Tom Campesinos talks with Kevin Drew

So when Clash hooked Tom up on a phone call with a hungover Kevin Drew from his favourite band, we had a listen in to hear them talk about festivals, recording albums, a bit of life coaching and, erm, smack.

Tom Campesinos!, songwriter and guitarist of Cardiff’s indie-rockers Los Campesinos! has always cited Canadian super group BrokenSocial Scene as one of his big time influences and heroes. On only their seventh gig, the UK band supported them and they have been friends ever since.

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Kevin: TOMMMOOOOOOOOOOO! I haven’t spoken to you in, like, forever!

Tom: Where are you?

Kevin: I’m in LA at the moment. We just played a gig here and I stayed behind to catch this Radiohead show at the Hollywood Bowl, and now this is the only time off I’ve got for the next two months, so I’m enjoying it.

Tom: I’ve just had five days off after all the festivals, then we’re rehearsing and then heading off to Japan to try out some new songs on them. We’re finishing mastering the new record as well.

Kevin: Why are you playing the festivals? Are they working you to the bone, destroying your spirit, putting you in bullshit festivals like Reading and Leeds? Tell me they’re not gonna do that to you Tom.

Tom: They’ve already done it I’m afraid…

Kevin: NOOOO!

Tom: It was fine though. I think Reading and Leeds I would find really tough to go to as a punter, but playing there we had a really good crowd and it was cool. We’ve also played some out in Japan and they’ve been amazing, it’s so cool to go out there. It’s another world out. What have you done – aren’t you touring the BSC presents…Brendan Canning album?

Kevin: Not really, we do a little mix – we throw it all in. At the festivals we only have an hour or so, depending on the set time. We try and do a mix of all our stuff. If we went out and just played Canning’s album it wouldn’t be fair on us or the record, or the audience.

Kevin: How did we meet? I think we should let people know how we met.

Tom: It was quite a bonding experience. I was pretty drunk, so I’m guessing that you were too.

Kevin: That would be a safe assumption.

Tom: We were supporting you in Cardiff. And I don’t think you had a very good time.

Kevin: Yeah, that was it. Our bus got robbed.

Tom: There was a beautiful moment at the end where I was playing Broken Social Scene songs on my guitar and you heard and came over and showed me how to play them better.

Kevin: Then we went up the stairs and spent the night playing Pavement songs. I fell in love with you guys then. And then there was this guy who kept trying to get us to leave.

Tom: Yeah [LC! guitarist] Neil’s got a good video of you letting loose – letting all your demons out on that poor guy.

Kevin: Poor guy!? He was rude!

Tom: Yeah, I guess he had the nerve to break up a Pavement jam.

Kevin: Security people have tried to take a lot of things away from me. Fortunately I know that my death will be by security guard. I already know that. So tell me, are you happy?

Tom: Yeah – I’m kinda pleased about how things are going!

Kevin: How old are you now Tom?

Tom: I’m twenty-three. What about you?

Kevin: I’m thirty-two. When I was twenty-three I wasn’t going to play in Japan or rocking out at Reading and Leeds. I was trying to get the vulnerability of maturity in place!

Tom: Yeah I’m pretty aware of how crazy our situation is. It feels really weird.

Kevin: Yours is a joyous band – people have gotta hear it. I’ve heard you on the radio here a few times. There’s a lot of love.

Tom: It’s been really strange in the US. We’ve only done on proper tour, but the response we’ve been getting and the fact people are turning up to our shows is a really strange experience, but we’re aware of how lucky we are and we’re trying to make the most of it. We haven’t turned into disillusioned musicians just yet.

Kevin: Don’t do it. Just go and look at any band that has any credibility from the last six years. Look at the ones who take themselves seriously, and look at the ones who haven’t and see who’s making the better music. People take it too seriously and start ranking themselves with all these other bands and songwriters. It’s a horrible thing to watch. Their music suffers. I’m not gonna mention any names but those bands should know who they are. They had it, their first album came straight out of the gate – everybody loved it. Then they just over think themselves to death and they just can’t get themselves out of their over thinking music.

Tom: Well I don’t think we’re quite at that stage yet!

Kevin: No you can’t be! You’re only twenty-three, you’ve gotta go scrape your knees a bit more. You should be out kissing still! The worse thing that could happen is if Los Campesinos! put out a record about how they missed home. I’d slam my head against the wall if you did. You pumped this one out so fast; it must mean that you’re enjoying yourselves.

Tom: Yeah we’re really pleased. I’ve had more sleepless nights about this than the other record so I’m hoping that this means it’s a better one. We’re happy with it, but we’re not really sure what it is either. We went into the studio to record an EP and we came out with ten tracks. It’s not really an album officially, but it’s not an EP, so we’re just calling it a record. We’re already thinking about the next album now.

Kevin: You wanna come hang out with Broken Social Scene so we can take some blood from you to use for that motivation! We’ve been talking about doing the new album but we’re like ‘just after this trip to Florida – let’s just go to Miami.’ I think everybody’s into living life right now. Although Andrew [Whiteman from BSS] just did the same – he went into the studio to make an EP and came out with a record. I think it’s his best actually. As soon as I put it on I had to listen to it three times in a row. The coolest sign that a record is good is when you don’t think of the person who made it at all when you listen to it. The band that truly did that for me was Do Make Say Think. I know them all but when I listen to their music, I don’t think about them. That’s the greatest achievement, when your fans are listening to your record and suddenly you don’t think of anything but the music. I absolutely killed your record this Spring, I listened to it so much and I had this great idea for doing a video to… FUCK! I forget we’re having this interview! Remind me to talk to you about this idea I had for one of your songs… Let’s talk about your health. How are you guys? Are you eating okay out on the road? Is anybody drinking more? That’s what you’ve got to watch out for – the booze.

Tom: I’m drinking less, weirdly. I’m not living up to any rock star clichés. I feel I should be drinking more and doing more drugs. If anything it’s gone the other way.

Kevin: That’s perfect! Now you can release a Los Campesinos! yoga album…

Tom: Haha! That doesn’t mean anyone else in the band’s drinking less. Everyone else in the band has smack habits. They’re all in this big, disgusting circle of needles and filth.

Kevin: You little bastard! Rule number one with smack – you don’t out your friends until they OD. Didn’t you get the pamphlet? There’s a pamphlet. The Smack Pamphlet.

Tom: I think our heads are pretty well screwed on. We’re a long way away from that kind of scene.

Kevin: We’re a booze band. People ask us if we’re into the drugs scene, but we’re a booze band. We drink, get up on stage, play live and sleep with each other, that’s how we roll. All that drugs do is destroy empires.

Tom: Exactly! So when are you guys going to record your next album then?

Kevin: We’re actually going to the studio in Joshua Tree, just outside of L.A. We’ve not quite got the point where we know exactly what we’re going to do. I think we want to do this as a big group made record - I’m not sure. There will be another record though. Tell me, what made you guys want to record your first album with David Newfield? Was it because he produces Broken Social Scene?

Tom: Yeah, basically. Your stuff just sounds incredible – it sounds like nothing else. I guess superficially we thought that there are quite a few people in the band and we needed someone who could handle that. When someone asked who we wanted to produce our album, his was the first name we suggested. We kind of just said it candidly, because we didn’t think we’d ever get the chance to work with him, and I’m so glad that we did. He doesn’t do anything like anybody else.

Kevin: No he doesn’t. He doesn’t even live his life like anybody else, let alone producing stuff. He’d play around with our stuff and you’d be like ‘what the fuck are you doing to the songs?’ Then he would play it once, pretend to change something and play it again. You’d think it sounded better and then you realised he hadn’t changed anything.

Tom: We got some mixes from him, but because his studio wasn’t finished properly and his speakers didn’t work, we had to get a guy called John Goodmanson to mix it. It turned out pretty good. David put enough of an imprint on that album with all of his ideas. His string arrangements were just insane and some of the guitar sounds we’d never heard before.

Kevin: There’s a little insanity that works within how he sits in that room and comes up with things. Sometimes with some Broken Social Scene stuff you’ll listen to it and go ‘What the fuck is going ON?’ I really wish people would give him records to remix. I think that would be amazing for him.

Tom: He listens to music in a completely different way to everybody else, and sees music in a completely different way as well. Everything he comes up with is completely unique, and it was great to be a part of that.

Kevin: I think every band needs to be schooled by David Newfield… Woah, we’re nearly done here. Listen, never not call me Tom, are all the inter-band relationships ok?

Tom: Everything’s good at the moment. Everything’s dandy. Except the smack habits.

Kevin: Just remember, watch out for people who start taking those pills really seriously - they ruin their music and ruin their band. They think the people are screaming for them and not for the music.

Tom: Well, I’ll keep an eye out!

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Words by Josh Jones
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