Welsh band Los Campesinos! grows up, finds "Romance"

Mon Jan 4, 2010 9:38pm EST
 
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By Mikael Wood

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - When Gareth Campesinos formed the Welsh indie-pop outfit from which he and his bandmates draw their adopted surname, the singer admits he was "a bit of a jackass."

"I was sort of willfully indie, insisting that I didn't care about becoming well known," he recalls.

The mind-set extended from his adolescent attitude toward his favorite acts. "I always wanted to keep the bands that I loved secret. But now I want them to get the credit they deserve."

Speaking to Billboard several days after Los Campesinos! opened for the Cribs at London's 5,000-capacity Brixton Academy, Campesinos says his ideas regarding his own band's renown have changed as well. "The day after the Cribs show we played a headlining show to about 200 people in a club in Cardiff. They were both great shows, but you can't play to 5,000 people and not want to do it again," he says with a laugh. "Once you catch that bug it's really hard to get rid of it."

The first step in that march toward a wider audience? "Romance Is Boring," the sophomore disc from Los Campesinos!, due January 26 on Toronto's Arts & Crafts. According to Campesinos, it's a more refined effort than any of the band's previous releases, which in addition to 2008's full-length debut, "Hold On Now, Youngster ...," include a pair of EPs. "This one has a lot more patience and space to it," the singer continues. "We've made an album that we feel makes sense from beginning to end."

Alun Llwyd, the group's manager, says "Romance" balances the exuberance of the group's live show with a newly "laid-back and thoughtful approach." Indeed, album cuts like "The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future," which the band premiered online in September, reveal an expansive moodiness that feels closer to Arcade Fire than to the twee-pop acts Los Campesinos! typically has been compared to.

Arts & Crafts president Jeffrey Remedios describes the band's fans as "gatekeepers of the indie-music scene" and says that "Romance" represents an opportunity to move beyond those gatekeepers into "the larger pool of indie-music followers" -- from fans of Ra Ra Riot and Matt & Kim to fans of Broken Social Scene and Modest Mouse. The label's marketing strategy amounts to "trying to make as light a footprint as possible," Remedios says. "We just want to let the band step forward and speak with their fans (through blogging and other online channels)."

Making the late-night TV rounds is a goal this time, as is transitioning from Internet radio to NPR and Canada's CBC; the label also hopes to expand the band's film and TV licensing.

Campesinos' definition of success is simpler: "I'd like to go down to the pub where I live," he says, "and when somebody asks me what I do for a living, have them not laugh when I tell them."