Los Campesinos!: Alone Again Or

Los Campesinos! frontman Gareth Campesinos! tries to work it all out on Sick Scenes

It might sound like a corny old showbiz adage, but to Los Campesinos! anchor Gareth Campesinos! (née David), it’s become something of a sacrament: Don’t give up your day job. Even though he and his six bandmates have all substituted their surnames for Campesinos! and kept the celebratory exclamation mark.

When the 31-year-old Gareth phoned from his Bath, England, hometown to discuss his group’s latest whimsical effort, Sick Scenes, he was just finishing his nine-to-five shift at a local graveyard, where he’s employed as gardener. “Well, perhaps ‘gardener’ is too grand a term,” he says. “I cut grass. I’m just keeping the grass short and making the cemetery look as nice as it can. I like duties where you can actually see your progress. And when the grass is really long and you’ve been there a few hours, and now the grass is short? It’s like, ‘Well done! You’ve done that correctly!’” Plus, he points out, there’s the bonus of listening to his favorite music and podcasts on duty, or having lunch by his favorite tombstones, like the soccer-ball-shaped monument to a player who died during a match in the 1920s.

Additionally, the vocalist has two other side careers—one wherein he closely watches test-taking students to ensure that no cheating occurs and another for his favorite soccer team, the Welton Rovers, for whom he oversees the team’s website and social-media accounts, plus the writing and editing of its match-day program booklets. To record Sick Scenes for a month in Fridão, Portugal, he had to quit yet another gig at a record label and management company, which he admits he didn’t really enjoy. “I don’t really like that side of the music industry—I’m very skeptical of the worth of management and paying other people to do things that you can do yourself,” he says. Only songwriting partner Tom Campesinos! (née Bromley), stayed with him for the entire session. The other Campesinos!—Rob, Kim, Matt, Neil and Jason—flew over during weeklong day-job vacations.

Initially, Sick Scenes, the band’s sixth disc, seemed ill-fated. After 2013’s No Blues, Los Campesinos! parted company with its record label and its management, with Gareth taking the club-booking reins.

It felt like the musicians were starting from scratch again, like back in 2006 when they met in Wales at Cardiff University and issued a lovably eccentric 2008 debut, Hold On Now, Youngster… “Even the label that we were with had explicitly said, ‘Maybe it’s not worth doing this anymore,’” the frontman recalls, somberly. “They were actually trying to stop us from being a band.”

Gareth’s corporate moonlighting wound up inspiring him, however. Helping young artists at that imprint, he decided to reinvest that energy in Los Campesinos!, so he got busy arranging financial backing for Sick Scenes. Musically, the album turned out chiming, jubilant, totally uplifting, with new-wave-quirky melodies carried aloft by galloping rhythms and buzzy guitar work. But listen closer to the misanthropic lyrics Gareth sneer-sings on “Sad Suppers,” “5 Flucloxacillin” (about a regimen of antibiotics he was on), “A Slow, Slow Death” and deceptively gentle ballad “The Fall Of Home” (a cynical examination of small-town life and the artistes who leave it behind), and it becomes a much darker proposition. The happy/grim contrast is what the group was aiming for.

“Because we hadn’t been able to record for so long, or even do the things that bands should be doing, we had a lot of pent-up aggression,” he says. “And struggling with mental health issues in my 20s. I always comforted myself by thinking, ‘Well, when you’re a bit older, things will be different, you’ll have worked it all out, and you’ll actually have a clue.’ But then you get that little bit older, and you realize, ‘Nah—it’s not as simple as that.’ That’s kind of the mindset behind this whole record.”

Besides, when Los Campesinos! finishes its spring tour of America, that cemetery grass will have grown that much higher and groundskeeper-ready. Gareth can be alone again, aside from an occasional interloper that he often mistakes for something otherworldly.

“When it’s particularly quiet there and suddenly a squirrel jumps past, there’s a moment where I’m convinced that it’s some sort of apparition,” he says. “But no. It’s only a squirrel!”

—Tom Lanham

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Film At 11: Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble

Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble released Find Me Finding You earlier in the spring. Tonight, we’re bringing you its video for “Love Captive,” a sleepy, slowly rotating song that jars with sudden electronic bursts. Meanwhile, the clip accompanies those bursts with bright, busy shots sewn between gloomy beige steps and forlorn looks. Check it out below.

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Essential New Music: Bardo Pond’s “Under The Pines”

Since its classic psych-sludge/noise-gaze debut, Bufo Alvarius, appeared in 1995, Bardo Pond has stood out in its oversaturated corner of the underground thanks to the haunting vocals of singer/flutist Isobel Sollenberger and the dirge-vs.-lead guitar onslaught of the Gibbons brothers, the latter lending the band a serious heaviness that was uncommon among its peers. After a slower post-millennial stretch that saw two LPs on ATP Records, Bardo Pond moved to U.K.-based safe haven Fire Records in 2010 and has since released a clutch of EPs and three full-lengths with the label (2014’s Refulgo was on their own Three-Lobed Recordings imprint), with Under The Pines being the most recent. While there are no arm-hair-raisers like “Tommy Gun Angel” (from 1997’s Lapsed) or “Capillary River” (from the aforementioned debut) here, the album is the reliable mix of shorter, inverted blues-rock dirges and extended workouts one has come to expect from this well-oiled machine.

—Andrew Earles

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Essential New Music: Beans’ “HAAST,” “Love Me Tonight” And “Wolves Of The World”

Rapper, spoken-word artist, producer and founding Anti-Pop Consortium member Beans hasn’t released an LP since 2011’s End It All. Now come three albums and a first novel, Die Tonight, in a limited-edition bundle. The wait was worth it. HAAST, Love Me Tonight and Wolves Of The World each showcase various aspects of Beans’ formidably wide-ranging aesthetic—the brainy gearhead, the gritty sexhead, the spacey funkhead. The division isn’t that easy or clean, of course, as Beans’ rapid-fire lyrical delivery and diverse topicality don’t linger too long in any one idiom, and all three are linked by his minimalist production approach and tendency to blend canonical hip-hop gestures with artful rhetorical flourishes (from the sinfully catchy “Pendulum”: “And we walk around humble, for what?/Y’all already know the name before we tear the shit up”). Wolves inches the other two albums just slightly, in its complexity of form and content. But each is a stunner on its own merits, and taken entire, the trilogy (triptych?) presents one of so-called underground hip hop’s strongest talents in top form.

—Eric Waggoner

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Film At 11: Pissed Jeans

Pissed Jeans have some fun at the gym in their clip for “The Bar Is Low,” and if you’re not watching closely it might appear to be a killer workout video alongside the rocking tune. But pay attention and you’ll see that the members of Pissed Jeans (and their adversaries) don’t appear to be using the equipment properly. We mean, we assume that’s not right … We don’t really know how any of that stuff works. Anyway, check it out below.

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Essential New Music: Boss Hog’s “Brood X”

Though Jon Spencer’s rising profile in the early-’90s pegged Boss Hog as one of his side projects due to it being the band he shared with wife Cristina Martinez, it’s always been her show, and it’s always been unpredictable. Reemerging last year with the four-song Brood Star EP (also on long-time label In The Red) after a hiatus of 15-plus years, Brood X is Boss Hog’s first album since 2000’s great, sadly misunderstood Whiteout, and it’s a lively hybrid of funk’s nastier side, featuring organ/keyboard-driven ass-shakers and the gutter-blues one might expect from the principals behind its creation. Primarily a vocal showcase for Martinez (Spencer’s vocals take a backseat, as on previous albums), the succinct 10 songs on Brood X are all upbeat workouts, though slower, moody closer “Sunday Routine” is a nice touch that belies the dance-floor-readiness of what precedes it.

—Andrew Earles

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Jessi Colter And Lenny Kaye: The Lord Is Their Shepherd

Outlaw country queen Jessi Colter and garage-punk avatar Lenny Kaye roll holy for The Psalms

There is absolutely nothing off or odd about Lenny Kaye—longtime Patti Smith collaborator, producer/curator of the Nuggets psych-punk series—having teamed with legendary country singer/pianist Jessi Colter for the gorgeously spare The Psalms, her first album in 11 years. Considering an aesthetic existence where chance plays as much of a role as providence, the Jewish-born Kaye says, “It’s the Buddhist in me; my entire artistic life, I’ve emptied myself of expectations. Things just happen.”

Colter’s no Buddhist (“Mom was a ferocious Pentecostal minister, dad was a mountain man who built and raced cars and believed in the power of nature,” she says), but she too lives a life where anticipation is trumped by serendipity and fortuity. “Lenny just heard me playing hymns a long time ago, and that image stuck in his head,” she says, referencing the years between 1993 and 1995 when Kaye went to Nashville to convince Colter’s husband, legendary country outlaw Waylon Jennings, to pair up on Jennings’ autobiography. “I became part of their family, with Waylon taking me around town, introducing me as his New York hippie writer friend,” says Kaye. To which Colter cheerfully counters, “I can still recall seeing his long legs coming down from the bunks on our tour bus.”

With that, The Psalms—as much an exploration and exaltation of God as poetic expression—just happened with no plan, with Colter and Kaye turning pages of the bible and finding psalm passages that moved them and letting music and vocals come up in response. After two brief days of recording in 2007, Kaye worked on further illustrating the tracks as the spirit moved him, and collaborators such as Al Kooper (“Who better than the man who did the most iconic organ signature for a rabbinical student such as Dylan?”) and Bobby Previte (“I knew he’d be sensitive to the floating time and rhythm Jessi’s songs had”) appeared.

Both Colter and Kaye agree: The Psalms wasn’t so much produced as it was guided; birthed, quietly and with a divine hand.

“This memory of me walking through their house, one morning in 1995, while she was at the piano, alone, stuck with me,” says Kaye. “Jessi wasn’t so much playing as she was putting her fingers on the keys and expressing melodies as they came to her.” That same sense of intuitive expression, one Kaye used as a guitarist for Colter during their sessions, is how the country songstress works when it comes to the Old Testament.

“I wasn’t planning anything,” she says. “We turned the bible’s pages, found poems such as ‘Psalm 136 Mercy And Loving Kindness,’ and just let it happen.”

Colter knows that this might seem like a far cry from her outlaw-country past—being the lone female on 1976’s Wanted! The Outlaws, with Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser and Jennings, the first-ever platinum country music album, duets such as “Storms Never Last,” from their marrieds’ 1981 Leather And Lace—but is quick to offer one fun fact: “When it came to Wanted!, I was the only one of the bunch who had—sadly, at that, considering how much hard work Willie and Waylon did— real success and gold albums at that point. Willie had tried Nashville, failed and retreated back to Texas. Waylon, too, had been back and forth with bad management and publishing deals and still felt the sting of Buddy (Holly). I didn’t have the easiest ride, but as soon as I had pop success (1975’s “I’m Not Lisa”), doors opened wider.” For more on this outlaw time, her one-time marriage to twang-guitar-king Duane Eddy and more, “You’ll have to read the book,” she laughs, pointing to her autobiography, An Outlaw And A Lady: A Memoir Of Music, Life With Waylon, And The Faith That Brought Me Home, “due, just like the album, between Easter and Passover.”

Mention going from badass country to the holy balladeer of The Psalms, and Colter says that she was never far from the religious music of her youth to begin with, despite not particularly thinking of herself as singularly religious or dedicated to one creed. The spirit just moves her.

“I always looked to the psalms for inspiration and for understanding on the human condition we’re in, so it has been very close to my heart,” she says. “That’s why Lenny asked me to do this with him. I can’t say that I am evangelical or that I write as a cypher, but there is something to how I write and compose that brings God close to me in a way that I knew something had to happen. I didn’t write any of this album, it just occurred as we went. That’s God, right?”

—A.D. Amorosi

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Essential New Music: Mastodon’s “Emperor Of Sand”

Despite signing to a major label years earlier, Mastodon really didn’t lumber into the mainstream until 2011’s The Hunter. At that point, the band had completed the migration to clean singing and mostly shed its prog-rock eccentricities. Once More ‘Round The Sun followed, still bringing the heavy but incorporating even more melodic elements. Had that record been a double, it could’ve easily shared album gatefolds with Mastodon’s latest. Emperor Of Sand hears the band’s continued evolution (de-evolution?) from metal to hard rock, its destructive powers diminished in the pursuit of accessibility. In chasing commercial appeal, drummer Brann Dailor remains the band’s most capable vocal weapon, with the earworm-y “Steambreather” recalling Once More’s “The Motherload.” Elsewhere, the only real blunder here is “Clandestiny,” which is sadly reminiscent of Styx (ask your parents) in its middle section. Emperor is solid, dexterously played hard rock from a band that used to crush listener skulls.

—Matt Ryan

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In The News: HAIM, Phoenix, Cheap Trick, Ryan Adams, Yonder Mountain String Band, Alex Chilton, David Bowie, Natalie Merchant And More

HAIM returns July 7 with Something To Tell You (Columbia), the trio’s much-anticipated sophomore LP … Ti Amo is the new Phoenix album, and it’s out June 9 via Loyaute/Glassnote … We’re All Alright! is the 18th studio album from the legendary Cheap Trick, due out June 16 via Big Machine … Out now is Ryan Adams’ 17-track Prisoner B-Sides (Pax Am/Blue Note) … Yonder Mountain String Band’s first new album in two years, Love. Ain’t Love, is out June 23 … Take Me Home And Make Me Like It is an LP of previously unreleased rehearsals and alternate takes from Alex Chilton‘s 1975 sessions for Singer Not The Song; it’s out on Munster June 16 … To celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary, David Bowie and Trevor Jones’ soundtrack to Labyrinth has been reissued on vinyl by UMe … Laibach’s Also Sprach Zarathustr is out via Mute on July 14 … On June 23, Nonesuch will release The Natalie Merchant Collection, a 10-CD set featuring all eight of Natalie Merchant’s solo LPs, a new album and a collection of rarities … The new Suburbs album, Hey Muse!, is out June 23 … Glenn Morrow’s Cry For Help‘s self-titled album is out via Rhyme And Reason on June 23 … The first new Terminals LP in a decade, Antiseptic, is out via Ba Da Bing … Amanda Palmer & Edward Ka-Spel (Legendary Pink Dots) have issued their first collaboration album, I Can Spin A Rainbow … The five-CD American Epic: The Collection and the single-disc American Epic: The Soundtrack (Legacy/Columbia/Third Man/Lomax) feature music associated with acclaimed documentary series American EpicMichael McDonald, who appeared with Thundercat at this year’s Coachella, will issue his first album in almost 10 years, Wide Open, via BMG on September 16 … ZZ Ward will release The Storm on June 30 via Hollywood.

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From The Desk Of The Black Watch: On Losing Friends

John Andrew Fredrick has spent the last three decades as the sole constant in one of music’s most perfect and unheralded rock outfits, the black watch. Using the Beatles as a tracing template, Fredrick has applied a kitchen-sink approach to the album at hand since his 1988 debut, St. Valentine, the opening volley in a catalog that would ultimately encompass 15 albums and five EPs, all of which inspired varying levels of critical halleleujahs and a deafening chorus of crickets at the nation’s cash registers. Fredrick will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our band new feature with him.

I have lost five or so close friends the past few years—to spats unresolved, envy and animosity (it’s impossible to be friends, sometimes, to people—let’s not mince words: dilettantes, really, many of them—who do the same art form you do—especially when you enjoy, after years and years and years, mind you, a bit of success/get some more recognition for all your hard work and dedication), outgrowing them and their predictable interests, misunderstandings, puerile behavior and the nature of the thing, as it were, running its course, running out of gas/steam/momentum/what-have-you. So to the great friends who remain (Brad, Liz, Liz G., Nicky, Chris, Ricky, Tyson, John, Darryl, Nora, Michael, Amy, Julia, Chip, Mark, Jim M., Jack, Laura, Nita Lu, Rob, Scott C., Craig and everyone I’ve forgotten momentarily)—thanks for hanging in there with me. As St. Thomas Aquinas said, “There is nothing more on earth to be prized than true friendship.” That’s in part why it’s one of my main themes in my book on Wes Anderson. I think it’s such a sorely neglected theme in all art, not just film. Bless Wes Anderson and his first three and best films for exploring it. And as W.H. Auden noted, works of art beget works of art. And thusly inspired I simply had to write something about that, to me, all-important theme (in my life especially) of Friendship. Fucking Innocent: The Early Films Of Wes Anderson comes out this summer. Sorry to shill, shill, shill for my stuff, you know, but I gotta keep myself in tennis balls and get my rackets re-strung once in a while and buy a book or two or a record by Idaho when it comes out.

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