This weekend, the mighty Los Campesinos! and Pinegrove will be sharing a stage at East London’s Mirrors Festival and, obviously, the only real way to celebrate such a meeting of musical minds was to get each band to grill the other.
Ahead of their sets together on the event’s main stage - the beautiful St John at Hackney - we got Los Camp! frontman Gareth Campesinos to grill Pinegrove’s Zack Levine and vice versa. Expect conversations about Crystal Pepsi, Barenaked Ladies and the Welsh DIY scene…
Gareth of Los Campesinos!, to Zack of Pinegrove:
By the time you’re in the UK to play Mirrors Festival you’ll have finished a huge North American tour less than a week ago, and have come via a show in Amsterdam. What’s the most important thing you’ll do/you did for yourself in that <7 days without shows?
Well, I didn’t actually get to go home for that week – I drove from Milwaukee, where our tour ended, to Chicago to meet up with Half Waif and travel with them for a few days. Hanging at their show in Chicago and getting to just watch a concert without having to be a part of it was actually a really beautiful experience for me. I watched the show from a few different places in the room, and was really able to absorb the music and think about how it sounded and what it meant without having to worry about my own performance schedule for the evening. That was pretty refreshing. I also spent the first part of that day staying in bed until 3pm and eating vegan buffalo wings.
What is the habit you slip into while on tour that you most dislike?
I get really bad at responding to messages from friends while I’m on the road. Tour is such an independent reality from home life that you can kind of push things off without as much immediate consequence as if you were home. It’s also hard for me to not have at least a couple nice beers at most shows we play (they’re free & usually really good, after all!) which I know is a little more than I should be having.
Pinegrove is a great band to get into, because your various members play in so many other great projects that you end up with a ton of new favourites. Never mind that though, which of your bandmates has played in the worst band?
Thanks! Great question. Evan and I played in a few bands in high school – the first one was a cover band called the Pug Fuglies. We learned ‘Voodoo Child’, ‘El Scorcho’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and then broke up. Our next band stayed together from 7th – 12th grade and I think we actually did some really cool stuff! But for part of that time we were called Vakker Støy, which means beautiful noise in Norwegian. That’s pretty cringe-worthy looking back on it.
I’ve spent years being jealous of US bands for being able to travel further afield more easily and cheaply than UK bands can. Is there anything you’re envious of UK bands for?
Well, actually, I’m jealous of your proximity to so many countries! I guess this is maybe a grass-is-greener thing between us. There’s so much diverse history and culture within a drive’s distance for y’all Europeans. Of course, not that touring is vacationing, and sometimes one of my main frustrations with tour is the lack of time to actually absorb anything the city you’re in has to offer beyond the one-block radius of your venue. But still! Even just stopping at gas stations and seeing the different types of food, the languages, observing the architecture – all of that blows my mind.
Last time we were in the US I got pretty heavily into Crystal Pepsi. My bandmates would come up to me and be like “hey Gareth, I got you a Crystal Pepsi”, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff! What’s the next North American refreshment I should be into?
I’ve actually never tried Crystal Pepsi! Are you guys up on La Croix? We go through those pretty quickly in the green room. I’m also a big fan of a hoppy, American-style IPA. Getting a good beer in the UK – dang, now that’s been tough for me! What’s up with that cask stuff you guys mess around with?
You guys ever blast any Barenaked Ladies? A real fave band of mine.
Growing up I used to have that 1991 – 2001 Greatest Hits album in heavy rotation. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to them, though. In fact, I think
Zack of Pinegrove, to Gareth of Los Campesinos!:
We like to play word games in the van while we travel. Y’all up on any of those? What’s your favorite tour-time pastime?
We used to play a game revolving around coming up with puns but all it did was reveal how childish and revolting we all are. After ten years of touring our communication is probably 70% in-jokes and made up language. It’s always heartening how even though we might go three or four months without seeing each other these days, we always pick up instantly right where we last left off. Our big tour tradition these days are stopping to eat at Toby Carvery wherever we can (really, you must add one to your itinerary next time you’re over here for a proper stretch.)
I know you all are based in Cardiff – I gotta say, we’ve kind of adopted Bristol as our UK-based home over the last year or so. Our manager, tour manager and merch manager all coincidentally live in Bristol, so we’re feeling pretty ride-or-die about the city at this point. Do Bristol and Cardiff have a rivalry? As Cardiffians, how do you feel about B-Town? Do they call it that?
No beef here, do not fear. I live in Bath, which is beautiful but boring, and right next door to Bristol, so that’s where I’m required to go for anything nearing excitement. Cardiff is a good place though, that obviously we have had a great deal of good times in. There is a big soccer rivalry between Cardiff and Bristol City, the Severnside Derby, with both teams having pretty elite hooligan groups associated with them. I feel like that’s something North American sport really lacks - organised violence.
You’ve toured a lot over the past bunch of years. Has that worn you down? We’ve started to realise that prioritising comfort (slightly shorter tours, more days off, more hotels etc.) over profit is a good move in the interest of longevity. Have y’all come to similar conclusions? Or can you just head-down road dog it?
As road weary veterans of the late 00s indie-rock boom and bust we did a lot of pretty lengthy tours. Regrettably, those days are long-gone now and with us all working proper jobs these days we don’t get to tour anywhere near as often or as long as we’d like to. I agree though, you soon realise that a day-off is much more productive than shoe-horning in a show, playing to 50 people in the middle of nowhere in order to bring in an extra $500 to help a tour run a profit. Having said that, we’ve always been a cheap-hotel rather than sleeping on floors band, cos we quickly understood not many people have floor space for a band of seven members.
Please rank your touring rider in order of most to least necessary.
We are SAVVY now. It took us too long to realise “the money spent on your rider is money taken from your fee,” so gone are the kooky requests and nothing gets left behind.
Ranked in order -
1. Nice beer for backstage
= cheap beer for onstage
= bottle of whiskey
4. a wedge of bottled water
5. Coca Cola
You don’t have to ask for hummus and pitta, it’ll be there anyway (and we’ll be grateful for it.)
I know you came up in the DIY scene in Wales. That’s super cool. What’s that scene like? Is there a big house-show scene in the UK?
At the time it was fantastic. Very supportive and nurturing and a city which had a ton of venues. We really jumped the queue in terms of breaking out of Cardiff, but most everyone was really happy for us. I feel like the house-show scene is something that exists in the UK a lot less than in the US, but I would concede I am no expert on it. Maybe it’s the nature of housing over here, more terraces and fewer basements, with everybody scared of losing their rent deposit.
Los Campesinos! and Pinegrove play at Mirrors Festival this weekend (Saturday 28th October). The last few remaining tickets can be purchased here.