Los Campesinos! Get Fourth Right

Published November 18, 2011

 

ABOVE: LOS CAMPESINOS!. PHOTO COURTESY OF JON BERGMAN

Los Campesinos! are known for raw, powerful tracks, and the band’s fourth full-length release, Hello Sadness, is no different: as the title suggests, it’s an album steeped in melancholy and enticement. While the band’s members came together during different times, they all call Cardiff, Wales home. The seven-piece indie-pop group currently consists of Rob, Ellen, Neil, Gareth, Kim, Tom and Jason (former members include Ollie, Harriet and Aleksandra), all of whom use “Campesinos!” as their surnom de plume. The majority of the band met at Cardiff University, with additions like Rob and Kim coming in later on.

Hello Sadness is something of a breakup story in real time. It’s all about juxtaposition: the music, though capturing images of death and gloom, has a lighter side as well. We caught up with Rob Campesinos before their performance at Music Hall of Williamsburg where we chatted about the art behind breakups, the hardships of creating an album title, and having the best job ever.

ILANA KAPLAN: How is Hello Sadness different from your previous albums?

ROB CAMPESINOS!: It’s probably a progression, more than anything. It’s not violently different from anything else we’ve done. I think it’s maybe a case of refining and focusing. It’s probably a more focused record than we’ve done before. We had more time and preparation for it. We possibly made it a little more stripped down in some ways and measured in some ways, than perhaps some of the other stuff.

KAPLAN: What was the inspiration behind the album?

CAMPESINOS!: Tom is the principal songwriter. He wrote a series of demos in the two years preceding it. The way we work, Gareth, who is the lyricist, was coming up with ideas. We were pushing the recording date further and further. Gareth had a breakup just before we went away to Spain to record the album. He had written a few bits and pieces, but nothing had really come to him. When we went to Spain, it gave him a sudden spark of creative energy, and he was able to sort of just vomit out these lyrics. That makes it quite raw, but, principally, the overwhelming theme is the breakup he had. It’s quite an interesting document, in a sense, because it’s not the thoughtful aftermath. It’s not like the breakup was a year before. It’s happening live almost throughout the record, as the record progresses. It’s coming to terms with it while the record progresses. It’s kind of interesting.

KAPLAN: How did Los Campesinos! become your band name?

CAMPESINOS!: Well, it was actually before I joined the band. I think there was no more to it other than the word had a nice, poetic quality. Neil, who plays rhythm guitar, studied Spanish to quite a high level. He came up with the name, of course, meaning: “peasants” or “countrymen.” The name does have serious political connotations, too. People do ask us if there’s any relevance to it.

KAPLAN: So, “By Your Hand” has been playing everywhere lately. Why did you choose to make that a single?

CAMPESINOS!: Well, that one is a weird one, because it turned out differently than the demo. It had a much slower quality, a more morose song. When we were recording it, there was something that was working out really well. When we were listening to it and mastering it, it was probably because that was the first single we were listening to in a year and a half. We thought it would be a good way of returning—it’s quite a triumph of a song. It’s got a foot stomp. We thought it would be a good way of announcing our return. We gave it away as a free download, as well. I really like the idea of doing that. I always like free downloads.

KAPLAN: What are some of the best touring experiences that you’ve had?

CAMPESINOS!: The US tours are always the best ones. I love US tours in particular. We did two last year: two month-long tours. We always get to do them on a tour bus. American tour buses are a lot nicer than European tour buses. I love the idea of waking up in a new city every morning and getting to experience that. We toured with some cool bands. We get to tour with bands like Jonny Foreigner and Skylark. In the last year, we’ve toured with Signals and Cymbals Eat Guitars. We’ve toured with Strange News From Another Star, which is a very fun band. It’s really nice to make friends with people who are on tour. I think the band that we’re doing this little stretch with Headless Horseman, are really good. We’re getting to know them a little bit more. I think they’re doing four dates with us.

KAPLAN: Whom would you like to play with in the future?

CAMPESINOS!: It’s a tough one because you always want someone that ideally, will not completely dominate the bill. [laughs] You also need someone who has his or her own attraction to the fans. We often get to pick. I would really like to tour with Parenthetical Girls and No Age. It would be great to tour with them again. A fantasy tour would be with The Microphones and Stephen Malkmus.

KAPLAN: How did the title Hello Sadness come about?

CAMPESINOS!: Well, originally we had a slightly different title. The words in the title initially were, “Jisman Blues.” We were quite taken with the title, “A Body.” Then we decided that it wasn’t enough of a statement maybe. We decided to go with something with a definite article in the beginning. We decided that because there was a track already on the album, “Hello Sadness,” that it was a centerpiece to the album. It just sort of made sense.

KAPLAN: Where do you see Los Campesinos! in the next five years?

CAMPESINOS!: Well, hopefully just a steady progression. It’s interesting seeing how the music is going. I think we’re actually growing up a bit. It’s nice that it feels like we’re evolving gradually as a band. It would be really interesting to see where it goes. It’s the best job ever to have. I hope we continue as long as we can. We’re all enjoying it more than ever now.

HELLO SADNESS IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON LOS CAMPESINOS!, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.