An Interview With Tom Campesinos!



Los Campesinos!
  • Jon Bergman
  • Los Campesinos!
Welsh septet Los Campesinos! are on a U.S. tour to promote their third album, Romance Is Boring. They played Metro on Friday (check out my preview of the show), and I was allotted some time to chat with guitarist Tom Campesinos! that afternoon. We talked about volcanoes, lineup changes, and the reception that their more grown-up (but no less pissed-off) new album has been getting. Check out the interview after the jump:

First off, I have to ask about the Icelandic volcano explosion and the initial delay to the U.S. tour. Were you guys twiddling your thumbs waiting to find out what was going to happen?

Yeah, pretty much, man. It was a surreal situation. We’ve never really had delays like that before, and if we ever did have delays, we usually had someone to blame. It was just sort of like, well, what can you do?

How many dates did you guys end up having to cancel? I know you had to cancel shows in Toronto and New Jersey.

Yeah, it was probably like four or five altogether.

Unsurprisingly, this time through the States you've been playing bigger venues. If my memory serves me, your Chicago shows the past couple of years have progressed from the Empty Bottle to Logan Square Auditorium to Metro. How has the band adapted to the gradual shift in venue size?

Yeah, really nice. That’s obviously the kind of gradient you’re going for. It’s been kind of unreal to play the new album to the U.S. audience and to get nice responses to the new music, that’s the sort of thing that really fills you with confidence. There’s always the worry that people will only want to hear the first album or whatever, but across the board all the new songs have been received really well.

Speaking of the new album, Romance Is Boring, it’s generally noisier, more brooding, and maybe not as directly catchy. Did you guys set out to give it more of a punk aesthetic?

That’s just kind of the direction we’ve been headed. We didn’t sort of sit around and have a meeting about it. A lot of it comes from playing live and getting louder and more distorted. We have a better idea of how we want to sound these days in terms of recording and mixing and being able to push the songs in the way we want. Gareth’s lyrics have always been fairly dark, and there is probably a reactionary element to that in the music. We’ve been spreading things out kind of hook-wise.

It takes a bit longer to digest than before.

And that’s sort of the intention. The hook may not reveal itself as quickly but hopefully it lasts longer if you have to work with it for a while. There’s always going to be those who prefer the previous material, but even on our blog we’ve been getting people saying that it’s finally clicked, which is the perfect response.

And like you said before, Gareth’s lyrics usually run relatively dark, and on this album they are much more proselike and don’t contain much rhyming. They sync up nicely with the music.

With all of my favorite albums, I can’t count the number of times I was sort of indifferent at first, but then suddenly you hear a song in the right context and it makes sense. We were aware that the album was going to be a bit harder to grasp onto than the others.

Is there a certain song off the album that is being particularly well received? “Straight in at 101” undoubtedly had my full attention with the first line of lyrics.

Yeah, that one live has gone down really well, and the singles have gone down really well. We’re well aware of what makes a better single and what makes a better pop song. Then there’s a song like “The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future,” which has really been the most important song off the album because it’s pretty different than anything else we’ve done before. It’s the first song we revealed from the album saying that it might be a little bit different. The fact that the reaction to that song was so positive, it was just like, wow, we can do whatever the hell we want [laughs]. It’s just nice that people want to be challenged in that way.

Aleks left the band last year and you guys recruited Gareth’s sister, Kim. How was that transition? Has the dynamic remained solid?

Well, we all knew Kim before, and her and Aleks are friends as well. It was a pretty smooth transition. We knew Aleks was leaving for a little while. A year before she was going to, she announced it. It was still hard to come to terms with, and we really didn’t talk about it for ages. Everyone was just kind of like, “Are we going to break up?”

So that was a thought?

Yeah, well, you just don’t know. Because we're all so close within the band, it may be hard for someone to sort of enter in. Kim was finishing university at that time and she had been studying music, and obviously being Gareth’s sister, it just kind of made sense. Plus, we had our friend Rob come in around the same time.

Does Rob just join the band during live shows?

Yeah, I think it’ll probably become a more permanent thing. So, I actually think that made things a lot easier. Having two new people come in at once, it didn’t necessarily feel like a swap. More just like two new friends joining.

Any excitement been happening this time around in the States? What have you been up to today in Chicago?

We’re still excited by it all, man [laughs]. I just had a hot dog and we might sneak over to the baseball game for a bit [a Cubs game had just gotten underway]. We went down to Reckless Records before and I bought an Andrew Bird vinyl and then later hit up Intelligentsia.

Awesome. Well, have a good show tonight. I’m sure I’ll be back up here for it.

Cool, thanks man.

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