Summer Camp interview
“I hate the name Summer Camp. I hate it because when I was a kid, I hated summer camp. It was my Vietnam.” That’s Liz Sankey, vocalist of the London chillwave-pop duo, who, it seems, didn’t really enjoy those long, organised holiday sojourns in her childhood.
We don’t necessarily blame her either – although we do admit to feeling a bit foolish. Here we were, listening to the washed-out, watercolour-lathered sounds created by her and Summer Camp cohort (and, incidentally, hubby) Jeremy Warmsley, thinking that their nostalgia-conjuring name, hipstamatic aesthetic and retro sounds were all part of some holistic effort to invoke a wistful longing for campfires and marshmallows, lakeside air, girls that you kinda like/boys that you kinda like, canoeing and… you get the idea. But, as it turns out, not so much. “We just started this for fun,” says Sankey. “We weren’t expecting anyone to hear it. I feel it’s a name that fits in with the name of the stupid little project we were doing.”
The way Sankey talks about those days very much reflects her and Warmsley’s attitude to the band in the beginning. As the story goes, since the initial sowing of the Summer Camp seeds, their growth has been all very preservative and fertisiler-free organic: a few random covers, a little joke about teenagers in Sweden, a name chosen about those teenagers, a myspace (‘just for fun’), blogosphere hype, a cheeky show, a tour and then, some recordings. “It was great in that it happened to us, rather than us making it happen,” says Sankey. “Up until about a year ago, it felt like we had just gone along with the ride.”
Sankey admits to being a little blasé about the band in the first couple of years. But it was around a year ago, when they were recording their debut album, Welcome to Condale, that their perspective changed. “We just didn’t know how we were going to put it out,” she says. “We didn’t have a label. We didn’t have anything. That was the first point when it was like ‘okay, we could actually lose this’. And that just made us – me in particular – think ‘I don’t want to lose this’.”
They didn’t lose it. They put their heads down, started to work with PledgeMusic and got Welcome to Condale out late last year. The album’s all hazy and summery, like a nostalgic portal into the summers of misspent youth, set in the fictional Californian town Condale – a device they were inspired to use by the work of filmmaker John Hughes. “He used to write all his films in this fictional town – Shermer, Illinois,” says Sankey. “I loved the idea that somebody could bump into somebody else from a different film and all these characters could be living these parallel lives. So I thought, why don’t we do that – make a fictional town. I think it helped us focus our writing and gave us a context and a place to sort of locate it all.”
The fictional town approach has proved popular among Summer Camp’s newfound throng of fans. And while their new EP, to be released in the summer, is taking a more focused, darker and dancier sound à la Done Forever and I Want You from Welcome to Condale, the duo are still contemplating what to do on their next album. The principle question: to set it in a fictional town or not to set it in a fictional town? “I just want to make people happy,” says Sankey. “I almost want to ask people on Twitter ‘guys, would you rather we did another album set in a place or went in a completely different direction?’ I might actually do that.” She’s being serious. We think. There’s probably only one way to find out: @summercampband.
Summer Camp play Backstage on Fri May 11. Tickets: wegottickets.com.