Q&A: Gareth Campesinos Talks About Life on the Road and Creative Giveaway Ideas
The members of Los Campesinos, a spastic indie-punk band from Wales, are in the middle of their final US tour of the year. With two full-length records and a handful of EPs under their belts, this fun eight-piece band is quickly gaining fans all over the world.
The band is at the halfway mark of the US leg of the tour, and will be performing at Granada Theater tomorrow night along with Johnny Foreigner and Gentle Ghost. Gareth Campesinos, lead singer and glockenspiel player for Los Campesinos, was nice enough to take some time out of a hectic tour schedule to talk with DC9.
Gareth talked mostly about life on the road, and discussed his creative ideas to encourage audience participation, which includes an iPod shuffle that they'll give away to a lucky fan at the end of the tour. He also shed light on the direction of Los Campesinos' new material, which he expects will be different as each member has improved on his or her instrument.
Read the full interview after the jump.
Is it difficult to tour with eight rambunctious people in the band?
We're surprisingly placid off stage. We're all incredibly lazy, and everytime we work with new people, they're always amazed by how polite and how reserved we actually are. We're not exactly a rock 'n' roll cliché. After touring with eight of us, we've only ever known what it's like to tour as a big band. We've never been like a three-piece of four-piece, so we're used to having everyone around. It's quite tight at the moment. We're on a sleeper bus with 12 of us on a 12-bed bus, and we've not got a trailer, so there's very little room for--you know there's just luggage strewn everywhere, and it's a bit of a mess. We're getting through it. It's still relatively luxurious.
How are the fans in the States different from the ones you run across in the UK?
I was just thinking about that earlier, actually. U.S. fans are a lot more polite, and dare I say a little bit more appreciative towards our music. There's an element when we play in the States, that we've come from the other side of the world and we're more exotic, and people think that they've got less chance to see us. We play in the States as much as we play in the U.K.--we're very lucky in that respect. But, in the U.K., there's a little bit of, 'Oh, these guys only live a few hundred miles away, and it's a piece of cake to see them,' whereas in the U.S., there's more of a sense of excitement. So far on the tour, we've played a few sold out shows in Brooklyn to a sort of really hyperactive young audience. And, last night, we played in Baltimore to a lot less people, but they were really appreciative and just incredibly polite and paid a lot of attention to our performance. The fans are generally nicer in the States than in the U.K.
Seems like in the UK, you guys are more of a punk band, but in the U.S., you guys appeal to more of an indie-rock crowd. What's your take on it?
I don't really know. I find it quite hard to detach myself from the band and look at it from an outside way like that. But the thing that's apparent wherever we play is that we seem to attract people from both ends of the age spectrum. We have a lot of kids, and we like to play as many all ages shows as possible--there's only a couple on this tour that's not all ages. And it's really amazing playing to a kids who have come to their first concert and just sort of let loose and it's a new experience for them. But, equally ,we meet a lot of older guys who are into a lot of the bands that influenced us the first time around. We like to have that diversity in the audience.
A few years ago, you toured the States and had The Record Box Project in which you would purchase several seven-inch singles from a local record store and give them away to a lucky fan in the subsequent city. Will you guys we doing that on this tour?
It was ultimately a very expensive thing to do. (Laughs.) It was a lot of fun, but it's not something we could afford to do every time. On a smaller note, this time around, before we came away on tour, I bought an iPod shuffle, which, when we play a show, we try to control the music that's played between bands because you turn up at venues and the in-house sound guy will just play whatever he wants to play, and it's just completely innapproapriate for bands and the audience isn't going to enjoy the music. So I see it as an opportunity to enforce our musical taste upon the audience. So I bought this iPod and I put a load of songs on it as a playlist for between the bands and before the show, and everytime somebody buys any merch from us, they get a raffle ticket, and, at the end of the tour, somebody wins the iPod. I like doing things like that to encourage some sort of participation from the audience, and this was a cheaper way of doing it.
I read an interview with Tom Campesinos in which he talked about traveling through Marfa, Texas....
Really, right. We did have a really incredible couple of days there. It was seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It was hardly polluted and the sky and the stars were really insane. We stayed in this really cute sort of boutiquey motel with a pool, and it was just a completely idyllic couple of days.
Any other more recent favorite tour memories?
Because you're so rarely in a place long enough to see anything or appreciate anything, some of the best times are the long drives, like when we're doing just the east coast to the west coast drive, and you just have a couple of days where all you see is just the expanse of the freeway. It seems pretty lawless and you don't see any buildings or plumes of smoke for miles and miles.
What do you do to keep that part of the tour fun?
To be honest, it's just nice to have that time when there's nothing to do, because so rarely on tour do you get to sit still. When we're in a city, it's for such a short time and it seems a waste to just sit and sit and do nothing, and you want to do as much as possible in that little time, so it's really nice to just sit and stare at the window and take in what you're seeing. Even if it's just time to read or write to someone or just sit and listen to music, the monotony of that is nice.
How is the new music that you're writing different without Ollie, your original drummer, in the band any longer?
Myself and Tom wrote all the music, so in that respect, Ollie didn't contribute to writing songs or anything, so in that way it won't change anything. Obviously, with a new drummer and a different style and expertise, I think it means for us that we'll be able to try things differently and push ourselves a little more still. So I think that any changes that occur will be changes that would have happening anyway.
You're obviously at the highest point in your career. The shows are getting bigger and more fans are turning up. What does the future look like for Los Campesinos?
Pretty much, if we're not touring, then we plan to be recording. If you're in a band and you're not playing shows and you're not recording, then I don't know what you're doing. (Laughs). This North American stretch is our last proper run of the year. Once we get from this, we'll sit down and think about making another record. We're really fortunate that the labels and the people that we work with are really agreeable to us doing whatever we want. So as soon as we make a new record, they'll support us in that, which won't be too far away, I'm sure.
How will this new record sound?
I have no idea, really. I like to leave writing lyrics to the last possible moment, so I probably won't know for a long time what it's going to be like lyrically. We're all improving as musicians and our songwriting ability is becoming better and we're capable of more complex things now, so I think it will continue to challenge us a musicians and it will become more and more detailed and more expansive sonically.
Los Campesinos performs tomorrow night at the Granada Theater
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