“There are very few bands that formed in 2006 that are still releasing records now,” says Gareth David, frontman of Los Campesinos!. He has a point. In a testament to both the throwaway nature of indie-rock, and the lasting appeal of the band themselves, many of the acts they started out sharing stages with are now confined to the annals of history; remembered only in rose-tinted listicles and drunken YouTube sessions. Los Campesinos! on the other hand, have endured. But it’s not always been easy.
“A lot of people had told us previously that there was no point in Los Campesinos! existing anymore and we should call it a day” Gareth continues. “They were wrong thankfully,” he adds, “but we were questioning it ourselves”. ‘Sick Scenes,’ the band’s sixth studio album, is a record hinged on that self-doubt, and a euphoria that stems from proving the doubters wrong. Crammed full of their trademark wit and wry observations, it’s quintessential Los Campesinos!, and as such a record that understands life, its hilarities and heartbreaks both.
“The attitude we had going in to it was just a real sense of excitement of being able to release a record again,” he says of ‘Sick Scenes’. It’s been three and a half years since the release of the band’s last album, ‘No Blues,’ and the band’s excitement is palpable across the course of the record. From opener ‘Renato Dall Ara (2008)’ to the fizzy pop of closer ‘Hung Empty’, it’s a record that possesses a youthful exuberance that harks back to the band’s earliest releases. “I think before recording [guitarist] Tom [Bromley] did say that it was the album had most in common with, just in terms of its energy; he wrote the music with a real sense of gusto and fuck it attitude”. That too is something that’s felt across the record. There’s a certain zeal stemming from the uncertainties that first surrounded its release; a sense of wilful abandon felt on the likes of ‘Here’s to the Fourth Time’ or ‘A Slow Slow Death’, and an optimism found in accepting the inevitable.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Los Campesinos! record without a certain degree of despondency, particularly when compared to its aptly-titled predecessor. Is this something that Gareth agrees with? “Yeah quite possibly,” he concurs. “I suppose with it being written in the mindset that it was, off the back of having a frustrating few years where we weren’t able to exist as a band as we’d like to, and the political and social situation as we were recording it, [as well as] my own struggles with my mental health, I think that is apparent in the mood of some tracks on the record.”
"I used to be a lot more of an arsehole…"
— Gareth David
Mental health is something which has always played a big part in the lyrics of Los Campesinos! and naturally, it’s something that conversation gravitates towards, the front-man becoming noticeably quieter and more considered. “For me personally, it’s useful” he says. For him, writing is “I think I’ve always been someone who’s written about what they know” he continues “and the main things that Los Campesinos! songs have been about in the past are; relationships, drinking, football and mental health and that’s been my life” he laughs.
Though writing about his own struggles must be at times challenging, there’s no doubt that fans of the band have taken solace in Gareth’s lyrics, however esoteric they might be. “One of the great rewards of being in a band is hearing about how you’ve affected people, and how people have connected with your songs,” he says. “For me, a lot of being in a band feels insignificant, so when people say something that makes you think that less, then that’s always a great feeling for me.”
It’s a humbling sentiment, but then Los Campesinos! aren’t ever a band to display arrogance. They appreciate the fact that they’re still able to release records and go on tours, when so many of their early contemporaries have fallen by the wayside.
Arguably, the band’s longevity is something that comes from their relationship with their fans. Given that many Los Campesinos! lyrics stem from a deeply personal perspective however, does Gareth find it strange when people sing those lyrics back? “When I was singing about a break-up and it was still kind of raw, people would be singing it back. I almost resented that a little bit, but then I used to be a lot more of an arsehole than am I now”, he quips.
"Relationships, drinking, football and mental health; that’s been my life."
— Gareth David
Far from an arsehole, the frontman’s open nature couldn’t be further from the image of swaggering indie poster boys. And while his - and indeed the band’s - lack of arrogant posturing might be the reason they’ll never be household names, it’s also the reason their fans love them as vehemently as they did ten years ago. “I think deep down I’ve always believed that being in a band is a really absurd, stupid thing” Gareth continues. “But I think the longer we go on as band, the more emotional I become about people singing the words back because it’s nice to know the ten years we’ve invested in the band isn’t all for nothing, and that people do get something from it.”
Of course, people have always been able to take something from it. What they take away, exactly. isn’t quite the point, argues Gareth. “When you write a lyric and it enters the public in some way, the meaning changes immediately,” he concludes “and if people can apply these lyrics to their own life and it helps them in some way, or helps focalise something they weren’t able to otherwise, than that’s great”.
Despite the doubts that surrounded the release of ‘Sick Scenes’ and indeed the band’s future as a whole, it’s clear that there are still people out there who need the band. And as long as there are people who need them, Los Campesinos! see no reason as to why they shouldn’t carry on.
Los Campesinos! release their new album 'Sick Scenes' on 24th February via Wichita.