College towns are hotbeds of upstart groups that haunt house parties and bars. While these bands all dream of moving on to bigger things, most don’t live beyond the four year undergrad lifespan. Luckily for bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Welsh septet Los Campesinos!, they were able to outlast many of their collegiate counterparts and make quite a name for themselves.
Formed at the University of Cardiff in 2006, Los Campesinos! quickly established themselves in the U.K. indie rock scene.
“At first we were only known in Wales, though,” commented bassist Ellen Campesinos! (her nom du guerre, naturally). “We didn’t have much of a following other than just our friends. We only ever really played in Cardiff.”
The band’s utilization of the Internet allowed them to quickly build a reputation, despite limited live exposure. After only a few months together, the band caught a huge break (and fulfilled just about every college band’s dream), claiming the opening spot for Canadian indie collectivists Broken Social Scene.
“We got the gig through our U.K. label, Witchita Records” explained Campesinos!, “and we made a good impression on them because they really took a liking to us.”
The band’s sound, which made such an impression on Broken Social Scene, is a very angsty, pop driven mixture of almost orchestral indie rock with chaotic punk blasts. The lyrics are wordy, heart-on-sleeve dissertations on self deprecation. On the fantastic title track from 2008’s We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, singer Gareth Campesinos! belts out the soul-crushing assessment: “I cannot emphasize enough that my body is a badly designed, poorly put together vessel, harboring these diminishing, so-called 'vital organs'. I hope my heart goes first.”
Beat that, Bright Eyes.
Broken Social Scene passed word of their discovery of Los Campesinos! onto frequent collaborator and sometimes-producer Dave Newfeld.
“Dave took a chance on us” Campesinos! explained. “We were in the right place at the right time.”
Newfeld took the reigns on the band’s first album, Hold On Now, Youngster; and hooked them up for North American releases with BSS’s own Arts & Crafts label.
The band’s popularity took off following the release of Youngster, and they embarked on several European and North American tours over the following years.
“I know we’ve played Bloomington before but I just can’t remember where” said Campesinos! of the band’s 2009 stop at The Bluebird.
Hopefully their stop in Bloomington today, in support of their latest album (Hello Sadness), will leave more of an impression.