We at TLOBF love Summer Camp like a fat kid loves cake. Like Roman Catholic priests love small boys. Like Lady Gaga loves product placement. You get the picture. They’re one of our bestest finds of the last six months, and we were lucky enough to host one of their very first shows at the TLOBF-curated RoTa afternoon in March, where they simultaneously slayed and warmed our cockles.
Given that we’ve watched them grow from the shadows of bedroom mystery to a fully-fledged and mindblowingly excellent live band, we’re extraordinarily proud to see their first single, ‘Ghost Train’ come out on Moshi Moshi this week, and sell out to boot! Laura Snapes wangled a chat with Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley about secret identities, the nebulous beast that is chillwave, and orchestrated a quick game of SC’s favourite game, Would You Rather…
The Summer Camp story seems as charmed as they come – girl makes boy a mixtape, the two of them cover one of the songs on it, upload it to MySpace and within 45 minutes, the internet’s bloodhound tastemakers find it. Was it really that simple?
We love the idea of Sahil from Transparent being an internet bloodhound, drool dripping from his snarling lips as he trawls MySpace for undiscovered artists. As for us, we were very lucky, and obviously if we’d ever planned to have our music found that way it would never have happened. We genuinely never expected anyone to hear the songs, and really only set up a MySpace for ourselves – something we’d forget about and then find again in two years time and wonder what the hell we were thinking.
When did you first decide that this was a project you wanted to dedicate all your time to? Is it the main thing that the pair of you are working on at the moment?
Due to the way this has unfolded so gradually, there was never a set point where we made a conscious decision that this was the project we were going to prioritise. There was never a dramatic moment where we looked at each other and said, “This is it. Showtime!”…Although that would have been amazing. It’s just sort of rolled along and as it’s got busier we’ve just shunted it up the To Do List. However we both have other things we’ve continued to do that aren’t Summer Camp, which is probably a good thing.
I know you never meant to keep your identities secret, but that you got a bit caught up in it all. Did there come a point where you just wanted to come clean? Do you think the mystery worked in your favour?
The secrecy thing was a strange beast. It gave us privacy as we were getting used to the idea of doing Summer Camp properly, and it undoubtedly made us slightly more interesting to people who otherwise might have written us off straight away. However it also became pretty stressful as we began to worry about what people would think when they found out it was just boring old us. Plus there were the beginning rumblings of the inevitable backlash as people started to wonder if mystery was our sole appeal, and they began to view it as nothing more than a big marketing ploy. We actually started to feel a bit cowardly as well. It felt like we were lying to people, and also that we weren’t being fair to our audience by not allowing them to know who we were. It was like hiding in a bubble of safety and anonymity because we weren’t brave enough to face what people might say about us personally, and that’s not really an equal/fair exchange between band and audience.
Was there a grand plan for how you were going to reveal your identities? Leaping out of a cake, aeroplane banners and the like
No! The only unveiling we would have ever planned was a quiet slinking out of the dark, hoods up and eyes on the floor. We were just hoping people would come to gigs and see who we were, then maybe tell some people, and it would be a gradual reveal. It got to the point where the idea of stepping out of our safe-house of anonymity became a bit terrifying, so we wanted to do it as slyly as possible…which is why it’s probably a good thing we ended up being pushed out the front door.
Where did you come across the old movie footage for the ‘Ghost Train’ video? What with the Brat Pack samples at the starts of your songs, you seem like movie aficionados – were you not tempted to appear in your own video?
We’d love to appear in one of our videos at some point, but with ‘Ghost Train’ our friend Paddy Power (best name ever) put together the footage for us, and we just thought it was perfect. We love the use of found footage in music videos, and especially ones that combine John Boy, dead birds, and homosexual trysts on sandy beaches.
I don’t know if you saw the reaction to jj’s performance at SXSW, but they got panned for not being able to translate the magical sounds they make in their bedroom studios into a live setting. Was that a worry for you?
Definitely. When you’re at home with your computer there are no limits to what you can do, and it’s very easy to get carried away – piling guitars, choirs and magnetic harpsichords on to your tracks, and forgetting that at some point you’re going to have to make it work in front of a crowd of people. For a long time we weren’t planning on playing live, and therefore felt smug about the fact we didn’t have to worry about that. Then we thought we’d like to play live and hated the smug bastards we’d been, the idiots from two months ago who’d made it so difficult for us. However as soon as we decided we wanted a full band and not just the two of us looking awkward on stage as our Mac crashed for the fourth time mid-set, it became a lot easier. We’re lucky to have three really talented friends who’ve worked hard with us to make it work.
Do you find it strange that you’re considered part of this “blog” genre of music, together with a bunch of bands you’ve never met and who live in all corners of the world? It seems odd how this nostalgia thing that no-one can quite put their finger on has popped up all of a sudden – what do you think brought it on?
Do you mean “chillwave”? Seriously, what is “chillwave”? There does seem to be a surge of lo-fi nostalgia pop around at the moment, and we guess we’re part of that too. What’s great though is that since everyone doing it is from different corners of the world we’re all nostalgic for different things, so it’s all still sounding pretty fresh and unique…for the time being anyway. As for what brought it on, it’s probably just a natural retaliation to how easy it is to make everything sound really slick and polished these days thanks to all the home studio set ups around. We wonder how far it will go, and have considered recording on wax cylinders just to keep ahead of the game.
Where does the inspiration for the characters in your songs from?
Everywhere really. We don’t want to write songs about ourselves, so we’ve sort of created our own characters that we place into different situations.
I know it’s your favourite Twitter game, so let’s have a round of Would You Rather…
Would you rather stay at the summer camp in Friday 13th or the Lindsay Lohan remake of The Parent Trap?
We’re convinced that Lindsay Lohan actually does have a real twin who co-starred with her in that film, and that the twin who’s around now is the evil one. One day the good twin, who’s probably been locked in a tower or something, will return and avenge her evil twin who has so tragically sullied the Lohan name. And we reckon the battle will probably take place on the Parent Trap set – you know, to keep it relevant – and we’d like to be there to see it.
Would you rather have a choir of children following you everywhere, harmonising with your every word, or only be able to converse in lyrics from Journey songs?
Well Elizabeth is just a small-town girl living in a lonely world and, not many people know this, but Jeremy actually is a city boy raised in South Detroit, so that one please.
Would you rather be able to import the special effects and super powers from Star Wars or Weird Science into your everyday lives?
For Jeremy: Star Wars (dark side please), for Elizabeth: Weird Science. Although in Weird Science all they could really do was make a really hot woman and get their house blown up by a missile, which to be honest has never been a great desire of mine. Still, I would rather that than have to face JarJar.
Would you rather be as bendy as the very best Cirque du Soleil gymnast but have the world’s worst flatulence, or able to paint like Picasso but think you were a goat?
Definitely a painting goat. Have you ever seen the elephants who can paint self portraits? Believe.
Would you rather have to pay a visit to George Bluth Sr in the conjugal trailer, or be hand- and footcuffed to Buster for three months?
Buster. We’d give him pep talks so he could stand up to his mother, and also make him take us to the pharmacy so we could get Night Nurse for the evenings when he’s loving Lucille Austero. Shudder.