, flavour-of-the month vagabonds peering out at you from the cover of glossy, street wise advertorials like an omnipresent product placement conceived in the rotundly shaped gut of a major label CEO.

And here, at the start of 2008, this insidious co-option is complete. But is it really so bad? Could this indie-pop revolution not, in-fact, be a blessing in disguise? Yeah we’ve got to endure a shit-storm of ear-burning, nail-grating pish but for every splurge of Jam-aping filth like The Enemy there’s a Foals or Tokyo Police Club lurking in the shadows, ready to clasp on to the success their irresistible brilliance deserves.

One band that firmly subscribes to the latter form of idiosyncratic pop-picking is Los Campesinos!. Last year the Cardiff-based septet left the blogosphere whooping in rapturous accord with the sound of their effervescent and utterly contagious harmonic brilliance. With just three single release under their belt the lip-licking hyperbole suggests the band are under a Frank Black-sized weight of expectation to produce the goods in 2008 but when I caught up with founding members Neil and Tom (each member of the group goes by the achingly faux-surname ‘Campesinos!’ ) it seems this young ensemble of cheeky-chopped scamps are taking such glowing media plaudits in their stride.

“We try not to worry about what people write about us too much - we are just trying not to be too self conscious and just get on with playing our music.” says guitarist Tom “It’s inevitable [the press] will turn on us one day - considering how fickle the music industry is at the moment – and if that’s going to happen then we don’t really want to think about it all now, we just want to get out there and enjoy what we’re doing.”

Initially starting out as a four-piece jam-band Neil, Ellen, Ollie and Tom as the antitheses to what Tom describes as Cardiff’s “crap” music scene, the group quickly enrolled Harriet, Aleksandra and Gareth to capture the triumphant, jingle-symphonic majesty that exudes from debut single We Throw Parties! You Throw Knives!. Yet for a band with its roots firmly entrenched in the quaint valleys of Wales, it’s surprising to find their moniker is an ode to Spanish peasantries:

“I’m a big fan of Spain and I used to speak lots of Spanish so it’s just a word I knew from that, “says guitarist Neil. “It’s a phrase that has lots of political connotations but that’s not really a part of our sound – we’re not a politically motivated band, far from it”

“We were throwing around names and it appealed to us both in originality and the way it sounded,” continues Tom. “The exclamation mark at the end seemed to suit the energy of the band and the music we make. When people say Los Campesinos! we want them to shout it with enthusiasm.”

Having released two of last years most infectious singles You, Me Dancing /International Tweexcore Underground) there was certainly no shortage of enthusiasm for the band’s signature amidst UK record labels – with the home of Bloc Party, Witchita, eventually winning the race to release the group’s forthcoming debut LP – but was there ever the temptation to ‘pull a Radiohead’ and avoid the trappings of a long-term deal?

“Nah, I think we are forever destined to be puppets of the music industry,” laughs Tom. “With the internet it’s much easier to build an audience without the record label but there for a young band like us there are still so many advantages in having label support, such as financial backing for touring, contacts and setting you up with a support band. It depends on what you want to achieve, I guess.”

And what do Los Campesinos hope to achieve this year?

“We just want to release the album and carry on touring. The record is coming together quite nicely and is sounding like a gigantic pop album. We want to push ourselves and with the sound of the tracks on there I think we’re going to have to push quite a bit to pull it off,” says Tom before Neil looks up from his lap-top and quips: “To be honest, right now we don’t have any real goals apart from getting to level four on this website.”

(a version of this article can be found here at the Skinny HQ)

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