Monday, February 16, 2009

WTBU Interviews: Drummer Ollie of Los Campesinos!

I got to sit down with Ollie, the drummer from Los Campesinos! They played at the Paradise on Friday night. Despite the noise from the sound check, we still managed to have a very fun conversation about fried Twinkies, Obama haters, and how the band is able to create such a fun, unique sound.

You were here this past summer in May. Welcome back to Boston! And congrats on your new record “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed”, I really like it. But I wanted to start talking about the band itself. How exactly did you guys form. I believe you were originally four members, and then became seven, so I was just curious how that came about.

We sort of started playing and people gradually joined in a couple of months. We weren’t really anything until there was about five of us. And then stuff really started going and then Harriet and Alex were the last two people to join. We formed in about four months or so.

Having seven members in one band is a very interesting dynamic. So, is it difficult to write songs? Does someone delegate tasks or anything like that? I know when I’m working with six other people it can be chaotic.

Well Tom writes all the music and Gareth writes the lyrics and someone comes out with all the violin lines so it’s sort of it’s quite an easy process.

Anyway, another thing is that your two albums were released within 8 months of each other. That’s incredible! Especially because they are full albums. I just wanted to know if you feel like you are on some kind of creative overload or is it just more of an organic process?

Tom’s always seems to be coming up with lots of ideas and sort of he’s just really good at writing stuff. The second album record wasn’t supposed to be an album, it was supposed to be an EP but it ended up being 10 tracks long. We don’t really regard it as an album just because we didn’t go into it thinking we would record an album but it’s 10 tracks, a half an hour long. It’s just too long to be an EP.

What other bands or experiences do you look to for inspiration? And also, are there bands that you listen to that people wouldn’t expect in terms of the music that you create?

I’d say that the bands that influence us the most would be bands like Pavement, Deer Hoof, and Grandaddy. It’s a real mixture of stuff and others that come across sometimes are really just other little bands.

What do you play in your tour vans?

Basically we just listen to our music. We are quite anti-social. Everyone just listens to their iPods and listens to whatever they’ve got.

No sing-alongs?

Haha, no.

I have kind of a strange questions. My freshman year of college, I heard this Englishman on the T a couple of years ago. His American friend asked him how he was enjoying the U.S. and he replied "well, I've yet to try a Twinkie. I've heard their a bit like Ding-Dongs though…is that true?" Have you guys tried Twinkies? Because they are definitely not like Ding-Dongs.

What are Ding-Dongs?

It’s like a chocolate cupcake with white processed frosting on the inside. Very tasty. Have you tried anything really strange here in the states that you don’t have in the UK?

Yeah. We’ve tried Twinkie’s I have to admit I didn’t really like it.

Wait until you try a fried Twinkie.

A fried twinkie?

They make fried Twinkies and fried Oreos in this country. It’s disgusting. But it’s worth trying.

Yeah. Tried a corn dog the other day. It wasnt the best of corn dogs. It was a bit strange. I mean you get battered sausages back home but it just sort of tastes like much stranger when it comes on a stick. One of the things that confuses people is like, ‘Chicken Fried Chicken’ and “Chicken Fried Steak’. Someone was trying to explain what it was, but we just got confused.

What was it like hearing any one of your songs played on the radio for the first time?

I have to admit, I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard us played on the radio!

AH! You should listen to WTBU!

Well actually, my friend rung me up and said she’d heard us on the radio. But I’ve never actually heard us.

So I heard you guys lost a couple of instruments along the way. I think in Memphis.

Oh yes, someone nicked a couple of our glockenspiel beaters and they disappeared during the show. So obviously someone grabbed it.

Going along with that, I was curious if you received anything special from fans?

Last night someone brought us some cookies! Someone made vegan cookies. That was really nice.

That is really nice. A few of the songs on the new album, as well as the first one, like “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed” and “It’s Never That Easy Though, Is It?” are pretty tragic songs. The lyrics are sad. But, behind those lyrics are very upbeat rock n’ roll rhythms and sounds. So, are you guys playing with a lot of irony there or is it just that you are writing songs and that is just how the songs come out?

I think so. The second record just became much more autobiographical for Garreth much more than the first album. He srot of gained confidence in his lyric writing. He became more autobiographical. It was really funny because some people are just like, ‘oh, your songs are really happy’. Its like, they aren’t actually listening to the lyrics. I don’t think it’s being ironic. It’s just ht eway that the songs are written.

You guys have played festivals like Lollapalooza and other major festivals in the UK, so do you prefer playing in small places like here at the Paradise or big venues. Or is just about the feel of the show and the audience?

I think so. We like playing small clubs. Especially when it’s your own show, you get time to prepare. It’s not rushed. It’s much more relaxed. It’s nice to play big venues, but it’s also nice to play small sweaty venues where you are right amongst the crowd.

Do you have any favorite venues? Either in the US or the UK?

We are looking forward to playing the Bowery in New York! We’ve been there a couple of times before! There’s also a place in Cardiff called Welsh Club. It’s a small venue and it’s really fun to play.

Do you have any really funny or crazy stories from the road?

We’ve met some strange people. In Jacksonville during the inauguration, we drove from there to Tampa and stopped off at this petrol station and Kelly our merch girl was like, to this guy, “So are you happy about today?” and the guy was like, “Oh no!” And he went off about how he hated Obama and that if he had the chance he’d kill him!

Yeah, you might get a lot of that down south. Not up here though. Don’t worry. I have a question from a fan. Her name is Devon. She is our PR director over at the station. She really likes you guys! She wanted to know what is the difference between your fans in the UK and in the US?

Here’s a lot better. People over here seem to get us and to be into it more. They dance more! People in the UK seem to be quite standoffish and have got this way like, “You’ve got to impress us.” So we enjoy playing over here a lot more.

Thanks Ollie for sitting down with me!

-Annie Berman, of BU in the Morning

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