Monday, 3 January 2011

Moments Of 2010: A Band Who Weren't A Dick To The Dictaphone

(This is one of two posts that should've gone up before the new year. However, from just before Christmas onwards I was near bedbound with ilness, so they never got posted. Better late than never, right?)

The human condition is an odd one when it comes to people we admire – I'm going to avoid the pitfall of using the word heroes. It's overused and to me it's meaningless. Bowie had the right idea when he put it in quotation marks. In this instance it's not especially accurate either. But yeah, the human condition is an odd one. We put people on such unrealistic pedestals and place such emphasis on wanting to meet them, that when we do they never – or indeed are simply unable to – live up to the ridiculous expectations placed upon them. It all ends up feeling like you finally get the chance to drive the sportscar you've dreamed of, and you discover you can't fit into it. Or the mansion at the top of the hill you've coveted comes on the market and you find out the roof leaks and the indoor pool is full of used sanitary towels. Or being told that the poster that kept you busy during your formative years is in fact a tranvestite. (NB: just to clarify I've never had such a poster on my walls. They've been too busy hosting bits of F1 car. True facts.)

But we'll get back to that. First some introductions (no doubt interspersed with some personal history). I've been a fan of Jeremy Warmsley for years. I loved his first album, The Art Of Fiction. since it came out. Not just because it soundtracked the final semester of a first year at university where I'd successfully traversed the minefield of making friends while being a live-at-home student – it probably is a part of it, but the album stands up on its own. I loved the second album too, How We Became – I defy anyone to listen to Dancing With The Enemy and not smile or do a jaunty dance to it.

I'd heard various rumblings of 'Summer Camp this' and 'Summer Camp that' for months but had never checked them out. I'm one of these insufferable people that always has to discover something for themselves and in their own time, irrespective of what the hype machine is pedalling. The fact that I knew that one half of Summer Camp was Jeremy Warmsley shows you how far behind the times I was. For a while, y'see, Jeremy and his-then unknown to me partner in crime Elizabeth Sankey (of Platform magazine fame) had, for a little while at least, been laying low. Having put a couple of tracks on MySpace the duo, unsure of what to do and where to go, laid low for a time while maintaining a cloak of anonymity. Soon, the blogosphere went into overdrive, with everyone trying to be the first to find out the identities of Summer Camp, with a favourite rumour of mine being that they were some perfect Swedish pop entity. Eventually it all got a bit much and they were outed by a publication, which while sad was, I believe, to our - the public's - benefit.

Having been released into the public domain, Elizabeth and Jeremy unleashed a cracking record, which were I were to include EPs when evaluating my album of the year (always a contentious issue at the best of times) would have been a strong contender. I love the way that the record acknowledges its influences and wears its heart on its sleeve without ever descending into parody or carbon-copy imitation tactics in order to get its point across. If I were to state that it was unashamedly indebted to the 1980s, and unashamedly pop-oriented I imagine a large proportion of people would run a mile. It is as foolish a response as my summation is simplistic. It's intelligent pop music, with an atmosphere of woozy romanticism. It sounds simultaneously familiar and new and different, which in a musical climate where – to me anyway – the charts are full of identikit bands bouncing around a number of limited ideas is just what's needed.

So, when they played Manchester in October and the opportunity arose to interview them, I naturally took it. Who wouldn't jump at a chance to talk to the people behind their potential record of the year? Problem is, think back to the hype bands of years gone by. One of the Klaxons being denied entry to the BBC for an interview on account of being too inebriated (to be fair, he had just won the Mercury prize). The Twang being locked in a hotel room with booze and Oasis DVD's until the drummer dropped trou and bared all before the NME's cameras. Glasvegas' James Allan's attempts to look cool coming across like a pathetic, petulant bequiffed child in a pair of Raybans. Raygun's infamous interview clip (which can be found here, with hilarious musical overdbubs The formula seemed to be: musician plus hype = bellend.

There was another problem. I had a rare spate of disorganisation, which resulted in two catastrophic incidents which I haven't actually owned up publicly until today. I accept no responsibility for the rise in Michael Hubbard of musicOMH's blood pressure when he reads this (he doesn't know either). The first technically wasn't my fault. My phone got stolen at, meaning I gave the Summer Camps PR team a contact number a mere two hours before I left the house owing to my provider's incompetence re: sending me a new phone. One way ticket to stress central. The second was my fault, though. At somepoint, and for reasons unknown, the date of the gig and interview changed from the 5th to the 7th in my head. If it wasn't for the intervention of Hannah from PYT (see my previously article) 36 hours before the date in question I would've been in Manchester when Elizabeth and Jeremy were in Glasgow. It's funny now, even for me, but believe me it really wasn't at the time. I doubt Frank Spencer could've made a bigger ham fist of a simple job as I did on this occasion.

So then, we've established hyped bands don't usually make the best of interview subjects owing to their egos. Couple that with an interviewer who in the build up endured more cock ups than the Viagra trialling sessions, and it isn't looking good, is it? Glad you agree. The same thought crossed my mind. So, imagine my surprise when they turned out to be possibly the ideal interview subjects. Chatty, attentive, and intelligent, the worries and stresses of the week prior dissipated. I'd have understood if they got annoyed about the inevitable questions about the back story. I'd try to come at it from new angles, but these things always feel like reheating the same meal in a microwave and adding a different garnish to it every time. The contrary sod in me loved how they shrugged off their unorthodox birthing period with talk of 'how we did it is how we did it, it feels redundant talking it about doing it any other way' without a hint of attitude, more a sheepish smile. In a day and age where everything is so styled and manufactured, it was great to see a band talking enthusiastically about things they love, whether it was Jeremy on Bon Iver, or Elizabeth delivering what can only be described as a verbal supernova on John Hughes and the 1980s (that girl should go into politics. Seriously. Persuasive didn't cover it). When time ran away with us and we ran late (delaying the next interview), there was no 'right, that's it.' moment, instead there was a near apologetic 'erm, shall we do a couple more questions and then we're going to have to call it a day'.

What the experience taught me is that the music industry continues to contain nice people. Being hyped by a select few people doesn't instantly turn you into an egotistical gobshite. Musicians still exist who enjoy talking about what they do and their influences, and sharing it with the world. Truly a great moment. It also taught me to be bloody organised next time. I may have got away with it that time, but I hope to never tempt fate by pulling something similar again anytime soon. Idiot. If 2011 isn't Summer Camp's year then the world has gone wrong somewhere. Don't believe me? Check out the EP in readiness for this year's album.

Nice people who make great music? God I'm fucking jealous.

Summer Camp's Young EP is out on Moshi Moshi.

The eventual write up of the aforementioned interview can be found here:

The full transcript can be found here:

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