Camera Obscura: Future Focus | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Camera Obscura at Coachella 2010

Camera Obscura

Future Focus

Apr 26, 2010 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Web Exclusive
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One of the bands lucky enough to be Stateside before the Icelandic volcano eruption cut off flights from the U.K., Scottish indie poppers Camera Obscura were counting their blessings when we caught up with them at Coachella.  "We do feel for them because that's the sort of shit that would happen to us!" said keyboardist Carey Lander with a laugh. 

Under the Radar sat down with the ladies of Camera ObscuraLander and bandleader Tracyanne Campbellto chat further about acts of God, record sales, and why Yo La Tengo might hold the key to their future (maudlin) career.

Laura Studarus: Are you working on any new material right now?

Tracyanne Campbell: Just working on being on tour.

Carey Lander: We've been on tour for a year, but we're putting a stop to it soon and start trying to write.

Campbell: We've recorded some B-sides and stuff like that. We did a Christmas single, a cover version of Jim Reeves' "The Blizzard." We just recorded a cover version of a Richard Hawley song, "The Nights Are Cold."

Lander: It comes out next month. It's sort of a quick little project. Not inductive of the future.

Do you gather a lot of ideas on tour?

Campbell: In the past I usually have. But I guess somewhere along the line we'll find out soon enough. But I haven't really been writing in the way I have done in the past. I intend to have a break and then get into it. I'm only talking about lyrics. You can't help but be impressed with things that go on when you think about it later.

It seems like you've been playing to larger crowds. Have you noticed a spike in your popularity stateside with this tour?

Lander: This is the first American festival we've done, I think. This tour's been going really well. We were quite impressed with the turnout today. It was quite early on in the day. The tent seemed pretty full, so it was great. We were delighted.

Campbell: I don't know why we are surprised. We're always surprised at festivals.

Lander: You can never guarantee anything at festivals.

Campbell: We were really, really happy with the turn out. Fantastic.

I like that you dedicated "Let's Get Out of This Country" to the bands that couldn't make it due to the volcano.

Campbell: Yeah, it's a bummer, you know? Some bands, this is a big deal for them. And just because they missed it doesn't mean they'll necessarily be asked again. I hope that they will be.

Lander: All the effort that goes in beforehand. Finding a crew, getting your visas and so...

Campbell: Yeah, they must be so depressed about it. It's bigger than just playing a show. It's getting visas and going to London and spending the night there and spending so much money. Everybody looking forward to it and then they don't come.

Lander: We do feel for them because that's the sort of shit that would happen to us! [Laughs]

When did you hear about it?

Campbell: A couple of days ago. It was up on the BBC news and all that so we knew about it straight away.

Are you acquainted with any of the bands that didn't show up?

Campbell: We know Frightened Rabbit though our crew. So knew about them straightaway. It's a shame, we feel bad for them.

I noticed a lot of your set today was older songs. Have you been mixing in more of your back-catalogue into this tour?

Campbell: We've been back here, this is the third or fourth time since the record [My Maudlin Career] has been released. So the first few times were new album heavy. But this time, since we've been playing places we've been to before, we've tried to play a few songs people have never heard us play, and then here at Coachella, since we've never been here before, do a "greatest hits" up-beat festival set. In Mexico we played some requests, things like that, songs we'd never think of playing, because people asked for it. You can't please everybody, but we tried.

Lander: We would if we could!

When Under the Radar interviewed you last year, you mentioned several members of the band had just quit their day jobs. How does it feel to be a year removed from the daily grind?

Lander: It feels really good to know we've done so much touring this year and it wouldn't be possible if we were still working. Although we moan about things we don't take it for granted that this is our real job.

Campbell: We're lucky this is our real job!

Looking ahead, do you have any goals for the upcoming year?

Campbell: I'd just like to sell more records. I know that sounds really selfish, but I'd like the record sales to represent in a real way howI hate to use the word "popular"but when we play all over the place, we play to a lot of people. But the record sales are still, in my mind, not as high as I'd like them to be. But maybe that's an impossible wish because of the current climate. But I'd like that to be the case. I'd like to sell more records. Ooh, that sounds so selfish, [laughs] 'I wanna sell more records!'

Lander: Well, it's fair enough, that's our job! We can only keep a full-time band for so long unless we get sales. 

Campbell: Exactly. I hope that we have a commitment and the energy to keep going, especially if it's going to get worse, record sales-wise. I hate to bring a big downer upon it, but actually I think people avoid these serious issues all the time and just say "Oh yeah, it's great, it's brilliant, everything's fantastic!" Well it's not because record sales are going down. That has an impact on record labels and bands. 

Have you looked into alternate ways of selling your songs?

Campbell: We've been thinking about how to do it.

Lander: We were just having a laugh with our label about it. Obviously it's not something we want to have to think about. 

Campbell: It's not really our job.

Lander: It's nice to know they're looking into the future.

Campbell: We're lucky we're on a record label who wants us to survive and they want us to put records out and want us to do well. They're forward thinking all the time, thinking, "How can we do it?" "What is it going to be like?"

Lander: I guess everybody has to wait and see, because no one knows, really.

Is there a particular group or musician whose career path you's like to have?   

Lander: Maybe somebody like Yo La Tengo. They've been making music for like 20 years and tour still but they don't have to do it all the time and still sell enough records to get by and they've got a great reputation. We're not going to be headlining the main stage at a festival in three years time. We don't need something like that to be a long-lasting happy successful band.

Campbell: I think we're realistic. We know we're a cult band. We always have been and might always be. And that's fine, you know? And a band like Yo La Tengo are an example of how that can be a success.



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April 27th 2010

you are a gang of cults…we are trying to sell more records for ya…and you keep makin them and i`ll keep buyin them…......

Stan Alarm
August 9th 2011

Although I have not heard of this band. I must say they look very cool in their retro clothing and amazing sunglasses.