Music

Do It Again: An Interview with Camera Obscura

The beloved indie-pop group dish on their new album, touring with a "no camera" policy, and the challenges of performing while pregnant.


Camera Obscura

Desire Lines

Label: 4AD
US Release Date: 2013-06-04
UK Release Date: 2013-06-03
Amazon
iTunes

With the release of Desire Lines, their fifth studio album, Glasgow-based Camera Obscura have consolidated themselves as the reigning band in the indie pop universe. The critically acclaimed album marked their longest gap between new records (My Maudlin Career was released in 2009) because during these years off -- "an unexpected hiatus" as it's been called -- band members faced life threatening illnesses (Carey Lander was diagnosed with cancer), moved to different countries (drummer Lee Thomson moved to London), and faced other issues that had fans believing they might not be listening to new material for a while.

Desire Lines is filled with the usual dream-pop melodies the band is so good at, but take a closer listen and you'll notice their melancholy lyrics are tinged with deeper sadness and a dark sense of humor that sometimes verges on satire: "I Missed Your Party" for instance is both tender and also stings with what seems to be a lover's passive aggressive choice for revenge.

Earlier this summer, Camera Obscura toured the United States in support of She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's project). I had the opportunity to see them perform in New York City's Summer Stage at Central Park, before getting the chance to talk to frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell. Their concert at Summer Stage marked the first time I'd seen them live and I was surprised by how their sound is exactly what they sound like in their albums, "in order to achieve this you have to have a very good soundstage manager" acknowledged Campbell, "because there is nothing worst than having things go wrong on stage."

"We rehearse a lot, which is also very important" she added and you could in fact tell how much effort the band was putting into each song, fan favorite "French Navy" seemed reinvigorated and a perfect cool melody for 95 degree weather.

During their performance of "Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken" (their lovely masochist anthem from Let's Get Out of This Country) at SummerStage, something was off with the guitar sound and Campbell stopped singing, forcing hundreds of sweaty audience members to stop bobbing their heads and dancing around. I'm sure few of them expected what continued, as Tracyanne decided to start the song from the top, sending fans over the edge after apologizing for the delay. When I asked her about this she conceded that sometimes there are "inevitable problems" but said in the end they're just "trying to please the audience and avoid disaster".

Part of their tour was marked by a request that enraged some fans: photography of no kind would be permitted during the show. This created an awkward mood given that you could see security staff walking all over the venue, hunting people who were using their phones and digital cameras and proceeding to escort them outside. Many of them returned minutes later with nothing but a warning, but not without setting up an uncomfortable mood in days when people tweet, Instagram, and Vine all throughout any sort of performance.

"To be honest the request came from She & Him" explained Campbell, "but I respect this being who [Deschanel] is." She continues: "Personally, there is nothing worst than looking at cameras when you're playing, it makes me feel that this is not somewhere I want to be, as audience members watch the gig through the eye of the camera."

"Security was over the top though," she added "I don't wanna see anyone at my gig being taken away, but if I go to a show I watch with my eyes and most artists think this way."

Keeping up with the way audiences perceive their music I asked her about the melancholy content and how she thought listeners interpreted their music, "I have no idea, I'm not a listener" she said. "I like how our music sounds but sometimes the music or the lyrics are more important" she added.

Desire Lines marked a first for Camera Obscura as they recorded the entire album in Portland (Tucker Martine's studio called Flora), being the first time they've recorded completely out of Scotland led me to ask about how the process affected their sound and their composition, "the studio definitely transformed our sound" she added. On working with Neko Case and My Morning Jacket's Jim James, Campbell expressed "it was a great honor working with them because we love their voices and music."

The shift from relaxing Portland to busy New York City in the summer, must've been interesting but Tracyanne said that in general "it was nice to be back in the States." Given that she's in the third trimester of her pregnancy must've been a challenge but she shyly conceded that "playing while pregnant wasn't as stressful as I thought."

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".

Film

Contemporary Urbanity and Blackness in 'New Jack City'

Hood films are a jarring eviction notice for traditional Civil Rights rhetoric and, possibly, leadership -- in other words, "What has the Civil Rights movement done for me lately?"

Books

'How to Handle a Crowd' Goes to the Moderators

Anika Gupta's How to Handle a Crowd casts a long-overdue spotlight on the work that goes into making online communities enjoyable and rewarding.

Music

Regis' New LP Reaffirms His Gift for Grinding Industrial Terror

Regis' music often feels so distorted, so twisted out of shape, even the most human moments feel modular. Voices become indistinguishable from machines on Hidden in This Is the Light That You Miss.

Reviews

DMA's Go for BritElectroPop on 'The Glow'

Aussie Britpoppers the DMA's enlist Stuart Price to try their hand at electropop on The Glow. It's not their best look.

Film

On Infinity in Miranda July's 'Me and You and Everyone We Know'

In a strange kind of way, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know is about two competing notions of "forever" in relation to love.

Music

Considering the Legacy of Deerhoof with Greg Saunier

Working in different cities, recording parts as MP3s, and stitching them together, Deerhoof once again show total disregard for the very concept of genre with their latest, Future Teenage Cave Artists.

Music

Joshua Ray Walker Is 'Glad You Made It'

Texas' Joshua Ray Walker creates songs on Glad You Made It that could have been on a rural roadhouse jukebox back in the 1950s. Their quotidian concerns sound as true now as they would have back then.

Music

100 gecs Remix Debut with Help From Fall Out Boy, Charli XCX and More

100 gecs' follow up their debut with a "remix album" stuffed with features, remixes, covers, and a couple of new recordings. But don't worry, it's just as blissfully difficult as their debut.

Television

What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.

Interviews

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi Remake "I Am the Antichrist to You" (premiere + interview)

Nu Deco Ensemble and Kishi Bashi team up for a gorgeous live performance of "I Am the Antichrist to You", which has been given an orchestral renovation.

Playlists

Rock 'n' Roll with Chinese Characteristics: Nirvana Behind the Great Wall

Like pretty much everywhere else in the pop music universe, China's developing rock scene changed after Nirvana. It's just that China's rockers didn't get the memo in 1991, nor would've known what to do with it, then.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.