Aleks Campesinos!

<img src="https://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/loscampesinosinterview3.jpg" alt=" " />On her last tour <u>ever</u> as a member of Los Campesinos! QRO took the last chance to get an interview with singer/keyboardist Aleks Campesinos!. ...

Aleks Campesinos! : Q&AOn her last tour ever as a member of Los Campesinos! QRO took the last chance to get an interview with singer/keyboardist Aleks Campesinos!. In the ‘exit interview’, Aleks talked about why she was leaving, her completely conflicted feelings about it, what doing this last tour & their upcoming last record have been like, special places to play like Lollapalooza & Las Vegas, now really not being known at home in Cardiff, their ultra-calculated name, Lusophone beer commercials, and much more… (though didn’t talk about who’s next for Los Campesinos!)

 

QRO: Why are you leaving Los Campesinos!?

Aleks Campesinos!: It’s kind of always been the case that I was gonna have to, at some point, because I never finished my degree.  I took time off, because I was doing medicine, and it’s a longer course than everyone else.  And I was really lucky, because medical school was quite understanding, ‘It’s a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity, go ahead…’  I’ve had to keep extending the time, and there’s only so far it’ll go.

At the same time, as well, I’m quite keen to get back into the education… [laughs] Sound really geeky, but I really miss that academic environment.

This whole experience has been amazing.  I know that – ever since we’ve announced it, even though I’ve known for a while that it was gonna happen, it still caught me off-guard a bit.

I do have days where I just doubt myself, so much.  I think, ‘What am I doing?!?  This is amazing…’

This will probably be a month long of those days.  It’s amazing to be able to come to America for a month, and just go to festivals, explore, have that as part of your job.

QRO: Is this permanent, or could you be back?

AC: First I’m going into another course for a year, because you can take the option to complete another degree, fast track, during the course of medicine.  It’s more complicated than that, but I’m going to study neuroscience for a year, and then, I don’t know.

It would be really unfair of me to say, “I’m going to go back, and then, when I feel like it, if I feel like, I might come back in the future.  So guys, I’ll keep you posted…”  I think, for Los Campesinos! as well, it’s a really great opportunity to shake things up a bit.

The album that we just recorded, I’m so grateful to be a part of if it as well.  We put a lot into it.  It’s gonna be strange, because they’re obviously going to be touring the album without me, even though I’m on it.  But also, for the future, having a slightly different line-up helps, maybe, to develop in new ways.  It will be really exciting for them.

QRO: Have you gotten any fan reaction to your departure?

AC: It’s just been really touching, actually.

As soon as we announced it on the blog, there were really, really supportive responses.  I was just dreading the whole time that everyone would abuse me and say, “What the hell are you doing?!?  Why would you leave a band, you stupid, stupid person…” – which is kind of what I feel like, myself… [laughs]

People have just been really great, and understanding, and wish me all of the success in the future.  It’s been an amazing opportunity to bond with fans, as well – even though it’s a bit late… [laughs]

We’ve only really played one show since we’ve made the announcement, [Alive! Festival in Portugal].  And there, completely unexpectedly, some fans had brought me a present, as well.  Which was really bad – I’m such an emotional person!  They handed it to Gareth [Campesinos!, vocals], to give to me while we were playing.  Luckily, after a little while, once he realized I was going to burst into tears, he kind of took it away from me.

It was Pavement vinyl.  It’s really touching that people would be that bothered about it.  I guess I didn’t really think about, so much, how it would affect the fans.  Which is a terrible thing to say.  It’s just, at the time, it was such a difficult decision for me to make, anyway, that I never wanted to presume that it would have any consequences beyond the ones of what I feel, or what the rest of the band would feel.  It’s been really, really touching…

QRO: Is this upcoming U.S. tour going to be your final dates as a Campesinos!, or are you going to do a few more before leaving?

AC: No, this is it…

Last opportunity – I’m gonna have to try and rock really, really hard… [laughs]

QRO: How does this ‘last tour of the States’ feel?

AC: Hopefully, I’ll be back in the future, just by myself, but it’s this strange mixture of sadness, but at the same time, excitement, because I want it to be really special.

Last time we were in the U.S., as well, because we spent such a long time here, it brought us all closer – that’s really corny, don’t quote that!…

[laughs] I think the U.S. kind of holds a special place in our hearts.  We’ve had great shows here, and it’s a lovely way to end it.

Especially ‘cause we’re playing Lollapalooza [where Los Campesinos! had their first American appearance, in 2006] (QRO Festival Guide) – it feels like we’ve kind of come ‘full circle’.

QRO: On this tour, you’re playing bigger venues, like Webster Hall (QRO venue review)…

AC: That’s a bit overwhelming…

QRO: Can remember when you played Mercury Lounge (QRO venue review), two years ago…

AC: Which night?

QRO: Thursday night.

AC: So it was the special ‘Spanish sounds’.  Where we were sure they booked us for the wrong reasons… [laughs]

It was really strange, though.  I remember when we first got there, because it had been raining really heavily in New York, the week before, and they were just like fixing the ceiling in the Mercury Lounge!  And we were like, ‘What is this place?!?  This is really bizarre – they’re building the venue around us!’  But it was great – I really enjoyed those shows.

QRO: A lot of bands come here, first play Mercury, then Bowery [Ballroom – QRO venue review], then Webster…

AC: It’s a bit daunting, this Webster business.  I think we’ll be more comfortable on [the much-smaller Union Pool (QRO venue review)] stage…

Los Campesinos! playing “Knee Deep At A.T.P.” live @ Bowery Ballroom on November 30th, 2007:

See also them playing “…And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes In Unison” and covering Pavement’s “Frontwards”

QRO: Speaking of that, why the ‘secret show’ at Union Pool to kick things off?

AC: Um – warm-up? [laughs] To prepare ourselves?  Webster Hall’s like our biggest show that we’ve ever done in America, and it’s the first one we’re doing – after not played all summer!  It’s a really big deal!

Plus, it’s really nice to do something like [it], which seems a bit more relaxed.  Hopefully, there will be some people who would prefer to see us somewhere like this, and they’ll be able to come, and it’ll be a bit off-the-cuff.

QRO: Are there any places in America are you particularly looking forward to playing, one last time?

AC: Well, like I said, Lollapalooza’s gonna be a treat.

Austin, actually, because I’ve just always had really great memories from playing there before.  First time we went, we played SXSW, and that was just an amazing weekend.  And then earlier this year, on that tour, we actually celebrated my birthday there [January 30th], so it feels really special.

It’ll be really interesting to play in the places that we haven’t been yet.  We’re going to Vegas, which I’m just SO curious…

QRO: Vegas never gets shows…

AC: ‘Cause we’re not Celine Dion, so they never come and see us live…

I’m so curious about that place.  I’m looking forward to it, just for the spectacle of driving into Las Vegas.  Then I’ll be happy…

QRO: What are you doing to protect your passport – didn’t Gareth lose his on the last day of the last U.S. tour?

AC: Oh, yeah – he’s just rubbish!  He always misplaces it…

We had to get him a replacement passport, because he was flying home the next day.  He had to go to the embassy, and they issued him this temporary piece of paper – which was really rubbish!  It looked like you could have gone to the local library and typed something up – it was not official looking, at all!  It kind of makes you doubt all these governmental systems…

I’ve got a little fetching wallet for mine.  Hopefully that’ll make it a bit harder to lose.


QRO: How were the recording sessions at Carriage House in Stamford, Connecticut in the break in the last tour?

AC: That was the one session that I didn’t really do very much.  Because we kind of record in different stages: we set down the basic rhythm track, and layer guitars over it.  Vocals normally get added at the last minute.  Plus, we split it up into just recording seven of the songs, and then we recorded seven on the West Coast, after that leg of the tour, in Seattle.

I was just doing keyboard lines there.  I was really – not that I’m trying to tailor this to me, at all [laughs] – we had a really great experience there.  It’s like a nice, residential studio, in this suburban area.  It was this nice little break.  I think it went well.

QRO: So are you still going to be on the next Los Campesinos! release?

AC: Yes.  We just mastered it recently, but – I don’t know why it always takes so long – it’s gonna be a little while before it’s actually released.  I think in the new year, because artwork, printing, all those little things that you need to tie up before an album comes out, which seems to take ages

And then, by the time the album’s out, it’s been in existence for about seven months, and the band’s really bored with it.  That’s when it comes out, and you have to be all, ‘Whoo!  Yeah, we’ve got the album out!  It’s really exciting!…’

QRO: On this tour, how many new songs are you doing?

AC: We’ve got a couple, maybe?, to start…

Los Campesinos! playing the new “R.I.B.” live @ Union Pool in Brooklyn, NY on August 3rd, 2009:

 

QRO: At the time of those Carriage House sessions, did you know they would be your last?

AC: Yeah, and I guess it must have been really… I don’t know…

I’m so grateful that I’m ‘allowed’ to be on it, because there was always that knowledge that I wouldn’t be around to play the songs when they tour the album.

But it’s just kind of made it more special, for me, that I could still be involved.  The rest of the band seemed really keen for me to still do it, which was really nice…

QRO: Did you ever get any flack from naming your last record, ‘We Are Beautiful, [We Are Doomed]’?

AC: I think anyone who knows anything about Gareth & his lyrics will kind of interpret it as a bit tongue-in-cheek.  It’s such an open title – I think it’s meant to be a bit playful; you can take from it what you will.

When we released it, we had a booklet with people’s interpretations.  I think we had eight contributors that wrote a little poem, or did a little cartoon – adapting to that theme.  I think it is an interesting kind of statement, which you can take either way…

I don’t think anyone was offended by that, would they?…

Los Campesinos! playing We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed‘s “Miserabilia” live @ Bowery Ballroom on February 15th, 2009:

See also them playing We Are Beautiful‘s “Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1”

QRO: I guess, when it was announced, it came with a promo photo of you all on a street, at night…

AC: Oh, no[laughs]

We’re in a band – we have to do stuff like that!  You know, all the bands do!  ‘Oh, we’re so cool…’

It wasn’t meant to be like that at all…

We Are Beautiful...

QRO: How do you plan to fight ‘tour burnout’ – or you going to turn it up to eleven for this, last tour?

AC: Yeah, definitely, I’m just gonna have to look beyond it.  Last chance…

But normally, we have a couple of off-days, which lets you recover.  But it’s only a month – you can go hard for a month, can’t you, and it’s fine?…

When we were recording the album that coincided with time off, after touring.  That was a nice way to relax, actually – just to get into the studio…

QRO: How was the Alive! Festival in Portugal last month?

AC: Really fun, because it’s the only thing we did this summer.

It was one of those lucky times where we arrived in Lisbon the day before, so we got a chance to walk around, saw The Black Eyed Peas…  It was a fun show, as well.

QRO: They’re doing the Street Scene in San Diego with you…

AC: Are they?  They looked pretty crazy on stage.  We tried to walk past, but we had to just stop and stare – they really put on a show…

Maybe we’ll have to challenge them, and dress up like they did…

QRO: Do you feel any special affinity for festivals with exclamation points?…

AC: Umm… no.  Sorry… [laughs]

QRO: So you won’t be doing Celebrate Brooklyn! at Prospect Park Bandshell (QRO venue review)…

AC: Well, no one’s invited us. [laughs] You’d think, putting an exclamation point in our name they’d be on it!…

[deadpan] We thought that we’d probably be more likely to get more festivals if we had an exclamation point in our name.

QRO: How were the recent shows in Mexico?

AC: Really fun, again – I feel like I’m repeating myself…

Again, we had a bit of time to explore Mexico City.  We didn’t have time to see Guadalajara, unfortunately.  But the food was good, the people were lovely, we met a lot of great bands.

With a Spanish name – again, calculating… – we were always kind of guaranteed to be embraced by the Spanish-speaking market.

After the shows in Mexico, we actually played some in South America, in April.  Again, the people – that we met, anyway – just so warm.  Culturally, they’re really tactile and open – I don’t know, I fell in love with it, basically…

QRO: Are you as huge in Portuguese-speaking countries?…

AC: We seem to do quite well– oh, it’s because “Death To Los Campesinos!” is used in a beer commercial in Portugal!

It’s really bad – we saw it for the first time when we played at that festival.  It was pretty funny.  Obviously, people just associate us with beer & good times…

QRO: Does the rest of Los Campesinos! have someone lined-up to ‘take up your spot’?

AC: Yeah, there’s going to be a slightly different line-up.  They’re announcing it towards the end of the month, and I can’t give anything away.

QRO: Since you all go by ‘Campesinos’ as your last name, only the fact that each of your first names starts with different letters separates your initials – A.C., E.C., G.C., H.C., N.C., O.C., & T.C.  Does the new person’s first initial the same as anyone else’s?

AC: No – so the tradition will continue…

Note: Campesinos! have since announced the addition of singer/keyboardist Kim Campesinos!

QRO: In previous interviews, various Campesinos! have said you’re still unknown in Cardiff.  Is that still true?

AC: Um… Our friends do?…

We don’t really get recognized as such.  A couple of times, we’ve been walking down the street, and someone’s said something about Los Campesinos!.  But it doesn’t happen very often.

QRO: So you’re not yet bigger than Torchwood?

AC: I don’t think we’ll ever be bigger than Torchwood…  They’re definitely the most famous export.

QRO: You aren’t worried about people recognizing you when you go back to school?

AC: I really don’t think we’re that big – no one knows who we are! [laughs] Especially not science geeks – they’ve got other things to focus on…

Hopefully, it will help me make some friends, ‘cause I don’t know anyone who’s going to be there, anymore! [laughs] All my friends graduated this year, actually.  It’s quite sad – it’s a quite daunting prospect, being the new girl, who’s entering into the final year, as well, so no one will be looking for friends…

So I’ll probably just have to be one of those really geeky people that everyone else hates, where I’m just sitting at the front, answering all the questions.  Yeah…

QRO: Does the rest of the band still live in Cardiff?

AC: Yeah.  I do still have other friends! [laughs] Everyone’s still in Cardiff, so I’ll still be able to see them all.

QRO: What songs do you particularly like playing live?

AC: I really like playing [“This Is How You Spell] ‘Ha Ha Ha, [We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux – Romantics’”], and [“The International] Tweexcore [Underground”] is really fun.

Los Campesinos! playing “International Tweexcore Underground” live @ Union Pool in Brooklyn, NY on August 3rd, 2009:

 

There’s some that we don’t play very often, like [“We Are All] Accelerated Readers” and [“…And] We Exhale [and Roll Our Eyes In Unison”] – they’re really fun to play, actually.

Los Campesinos! playing “…And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes In Unison” live @ Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ on May 14th, 2008:

See also them playing “Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks” and covering Pavement’ “Frontwards”

QRO: Are there any you don’t like playing – Gareth said he didn’t like “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives” at Bowery…

AC: He’s come ‘round to that!  After doing it at Bowery Ballroom, I think we kind of realized, “Oh, this is actually quite fun to play!  We’ve got this massive noise breakdown, where we can just torture people for ages – it’s brilliant…”  No, that’s back on the potential set list.

I don’t like playing?  Probably ones where I have to concentrate more.  Although I really like the songs – oh God, that sounds terrible, ‘I love every song!  We’re so great!’

Particularly difficult?…  Actually, it’s not that hard of a job, is it?  ‘I love them all equally – like children…’

Los Campesinos! playing “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives” live @ Bowery Ballroom in New York, NY on February 15th, 2009:

QRO: It is at all weird, that you’re going to be playing the new songs, but are only doing the test run, won’t actually be doing them when the record’s out?

AC: There’s only a couple of them that we’re doing.  Because it takes us a while to learn a new song, to get it to performance-sounding…

But it’s definitely strange.  Whenever I listen to the album, there’s always a little part of me that’s a bit sad, but it’s fine.

QRO: Admit it – after you leave, it’s all downhill for Los Campesinos!, right?…

AC: Yeah, yeah – they’re gonna suck…

No – the thing is,

I know they’re going to be really good, and that’s just annoying!  I wish I could say, “At least I’m leaving at a peak…”

But I know that they’re really all ambitious, and so genuinely in love with what they’re doing.

QRO: For the quote, can you say, “They’re Doomed…”…

AC: Sure, they’re definitely doomed without me…

thanks, Ellen...Well, it doesn’t matter what I say anymore.  I’m gonna tell you all the shit on all the band members.  I’m actually leaving because I hate Ellen [Campesinos!, bass].  It’s just been too hard, for all this time, but now…

QRO: Don’t know if you can say, but is the person taking your spot another female vocalist?

AC: I don’t want to reveal anything, sorry.

Besides, how rude – I’m still here! [laughs]

Los Campesinos! playing “You! Me! Dancing!” live @ Bowery Ballroom in New York, NY on February 15th, 2009:

 

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