Let's Get Real
Dec 17, 2013
Issue #48 - November/December 2013 - HAIM
"We say 'like' a lot, can you maybe take out all our 'likes?'" asks Summer Camp vocalist Elizabeth Sankey minutes into the conversation. Next to her, husband and bandmate, multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Warmsley, wholeheartedly affirms the request.
Unafraid to discuss life's messier subjects, including laundry (currently decorating the couch in the couple's shared apartment) or periods (Sankey's came when she was 14, the same week she got her first kiss), it's a small, not unreasonable request to smooth over reality. The duo has been doing a lot of revealing lately, starting with Summer Camp's self-titled sophomore album.
The band's 2011-released debut album Welcome to Condale was a glossy exercise in 1980s disco pop, its lyrical narrative set in a fictional California town in the same decade. Tired of play-acting, for their sophomore album they ditched the alter egos, writing about their own experiences for the first time.
"On Condale, we used the concept as a wall to hide behind," says Warmsley. "So if anyone said they didn't like it, it wouldn't be us they didn't like. Now we have the confidence as songwriters to say, 'Actually, this is us, cards on the table. If you don't like it, sucks to be you, not sucks to be us.'"
Without thematic constraints, at first the duo found it difficult to find their direction.
Unable to jam together ("I don't play any instruments, so that would be kind of boring for me," notes Sankey), they took to mapping out the emotional flow of the album, sketching down thematic ideas in a notebook, from the twisted, atmospheric intro "The End" all the way through to the big-hearted closing ballad "Pink Summer." The lyrics, says Sankey, often came from an incredibly painful place. She notes that two songs in particular, "Two Chords" and "Keep Falling," both of which relate to the idea of failure, still make her cry. "The whole process was a bit of a roller coaster for me," she says. "It felt suddenly like there was something to lose. I was really worried about it not being good enough."
Death also plays a large role in the album, sharply contrasting the pair's upbeat aesthetic.
"I think we have this reputation of being a breezy pop band," says Warmsley.
"Everyone's like, 'It's so summery!'" adds Sankey, bewildered. "I'm like, 'That's a song about somebody with really awful issues. And that's about dying!' I think about dying to the point where I can be quite OCD with my loved ones."
It was difficult, say Sankey and Warmsley, to fully articulate their feelings about mortality in song. However, choosing the hypothetical time and place of their own deaths turns out to be a much easier exercise.
"When I was younger, I used to say that I wanted a really violent, extreme, memorable death," laughs Sankey. "'Whoa, she's gone. But did you see how she died?' Like a shark eating me alive in a fish tank in an aquarium while I was eating an ice cream or something."
"If I'm allowed to orchestrate and choose the exact moment of my death, I should choose my death in such a way that it will benefit loads of people," Warmsley muses. "I would like to die while curing cancer or something."
"Oh, you're so good," Sankey replies.
"Yeah," Warmsley retorts, smirking. "I'm just this really great guy!"
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