2014 Artist Survey: Camera Obscura | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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2014 Artist Survey: Camera Obscura

Carey Lander on Writing Fan Letters to Stuart Murdoch, Her Former Music Teacher, Bad Haircuts, Scottish Independence, and Time Travel

Feb 06, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent Bookmark and Share

For Under the Radar’s 12th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2014. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2014 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2014 print and digital issues for answers from alt-J, Chromeo, The Dears, Death From Above 1979, Deerhoof, The Drums, The Flaming Lips, Glass Animals, Hookworms, Sondre Lerche, of Montreal, Ought, Owen Pallett, The Rosebuds, Still Corners, Strand of Oaks, Teleman, Sharon Van Etten, The War on Drugs, Warpaint, Woman’s Hour, Wye Oak, Zola Jesus, and others.

Here are some answers from Carey Lander of Camera Obscura.

[A shorter version of this interview ran in Issue 52, the Best of 2014 and January/February 2015 Issue, which is still on newsstands. This is the full version of the interview.]

Top 10 Albums of 2014

I’m sorry, I buy more books than records so, I don’t want to patronize your readers.

What was the highlight of 2014 for either you personally or for the band?

I was touched when my friend Sali Hughes dedicated a book to me.

What was the low point of 2014 for you?

My health.

What are your hopes and plans for 2015?

I’d like to be less destroyed by anxiety and earn some money.

U2’s new album was downloaded for free into millions of users’ iTunes accounts without their permission. Was it a wonderful gift to music fans or an invasive action that devalues music? Also, which artist, other than you, deserves to have their album automatically downloaded to half a billion people more than U2?

Ugh, it was horrible. I don’t know anyone that found it anything other than revolting.

Did you take part in the ice bucket challenge? If not, why not? Grimes declined due to animal testing issues, was the grief she got for that deserved?

I didn’t. No one nominated me, probably because they know I’m a miserable bastard. Animal testing is grim and ideally would not be necessary, but I am very grateful for the medical treatment I’ve received.

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri opened up a new national dialogue on police shootings and racism in America. Do you think anything will actually change because of it?

It seems unlikely. Discussion is good but people don’t seem to change their views easily.

What’s your craziest theory for what happened to the missing Malaysian Air flight?

I think it’s crazy enough that we travel by air at all.

Mark Kozelek was criticized in 2014 for insulting his audience (calling them “hillbillies” for talking during his set) and for making fun of The War on Drugs when their sound bled over to the stage he was playing. What responsibility do performers have to be respectful of their audiences and fellow bands?

I think it would be boring if nobody was ever opinionated and rude, but try not to be a dick.

Which common criticism of your music do you most agree with?

I have a tendency to agree with all of them because confidence is hard to hold on to. Some people consider us to be a poor live act because we are not very demonstrative on stage. Personally, I don’t expect all musicians and artists to be extroverts and I’m okay with a smile being rare.

What’s the most uplifting or heartwarming fan interaction you’ve ever had?

It’s a surprise to me, but it’s weirdly difficult to absorb the admiration of others despite having been a gushing, heart-full fan on many occasions. Thank you to anyone who has ever taken the time to try to convince me of their good feelings.

What’s the topic no one asks you about in interviews that you wish they would? Conversely, if you could get journalists to stop asking you one question, which would it be?

I’m not sure, but your questions are the best. I will never know how to answer the one about “why so many good bands have come out of Glasgow” without tripping over some meaningless cliché about rain and creativity.

Who from your youth (such as a former bully, an unrequited love) do you most hope pays attention to the fact that you’re now a successful musician?

I’ve thought about trying to get in contact with my music teacher from secondary school. I really liked him and he had to deal with me being unable to complete the performance aspects of my music education without bursting into terrified tears. I’d like to surprise him with the news that I have played in front of thousands of people and survived and thank him for his encouragement.

Which musician or celebrity did you most have a crush on as a child or teenager?

I’m struggling to remember, but I wrote a lot of letters of angst and admiration as a teenager, which is embarrassing. Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian remembers receiving one. Mortifying.

Which subject do you wish you paid more attention to in school?

Although I vaguely enjoyed it, I wish I’d taken Spanish or German instead of a year of Latin. Much more use when trying to order dinner on tour.

Both Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman died in 2014. Did either death deeply affect you and do you find it strange to grieve for a stranger? Which celebrity’s death in your lifetime has most affected you?

Not deeply affected, but saddened to lose Philip Seymour Hoffman and James Gandolfini because I enjoyed their work and would have loved to see more. Generally speaking, my feelings about the death of celebrities are just reflections of my own fears, sense of self-importance, and helplessness.

Which well-known filmmaker would you most like to direct one of your music videos?

Lukas Moodysson. I bet he could have done something cool for “My Maudlin Career.”

This year Grimes scrapped her new album due to negative fan reaction to its first single and her unhappiness with it. How much should fan reaction/expectation play a part of your creative process? Have you ever abandoned a big creative project far into it due to your dissatisfaction?

I don’t think we have ever abandoned a project. We could never afford to re-record an album, so I hope that our dissatisfaction would never be that great. There are certainly a few B-sides that we are less proud of, but I hope that those will just be politely forgotten. It seems like a dangerous game to allow your perception of public opinion to shape what you do too much.

If you could travel through time, which historical event would you most like to alter the outcome of and why?

It’s hard to get past thinking about the Holocaust here…

What was your most disastrous haircut experience?

Around the age of 21 I was at university and in the band and had no money, so I got a friend of a friend to give me cheap haircuts. They lacked a little expertise and I whimper a bit at photos from that period.

In which instance did you most sell out and compromise your music?

We gave permission for a song to be used by the sponsors of a show we enjoy. It’s not an ideal situation to be in, but I’m not apologizing.

What has most surprised you about getting to know your parents as an adult?

Gradually realizing that the flaws they have are not the ones you used to think they had.

What quirky piece of band merchandise would you most like to produce for sale to your fans?

Camera obscuras?

Do you ever long for the days before the Internet and cell phones? If so, what do you think has been the worst side effect of those technologies?

I worry about the next generation and the effect technology is having on them. I am very glad to have grown up before the existence of social media. I am really grateful that there was no platform for me to inadvisably publish my stupid, desperate teenage thoughts and I wonder if I would have managed to read any books if they had had to compete with the many tempting distractions offered by gadgets and devices.

Which 2014 song most got on your nerves?

All the Ed Sheeran ones. He is on a lot of adverts in the U.K., and I never fumble for the mute button quick enough.

Do you have any other thoughts about 2014 (such as on the World Cup, the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict, immigration reform, the failed Scottish Independence Referendum, Ebola, Winter Olympics, celebrity nude photo hacks, etc.) or the state of the music industry?

The day of the Scottish Independence Referendum result was so bleak. I walked to work through the significance-laden drizzle and people looked sadly at the ground. I took a taxi a few days later and the driver was talking about how depressed and hopeless he felt. It feels terrible to have effectively endorsed the current government and given up the chance of change and optimism.



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March 12th 2015

I love Camera Obscura. Been a fan for a very long time. But, my god, Carey sounds so pretentious. I was cringing while reading this whole thing.

You’re a professional musician, when someone asks you about your favorite records, don’t use it as an excuse to plug how much you read. We get it: You read. Whether or not you believe it, some people actually want to hear about what you are listening to.


March 12th 2015

Completely disagree, Hudson.

Kenny McKeeeeeeeeve
March 13th 2015

I’ve just gone round to Carey’s house and burned all of her books. Stood eating an apple as I watched the flames. Found one or two records. Didn’t burn them, but boy did they melt.

Jim Droid
April 5th 2015

I think it’s a bit much that Carey came on here and answered those questions the way she saw fit. Surely she should be giving the answers we want to hear?
Remember, voting the wrong way is how some countries get their democracy taken off of them.