April 27, 2012

Interview: Summer Camp

THE LE SIGH spoke with Summer Camp vocalist Elizabeth Sankey about keeping up with American TV, making band friends, and the inspiration behind their break up anthem "Better Off Without You."

Think back to a time when girls skated around California beaches in rollerblades and rushed home after school to watch Saved by the Bell. For English band Summer Camp, which is made up of members Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley, the eighties and nineties weren't just an inspiration for their debut album "Welcome to Condale" on Moshi Moshi Records- they built an entire false reality out of it. Condale is a fictional California town that Summer Camp created and based their entire aesthetic around (you can learn more about it and check on some fun collages and videos on their website). It's not unusual for a band to have a certain muse for an album, but it is unique that they'll create an entire world out of it. This is just only one of Summer Camp's many charms, which also include Sankey's alluring vocals and the tendency to name drop TV and movie characters from the final decades of the 1900s, such as My So-Called Life's Brian Krakow. I was able to speak to Elizabeth before their show at La Fleche D'Or to a crowd of very enthusiastic Parisians (Elizabeth and Jeremy even sang "Round the Moon" in French!).

THE LE SIGH: I saw that you toured in America recently, how was that tour?

Elizabeth Sankey: We went in February and just did three shows, one in, two in New York- one in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan and then we did one in Washington and we did one in L.A. We're hopefully, we're trying to get a support tour in October to go back, cause we love it. We have family out there so we always go twice a year to Orange County. 

TLS: Oh! Because I was going to ask how touring is in America compared to touring in Europe.

ES: The funny thing about touring in Europe is that you just drive through countries and it feels really strange. Like on the way out from England both times we just slept through France and like woke up in Amsterdam and that was really weird, it's so weird you can just like go from being in Germany- we were in Germany three days ago, and now we're in France- and just the complete difference. And it's really awful but you do get down to cultural stereotyping of like, "Well, the French are like that and the Italians are like that, and the Germans are like that," which is really bad. But you just see a tiny snippet of a place and meet two or three people and it's funny how that can form how you feel about a country. 

TLS: Do you like it better playing in America then, or is it just different?

ES: I mean, we haven't really done a proper tour in America we've just done, we've been flying from one place to another and have a few days around it. I mean, obviously America is incredible and New York, we love New York but I guess I'd have to wait until we did a proper driving around tour, but I'd say yeah, because you're an American blog right? It's definitely, you can always get good food in America and healthy food in America, it's not that easy in Europe.

TLS: You don't have to say that, we love Europe too. Have you seen a different reception in America than in Europe or the UK?

ES: Well both times we've been, we've been really lucky and had really nice audiences. In New York especially, people were really nice, and California actually in Los Angeles, I mean we love playing New York because it's such a cool and exciting city and it's amazing to be able to play Manhattan and then play Brooklyn and have two completely different shows. And, the rivalry between them is pretty funny as well. California was amazing, and in Los Angeles when we played in February there were like, four or five bands on the bill and it was free so it was pretty busy but it was really nice. We had the most number of people wanting photos with us which was cool.

TLS Is that weird for you at all?

ES: No, it's really nice. I mean, one of the things we love about being in a band is meeting people and like, kind of making friends with people through Twitter and Facebook and at shows so it's really cool, everyone's so friendly, it's nice.

TLS: Do you have any good band friends now?

ES: Yeah, we have loads! One of our like top ones is this guy John Murphy from Sheffield who we just met through shows and he's just the nicest guy and he's always, he keeps us updated on, we love American sitcoms so he keeps us updated on the new Community or like, "Have you seen this?" or "They did this video, you should check it out", so he's like our TV guru.

TLS: I guess when you're on the road you can't really keep up.

ES: Yeah, none of those shows really show in England and like, New Girl has just come over but those shows aren't really in the UK. But we're massive supporters of Community and we were like, tweeting loads and loads about when they almost went off, so I feel like in many ways it's thanks to us that they're still around.

TLS: You should be on the show as thanks!

ES: I'm sure that they're going to make an episode about us. Actually, a girl from Glee tweeted the other day about us, which was pretty amazing, and I don't even watch Glee! That was really exciting.

TLS: Going back to California, your album is named after a fake California town. Is California inspiring for you? It seems very different than England.

ES: To be honest, the America and California that we wrote about doesn't exist, it's a complete fabrication based on the films that we grew up watching and just being teenagers and looking at America. Even stuff like Bug Juice, we grew up watching those shows in the summer and Sweet Valley High and Saved By The Bell, it's all of that kind of stuff like real, just everything pop culture that I fell in love with us. I guess California is the place that we've spent the most time in America but you know, the California that we go to bears no resemblance to the Condale that we created in our heads. Maybe the weather.

TLS: I saw the "Down" video that you made entirely out of GIFs. What gave you that idea? Was it hard to do that?

ES: Actually, all of our videos are the work of like amazing directors. We don't really, we say "This is our song" and contact a few people and Chris Boyle who did that is a director that we kind of knew through people and he's incredible, he's absolutely amazing. He's done a video for our friends Three Trapped Tigers and we just loved it so Jeremy got a bit of a boy crush on him and we asked him and he just came out with that idea and we were like "Yes. Definitely," and it was really easy for us but it was really difficult for him so he just like set up all these scenes and then we would just have to stand there and do this and try to keep the motion as smooth as possible. The weird thing was getting our faces made up so we looked dead. My sister came round to see me and was like, "Oh god you look terrible."

TLS: I went through a break up earlier this year and listened to "Better Off Without You" about a million times - did you have any specific inspiration for that song?

ES: No, I haven't had a break up for like five years. No, the funny thing is that songs like the song that, I love singing that song in the set now because it's the song with load of girls singing along, more than any other song. There was a show we did in Hamburg where there was this girl who was acting it out and just like, it was amazing. Like I said it really resonates with a lot of girls but I think I don't know, it's the kind of song that, I don't think that when we were writing it we were thinking of anyone in particular, it was more just, I think it's the best way to be after a break up and I think every girl wants to be like that, just like, "He's so annoying, why won't he leave me alone?", when actually I don't even think that happens that often. I think it's rare that a guy would be bugging you after you've broken up with them and you to be kind of like, "Leave me alone!" and now "I don't know maybe I should get back together with him!", so I think it's a bit of a denial song. I think maybe she does kind of want to get back together with but she kind of is like "No, no, no, don't worry guys, It's over", but I think there's actually a part of her that's like "Maybe I should!". So it's kind of like putting a brave face on a tricky situation. But it's a really fun thing, I'm really pleased that girls are into it because it's a really sort of nice sentiment for girls to have.

TLS: Since I'm writing for a blog that I started earlier this year, what are your favorite blogs to read?

ES: We have a Tumblr that we read regularly. What blogs do I read...I mean, I do love Tumblr I go on it all the time and I do love that like kids, especially teenagers have the opportunity to define themselves through images and through the sharing of it and I think that's nice. A lot of those blogs though I'm like, thank god they didn't exist when I was a teenager because the stuff I would have written like the pieces and my horrible thoughts, I can imagine I probably would have done video blogs on Youtube and would have had to stop comments on posts because people would have been like, "Who's this dick?". So I don't know...I don't really read that much! I read the 405 quite a lot which is a UK music blog, Line of Best Fit's a really good one, OMH is really good, our friend John Murphy writes for that. Fake DIY is really good, when we started we were reading Gorilla vs. Bear, and I'm sure now I will read your blog!

Written by Emily Thompson