Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

On music, songwriting, the Internet and more: A conversation with Gareth Campesinos!

Credit: Lerchin

When Los Campesinos! and No Age came to town last week, we sat down with frontman Gareth Campesinos! and No Age’s Randy Randall. The full interviews with both are available online on KWCW’s station blog.

The Pioneer‘s Andrew Hall: How long have you been on this U.S. tour for?
Gareth Campesinos!: Not as long as we should’ve been. Maybe two weeks?
AH: Is this the first U.S. tour in support of the new record?
GC!: That’s one thing that’s been really great, because we’ve toured the  new record in the UK and Europe since the end of January. Here,  people hearing these songs live for the first time has sort of given  them a slight rebirth. It’s nice to see people reacting to them  for the first time and it kind of feels like we’re playing them for  the first time again.
AH: Is this your first U.S. tour with new members Kim and Rob? Can you  tell me anything about what they’ve added to performance?
GC!: Rob’s been great because he does a lot of the stuff that I used to  do, but more. I used to play half a drum kit and keyboard  and glockenspiel and stuff, and while I enjoyed that, I wanted to be the frontman and not have to worry about having  these things blocking me from the audience. Now I’ve just got a  microphone and a glockenspiel, so it’s nice to be able to spend more  time dancing and jumping round.  Kim’s approached it with absolutely no fear and she’s nearly as  mobile onstage as I am. She gets really, really into it and she’s  loving it. It’s something she’s always wanted to do and never  expected to be able to.
AH: Have the new songs been harder to realize live?
GC!: I can’t honestly say. I’m fortunate enough to just be the singer, so  I show up maybe three days after the others have been rehearsing and  just shout over the top of it. There are probably more intricacies  on this record and we try to realize them live as much as possible,  and certainly this record, musically, has pushed us and challenged  us more than the previous two, but I think our musical ability has  grown as the complexity of the songs has.
AH: How’s the reception been on this tour so far?
GC!: It’s been amazing. It’s really encouraging and weird to have  hundreds of people singing back words that I’ve written on the other  side of the world. It’s really odd, but it’s been very encouraging.
AH: In the new material, it seems as if you’re pushing at something more general, perhaps, than you were in the past, or your lyrics are at least less reliant on references to pop music.
GC!: I think initially there was kind of a period where I became aware  of what I thought people expected of Los Campesinos!: not on  a big scale, because nobody really knows us: but what a Los Campesinos! song and what Los Campesinos! lyrics were going to be like, so possibly as a result I was trying to second-guess people, and there’s  some lyrics from back then that were maybe a little too overthought  and a little too aware of themselves, whereas now I’ve kind of got  to a situation where I’m comfortable to write about what I want to  write about and the things that are of interest to me.  More lazy journalists and writers haven’t picked up on that change, they’re  still tarring us with the same brush that they did three years ago,  but certainly there’s a bigger picture that I’m attempting to write  about by now.
AH: How much of it comes from fiction and how much from autobiography?
GC!: By and large it’s kind of autobiographical with flourishes. The  punchline might not always have been the truth, but  it’s all steeped in autobiography or biography of friends and  acquaintances.
AH: How do your friends and acquaintances take showing up in songs?
GC!: They’ve been really reasonable. There was one recent thing where I  should’ve said something previously and never did, but the person  said, “Hey, you could’ve at least warned me,” and I was too embarrassed, but she was very reasonable about it in the end. There  was one occasion where somebody on a Web site somewhere had  recognized that a song was about one of their friends and that was  quite amusing, but by and large people keep quiet.
AH: On We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed you started to push away from your initial approach of playing very fast and very loud all the time.
GC!: I think a lot of that just came from our inexperience in the studio.  I occasionally listen back to some of the stuff on Hold On Now,  Youngster…, and the song “And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes in  Unison” was never meant to be that fast.  When we recorded Romance is Boring, it was the first time we  went into the studio, recorded, went away, went back, approached  things with fresh ears.
You get that perspective, and can look  at what you’ve done, and perhaps see flaws or things that you want  to adjust that you wouldn’t have seen when it’s there all the time.
AH: What exactly do you end up contributing to each record?
GC!: All that I do is sing. It would just be charity if I played anything  I could play on the record, because Tom could play it quicker and  better than I could.
AH:  The more you release, the more I hear Xiu Xiu in what you’re doing.
GC!:  I was actually listening to Xiu Xiu earlier. There’s the song  “Bishop, CA” on The Air Force that has a refrain that goes “Walla  Walla Walla Walla Hey,” so that’s been stuck in my head, being in  Walla Walla. I’ve never seen them live, I’ve resisted it because  they’re my absolute favorite band and I would be an emotional wreck  if I saw them. I don’t want to put myself and I don’t want to put  Jamie [Stewart] through that. I don’t want him to have to see me bawling in  front of him.
AH: How do you factor into the recording and songwriting processes?
GC!: Tom records the demos, then he sends me those, then I listen over  that and work with that. I leave my vocals to be the last things  recorded, because I’m so aware of the permanency once they’re put on  the record that I don’t want to regret anything. Although I don’t have any technical musical ability, I know what I want and me and Tom sort of work  together to make that happen.
AH: You all met in school in Cardiff. How did you end up attracting so much attention so quickly?
GC!: We recorded a demo and had no intention of getting signed or doing  anything: we just put up a MySpace page and put the demos up there: then Tom posted a link on a British music forum, Drowned in  Sound, and before we knew it: within less than a week: we were offered a record deal in Australia, and we were getting phone calls from managers and booking  agents, and we’re just like “Fuck, we have no idea what’s going on.”
It could’ve been even quicker if we’d had the sense to take a step  back, since we still had a year left at university and we didn’t  want to blow that, so we controlled that as best we could.  I don’t think that really happens these days because of the  immediacy of social networking sites. People want new stuff  constantly and the turnover rate of bands is ridiculous, so bands  gets disheartened quicker.
AH: Have you felt that at all?
GC!: [The Internet’s] been great to us. We use things like the blog and Twitter the best we can, and  I think we’ve handled things sensibly and haven’t tried to run before we could  walk. We’ve not gotten ideas above our stations.
AH: Who are you playing to mostly now?
GC!: It’s genuinely really diverse. We try as hard as we can to make all  our shows all ages and Seattle was incredible, just a front row full  of 14-year-old girls and their parents at the back, but also a  lot of older people who see in us a lot of bands they used to listen  to and used to like, so they see us as bearing that flag or  something.
AH: What music are you excited about right now?
GC!: It’s always the same stuff that I always mention when I get asked  this. There’s a Perfume Genius record coming out this year that’s  going to be incredible. There’s the new Former Ghosts record, a band we’ve toured with  called Islets: they sound like Gang Gang Dance meets This Heat: I’m generally pretty excited about music at the moment. It comes in  waves, at the moment I’m pretty spoiled.
View Comments (1)
More to Discover

Comments (1)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *