Los Campesinos! Singer Talks Pavement, No Age – And That One-Of-A-Kind Box Set
There’s Nuggets. There’s Led Zeppelin’s Complete Studio Sessions. And then there’s the best box set ever. A bold statement, certainly. But by the end of this post, you should be swayed.
If you’re caught up on Los Campesinos!, you know singer and glockenspiel player Gareth loves his band’s fans. He chills with them before and after shows, and interacts with them via hilarious blog posts on the always-entertaining LosCampesinos.com.
“I certainly like to think that there’s more to Los Campesinos! than us just being a band,” he told me in an interview in late August.
Along those same lines, last year Gareth dreamed up a thoroughly original project. One that would not only enrich the Los Campesinos! fanbase but give the rock-history books something to consider too.
It went like this: On their August tour of the U.S., Gareth picked up rare 7-inches from indie record stores. He then put them into a box, along with “some other bits of crap” – which is to say, items that are priceless to indie-philes. Best of all: At the end of the tour, the box was given to the winner of a Los Campesinos! contest, staged on their site. And adding to the awesomeness, Gareth left contest clues – in the form of 15 utterly hilarious video clips – during the tour. In order to win, fans had to submit the names of all the acts who were mentioned in Gareth’s videos but not represented in the box.
Now, the contest is already over and the box has already been given away, so try not to cry when you hear of its contents: 48 7-inches/EPs, including a couple of signed ones, plus badges and ‘zines. (The full list of goods is below.)
In September, this lucky fan – pictured with Gareth, of course – claimed the prize:
Yes, the box has been given away, and Gareth did plenty of talking about it in those videos. But when I caught up with him during a Los Campesinos! concert soundcheck last year, he was eager to chat more about it.
“Nobody’s really asked about the record box yet,” he admitted, stunning as it may sound.
Here are selections from our conversation, during which Gareth shared stories about compiling the box, raved about Pavement, recollected a funny encounter with No Age and revealed that his parents would probably be reading this very post. (Hello, Gareth’s mum and dad. Or would “Mr. and Mrs. Campesino!” be more appropriate?)
It seems like every few days, you have a new addition to your very special box set.
Yeah. We wanted to make it something worthwhile and impressive. And I think it’s a bit of a double-edged sword, because we want it to be really good, because we want people to think it’s good and want to win it. But the more good stuff we put in it, the less we want to give it away.
Have you thought about breaking it up into two or three boxes?
No. ‘Cause then … maybe one person would win one box, and then there’d be another with a specific item [they wanted]. It’d be really hard to choose. I guess we could’ve done it where different members had different boxes and chose stuff to go into it, but I’m the only one who’s really keen on it. So I don’t think that would’ve worked.
Why is that? Are you more collector-minded than the other Campesinos?
I’m just more prepared to actually do a task. [He grins.] No, I just always sort of get carried away with these sorts of things. I really like the fan-interaction side of things, and I just like getting things done, so it’s sort of fallen into my lap. But I’ve enjoyed doing it.
[A Los Campesinos! tour companion brings over the box.]
Wow. I thought it was going to be locked in a safe or something.
It’s about 2/3 full. These are taking up a bit more room than they should, it seems. It was actually the idea of our record label. Mark Bowen, who’s in charge in the U.K., we were talking about doing something.
The last two days, I haven’t been able to get anything. We’ve been to Tuscon, Arizona; and Albuquerque, New Mexico; and we haven’t been able to find any record shops. It seems like on Google Maps, when we find out where the nearest spot is … “Oh, it’s six miles away, probably not going to be able to walk there.” So then, we’ve been to places like Dallas and Austin, which have had amazing record shops, and I’ll buy seven 7s or something.
Whenever we tour the U.S., I always leave horribly poor. … On the last couple of tours that we’ve done, I’ve [gone to stores and] spent like a hundred bucks. Just destroyed everything there. Spending money on stuff for other people seems like I’m allowed to do that. I can get away with it.
So we’re going to take it back to the U.K. and then run the competition. … I can guarantee every 7-inch will have been pre-played by the time [it’s over]. Maybe that’s the selfish element of it.
Which 7-inches are signed?
This one, it’s a No Age 7-inch [“Eraser”] which we got … at the beginning of the tour. … We got this in Bloomington [Indiana], and then a few days later, we played at Lollapalooza, where No Age were playing. And No Age are friends of ours, because we toured with them in the U.K. And [played with them in] L.A.
I was carrying [the 7-inch] around with me, ’cause I knew I was going to see them at some point, and we were going to do an interview, and they were doing an interview before us. … And I was wearing one of their tour T-shirts, so I found my way into their interview. We got the video of it.
Did they sign “Show me your weenis”?
That’s from “Mr. Show,” right?
I’m not sure. I explained the concept to them, and then I said, “It’s for the winner.” And they said, “Who shall I write to, Los Campesinos!?” I said, “No, just write it generally.” So it went from “winner” to “weiner.”
“Show me your weenis” is a line from a “Mr. Show” episode. It’s in a segment about these heavy-metal guys who are closeted gays.
I’ve not seen much David Cross. I’ve seen him do standup once, but I’ve not even seen much “Arrested Development” or anything. Some of the band [members] are big “Arrested Development” fans. When we were in Seattle, we went to the Sub Pop warehouse, and they gave us a David Cross DVD that I have not watched.
Are any others signed?
We’ve got the Times New Viking 7-inch [the Stay Awake EP]. We toured with Times New Viking as well, and they’re playing Cardiff in September.
That was the same tour as the No Age one, right?
It was, yeah. So that will be signed by the time we [give it away]. We’ve also got a Parenthetical Girls one. They’re good friends of ours. That one isn’t officially in the box yet, but that’ll be signed.
Where did you find the Big Black one [“He’s a Whore”]?
I believe that’s been reprinted. … There’s a couple [of] reissues [in the box]. This [Bikini Kill] “Rebel Girl” single … it’s even got “free MP3 download with purchase.” That was done by John Goodmanson who has done our last two records. So that’s a nice connection.
Where did you get this case, by the way?
This was mine. I got it from a charity shop in the U.K. It was, like, 50 p. So I started off by putting some of my own 7-inches in, to get it started. … I was going to cover it in stickers, but that’s kind of gone by the wayside.
You’ve got a Sub Pop one on the side there.
Yeah, I’ve got a Sub Pop one and Electrelane and … K Records.
[He extracts another 7-inch from the box.]
This is one I’m really pleased with. This is one a fan brought the other day: the Housemartins [“Five Get Over Excited” 7-inch]. They’re a British band from the ’80s, and they disbanded in 1988. And [it featured] a guy called Paul [Heaton]. He used to be in a band called the Beautiful South.
The thing is, Beautiful South is a band that aren’t particularly cool. They’re the sort of band that your parents liked, but I grew up on them, and I stand by Paul Heaton. The first four Beautiful South records, the lyrics are just extremely political and sexual and edgy and really spot-on. But he never really got credit for it, because they had chart hits as well. So the stuff that got released was a little bit softer and a little bit more pop – but then the album tracks can be quite bitter and aggressive at times.
But yeah, some guy [from] Dallas or Houston – [after our show] he came up and said, “Oh, I was going to bring you a 7-inch, a Housemartins one.” Then he went back home to get it and came back. He lived really close. That’s one I’m really pleased to see in there.
So is one of your labels going to reimburse you for this?
I would imagine … I’ve not mentioned it. But I’m keeping the receipts. I’m just going to wait till I’m back and then send the [bill].
Everybody that we have around us is just always amazingly supportive. Both our record labels trust us and know what we want to do and how we want to do it and are more than happy to let us get on with it, for the most part. Hence why they [will presumably] let me spend all this money on a record box. There’s probably about over a hundred bucks’ worth of 7-inches in there already, and we’re going to give it away for free on the blog.
I’m a pretty hardcore music collector, but this really might be one of the coolest box sets ever. Because it’s assembled by the artist, for one thing. Then you’ve got so many signed items. And on top of that, it’s a one-of-a-kind.
Thank you. I think one positive thing that’s happened as a result of our band is that I think we’ve opened a lot of younger teenagers’ and kids’ eyes to a lot of music they wouldn’t have heard of.
Like Pavement, who Los Campesinos! of course cover. What did you think of those Matador reissues?
The Slanted and Enchanted [reissue] was, for me, incredible. A real eye-opener. ‘Cause I had Slanted and Enchanted before, but that was the first time I had the Watery, Domestic EP and stuff. So that was amazing. And that must’ve been … seven years [ago] now, I guess?
But then I guess there started becoming more overlap. Like … the Crooked Rain one had demos of Crooked Rain but then demos of Wowee Zowee. And it kind of felt to me like Slanted and Enchanted existed completely apart from the other releases.
I’ve not actually heard the Brighten the Corners reissue. I know Tom has, but I should listen to it eventually. … I think I’ve got most of the Brighten the Corners stuff, because I’ve got all the singles from that time and the EPs that came out at the same time. Like, the Shady Lane EP, things like that.
The records included in Los Campesinos’ one-of-a-kind box set:
• Abe Vigoda – “Animal Ghosts” 7-inch
• Art Brut – “Alcoholics Unanimous” 7-inch
• Barr – “The Song Is the Single” 7-inch
• Big Black – “He’s a Whore”/ “The Model” 7-inch
• Bikini Kill – “New Radio/ Rebel Girl/ Demi Rep” 7-inch
• Bis – “Sweet Shop Avengerz” 7-inch
• Blonde Redhead – “Symphony of Treble” 7-inch
• Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Town Topic EP
• Cheap Time – “Woodland Drive” 7-inch
• Dan Deacon/ Future Islands – split 7-inch
• Dananananaykroyd – “Pink Sabbath” 7-inch and Black Wax” 7-inch
• Dead Science – “Tomlab Alphabet Singles Series” 7-inch
• Deerhunter – “Nothing Ever Happened” 7-inch
• Electrelane – “In Berlin” 7-inch
• Fucked Up – “Year of the Pig” 7-inch
• Girls – “Lust for Life” 7-inch
• Gossip – “Gossip” 7-inch
• Health – “Die Slow” 7-inch
• Hearts of Animals – “Hearts of Animals” 7-inch
• Help She Can’t Swim – “Hospital Drama” 7-inch
• The Hot Puppies – “Somewhere” 7-inch
• The Housemartins – “Five Get Over Excited” 7-inch
• Les Savy Fav – “Plagues and Snakes” 7-inch (“Wake Up a Snake”/”Raging in the Plague Age”)
• The Locust/ Melt Banana – Split” 7-inch
• Los Campesinos! – “There Are Listed Buildings” 7-inch
• Lovvers – “Laughing Man” 7-inch
• Low “Santa’s Coming Over” 7-inch
• The Mountain Goats – “Palmcoder Yajna” 7-inch
• Mudhoney – “Touch Me I’m Sick” 7-inch
• The New Trust – “Dark Is the Path Which Lies Before Us” 7-inch album
• Scout Niblett – “It’s Time My Beloved” 7-inch
• No Age – “Eraser” 7-inch
• The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Young Adult Friction” 7-inch
• Parenthetical Girls – “A Song for Ellie Greenwich” 7-inch
• Preston School of Industry – “Falling Away” 7-inch
• Q and Not U – “Hot and Informed” 7-inch
• Sleater-Kinney – “Get Up” 7-inch
• The Smiths – “William, It Was Really Nothing/ Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” 7-inch
• Sounds of the American Fast Food Restaurants – “10 Authentic Field Recordings” 7-inch
• Telepathe/ Effi Briest – split 7-inch
• Times New Viking – Stay Awake 7-inch EP
• Tokyo Police Club – “Tessellate” 7-inch (featuring Tom Campesinos! remix)
• Vivian Girls – “Wild Eyes” 7-inch and “Surf’s Up” 7-inch
• Voxtrot – “Blood Red Blood” 7-inch
• The xx – “Crystalised” 7-inch
• Xiu Xiu/ High Places – split 7-inch (includes Polaroid by David Horvitz)
• Zola Jesus – “Poor Sons” 7-inch
Go here for part one of the Los Campesinos! interview.
Go here for more interviews.