We were always going to be into a band that could write a love song and make it the creepiest ode to obsession we’ve heard this year. Summer Camp are Elizabeth Sankey and Chris Warmsley, a London-based duo who whipped the blogosphere into a confused flurry when they released some mysterious tracks last year, posing as a Swedish band. As you do. Now that we all know what they actually look like, and that they’ve got the live talent behind those shared mp3s, we caught up with the twosome in the lead-up to their album release at the end of the month, and headlining UK tour in November. Welcome to their nineties nostalgia world.
Hi guys, thanks for chatting to us. To kick things off (and get the banal stuff out the way first), could you tell us and your readers how you got together as a band?
In October 2009, Elizabeth gave Jeremy a mixtape which included the song 'I Only Have Eyes For You' by the Flamingos. We thought it might be fun to record a cover version - Jeremy had his own studio, although Elizabeth had never sung before. We recorded it and put it online as a fake band, pretending to be seven Swedish teens. Much to our surprise & delight, Transparent & Gorilla vs Bear blogs immediately posted about it. We started writing songs and playing gigs and here we are now!
What are your thoughts on the two-member format in indie at the moment (No Age, Big Deal, Sleigh Bells)? What is it about the duo dynamic that works so well for you? Have you tried being in bigger bands before etc?
Haha, interesting question. Well Jeremy was a solo artist for a long time so this band represents a 100% increase in band members. Being in a duo is great. It's much easier to resolve an artistic dispute between two people than, say, seven (how do the Arcade Fire do it!?). Sometimes when you have a creative project that involves a lot of people, things get watered down and blanded out - like the old saying, "a camel is a horse designed by committee". And it's way better than being a solo artist because there's twice as many people to do the work and you can complement each others' abilities - Elizabeth is really good at the lyrics and melodies and Jeremy has an almost obsessive attitude
There was loads of mystery around you when people first caught wind of 'Round The Moon' last year. What was your thinking behind using clips from A Swedish Love Story for the video, and not starring yourselves?
Actually that was the director's (Paddy Power, a massive genius) idea. We had started shooting a video with him for 'Ghost Train' around Christmas 2009, but it was a disaster - just us running around a garden in the dark wearing animal costumes. Then he came back with this thing he'd cut together from a late 60s soft-core blue movie and it was amazing, so we asked him to do the same thing for 'Round The Moon'. The "anonymous" thing was definitely more of an accident than a Machivellian ploy to exploit the world press - we're not that clever!
Your Pledge Music project's clearly been a massive success. What was the inspiration behind it? And how are you planning on doling out the different pledge prizes?
Thank you very much. It's great! It's allowed us to fund the album by directly reaching out to the people who like our music and asking them to pre-order the album, nothing more complicated than that. So we've been able to work with an amazing producer, Steve Mackey (the bassist in Pulp) who we could never have afforded otherwise. The pledge exclusives are all going out at different times. Elizabeth's literally been in the kitchen baking brownies all day, so they're going out in the next week or so. Most of the stuff will be going out in time for the album release - a few things will come in the weeks following that.
We've noticed Elizabeth's vocal takes a more central role on your recent singles. What's the creative process like behind your songwriting?
We feel like the album is an extension of our earlier work, but with a more direct, visceral pop heart. As for our writing, we work a lot of different ways. Sometimes one of us will bring in an idea, a lyric & a melody and the other will help flesh it out. Sometimes we sit down and discuss what kind of song we want to write, what it'll be about, and work it out together. And sometimes we just bang away on the guitars till we find something that sounds nice.
What are your favourite memories of the 90s from film, TV and music? We see on both your blogs that your love for all things new-retro isn't just in the sonic textures of your music.
We love programmes like 'Freaks and Geeks' and 'My So-Called Life', we were watching both of those during the making of the album. Also, 90's fashion is back in a big way. We're super happy about that, but it's weird, it's like everyone decided at once that scrunchies and long floral dresses were cool again, when if you'd asked three years ago most people would have been revolted! We also love 90's hip hop like Organized Konfusion, Wu Tang and Biz Markie. Their samples - wow.
With Welcome to Condale out at the end of October, how are you feeling about the near-future of Summer Camp?
Really excited! We have our first UK headline tour coming up in November, then we're touring Europe for the first time, it's amazing really! And we're already looking forward to having time off to write the next record.
And finally, will you be running your own Summer Camp summer camp any time soon?
We have talked about it but neither of us are very good at sport. It would have to be the world's only non-sporting summer camp. Actually Jeremy went to drama camp when he was eleven. There were only three other kids, it was a total disaster.
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