- Thu, 2008-02-28 13:20
Los Campesinos! have just released their debut album, Hold On Now Youngster, on Wichita Recordings, packed with euphoric, frenetic, inventive indie-pop.
I Like Music caught up with bass guitarist and vocalist, Ellen, from the band to talk about the new album, sexy pedals and bumping into Louis Walsh at their Dublin gig.
''I Like Music because.... it’s the best form of escapism that you can have wherever you are. You could be completely miserable or waiting for a bus and put on any song that inspires you and you can escape into a little world, well that’s what I tend to do anyway.” Ellen, Los Campesinos!
ILM: The new single Death To Los Campesinos! was released on 18th February 2008. Please describe the track and its whole vibe?
Ellen: The song is quite an upbeat pop song which we recorded with some mandolin. It’s actually one of the first songs we ever wrote, about two years ago now. So it has quite a lot of sentimental value to us.
ILM: Los Campesinos debut album Hold On Now, Youngster is out now, released February 25th, which track did you have the most fun laying down in the studio?
Ellen: Probably the one with the extra long title, ‘This Is How You Spell Ha Ha Ha We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux Romantics’, because when we first did the demo for it, it seemed like such a different song from things we’d done before, like a progression for us from the older tracks, so it was really interesting how it all turned out.
It was really fun to record, for me mainly because I got to use an exciting bass extortion pedal which sounds pretty sexy and also because the Korg has a central line in it which he hadn’t done before. So just in terms in how I feel we’ve progressed as a band since we started, it was kind of an evolved song for us, so that was really fun to record.
ILM: You’re currently in the middle of your tour - how has that been? Highlights so far?
Ellen: One of the standout moments was playing in Dublin because we’ve been there before and the crowd response there was absolutely amazing. And because of the leaking of the album it was quite funny when you see people knowing the words and you’re like, ‘yes you’ve illegally downloaded yourself a copy haven’t you, not that we really care about that too much; because if we did we wouldn’t be doing this for the right reasons but that was really good.
I’m in Glasgow at the moment. We did a TV show which was our first live TV performance, which was really bizarre because we met Louis Walsh and had a chat with him about Girls Aloud and he sang our song Death To Los Campesinos back to us after watching it, saying ‘it’s so catchy’ that was really surreal and I tried to get some X Factor gossip but he was rather tight-lipped about it. He told me I wouldn’t get through to the second round of X Factor unless I took my piercings out.
ILM: Please can you describe the Los Campesino's music making process? Lyrics first then melody or vice versa or just random?
Ellen: Gareth has got a little lyric book so he just writes down when ever he feels inspired, but it tends to be…… Tom is the main music writer as the lead guitarist, so he’ll just start making music and give us some demos of his ideas and then we’ll take it into a practice room and fiddle about with the structure and make a few changes and then Gareth will start working out a melody for the lyrics and put the lyrics on top of it. So it’s kind of got a structure but it’s not like a perfect fit.
ILM: You guys use mandolin, violin and glockenspiel and all sorts of instruments on the album. What’s your fave instrument that you play or someone else plays and why?
Ellen: I think the violin is so incredibly beautiful to listen to. Harriet is the only classically trained musician out of all of us and she’s so talented. I stand on the other side of the stage to her, so I don’t get to hear as much as I’d like but when there are really good monitors I’ll be getting distracted because it sounds so beautiful.
There’s a track on the album called My Year In Lists, she recorded so many violin parts for, like a string section. And now she’s got this pedal which makes her violin sound like a cello, so down an octave, which sounds pretty gorgeous. So that is definitely my favourite instrument.
ILM: What’s been the highlight of 2007 and 2008 so far?
Ellen: Playing Japan was a definite highlight because the crowd response there was absolutely amazing. I think it was the biggest crowd we’ve every played to, having 3000 people all dancing and jumping around to your music, was possibly one of the best moments of my life.
We did a gig in Barcelona that was incredibly fun, at this big venue called Social Razmatazz which had indie nights. We flew out there left the next day, so it was just ridiculously amazing to just fly to Barcelona, do a gig, get an amazing meal, then fly back the next day and go to uni, it makes you feel incredibly humbled and you realise how lucky you are to be doing what you’re doing.
ILM: You’ve followed your dreams. What advice would you give to young people on following their dreams to get the career they want for themselves?
Ellen: I feel like what we’re doing is such a fluke. But what I’ve found very productive is working out what you’re not good at and then narrowing it down to something you really like. That’s what I did. I did an art course and I did my degree and then thought, ‘nah, this is not what I want to do,’ then in the midst of it you find something you absolutely love doing and decide to follow that. So do things for the right reason and have determination, although I feel I can’t really tell people that or give advice on that.
ILM: If you weren’t a musician, what would your second career choice have been/what would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?
Ellen: It’s really pretentious. I really want to be a writer one day. I really enjoy creative writing and I did an evening class in script writing and I basically spend as much time as possible watching as many films as possible when we have time off. I’d loved to do incredibly rubbish script writing for films. That’s what I’d like to do. I’d probably fail at it, but I’d put the effort in.
Los Campesinos! are:
Neil - guitar, vocals
Ellen - bass, vocals
Ollie - drums, vocals
Tom - guitar, vocals
Gareth - guitar, clapping, glockenspiel, vocals
Harriet - violin, keyboards, vocals
Aleks - keyboards, clapping, melody horn, vocals