Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Los Campesinos

Ben Woolhead asked the question of Tom and Gareth who play within the highly-rated Cardiff based band Los Campesinos. They appear, alongside Gindrinker, on the 'This Town Ain't Big Enough For The 22 Of Us' compilation, which is reviewed here.

>Who or what inspires you?

Tom: Musically it's the usual lot we answer, Pavement, Broken Social Scene, Yo La Tengo, Wolf Parade et al, and though we (I don't think) sound like a lot of them, I guess it's more a case of applying a lot of things we like about those bands to a pop framework... sorry, easy to slip into pretentious answers when we talk about things like inspiration...

Gareth: Lyrically I like a lot of “trail of thought” type lyricists, that steer away from broad phrases that capture general feelings and focus on the specifics. People like Aidan Moffat and Owen Ashworth and Darren Hayman that tell stories that aren’t about their clothes. Also the constant feeling of mild annoyance that rests in the pit of my belly. And how every film I watch disappoints me. At the moment anyway.

>You started out from a core of three and gradually acquired more members. What made you stop at seven?

Tom: I'm not sure we have stopped yet, although it's not a free-for-all... but I guess it just felt like the songs we had demanded a number of parts, and so kept on adding. I like the idea of playing fairly simple songs and just building lots of parts around them, but it also gives us a lot of potential to create a variety of sounds hopefully... I'd be quite keen to get some brass involved at some point too...

>Each member of the band seems to bring a different set of musical tastes and reference points to the table. Does this make writing songs together and deciding on a direction difficult? How do Los Campesinos! songs evolve?

Tom: It's more a positive thing than anything, as it means we always have a lot of ideas to play with. The songs generally evolve from some demos I'll come up with, and then Gareth will provide vocal lines... then when we take them into a band context they can evolve and change direction however they need to...

Gareth: And quite crucially we’ve never decided on a direction as such. The songs just get written and if they’re good and not funk then that’s super.

>Thanks to internet word-of-mouth you were catapulted into the limelight having been together for only a short while and having played only a very few gigs. How did that feel?

Tom: Quite surreal, and I guess it's something we're still coming to terms with. It's still surprising, and I hope it always is, because I'd hate to slip into any sort of complacency where we feel we deserve to be in this position, because so much of it is just down to luck. But we're trying to make the most of it. Honest.

Gareth: I think there was also quite a big feeling of embarrassment. I mean, we’d found ourselves in this situation without having really done much to get ourselves there, so we felt wholly undeserving, and still do in many respects. It just means we have to work really hard at being a good band, and making sure we don’t disappoint people that put their faith in us.

>You were the subject of a lot of label interest. What was it like being in such demand, and why Wichita?

Tom: It was lovely to feel like we had a choice, especially so unexpectedly and from so many labels we respect a lot. Wichita became the obvious choice in the end because there was an instant connection with the people that run it, both musically and personally. They're a really small label so there's potential to build up a genuine relationship with them, while they're happy to offer us as much creative freedom as we want. Plus they got us really really drunk and came with suitcases filled with piles of cash and all manner of drugs... weed, coke, smack, anything the aspiring rock cliche could want...

Gareth: The amount of times I’ve read people say that we made the right choice in going with Wichita since has certainly been reassuring too, but we’re in no doubt that this is the label that we can work with and help us become what we want to be.

>Complete the following sentence: Cardiff is…

Tom: ...the opening to this question that I can't think up anything witty or profound to answer with.

>What influence has Cardiff had on you as a band, or on your songs?

Tom: Well it's where we all met, but meeting lots of bands who all play such an exciting range of music has been lovely. I think quite importantly Cardiff is detached from any of the bigger cities that sometimes seem to breed generic, incestuous forms of music as a result of any real or illusory “scenes”... or something like that. But there are also bands like the Super Furries who we look up to massively, as they just continuously do their own thing and constantly offer a variety of styles.

>What impression do you think the This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The 22 Of Us compilation gives of the city’s musical culture?

Tom: It's a good advert for all the great and diverse bands that are making lovely music here. I don't think any of the bands on there sound the same or even similar, which is obviously a good thing.

>What’s next for Los Campesinos!?

Going to finish watching the England game, and then get some work done. We're demo-ing soon and bulding up to a single release and tour which is all very exciting. Lectures in the morning make sure we don't get carried away with such frivolities though...


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