As far as interview experiences go, this is a new one: stood wedged between two basic bunk beds, interview subjects perched atop them, Dictaphone placed precariously on a top bunk mattress and various Frankie & The Heartstrings members hunting for their coats (which they’ll continue to do intermittently throughout the interview).
Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley (best known as Summer Camp) can be found disregarding the unorthodox scenes and are instead clambering and shuffling to some semblance of comfort while making references to John Lennon and Yoko Ono‘s ‘bed-in’. Articulate, attentive, courteous and chatty, as well as having a fine line in abstract similes to illustrate their points, they make a fine pair of interview subjects, despite the inevitable questions about ‘the back story’.
For those who’ve missed all the excitement, the aforementioned back story is as follows… In its most simplified form, girl makes boy a mixtape, they cover one of the songs on it, post it on MySpace, and the web’s tastemakers find it. Band lay low and remain anonymous while they figure out what to do and where to take the idea of Summer Camp, before the anonymity takes on a life of its own and they get ‘outed’ by a magazine. Since then, the Young EP has garnered near unanimous praise from all corners of the media. Had this justified the unorthodox route they’d taken up until that point, especially given the backlash surrounding the back story from some corners suggesting it was little more than a gimmick?
“I think what needs to be said is that praise we’ve had, or haven’t had, or could have or could not have had, is really irrelevant,” begins Jeremy Warmsley. “Forming the band, which was something of an accident, has been nothing but enjoyable so far, and what the critics make of it is not really top of our list of priorities.” Elizabeth Sankey concurs. “It doesn’t really matter. People are going to like it or not like it whether you’ve come from a manufactured boyband background or whether you’ve been raised in solitary confinement for the last 24 years…” (Jeremy: “Raised by wolves!”) “…You can’t start worrying about these things. The way we came about is the way we came about.” Jeremy: “It’s like if you were adopted and you were ashamed of it, there’s nothing you can do about it, don’t be ashamed about it.” Elizabeth: “Because we never thought that anyone would think it had been done on purpose, we don’t really feel justified or unjustified in the praise that the EP has or hasn’t got.”
“It was exciting finding someone who I really trusted, and who complimented the stuff that I wasn’t really very good at.” – Jeremy Warmsley on Elizabeth Sankey
Jeremy: “It was all an accident, unfortunately. Maybe we should start forward planning! That said, it’s been nice to get some positive feedback from people at gigs as well as the nice reviews we’ve had, which is awesome.” Starting the band was a happy accident, and in a way it’s meaningless talking about having done it another way. If we’d sat down and worked out how to use our talents we’d have, I don’t know, probably ended up writing a musical!” Elizabeth: “The worst musical in the world!”
Looking at Arctic Monkeys and the way that to an extent their ‘MySpace band’ tag got thrust into the public domain around their first album, was there ever a chance that the back story could overshadow the music? Jeremy picks up the point. “Yeah, but that didn’t really overtake their music… I would suggest that anyone who called them a ‘MySpace band’ probably never listened to their record. In any case, I think with any band, if you don’t have an interesting story the press don’t tend to write about you very much. Look at Bon Iver, hibernating in the woods and beavering away on this project while in the crux of a massive depression. There was a great singer-songwriter record that wouldn’t have got written about as much without that story behind it. Ultimately our names are now out there and no-one’s ran away screaming. If this was a blind date we’d be ordering dessert and talking about the next date.” Elizabeth: “We wouldn’t be on the dessert! We’d be getting drinks and ordering a starter!” Jeremy: “I was thinking our first album was our first date…” Elizabeth “We’d still be talking about our exes and weird fetishes. We’ve still got a long way to go.”
But did their previous roles (Elizabeth as a journalist, Jeremy as a Transgressive-signed solo artist) necessitate a change in mindset or did working together and collaborating come easily? Jeremy: “It was exciting finding someone who I really trusted, and who complimented the stuff that I wasn’t really very good at, like the lyrics and all the melodies, and all the pictures and stuff. It’s nice being in a band who gets it and gets as excited about it as I am. It’s great.”
Talk shifts to their atmospheric sound and their use of retro images (in backdrops, cover art and the like). Did the constant references to ’80s nostalgia and John Hughes-type imagery bore them, or was it something they agreed with? “If we’d been named ‘Best Shagger’ or ‘Shagger Of The Year’ in The Sun and that kept being brought up when we were trying to launch our religious campaign to be the next Pope, then yeah, that would be annoying. But these are things that we really care about and to a degree we don’t really mind what people think about them. We really love John Hughes films, but we didn’t make them, we didn’t star in them. We’re just talking talking about the things that we love,” says Elizabeth, before launching into a near-eulogy to all things John Hughes and 1980s in general so impassioned that your humble narrator bought a book on John Hughes not two days later.
It’s this love of the ’80s which will later see Summer Camp take Manchester by storm as they co-headline with Frankie & The Heartstrings. Their anonymity may have allowed them to develop at their own pace, but if the EP and live performance that evening are anything to go by it’s to our benefit that they are now in the public domain. Having seen bands crushed by the weight of expectation generated by the hype machine (Glasvegas, anyone?), it’s good to see Summer Camp riding the crest of the wave out into the horizon. Long may it continue.
Summer Camp’s Young EP is out now through Moshi Moshi.