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"Let?s get out of this country" interview

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BY Chris Randle   August 23, 2007

Wry and sly, interested in organs (instruments, vented spleens, broken hearts), purveyors of shimmering guitars and strings with flair, Glasgow's Camera Obscura have been plying their trade in wistful, soulful pop since 1996. Formed by Tracyanne Campbell, John Henderson and Gavin Dunbar and going through several lineup changes/additions since, their debut album Biggest Bluest Hi Fiwas released in 2001 and found vital support from venerable British DJ John Peel. The band is now on its most extensive tour yet thanks to last year's successful Let's Get Out of This Country. EYE WEEKLY talked to the band's Carey Lander by email about shyness, veggie dogs and why being called twee is a turnoff.

What's the Camera Obscura live experience like? Lots of smoke machines, video projections?
Hmm, sadly our budget is limited. We're not great at showing our excitement on our faces but you can be sure it's there underneath. After nervous beginnings, we have come around to enjoying playing live. We've played a few times in Toronto and people keep coming back, so something good must be happening.

What was/is Camera Obscura's place in Glasgow's music scene?
Glasgow has a legacy of producing great music and in some ways that's self-perpetuating, as the expectation is there and there are lots of venues where bands can get a gig. We've never felt particularly part of any scene – perhaps we've always missed the boat a bit but it's satisfying to feel you've built up support on your own.

Tell me about John Peel – I heard that the band played his birthday party only a few months before he died.
Yes, that's something I'll always feel proud and sad about. His support of the band was a great source of encouragement and meeting him was such an honour. It took a while to overcome our shyness but we realized he was shy too. Red wine managed to melt that away to some degree and he told us wonderful stories. He is missed by everybody.

I get the impression that you're inspired by a lot of older music – sometimes it's obvious, as with “Dory Previn,” and sometimes it's subtler. What is it about those songs that appeals to you?
I think a lot of music from the '50s, '60s and '70s is proving to have a timeless appeal. I guess we value the love of melody in that music, and the groundbreaking production. It just feels natural to us to reference this when me make music. We like a lot of contemporary music, too, but we don't seem to be so adept at producing it ourselves.

Have you spent enough time in Toronto to form an impression of it?
Tracyanne has spent some time in Toronto; she has family there. The first two times we played were in the Horseshoe, which I really liked and the area around there seemed cool. I like how easy it is to get veggie hotdogs on the street. We look forward to our return. Actually, we meant to stay on for a few days but we're too disorganized. One day....

Is the “twee” label something you reject, or are you flattered by the comparisons to other bands under that banner?
We hate it. We are striving for something a lot more ambitious than that. Twee is so unsexy.

Camera Obscura []
picture: Archivo Elefant










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