It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: Gareth Campesinos and his Los Campesinos! bandmates are embarking on their most ambitious U.S. tour to date and they have a new record in the can (due early 2010). So what could be bringing them down (besides the girl problems and thoughts of death that always get Gareth down in song)? These gigs are their last with keyboardist-vocalist Aleks Campesinos, who's returning to Cardiff University to complete her medical degree. Prior to tonight's show at Emo's, The A.V. Club spoke to Gareth about losing his female vocal foil, the new record's deadly and sexy subject matter, and his semi-embarrassing reading habits.
The A.V. Club: Did you ever think Aleks might give up academia for rock 'n' roll?
Gareth Campesinos: It's not the sort of thing you say and then change your mind. I've got a lot of respect for Aleks for making this decision, because it's tough and I'm sure there will be times where she regrets it, but what she's doing is something that she has a lot of passion for, and I know that she's supremely wasted in our mess-around of a band.
AVC: You studied modern history and politics at Cardiff—ever tempted to further your studies in those areas?
GC: No, no. At university, I was taught to memorize things, rather than to think for myself and to create, and I studied the wrong thing. I think there was nothing like studying it to take my passion away. When the band stops being a band, which is inevitable, then perhaps I'll reconsider. I wouldn't mind being an English teacher, so that's always a possibility.
AVC: Can you tell us about the person who's going to join the band to take over for Aleks?
GC: Quite simply, no. We know who the person is, and we've known for a while, and it should be a smooth transition—and it wouldn't mean anything to anyone if I say who it was. They feature briefly on the record that we've just made. It's an awkward situation where we have to be sensitive to our own feelings, to Aleks' feelings, to the person coming in's feelings, and to the feelings of the fans.
AVC: When writing songs in the past, did you ever think about singing them with anyone other than Aleks?
GC: When we found out that Aleks was definitely leaving, it got me to stop and think about things a little, because it's a change that's going to affect the band and how the songs sound live, but I think we soon realized that thinking about that would only be to the detriment of the songs we were writing—there's no point in second-guessing ourselves and wondering how it was going to change when the new person was in. We made the best record that we are capable of with Los Campesinos! at the moment.
AVC: Does the new record have a title? Can you reveal it?
GC: If it did, I wouldn't be allowed to. [Laughs.] We might have a title, and I do like it. Everybody else likes it a lot, and it's a case of me losing any sense of perspective. Coming up with track listings in the past month since we've finished it, I've had no clue, because the songs are so ingrained in my head that I don't know what order they sound good in anymore. So I'm leaving that to other people.
AVC: Can you reveal any of the song titles?
GC: There's "Too Many Flesh Suppers," one called "Straight In At 101"—I'm not sure if it should be pronounced "Straight In At One Oh One" or "Straight In A One Hundred And One" yet. A song called "This Is A Flag, There Is No Wind." That's three, that should tide people over.
AVC: You told Pitchfork that the record is about "death and shagging"—how much of those two subjects should we expect?
GC: There might not be a single song on the record that doesn't have at least implied death or shagging, but there's a lot of football in it as well. It's largely downbeat, lyrically, and it's all doomed love affairs, depression, the destruction of the human body. These are the things that keep me awake at night. Or in the case of the shagging, the things that don't keep me awake at night. [Laughs.] It's all very morbid, but it's not as heavy listening as that might suggest.
AVC: Your songs often have a literary bent—"Flesh Suppers" is a reference to the novelist B.S. Johnson. Read any good books lately?
GC: This isn't cool at all—I love reading, and there are novelists that I love and never fail me, but when it comes to new novelists, I'm always too scared to invest my time in a 500-page-long book. But the one thing I know I can rely on is footballers' autobiographies. [Laughs.] Being in a band is all well and good, but I could be playing at Wembley Stadium to 700,000 people singing along to every word of our songs, and I'll be thinking "Damn, I wish I was playing football on this pitch."