The More, the Merrier: Los Campesinos!



As you’ve certainly heard, Mother Earth recently threw a geologic temper tantrum known as Eyjafjallajökull, leaving hundreds of thousands of air travelers stranded for days on end. Among them was the genial group Los Campesinos! who, in two short years, has built a rep for bouncing live shows where smiles are guaranteed. But the Cardiff, Wales-based octet’s normally sunny disposition was sorely tested when volcanic ash shut down British air space just as they were about to embark on their first North American tour since the January release of their third album, the critically lauded Romance Is Boring. Their frustration with, and resignation to, this rather nightmarish predicament–stuck at a Heathrow airport hotel–was captured in several entertaining posts on the Los Campesinos! blog. As the disaster wore on, the first few tour dates were canceled, while others were rescheduled. Then, seemingly at the eleventh hour, the skies were finally cleared to fly again, just in time for the band to make its all-important New York show. A few hours before that, I sat down with three of the Los Camps camp, guitarist and songwriter Tom, new member, keyboardist, flautist and vocalist Kim, and lead singer and guardian of the glockenspiel, Gareth. (Every member of the band has adopted the surname Campesinos!) Romance may be boring, but a conversation with Los Campesinos! is not.

JOHN NORRIS: Well, guys, you certainly had an interesting journey getting here.

GARETH CAMPESINOS!: I think the point is that it wasn’t an interesting journey! It was just incredibly dull. Just the not knowing, and waiting, and feeling like we couldn’t really do anything or go anywhere because we were hopeful that at any point somebody might be like, “There’s a plane going in 45 minutes! Get on it!”

TOM CAMPESINOS!: Have you seen the film The Terminal?

NORRIS: About the guy who lives in the airport?

TOM: Well, it wasn’t really anything like that, but it was like that.

NORRIS: So was there ever a point where you didn’t know whether any of the tour would happen at all?

GARETH: Honestly the tour was probably about twelve hours away from being entirely canceled. If we hadn’t been able to play the New York show, then financially we wouldn’t have been able to make it over here and do the whole tour. So, there was a pretty dark 24 hours where we said, “We’ll just wait to decide and then tomorrow we’ll probably have to cancel the shows.” And then, the skies opened.

NORRIS: Well, hopefully you can get back. Hopefully, that neighboring volcano won’t decide to act up as well.

GARETH: Yeah, well that’s less of a worry. We haven’t got anything to get back for.

NORRIS: So this is the first American tour since the release of Romance is Boring.

GARETH: Yeah, which is nice because, once you’ve been playing songs for a while, and people are used to hearing them, it’s easy to get into some kind of rut, but the fact that US fans are hearing these live for the first time, it makes it a little more exciting for us to be playing them. And even after only two shows on this tour, to hear people singing along in slightly nicer accents than we get in the UK. It’s great.

NORRIS: Nicer?

GARETH: Yeah, I think US accents are nicer.

NORRIS: But you’re not one of those Brits who tries to affect this Midwest American accent when you sing.

GARETH: No, but I probably should. One of the things I like about coming to the States is that any British accent heard by an American seems to go over well. I mean, you guys seem to like any English accent. Whereas in the UK, my accent is one of the worst accents you can possible have! But people don’t get that in the States so that’s why I feel free to talk at will like this.

NORRIS: Worst in what sense?

GARETH: Just like it sounds horrible. It really does. Like everybody, just listen for the R’s.

NORRIS: One of the biggest changes since last time you were here is that Aleksandra is no longer part of the band. And I know you have said that you always knew eventually the time would come when that would happen, that she would go back to school?

TOM: Yeah, from the start we knew that she was going to but then I guess maybe a year before she actually left there was a formal announcement that she was planning to leave by a certain point. And at first it was really hard to come to terms with, even though we were expecting it.

NORRIS: And then Kim, this young woman to your right, is Gareth’s sister. Kim, was replacing Aleks something that had been in the talking stages for a while?

KIM: No, I didn’t know anything about it until I was asked to join. I knew that Aleks was going to leave but I didn’t know that they were in talks about who was going to replace her or anything.

NORRIS: Had you shown interest in being part of the band at some point?

KIM: I was a huge Los Campesinos! fan and I’d been to a lot of shows and I’d met them all but I wasn’t gonna put Gareth in that place where I was like, “Just so you know, I would…” I didn’t want to put him in that situation, but he came in from Cardiff one day and was like “We’ve decided who we want to replace Aleks,” and I was like “Oh yeah?” He said, “Do you want to do it?”

NORRIS: Kim did you already know Aleks’s vocal parts?

KIM: Only because I really liked the band! I still had to practice a lot and learn the correct lyrics.

NORRIS: Sometimes, in the songs, you take on the roles of a romantic relationship. Is that weird, given that you’re brother and sister?

TOM: This brings us back to Somerset.

GARETH: Yeah this is another facet, like the accent, of where we are from.

NORRIS: Ah. Well here, a place with a similar reputation might be West Virginia or Tennessee.

GARETH: Well I don’t know what people think of the West Virginian accent but you know…But again, I really enjoy that. I think there are aspects of our band that are slightly provocative or trying to wind people up or get in their faces, and that would be another example of that.

TOM: We’ve always had like awkward paradoxes between the music and the lyrics, so if we’re embracing awkward incestousness, it’s cool with us.