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Epigram - Bristol University's Independent Student Newspaper

Interview: Los Campesinos!

06 Feb 2012 Written by 

    Los Campesinos! may one day come to be defined by the sound of twee-like euphoria that follows agonising build-up, present in the opening of ‘You! Me! Dancing!’, an early track re-emerging into public consciousness through its prolific use in recent Budweiser advertising campaigns. This isn’t the image that the band aspires to and their dedicated fanbase would likely vehemently disagree, but it’s not too far off the mark – though the twee description certainly is. Hello Sadness, Los Campesinos!’ latest record, like the beginning of ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ is an exercise in cathartic release following a period of unsettling tension; this time in lead singer Gareth Campesinos!’ life as opposed to within the sonic arrangements. Gareth explains that ‘the record is very much centred around a break-up and reacting to it – different stages of hatred, despair, attempts at reconciliation and reconciling things with yourself’. The remit of this record; the exploration of anguish inextricable from emotional pain lies in stark contrast to the cherryade-fuelled parties, awkward dancing and pain induced by sticking fingers into sockets that formed the basis for their earliest lyrics. It’s clear that seven-piece outfit Los Campesinos! have grown up and matured, and although their evolution has been gradual and publically displayed through their releases, little embodies their complete departure from purportedly twee roots quite so clearly as Hello Sadness does.

    Though sharing is something Los Campesinos! routinely engage in through extensive use of social media, be it the minutiae of tour meals or expounding feelings of hatred held towards Joey Barton, Hello Sadness opens them up to a whole new level of transparency. Gareth explains that ‘I can only ever really write about what I know - I admire a lot of songwriters who can think in a fictional manner, but I just don’t have the imagination to be able to do that kind of thing.’ Having gone through a break-up just prior to recording Hello Sadness, the immediacy of emotion is apparent in the lyrics with Gareth admitting that ‘I find it really difficult to sort of sit down and be like ‘ok I’m going to write a song’ – when I do decide to write, it’s usually because I have to, things are getting late.’ Written in the midst of an emotional whirlwind, the candidness and brutal honesty inseparable from Gareth’s writing methodology lends remarkably raw power to the lyrics found in Hello Sadness.

    Their last release, Romance is Boring, was self-described as a record covering ‘sex, death, the body and football’, themes which re-emerge on Hello Sadness. ‘Obviously they’re themes that are always in the back of my head or whatever. I like repetition of imagery and ideas, and things from one song referencing something else that’s happened in a previous song. I like the idea that when we finish making music I’ll be able to piece all the songs together and see what bit applies to other bits and how it all fits together.’ Despite covering familiar territory, the imagery finds itself in a completely different context on this record, making it more affecting than ever before. Nowhere is this clearer and more greatly amplified than in the heart-wrenching ‘To Tundra’, where the constructed image of bodies being taken to water seamlessly marries two themes prevalent throughout Los Campesinos!’ records.

    Morbidity appears to be a constant theme in Los Campesinos!’ material; Gareth explains that ‘without realising it, I’m always preoccupied with the human body, the destruction of the human body.’ However, working part-time at a graveyard for Gareth is somehow distinct from this unconscious obsession. ‘When I’m working at the graveyard it doesn’t seem like a morbid place. It’s just a really pretty place with lots of symmetry from all the gravestones. No one visits most of the graves there, they’re really old and unattended. It feels nice that if it wasn’t for us cutting the grass down there it’d just be horrible. I see it as a happy place, it’s one of my favourite places to be; you can just listen to music and shut yourself out. It’s really peaceful.’ It seems as though full immersion in what is difficult for others to cope with leads to a form of release for Gareth, venting of feelings paving the way towards inner comfort. The lyrical directness of Hello Sadness embodies Gareth’s attempts to find peace in the face of post-break-up angst, allowing ordinary life to resume without being unbearably plagued by the issues explored.

    Greater commercial success isn’t out of the question for Los Campesinos!; a recent appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman manages to apex a previous claim to fame of ‘having our band poster appear on The Inbetweeners’ and the public awareness of Los Campesinos!’ music is exponentially increasing due to wide exposure through inescapably ever-present Budweiser advertising campaigns. Gareth can’t help but beam with pride as he explains that with ‘a lot of people I know from home, football and stuff, it’s kind of difficult to explain to them that being in a band is what I do for a job and even though we’re not famous it’s not a hobby. It’s a proper thing and we’ve been doing alright for ourselves. You can’t really explain that unless you have a Budweiser advert.’ It’s a far cry from Gareth’s earliest attempts to promote the band, being afflicted by the often debilitating burden of Football Manager addiction, he explains that the Sports Interactive community forums were ‘the first place I ever posted a message about our band, before any music site, that’s where I went to do it.’ Although Los Campesinos! have matured, with Budweiser and greater public exposure on their side they’re not yet done growing, with a committed fanbase likely to expand further. The project is only just beginning, with Gareth proclaiming that ‘we’re more excited than we ever have been.’

    ‘Hello Sadness’ is available on Wichita Recordings now

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