Monday 31st October 2011

With the release of their new album on the horizon, Robert Campesinos! of Los Campesinos! kindly takes some time out to talk to subculture about life, love, literature and of course, their new LP, "Hello Sadness".

So, it has been two years since Romance Is Boring. Aside from the music, what have you been getting up to in terms of life, love and all things Campesinos!

Rest assured it has been a fun, sexy time for all of us in LC!. We wade afore a wake of sexual devastation that includes such luminaries as Ryan Reynolds, Julia Bradbury and Phil Woolas. We've done an awful lot of touring, seen some incredible new places, been driven by some of the drunkest, most blasé taxi drivers the western-world has to offer. I can't imagine a better job.

We have to ask, all the members have the last name Campesinos!. Is this by deed poll? Or do you consider that once in the band, you are family therefore you should share the last name? If so, Will your children continue on with the Campesinos! legacy?

When I joined the band it was made clear that the legal name-change thing was an absolute deal-breaker. It was tough trying to convince the authorities to let us have the exclamation mark. Luckily, Alan Johnson [Home Secretary at the time] is a massive Los Campesinos! fan and he fast-tracked it in return for a subscription to Heat Rash and romantic fish-supper with Ellen and Kim.

Ok, down to the music. There is a definite progression through the albums. You have grown up together, grown as people and shared a multitude of life experiences. How has this reflected on your latest LP, “Hello Sadness”?

It's probably fair to say that we exercised new, almost superhuman, levels of maturity in making this album; we didn't touch that studio swimming pool, not once. We've definitely all grown together as a very tight unit and it was easy to forget that we had three members [myself included] that didn't feature on Romance Is Boring. I think Kim and Jason in particular bring really exciting new musical elements to the mix. I'm here mostly for my pizzaz.

This album feels more structured. There is still that sporadic sense of teen angst, but it is more formulaic, placed and composed. Was this intended, or through age, has it just naturally occurred?

Perhaps it's a natural progression, as you get a little bit older, to be more measured in your approach. We spent longer rehearsing the instrumental aspects of this album than we did on the first three and we decided that we wanted to make something more pithy and direct than perhaps we had done before. We probably have a tendency to over-complicate things as a band, so It was certainly a conscious approach to try not to overload arrangements, to keep things as stripped-down and simple as possible.

Could you tell us the premise for “Hello Sadness”?

There wasn't really ever a premise as such. What it became, however, was a warts-and-all document of the end of an important relationship, written and recorded amidst the smouldering wreckage.

Your lyrics are poignant, insightful, and hilarious. They generally cover a spectrum of the human condition that other artists across the creative board strive to achieve. Do you think you need to go through certain life experiences to achieve this or is it an innate ability to translate inner thoughts and feelings without deviation on to paper?

This record was intensely personal for Gareth and I'm sure there must have been an element of therapeutic catharsis for him in writing much of the lyrical content. That said, what makes him such a formidable lyricist in my opinion is his ability to convey the raw emotional content in a witty, tangible way. I don't think you can make successful art out of personal experience without weaving in a degree of fiction. It's just an inevitable part of the process of viewing your own biography through a lens.

You are all from a pretty educated background dare we say. Do you have a large interest in books? If so, what are your favourite reads?

I read a lot of short fiction and I'm a crazy, obsessed fan of Lorrie Moore. I love writers like Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace, Donald Barthelme, Miranda July and Philip Roth as well, but who doesn't? I'm a big fan of McSweeney's, the publishing house founded by Dave Eggars. My best friend bought me a year's subscription to their literary journal for being his best man. Which is all the more kind of him considering that I nigh on destroyed his life with my best man speech.

No one seems to ask bands who their favourite musical artists are. Who are yours?

I love Silver Jews, Smog, Why, The Beach Boys, Scott Walker, Jacques Brel, Steve Reich, Bill Evans. I'm pretty into modal jazz at the moment. As you would imagine, I wear a lot of turtlenecks.

As musicians, do you think you will ever be 100% content with the material you produce? Or is it an artist’s condition to never be satisfied?

I don't think you ever should be. It's counter-productive to hate everything you've ever done, but a healthy disdain for all of your recorded output is probably essential to keep any band hungry [in every sense of the word].

Do you each have other creative outlets, if so, what gets you all going away from band life?

I'm also an illustrator and have my own musical project called Sparky Deathcap. Ellen is a filmmaker in her spare time. Neil is a great chef. Kim is mother to a brand-new sausage dog called Darla. Gareth plays semi-professional football. Jason is getting really good at tattooing. Tom relaxes by recording demos, making click tracks and writing out exhaustive tablature for the rest of us. And we all get to write for our quarterly 'zine, Heat Rash.

Oh, just one more thing. Congratulations on the (Beer we can not name) advert. It’s about time the media picked up on music that isn’t just acoustic whispering nonsense. Good Job!

Thanks, it's still really exiting every time THAT advert comes on. Just the thought of it is making me thirsty for one of those sweet, ice-cold, crystal-clear bottles of B**.

Thanks for talking to us; we wish you all the best with your new album.

A pleasure, thank you.

For more info on Los Campesinos! go to www.loscampesinos.com


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