The exclamation point at the end of Los Campesinos!â€™s name is extremely appropriate. Theyâ€™re a band bursting at the seams with passion and exuberance in almost every way. Los Campesinos!â€™s music combines catchy indie pop with breakneck speeds, soaring group vocals, and bright volume. Their lineup is packed with seven musicians; all friends who found each other at Cardiff University in Wales, all of whom have adopted â€œCampesinosâ€ as their stage surname (like, say, the Ramones). And their songs, chock full with the wide-eyed yearnings and queasy fears of young romance and sexual awakening, seem determined to force themselves onto love struck adolescent mixtapes everywhere.
They first made a splash in the United States with 2008â€™s Hold On Now, Youngsterâ€¦ LP and We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed EP, both of which earned widespread acclaim for their passion and energy. Their latest album, Romance Is Boring, smoothes out some of the rougher edges of their first records in favor of more deliberately paced and melodic songwriting. Theyâ€™ll be stopping by the Mad Hatter in Covington, along with Cymbals Eat Guitars, on April 28th.
Songwriter and guitarist Tom Campesinos recently agreed to talk with Each Note Secure about the direction of the band, international reactions to their music, and what heâ€™s having for dinner later.
[Each Note Secure] Youâ€™ve released three long playing records (two albums and an â€œextended EPâ€) in a very short amount of time. Whatâ€™s led you to release so much recorded material so quickly? Do you think this will continue?
[Tom Campesinos] I guess it’s a combination of wanting to make the most of the fortunate position we’re in, but also making music is simply something we like doing, so there’s a natural drive to write whenever we have the opportunity. I think it’s important as a band to try and push yourself, to keep trying new things and keep things interesting for ourselves and anyone interested in our band. We’re so lucky to be in this position that it’d be a bit silly to not try and make the most of it.
[ENS] How has your audience reaction been in different areas of the world? You seem to have gotten a fair amount of attention in the United States, but what about the rest of the world? Do you get different reactions in different countries and cultures?
[TC] Ha, it varies everywhere we go. We’re used to seeing a lot of bored, confused faces, so if there’s ever an excited, smiling face, we’re delighted! I think the most surprisingly good reactions have been in South America and Spain, where we’ve had some of the best gigs we’ve ever done. I guess our name helps in those places…
There’s always funny stories in the music industry about certain artists doing unexpectedly well in unexpected countries, but also in terms of the variety of reactions we get at live shows, it does seem like there are certain cultural differences, even just from city to city. We put our (relative) success in the US down to our kooky accents and bad teeth, though.
[ENS] There are a lot of layered vocal parts and male/female dynamics in your songs. Is this just a consequence of the makeup of the band, or are these arrangements a conscious part of your songwriting?
[TC] Probably a combination of both those things. We’ve always had a fairly maximalist approach to our songs, which includes making the most of what everyone in the band can do, but I think it also allows [singer] Gareth [Campesinos] to introduce different dimensions to his lyrics and play with the potential meanings in his words by choosing who sings what.
[ENS] Speaking of songwriting, is there a central writer, or do you all collaborate on songs? Is that hard to do with the number of band members?
[TC] Generally I’ll come up with a music idea, flesh it out and record a demo of it, then send that to Gareth, who comes up with words to go over the top of it. Then we’ll start playing through ideas as a band to tweak and adjust arrangements and try and take on everyone’s own ideas and approaches to the song.
[ENS] Your songs sound very happy and upbeat, but the lyrics sometimes center on angst, awkwardness, and even sadness. Do you strive for a musical/lyrical dichotomy?
[TC] Yeah, we’ve always found it fun to mess about with the relationship between those two elements of the songs, and I think as a band we like to embrace those awkward paradoxes, because that’s where the interesting elements of art start to emerge.
[ENS] Los Campesinos! songs seem to contain a lot of themes of youth and young love. What did you listen to when you were young? What music do you think went on to influence the band?
[TC] Ha, so does that mean that, at 24 or 25, we’re no longer officially â€œyoung?â€ That’s kind of depressing. I think Gareth’s lyrics revolve around those themes because they were things he was experiencing directly, because he WAS young. There’s a cassette somewhere of me singing along a cappella to (Phil Collins era) Genesis when I was 4, but hopefully none of that has made it into our music…
[ENS] What’s next for Los Campesinos?
[TC] Touring, festivals, hopefully some more writing/recording when we get the chance. But now? Dinner. I’m having pizza.
Interview by John Crowell