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Interview: Los Campesinos!

By ; November 7, 2011 at 1:45 PM 

Rob Hakimian caught up with one of Los Campesinos! newest members, Rob, to talk about his joining the band, recording new album Hello Sadness and what goes into creating a nice record sleeve.

One Thirty BPM (Rob Hakimian): First of all, tell me how you came to be in Los Campesinos!

Los Campesinos! (Rob Campesinos!): Well, I do a solo project called Sparky Deathcap and I’ve been doing that for a few years. I ended up supporting Los Campesinos! at a gig, actually a couple of times… we did a few dates on a short tour. I knew a few of them before, we were friends, and I just gradually became close with the rest of the band. It was around the time that Alex was leaving and Kim was coming in, and without Alex there were still a few extra parts on the album [Romance Is Boring] that they thought they needed somebody to play. I was supporting them on a short UK tour, so I ended up coming along as the opening act and I also played percussion and keyboard for them. It ended up just staying that way, it was a good arrangement for everybody. Yeah it was really good, that was maybe two years ago now I suppose… -chuckles- ah, it’s funny…

Did you ever think making music could take you to as many places as being in Los Campesinos! has done?

It was kind of a culture shock for me because with my music I never had an awful lot of success in terms of attention. But it’s something that’s always really exciting, I still haven’t quite figured it out. There’s so few bands that get to do what we do, the chance to do it as a full time job.

You recorded the new album [Hello Sadness] in Barcelona; how did that happen and what was it like?

Well it was a bit of a funny story. Basically we were planning to do it for ages in Cardiff, we were trying to hire the studio that the Manic Street Preachers own, they use it themselves but they rent it out as well. That’s a good studio but in the end they needed to record in it themselves, so we couldn’t actually hire it for the period we needed to. So we looked at studios elsewhere and it became kind of difficult; we were an eight-piece band looking for a studio with accommodation, but it actually worked out cheaper to go to Spain. So we were all really excited about the chance to record abroad and it’s an incredible location, like a really peaceful area with a lot of countryside. It was just great; I think it made the recording of the album an awful lot easier because we were away from any other distractions. Yeah, it was a really ideal location, really.

Were the songs written before you went to Barcelona or did you write while you were there?

The music was all written and rehearsed before we went out there – I mean we still wrote some parts to things while we were out there, kind of tweaked things and experimented with stuff. The only thing was Gareth’s lyrics, he ended up writing a lot of them out there, which is kind of part of the way he works. Anyway I think he was also inspired by… he had a break up before he went away, so that kind of spurred him into a creative mode. He wrote the lion’s share of his stuff out there. We didn’t have that much time, we had like a month, but it’s not really a long time when you’re thinking of an eight-piece band trying to get all their takes down. In the end we got everything done, but it’s good we were prepared beforehand… –laughs- there weren’t enough hours in the day.

Didn’t you have a swimming pool where you were recording?

Yeah we did!

That must have been awesome.

It was a little bit cold actually. The weather was great but the pool hadn’t really warmed up by that point. But that was pretty nice, yeah.

Did anybody document the recording on film for any possible future videos?

Yeah we’ve got a documentary coming out with the album for anyone who pre-ordered it. You get a little DVD of the making of the album, so that’s pretty cool. It’s interesting, I’ve just been watching it recently and since it’s been quite a while since the actual recording it’s been nice to revisit the memories.

Do you think you’ll go abroad again next time you record?

Oh, definitely! I’d love to… I think we’d all love to do it. The other Los Campesinos! albums were recorded abroad in the US so it seems to be something that really works. I think it’s nice to alter your surroundings, it’s nice to have a break from your normal surroundings. It can be quite a stressful time as well so I think it’s best to get away.

How come you decided to only go for 10 songs this time, in comparison to Romance Is Boring’s 15?

That was definitely a conscious idea – I think there was a widespread feeling… Well I think the nature of Romance Is Boring really speaks to the length of the album. I think also, I know there was a feeling that we had that we wanted to make a compact record that was going to be easily digestible. I think there was a sense of Romance Is Boring as being… um… sort of difficult… -laughs- I think there was a sort of bloody-mindedness to it which I think… kind of having done that already we wanted to get away from it and do something that was a little bit more stripped down. We did actually cut a few tracks, the original record was probably about 13 or 14 tracks so we whittled it down a little bit. There are some really interesting off-cuts that will come out eventually. There are several different avenues we could take, I think some of them will definitely come out with [band-made fanzine] Heat Rash. In fact, we have songs that we didn’t record yet as well so hopefully they’ll come out, too.

How involved have you been getting with Heat Rash? I see you’ve got a Dr. Robert column…

That column’s sort of a joke, but I think it will come out. I do all of the artwork for Heat Rash, I design it and I do the front cover and the layout. Part of the reason why the newest issue hasn’t come out when it was supposed to is because I’ve been designing the album artwork as well, the packaging and stuff. I ended up not quite having enough time to get through all the stuff with Heat Rash as well. It’s been an awful lot of work but it’s really fun, it’s really rewarding.

So what can we expect from the packaging? I notice Gareth has put up handwritten lyrics for the two songs released thus far…

Yeah, there’ll be handwritten lyrics in the liner notes. It should be a really nice package. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to get it right, working with different people trying to find the best format for it. It should be really nice, hopefully it’ll be this really nice object that we’ll cherish.

It seems to me Los Campesinos! have the kinds of fans who embrace this kind of attention to the packaging.

Yeah I think you’re right. It’s really great the number of pre-orders we’ve had. That’s been really overwhelming. You always think that so many people will illegally download it and won’t even see the packaging or the artwork, and it’s kind of weird that… I really love the idea of records, the same way that books have a physical presence… I think it’s a real shame that that’s dying out. I think our fans are really responsive to interesting media. They’re kind of similar to us in that way; everyone in the band loves collecting things, we all have big record collections and we appreciate the packaging, and I think it’s good that we’re the same with our own records.

I think you guys have also been smart by pushing the pre-order and offering lots of different packages. I think that’s a way forward for people who still want to sell physical products.

Yeah, it’s a tough climate for sure. You have the problems with the record industry and then you have the wider problems with the economy being the state that it is. It’s great that we can sell pre-orders, it’s just nice to have anybody ordering it at all! It’s kind of funny… it’s kind of a brave new world sort of. No one knows what really sells, you have all this stuff being reissued… it’s a funny old time. I think it’s important to value the fans, put the fans first, that’s the most important thing.

Are you looking forward to going out on tour? And have you decided which songs you’re going to play?

Yeah I’m really looking forward to going out on tour. We’ve got a really busy schedule in November. We’ve just rehearsed what we’re going to play off the new album. It’s really interesting figuring stuff out, figuring out all the little parts. We’re going to play a lot off the new album.

Is there any specific song that you think will be particularly amazing live?

We’ve played “By Your Hand” a few times and that’s come across really well, but we’re revising that a little bit. The closer, “Light Leaves, Dark Sees [Part 2]” is sounding really good, we’re working with that, that should be amazing.

I think “Songs About Your Girlfriend” sounds like it will be amazing live.

Yeah! That should be. It sounds good when we’ve been rehearsing. We’ll definitely be playing that one.

Do you have plans to come to America?

Sure, we’ve got a few dates on the East Coast and we hope to be touring more over there in the new year, which is exciting.

——-

Hello Sadness comes out in North America through Arts & Crafts records on November 15th.


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