Dirtbag Journalism

Interview : Los Campesinos!


Since being signed to Arts and Crafts in 2007, Cardiff’s Los Campesinos! have seen success on both sides of the Atlantic, offering an alternative to the electronic influence currently dominating the UK, as well as contributing something new to the landscape of Canadian music.  After releasing their third full-length album, Romance is Boring, to critical acclaim earlier this year, the seven-piece have increased their fan base exponentially by fearlessly presenting their unique brand of indie pop-rock to new and existing listeners, as well as to industry insiders and musical peers.  While their North American tour was forced to cancel and re-organize several dates as a result of the flight situation dominating much of Europe, they’ve continued their token fan-based interaction, taking to their Twitter and blog with updates and anecdotes which have become a trademark of the UK group.  Earlier this month, we had a chance to speak to Tom Campesino about their experience with Arts and Crafts, the difference between Canadian and UK labels and the importance of connecting with fans.

Dirtbag Journalism: Having been signed to Arts and Crafts relatively early, have you found a marked difference between the operation of Canadian labels versus what you’ve previously experienced or heard in regards to others?

Tom Campesino:  The main difference is with the people – that’s kind of what it comes down to.  And we’re sort of lucky enough that even though we’re in the UK and Arts and Crafts is in Canada, we get to work with good people. They’re music lovers, and I think also because Kevin Drew knows how to deal with bands, they were able to get a lot of things on that side right.  And in that sense, it’s just very easy.  I mean, in the end the real difference is the accents, really, because at Arts and Crafts they just have this sincere love of music, and it’s nice and it’s easy working with them.  And obviously the roster that they’ve got – we were sort of quite revered towards Arts and Crafts, and when we knew they were showing an interest in us, it was a really overwhelming thing, to be featured on a label with some of our favourite bands.

DJ: Being signed to that label, are you influenced by a distinct “Canadian sound”?  Or do Los Campesinos! refuse to be defined by their geographical background or location?

TC:  I guess because Arts and Crafts is Canadian and we live in the UK, we don’t share that communal vibe.  I mean, whenever we go over we get along great, but we’re not seeing them on a day-to-day basis, and it’s not necessarily like that in the UK. People like our management, we’re able to see and speak to all the time, but there’s not necessarily that same sort of same communal aspect or influence in our music.  But at the same time, I think we were influenced by Broken Social Scene before Arts and Crafts even sort of came into view, so in that sense it was kind of consequential.  In terms of influences, we didn’t look at the roster of the label and decide we want to fit in.  We try to do our own thing because I think if Arts and Crafts took any interest in us at all it’s probably because we were doing our own thing.

DJ: Well, you guys manage to be popular in both Canada and the US, and that’s quite a feat considering that right now a lot of UK music seems to be more electronic, and North American music is just doing its own thing altogether.  You guys manage to straddle both of those spectrums.

TC:  It’s really flattering that we have any sort of fans at all, and I’d like to hope that if people do like it, it’s because we’re not constantly influenced by trends – and that’s something we’ve always tried to do from the start.  Since the beginning, we’ve always tried to go against that.  We wouldn’t necessarily rule out electronic music in the future, but we’ve never tried to move towards trends.  But it kind of feels like in the US there’s probably more room for diversity in terms of music, where the UK feels sort of limited. It just seems like there’s a very narrow vein of what’s popular in the UK, and there’s obviously a lot of interesting things happening beneath that level.

DJ:  You were also nominated for the NME Award for Best Blog last month.  Why have you chosen to remain to interactive with your audience?  Do you think this is the way bands need to be or does it simply reflect on you as people?

TC:  I’d like to hope it was the latter.  I’m sure there are kind of marked benefits to maintaining that type of relationship with your fans, but honestly I think it’s just that we’re very flattered when anyone shows any interest in our band.  I think now especially, it’s kind of impossible to shut up – and it’s perfect for that role, always communicating on Twitter with our fans.  And to me, it seems normal.  I guess we’re not at that stage where we’re massive or there is that distance – and I hope that there never will be. These are the people who come to the shows and are more likely to buy your music, so why shouldn’t you speak to them?

I guess part of it is because we don’t really feel like a proper band still. You don’t feel like a rock star when you’re walking down the street, because you’re not.  We’re just seven people who were students and kind of got a bit lucky, and that hasn’t really changed – so why should it change?

DJ:  Well having seven people in your band, that’s a relatively large group.  With this year seeing the release of records by Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire and The New Pornographers, do you consider 2010 to be the return of large ensemble acts?

TC:  I don’t know if people will approach it in a trend-based way.  From our sense, it was always the practical thing. Part of it is that there’s a lot of bands that will normally be a four-piece, but when they tour, they often get test musicians along and end up being a seven-piece on stage.  So it’s almost like, what’s the point in that?  Why don’t you just get three more of your friends to play with you?  And that’s always how we’ve approached it.  There’s this sort of mega-element to our music that requires all of our members.

Posted by : Anne T Donahue