Saturday, 23 October 2010

Summer Camp: The Bunk Bed Tape

A couple of weeks back I did an interview feature with Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey, better known as Summer Camp, for (which can be found here: in its abridged, narrated form). But while transcribing it afterwards I realised that 1) I was never in a month of Sundays going to fit everything I wanted to be included, plus my comments, into my wordcount limit and 2) that it seemed a shame and a pity for the full transcript to never see the light of day. I felt there was a wealth of material which couldn't be condensed into a 2-sentence soundbite, so with Elizabeth's permission - for which I'm grateful - we've decided to run the full transcript - unabridged, unedited - here.

Given the near-unanimous praise the EP has garnered so far, does it justify the unorthodox route you've taken so far, especially given the backlash from some corners of the online community, who suggested that your anonymity was little more than a gimmick?

Jeremy: 'I think what needs to be said is that praise we've had, or haven't had, or could have or could not have had, is really irrelevant. Forming the band, which was something of an accident, has been nothing but enjoyable so far, and what the critics make of it is not really top of our list of priorities.'
Elizabeth: 'It doesn't really matter. People are going to like it or not like it whether you've come from a manufactured boyband background or whether you've been raised in solitary confinement for the last 24 years....' (Jeremy: 'Raised by wolves!') '…....You can't start worrying about these things. The way we came about is the way we came about.'
Jeremy : 'It's like if you were adopted and you were ashamed of it, there's nothing you can do about it, don't be ashamed about it'
Elizabeth: 'Because we never thought that anyone would think it had been done on purpose, we don't really feel justified or unjustified in the praise that the EP has or hasn't got'.
Jeremy: 'It was all an accident, unfortunately. Maybe we should start forward planning! That said, it's been nice to get some positive feedback from people at gigs as well as the nice reviews we've had, which is awesome.'

Did you feel that there was a greater pressure on you to remain anonymous or did the space to do what you wanted in the way that you wanted allow you greater freedom?

Elizabeth 'I think it acted in our benefit, yeah, but everything's a double edged sword. If we'd come out and said 'It's Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey' most people wouldn't have cared, but some people would've gone 'that's ridiculous', some people would've written us off because of that, some people would have liked us more because of it. It got to the point in our small world that it became quite a big deal and we were worried what people were going to say. It meant that it gave us the space to come to terms of being in a band, but it also meant that people had really high expectations of who we might be, or some people did, and we were worried about disappointing them. There isn't really a definitive 'Yes! We're glad we did it like that' or 'No, we're annoyed we did it like that.''
Jeremy: 'Starting the band was a happy accident, and in a way it's meaningless talking about having done it another way. If we'd sat down and worked out how to use our talents we'd have, I don't know, probably ended up writing a musical!'
Elizabeth: 'The worst musical in the world!'

Was there a eureka moment as to when you were going to 'go public' or was it more a gradual change in mindset?

Elizabeth: 'We were outed by a magazine. We didn't have a plan of how to announce it. We thought that when we were ready to play gigs people would come and see us and it'd spread through word of mouth. We weren't going to make a big announcement because to be honest, we were scared of what people might think when they knew it was us. So the day we were outed was horrible. We didn't know it was going to happen and suddenly everyone knew. In a way it's ridiculous, we're talking about such a tiny fraction of people.....
Jeremy: 'Hundreds of people, at most.'
Elizabeth:'........who know about us now that didn't then, so in a way it's not a big thing, but at the time it was pretty intense.'

Was there ever any danger, in your opinion, that the backstory could in any way have/has overtaken the music? The Arctic Monkeys' first album couldn't seem to get mentioned anywhere without talk of them being a 'MySpace band' given their route of self-publicity.

Jeremy: 'Yeah, but that didn't really overtake their music; they sold millions of records and have a huge fanbase that love what they do. I would suggest that anyone who called them a MySpace band probably never listened to their record. In any case, I think with us, or in fact with any band, if you don't have an interesting story for the press to write about, they don't tend to write about you very much. Look at Bon Iver, who had that fantastic, mythological story, hibernating in the woods and beavering away on this project while in the crux of a massive depression. There was a great singer-songwriter record that wouldn't have got written about as much without that story behind it, yet deserved to be written about as much. Certainly, we'd like to be asked questions in interviews other than 'you used to be anonymous, what's that about then', but I don't think the people who turn up at our gigs, or indeed some interviews, are concerned about it. It's not really that big a deal. We used to talk about this quite a lot – how with Twitter and blogs people now have so much information at their fingertips about bands. If you look back 20 or 30 years you'd buy a record and scrutinise the credits, just to find out who played what. I think we came out at a time when there were a couple of other bands such as jj who were a bit mysterious and that worked in our favour. But as we always have to say, we're not clever enough to have been able to have orchestrated anything like that. Our names are now out there and no-one's ran away screaming. If this was a blind date we'd be ordering dessert and talking about the next date.'
Elizabeth: 'We wouldn't be on the dessert! We'd be getting drinks and ordering a starter!' Jeremy: 'I was thinking our first album was our first date......'
Elizabeth 'We'd still be talking about our exes and weird fetishes. We've still got a long way to go'

Your music can't seem to be mentioned without talk of 80s nostalgia and John Hughes imagery. Is this pigeon-holing and categorisation something you agree with or is it becoming tiresome?

Elizabeth: 'I'd say it's correct pigeon-holing'
Jeremy: 'I wouldn't really call it pigeon-holing'
Elizabeth: 'It's cited as one of our influences. I mean, looking at the EP, Young, John Hughes and the photos we use are both a big part of what we've been doing with that EP. But the whole thing with being written about as part of a scene or in a particular context of X and Y isn't a bad thing because these are things we're really proud of. I mean if we'd been named 'Best Shagger' or 'Shagger Of The Year' in The Sun and that kept being brought up when we were trying to launch our religious campaign to be the next Pope, then yeah, that would be annoying. But these are things that we really care about and to a degree we don't really mind what people think about them. In a way it's good because they're not directly related to us'
Jeremy: 'I think you'd make a great Pope, Elizabeth.'
Elizabeth: 'Thank you. But basically we're talking about things that we really like. We like those fan photos, and we really love John Hughes films, but we didn't make them, we didn't star in them. We're just talking talking about the things that we love......'
Jeremy: 'There's this weird thing when you're in a band where people keep asking you what films you're into, which is nice......'
Elizabeth: 'I don't think that, I think it's that we talk about those films'
Jeremy: '…..well yeah, but certainly being asked what music you're into always crops up in interviews. Which is cool'

Is it not slightly strange having a portion of your audience celebrating a decade which they weren't even born in, never mind lived through? I was born at the arse end of the decade and have no knowledge of it, and some of your audience will be younger still.

Jeremy: 'I think it's really cool! There are good things in every decade which are worth celebrating'
Elizabeth: 'The thing with John Hughes films, everyone says they're just these 80s films, these 80s teen flicks, and they're not. They're timeless. The thing I love about them isn't the fact that they're set in the 80s, sure I love the fashion of the 80s, but what I love about the fashion of the 80s is this whole post-punk thing where kids in the suburbs were being really adventurous with their clothing and it was a really exciting time of just being experimental and creative and there were so many amazing bands because of that, and so many amazing teen icons. What I love about the John Hughes films is not that they're 80s teen flicks, it's because they're funny and edgy and raw, and they talk about things which are universal, they talk about humanity let alone being a teenager, and they deal with it in this really amazing way. John Hughes was just this incredible man – you know, he wrote The Breakfast Club in two days – and he took this group of actors and created these masterpieces. I was born in the mid-to-late 80s, I wasn't a teenager in the 80s, but I watched those films when I was a teenager and they meant so much to me and I think that they would to any teenager in any decade because they're just brilliant films. I could talk about other films that influence us just as much, but I think with those films and the photos I can see why there's that sort of connection. We're not a band trying to live in the 80s or trying to recreate it, but it's just a really interesting decade for us. But it was a decade where loads of things happened, and we're still feeling the reverberations of it now as a culture'
Jeremy: 'Yeah, definitely'
Elizabeth: 'And it mirrors a lot – politically, economically - and a lot what happened then is happening now, so I think it's more that'.

Given your past professions (Elizabeth as a journalist, Jeremy as a solo artist), and the way that to an extent they're quite solitary roles, did you find it difficult to collaborate and compromise with each other at first? Did it necessitate a change in mindset at all?

Jeremy: 'For me it was exciting finding someone who I was on the same wavelength as and who I really trusted, and who complimented the stuff that I wasn't really very good at, like the lyrics and all the melodies, and all the pictures and stuff. It's nice being in a band who gets it and gets as excited about it as I am. It's great'
Elizabeth: ' I was only writing about music for about 3 months before we started the band so I don't really consider myself a music journalist. I went to drama school so I'm used to working as a team, but I've never found someone who I can collaborate.....that sounds so pretentious....collaborate so effectively as I can with Jeremy but I think there's more the factor that we know each other really well and we get on really well and we're really close. I think it's more that than our previous professions. The fact we trust each other, and trust each other's instincts.'

Depending on who you talk to, the current climate within the industry either makes it one of the worst times to make music, or one of the best due to the way that the internet has brought about a post-punk style DIY culture and ethic. As a new band putting out music, which side of the argument do you agree with, and why?

Elizabeth: 'If you're in the music business to make money, then yeah, you're screwed. If you're in it because you really want to make music and you really want to play live then it's really exciting, because it's like an economic crisis where everyone's sharing their bread. I personally really like the advent of blogs and sharing because there's this worldwide community...that sounds so lame....but there is. All the bands are into stuff and there's this (*long search for a phrase, culminating in blitz/war spirit*) ...we're all in this together. I think there are people who are now recognising that the industry is changing and those are the people who are going to do really well out of it, because there will be some sort of resolution. The industry isn't going to die, it's just a matter of finding different way to do things.'
Jeremy: 'People aren't going to stop making music'
Elizabeth: 'People I hope will still find value in music, whether it's less than it used to be or whatever, that's fine.'
Jeremy: 'One of the things I'm finding, just anecdotally from people I know, is that people are spending the same amount of money on music as they used to, it's just they are getting far more from that amount of money. You know, that music was going to be made anyway, that money was going to be spent anyway. I know people who don't spent any money on music but still listen to music whereas before they would've just been listening to music round their friends', or taping music off their friends....well, you know, 20 years ago!'

No comments:

Post a Comment