Saturday, 23 October 2010

Camera Obscura Interview

They lead the scottish pop scene for the last 15 years. They are sweet and shy and write magic heartbroken songs. An interview with Camera Obscura, via bassist Gavin Dunbar, is all I could ask for. Next week we will see them on stage, at last.

Is indie pop scene still exciting? Are you happy with the recording industry right now?

I think there are always lots of good things happening in the independent scene. We’re not really keen on the description of indiepop, as it seems to have become specifically used to pigeonhole the more C86/twee sounding bands, and because a lot of the indiepop bands these days seem to be quite derivative and unambitious in their sound, which is a shame. The recording industry is changing quite dramatically at the moment and it’s hard to know what’s going to happen next. It’s great that so many bands are taking the initiative and putting out their own music directly, but the problem with that is without experienced record labels who know how to reach music fans, it’s hard to do the best job of letting people hear the music you have been making.

You’ve been around for quite a long time... how much things have changed since 1996?

I guess for us its gone from being something that we did in our spare time when we started, to being something that we did almost as a full time thing along side all working jobs as well, to the situation we are in now where being in the band is our full time job. It’s taken us a long time to get here, and it was a fantastic moment when we got to this point. Hopefully we will continue to be able to make records this way.

Has the constant line-up change affected the band and in what ways?

The line up changes were mainly in the very early days, musically we’ve remained pretty much the same since the first album. Since then we’ve had the same line up, with the exception of John leaving after the second album, which really helped us focus and step up as players a bit. Although Nigel isn’t a full time member anymore, he still plays with us when he can.

Your first album was produced by Stuart Murdoch- how did that come about? [have you listened to B&S last album –what do you think?]

Stuart produced the single Eighties Fan, and arranged strings for that song and Anti-Western and Pen and Notebook. The album (except Eighties Fan) was produced by us. We’d met Stuart the first time we played live, and he liked what we were doing, and we ended up rehearsing in the Church Hall that Stuart was the caretaker of for quite a while. Richard Colburn was drumming for us for a while then too. I just got the new Belles album the other day and have only had the chance to listen to it once, but I liked it on first listen, looking forward to giving it another listen soon.

Name me a book and a movie that would represent your sound and why.

Any film by Mike Leigh would be good, he has such a good feel for everyday experiences and combining happiness and sadness in the one moment. Jack Kerouc, On The Road, cause these days we are.

In terms of songwriting, I know that Tracyanne is the mainly responsible. In what ways the rest seek for democracy within the band?

Well Tracy will tend to bring in the songs and the band rehearse and arrange them together and we get them to the sound that they end up as. We’re quite good at knowing what our parts should be like so it usually comes together quite quickly, occasionally we go through a few totally different arrangements till we get to the way the song ends up.

“My Maudlin Career” was released last year on 4AD. Do you feel you have reached your most mature point with this album?

I think the biggest step forward we have taken as a band was working with Jari on Lets Get Out Of This Country. That was such a big eye opener for us all, and having a producer really helped us get our act together and we got pushed to be better players and that really helped with the album and subsequently with playing live shows. We definitely became a lot more confident as a band after that point. I think when we came to record My Maudlin Career we were a far more confident bunch than we’d been three years earlier, and we were a lot better prepared in ourselves when we went into the studio.

Are sadness and happiness two parts of the same coin?

I guess until you’ve experienced both, you don’t appreciate the happiness as much.

Heartbroken, melancholic, sarcastic, bitter, over emotional – or just POP?

The good thing about great pop is that it can be all those things, and still be set to up beat music that wraps up the sadness. The universal themes that we all feel sometimes.

How has your collaboration been with Swedish producer Jari Haapalainen? What elements has he added to your sound?

He really pushed us, and that helped us really push ourselves, as players and as a band. He helped us sound the way we always wanted to, but didn’t know how to achieve.

Which bands do you like most these days?

We got to play with Yo La Tengo in San Francisco earlier this year and we’d love to do a tour with them. They are one of those bands that just keeps making great records, which is no mean feat after 20 years.

Has Glasgow been a supportive environment for you throughout the years?

Yeah, I think its been great for us to be able to just get on with things in our own way and at our own pace. In Glasgow we’ve always been able to do that without any interference from labels or the media, we’ve kind of just had the freedom to do what we wanted at the time, and there are some great bands like Belle and Sebastian, The Pastels and Teenage Fanclub, that paved the way by not moving to London and being based ‘where the industry is’, which is unfortunately what used to have to happen if you wanted to be seen as serious about a career in music.

Tracyanne mentioned in an interview: “I think these days we're just so much more comfortable in front of an audience than before. I used to have real trouble playing live; Now I understand the audience is already your friend” – what should we expect from your gig?

We’ll try not to make any mistakes. We’re really looking forward to it, it’s been 10 years since we were first asked to come and play in Greece, and it’s taken this long to finally have it happening, so it’s been a long time coming.