The Alibi has spoken with plenty of humble bands.
There's a bevy of good-natured, aw-shucks groups that are happy to be where they are and relish every day they get to be paid for making music. We've spoken with few, if any, however, who are embarrassed by their success.
Los Campesinos! drummer Ollie Campesinos! says he sees more talented acts than his own on a regular basis. "It's a real shame when you see bands that are so much better than yours that haven't been signed," Campesinos! says. "They're all really talented, and you just feel embarrassed that you're not as good as them, but you've managed to be signed and release albums."
Campesinos! sells himself short. His Cardiff, Wales-based clan has an unpretentious exuberance that hits you like a Gatorade bath at the end of the Super Bowl. A thin veneer of distortion cuddles glockenspiel-loaded choruses and boy-girl vocals. It's precious, but unrepressed and ever-so-slightly disorganized.
Los Campesinos! has a punk rock energy that it deploys in quick-striking musical attacks. But you'll find none of the “fuck off” attitude that nascent punkers embraced. "There's no reason to be a dickhead, really," Campesinos! reasons. "People have paid good money to come and see you. Why be rude to them? Bad manners never really get you anywhere, do they?"
“You just feel embarrassed that you're not as good as them, but you've managed to be signed and release albums."
After officially forming in 2006, Los Campesinos! quickly created a stir in the Welsh music scene that gave rise to indie projects like Super Furry Animals. In its first year of existence, Los Campesinos! opened for one of Canada's hottest exports, Broken Social Scene. "That was our first big show," Campesinos! recalls. "We had all bought tickets to go and watch them and then it was like, Wow! Now we're going to play with them!"
Before the group’s full-fledged attempt to "make it," Campesinos! says the members made a decision to finish college (or as they call it across the pond, "university"). "There's no guarantee that in four, five years’ time you're still going to be able to do this, because there's a quick turnover of bands," Campesinos explains. "People might not be buying your records and you might have gone out of fashion. We wanted to have our degrees so we'd have something to fall back on."
Diplomas in hand, the Campesinos! army set out to conquer the globe. By 2008, the band was signed to Wichita Recordings. With two LPs and a four-pack of U.S. tours under its belt, the Los Campesinos! name is becoming more familiar to Yankees. Throughout his travels, Campesinos! says he's found the stereotype of the rude, arrogant American to be largely untrue. "Ninety-nine percent of Americans aren't like that," Campesinos! says. "They're really friendly to us all the time."
One of the most pleasant surprises he’s encountered stateside, however, is the popularity of American soccer. Campesinos! says Major League Soccer has blown up since he first came to the U.S. in 2007. Perhaps some in Albuquerque haven't noticed the explosion, but Campesinos! assures us it's taking place.
With “football” season about to begin in the U.K., Los Campesinos! is in the thick of a monthlong U.S. tour. The trip's most prestigious pit stop comes when the band headlines this year's Lollapalooza festival in Chicago. Los Campesinos! played its first United States gig at the storied music festival in 2007—on a side stage. "It's going to be quite scary playing the main stage, but it's going to be a lot of fun," Campesinos! says. "We're excited to be invited back."
For Campesinos!, every new accomplishment is an unexpected surprise. "We always regard ourselves as music fans before we regard ourselves as musicians," Campesinos! asserts. "We didn't expect to be in this position."