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LOS CAMPESINOS! - July 28/07


The young souls of Cardiff, Wales band Los Campesinos! have the distinction of being one of the few international bands excited to be signed to a Canadian label. Mind you, when the imprint in question is Toronto powerhouse Arts & Crafts, it's not hard to understand why they're stoked. Los Campesinos! may not have any members in Broken Social Scene (a usual prerequisite for A&C support), but they do share a producer. BSS mastermind Dave Newfeld recorded their debut EP, Sticking Fingers Into Sockets, while he was already in Wales working on Super Furry Animals' upcoming Hey Venus.

Barely out of university, the four blokes and three lasses have all the wide-eyed enthusiasm you'd expect (and hope for) from a group of kids who can barely believe their luck. The eager septet's excitement is equally palpable on the disc, and Fingers sounds like all great young indie rock should: sloppy, bursting-at-seams, and endlessly hooky. It's a great intro to the group as they get ready to record their A&C full-length, again with Newfeld manning the board.

In town for their first-ever North American jaunt, the group elected Gareth (who like all his bandmates uses the last name "Campesinos!" Solidarity!) to take some time to type Soundscapes some answers about big bands not being a big deal, handling a country twenty times the size of their own, and why they won't be translating Gorky's Zygotic Mynci lyrics for us any time too soon. Although one of them might read you some Tolstoy...

Soundscapes: Let's talk first about being from Wales. What's it like being an indie band from this part of the world? Is there a tightly knit scene? Do you find a barrier between yourselves and the rest of the UK?

Gareth Campesinos!: It's great living in Cardiff. There's a scene going on there that is different to a lot of what goes on in the UK right now, and we're very happy and comfortable there. As for the whole of the UK and any barriers, well, if there are any it's not caused by us living in Wales. I guess we don't feel we have too much of an affinity with the UK music scene, as there really isn't much music coming from there right now that we enjoy, so we look to elsewhere for entertainment (primarily the US and Canada, natch).

SS: You sing in English. Do you speak Welsh as well? Is it still a big part of youth culture for your generation, or is it a regional thing as well?

GC!: Well, actually, none of us are Welsh. We're six sevenths English and one seventh Russian, so nah, we speak no Welsh. Which is a great shame. I studied Welsh history at uni, so I know a little about the language's history, but really it's not a part of Welsh youth culture.

SS: How did you come to work with Dave Newfeld? I know he recently worked with fellow Welsh gents Super Furry Animals. Is there a connection there?

GC!: There sure is. We're lucky enough to have the same manager (yeh, I know, "manager", yuck) as SFA and so it came about through that. But hopefully Newf actually liked our stuff too. I guess he must do, otherwise he wouldn't continue to put up with us.

SS: What did Newf bring to your sound? I don't mean this in a bad way, but the EP doesn't actually sound like his other recent recordings and he has a pretty distinct style.

GC!: I think Newf had a total understanding of what we wanted to achieve from the songs. He did an awesome job of keeping the excitement that comes from playing the songs live, but his ability and ideas also allowed us to add a lot more to the songs. A lot of subtleties and fun that we'd have never been able to do otherwise.

SS: When did Arts & Crafts start to take an interest in you? You were clearly familiar with the label before you signed (I notice a lot of Canuck bands on your myspace page...).

GC!: Of course we were familiar with them before, it's one of the best labels in the world! I guess the first contact was made when Broken (Social Scene) asked us to open a show for them in Cardiff last August, and the Newf connection kept things rolling and I guess it came as a natural progression. It's such an honour to be the first British band to sign to the label, and all this without them even having seen us play live. We just met them for the first time yesterday, we in fact went to your very record store, and they are the loveliest guys on the planet. I sense a long, beautiful relationship.

SS: In 2007, it isn't anything new to be a large band in indie rock, especially over here! How do you keep the size of your band from being a gimmick rather than an integral part of your sound?

GC!: I really don't think seven people is a lot of people to have in a band, and think it's more a shame that people think 3 or 4 should be the default size. We really don't think too much about how many of us there are. I think anybody with a broad taste in music and a bit of knowledge would not see a seven piece band as being a 'gimmick. We certainly never would. Having GIRLS in the band is our gimmick. hehe.

SS: You're coming from a country which you can drive across in 24 hours, to a continent it takes days to traverse. Are you excited about touring Canada and the U.S.? Any solutions to neutralize road boredom?

GC!: We've spoken about this a lot in the last couple of days. We have a twelve hour drive to Chicago next week and frankly it scares us! We realise how lucky we are to live in a small country and be able to get around so easily. I think we'll get by on the journeys through sheer excitement at the promise of playing to new people in exciting cities. That and the fact that we all have a very simple sense of humour, we should be fine.

los%20camps-playground.jpgSS: Will this be your first trip overseas? Have you planned how to spend your free time? I see a lot of spaces inbetween some dates. Are these for recording perhaps?

GC!: We've played one show in Spain, but we weren't even in the country for 24 hours, so this is the first real time I'd say. And there is nowhere else we would rather play. So far, our free time has been spent spending in record shops and enjoying the fact that it's not raining in Toronto. After the last show (in Philadelphia I think) we're decamping to Trenton to record our full-length with Newf. We're hugely excited about this.

SS: It's pretty clear from your bio/myspace/music/press shots (love those vintage Pavement T's!), that American indie rock from the 1990s was HUGE for you guys. What other, less obvious things turn your collective cranks?

GC!: Yeh, I think Pavement would be our collective favourite band if we had to come up with one. As a band, our tastes range from things like alt. country, contemporary pop music, Ollie's a massive Pearl Jam fan, I'm obsessed with Riot grrrl. Ellen likes modern emo music however much she might deny it.

SS: When you head into the studio for the full-length, what are you ambitions? How different will it be from your EP?

GC!: It's hard to look at the songs we have and say how it'll be different. We're so involved with the songs, and this makes it difficult to step back and look at them objectively. It's still pop music, but I'd say our songwriting has gotten better and we're pushing ourselves more with what we want to do. We just hope to have 12 kick ass songs that work well as a whole and that excite us and make us want to play live and other people want to come watch us.

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