Q & A: Los Campesinos! Bassist/Vocalist Ellen Campesinos!

Conducted 4/28/10
Excerpted from a longer interview

Los Campesinos!

Twee indie pop group Los Campesinos! re-routed their U.S. April-May tour due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, but the band salvaged its Chicago stop April 30 at the Metro. The band with a penchant for the glockenspiel, exclamation points and musical handclaps formed in 2006 at Cardiff University in Wales and has since devoured the globe with its peppy optimism and enthusiastic live shows. The Dunce Cap spoke with bassist/vocalist Ellen Campesinos!, en route to Covington, Ky., about the band’s British layover and the beauty of growing old.

How was your stay in Britain?

Depressing. I thought that if we unpacked, we’d definitely get here. I was kind of hoping irony would enable us to fly. It was sad because we didn’t know if we were actually going to make it over here.

How is Chicago?

We’ve done Lollapalooza twice, which has been really, really good, and the architecture is amazing. I’ve got an aunt who lives there, and a cousin, and every time I go I get to catch up with my aunt and uncle and get taken out to dinner. It was the first place we ever played in America when we played Lollapalooza, so it’s a really important place for us in terms of the band’s mythology.

How do the crowds differ from the UK and America?

Crowds in America are definitely a lot better. They’re a lot more excited and responsive. It seems like people are really grateful for you being there. People are just really friendly.

How did Los Campesinos! begin?

We used to meet up once a week to have jam sessions or just kind of fuck around. It was completely accidental. None of us were like “Yeah! We’re making a band.” It was an amazing chance event. It wasn’t planned at all.

How do you think the band has changed over the last four years?

We’ve all gotten older, a little dreary looking, can’t take our alcohol as much. Our memory is going – we can barely remember where we play. We’re less naïve. It’s still excitable –  we’re still kicking ourselves thinking how this happened. We’re still waiting for that moment where someone will go “It was all an elaborate joke!” Same as anything, really. You just kind of grow up. We’re all definitely better musicians – that’s nice.

How are older tracks (like “You! Me! Dancing!” from 2007’s “Sticking Fingers into Sockets” EP) different from more recent tracks (like “The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future,” from this year’s “Romance is Boring”)?

(“You! Me! Dancing!”) is kind of an albatross for us in some ways. It’s the song most people know, but at the same time, it’s the song that got us kind of well known. They’re vastly different in terms of their themes and experiences, but at the same time, they both get really good but very different reactions.


Los Campesinos!, “You! Me! Dancing!”

How is the band dynamic?

(We’re) lucky to have so many different personalities. It means that there is someone who brings something to all aspects of band existence, whether it be the more organized Campesinos! or the being-better-at-bear-hugs Campesinos! There is something for everyone.

Is it more of a Partridge Family communion or a Ramones melee?

I guess it’s a mixture of Ramones and Partridge because we like to have a little dance on stage and maybe have a drink, but we are also rather homely and dull and fond of early nights too.

What characteristics best exemplify a Campesinos!?

I would say the ability to not take yourself too seriously, have a kind of “go with the flow attitude” and to enjoy being silly as often as possible.

alternate version available at the weekly, a supplement of the daily northwestern thursday.
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