Breaking Out: Los Campesinos!
Excitable Welsh indie-poppers get used to growing up -- but not the glockenspiel.
On his first day at the University of Cardiff, in 2005, Gareth Campesinos met someone who seemed weirdly familiar. “I went into the room of a stranger living in my dorm,” says the Los Campesinos! singer-lyricist, “and I see this guy unrolling a Sonic Youth poster. Then I realized I was wearing a Sonic Youth T-shirt. I thought, ‘I’ve gone away to school and met myself!’ “
He wasn’t far off — his doppelgänger was eventual Campesinos! guitarist Neil Campesinos (all seven band members share a surname). Inspired, says Gareth, by the belief they “could be less boring than the other bands at school,” the fast friends recruited schoolmates Ellen (bass), Harriet (violin, keyboard), Ollie (drums), Tom (guitar), and since-departed trumpeter Aleksandra (recently replaced by Kim), and then set about developing their surging, ramshackle tweemo sound, showcased on early singles like the joyously desperate “You! Me! Dancing!” from 2008’s careening debut Hold on Now, Youngster… “We’re easy to figure out,” says the self-deprecating Gareth. “We’re like a hyperactive Pavement, if they used more instruments and sang exclusively about past girlfriends.”
Easy to suss or not, Los Campesinos! Have caught on. A second album, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, released five months after the first, brought with it dates at Lollapalooza and Coachella. In the U.K., the septet headlined a tour that included L.A. noise-punk heroes No Age. This year’s U.S. dates will see the band attempting to contain their manic live show within the confines of 1,500- to 2,000-capacity venues. “We keep playing bigger places,” says Gareth. “It’s amazing. There have been times I’ve been backstage and seen, like, Pete Wentz, which completely blew my mind. I keep expecting it to all end.”
Romance Is Boring (Arts&Crafts), released in January, should extend the dream awhile longer, as tracks such as the moody “In Medias Res” show the group capable of being affecting even when they’re not exploding. “The first two albums were about college and postcollege life,” explains Gareth. “The new one is about being an adult. We’re growing up.” But the lovelorn frontman still has issues. “I’m stuck on the glockenspiel when I’m not singing,” he sighs. “No one ever got laid from playing the glockenspiel.”
WATCH: Los Campesinos! “Romance Is Boring”