With their first EP, “Sticking Fingers Into Sockets,” Los Campesinos! announces their presence with the power of the exclamation mark that ends their name. It’s impossible to listen to this Cardiff, Wales, band’s CD without dancing. The band has even gone as far as to change all their last names to Campesinos!
“It was a joke at the beginning that we’d all change our last names if we reached a certain important milestone, which at the time was comically impossible,” says violinist Harriet Campesinos! “We are now regretting our decision! Not really. I guess (we added the last names) because being in a band is quite like being in a family.”
This makeshift family is made up of a group of former Cardiff University students. “Neil (guitar) wanted to start a band and met Tom (lead guitar) at a gig when one of them overheard the other talking about The Decemberists,” Harriet explains. “They recruited Ollie (drums) and Ellen (bass). Ellen knew her friend Aleks (vocals) had a good voice so she invited her along to practice, and Neil knew I could play the violin. The recruiting stopped with Neil’s housemate Gareth (vocals, glockenspiel), who heard the very early stuff and thought he could be singer and lyricist.”
The number of people also meant they could split the cost of a performance space seven ways. The band recently all graduated and hope that they can devote most of their time to being a band. “Hopefully, we’ll play and improve along the way, and carry on making stuff that we like,” says Harriet. “Then one horrible day we’ll have to get real jobs.”
Los Campesinos! steadfastly refuses to relegate their brand of joyous pop into any specific category. “Calling ourselves a pop band allows for endless experimentation, whilst still acknowledging a love of a good tune,” says Harriet. “The idea of being an indie band in the post-Libertines sense didn’t really interest us.”
Lyrically, you could call them “underdog pop,” because their songs are about regular people, whether they’re resisting the wrath of cool, as in “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives!” or just overcoming shyness in “You! Me! Dancing!” — an ode to a shy person who can’t dance, but gives it a go anyway.
“I think that probably sums up how all of us in the band feel at discos, and just generally in life ... the great dance of life!” exclaims Harriet. “It’s so funny how that song is like six and a half minutes long, but it’s also ridiculously poppy and pretty.”
One of the band’s primary influences is Pavement, and they do homage on the EP with a completely upbeat, poppy cover of the song “Frontwards.” Broken Social Scene is another Los Campesinos! favorite, and they were shocked when they got an invitation to open for the band. BSS producer David Newfeld proved to be a key contact. He produced “Sticking Fingers Into Sockets” and plans to produce the band’s first full-length album.
“We’re trying to challenge ourselves,” Harriet says of the upcoming album. “Some of the songs are a bit more ambitious in various ways, both for short sweet pop songs, and longer, less formally structured stuff. We also bought a Korg, which we’ve wanted for ages.”
But before they get into the studio, there’s a little matter of their first North American tour. The band, who played their first big festival at Glastonbury, will also play Lollapalooza in Chicago before making their way across the States.
“At Glastonbury we played at the new Park Stage, which is apparently trying to recreate how the festival was in its early years,” Harriet explains. “It was small and friendly, which kept fear and intimidation at bay, so we actually enjoyed playing. It lived up to all my expectations. We still can’t believe we’re playing in the States. I can’t wait to go. I’ve never been before. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see lots of bands.”
For more information on Los Campesinos! visit: .
Editor’s note: This will be the last Independent Study column, but check back in late August when contributor Paul Olund will give you his top indie music picks of the month.