On the shores of Lake Michigan in the small city of St. Joseph, indie-pop group Los Campesinos! enjoys a few days of rest and relaxation before embarking on the latest leg of its North American tour.
The day after New Times speaks with the band's guitarist, the group is scheduled to coheadline Chicago's annual Taste of Randolph Festival with Tennessee group Those Darlins. But before the Wales-based septet takes the stage, its focus will be on the UEFA European Football Championship.
"We're English through and through," says Neil Campesinos, who, like his bandmates, has adopted the Campesinos surname. "We've got it all planned out. We've been in close contact with our tour manager to see where we need to be to watch the [England vs. Sweden match]."
Though widely considered one of the world's elite squads, England has a Euro Cup record that's rather disappointing. In fact, the country's tournament history has been incredibly depressing since its World Cup victory in 1966, the Brits' first and only finals appearance in a major soccer tournament.
"There's always a lot of media hype and hysteria over England in international championships, and everyone always thinks we're going to win," Neil says. "I think that this time around, people are more aware of our ability. I think people are optimistic in that they see that we can build on something, if that makes sense. We can build for the future."
English soccer's past, however, is ever-present on last year's Hello Sadness, the group's fourth LP. Frontman and principal songwriter, Gareth, penned an ode to his beloved country's team, "Every Defeat a Divorce (Three Lions)," lyrically detailing the intense wave of emotions triggered during each match. (The nation's players wear on their chests an emblem with three lions, a derivative of the country's coat of arms.)
"These three lions that were sitting on my chest/Are clawing hard into my skin/As I am gasping for my breath," Los Campesinos! sing. "And as they each play noughts and crosses/On the scratches they have left/I have to screw up both my eyes/As it goes into sudden death."
Ironically, Los Campesinos! recorded Hello Sadness outside of Barcelona, Spain, a country whose national soccer team is currently the best in the world. However, intracontinental rivalries didn't affect the studio sessions. "We were more rehearsed than we ever had been," Neil explains. "[Producer John Goodmanson] often says that setting and surrounding can dictate the tempo and feel of an album. We were in the Catalonian countryside, [where] life slows down, pace slows down. You can play things at tempos you've rehearsed, but it feels faster up there because of the environment."
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Plus, Neil adds, the region kept everyone in good spirits and had a positive impact on the group's approach to recording the album. "I'd like to go back to Barcelona," he says. "But there are plenty of other places to try. The more exotic and the more exciting the better. Maybe we can go to South America or Japan or Thailand."
Before returning to the studio, though, Los Campesinos! will have to complete a 14-city American tour as well as main-stage slots at two of Europe's biggest festivals — Leeds and Reading — not to mention a handful of gigs in Spain. Admittedly, the demand for shows and new recordings is more intense than Neil could've ever imagined.
"It's not like we went to a music college with the intention of perfecting an instrument and pursuing a career in music," he says. "Obviously, we are musicians — at least that's what it says on our [work] visas — but it's just something that happened, and we got caught up in, completely organically."
Humbly reflecting on his group's success, Neil admits, "It wasn't like we planned any of this or had any goals. We're just going along with it."