Summer Camp were 2009′s 37th mystery musical phenomenon, but they might also be the best. Top three, at least. Eventually, it turned out the band behind the woozy and wistful “Ghost Train” were not, as some suspected, the entire cast of Tillsammans or any number of fantasy svengali/ingenue combinations, but London-based singer-songwriter Jeremy Warmsley and magazine editor Elizabeth Sankey, a duo bound by a shared appreciation of John Hughes movies. Summer Camp are very popular. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wasteoids, dweebies, dickheads—they all adore them. They think they are righteous dudes. And they are lots of fun, as our chat attests. Here for your listening pleasure is “Was It Worth It” which sounds like a sassy, sweet-cheeked St. Etienne chewing gum on a sunbed.
Download: Summer Camp, “Was It Worth It?”
You guys were coy about revealing your identity for a while but now everyone knows you’re Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey. What was your favourite rumour about who you are? For a while I thought you were Moomins.
We wish we were the Moomins. There were some very flattering rumours circulating while we were still incommunicado. At the time that was a bit stressful though, as we just worried that when people did find out it was us they’d be severely disappointed that we weren’t the girl from the Concretes and James Murphy. God, if only.
We never intended to start out as a secret band, since we never intended to start out as a band. We recorded the cover for fun, and then timidly set up a MySpace, never expecting anyone would find it, let alone Sahil from Transparent. That’s why we wrote all that nonsense about being a seven-piece who met at summer camp in Sweden. We are so sorry to Sweden. And all seven-pieces everywhere. However, it was great for us to have that bit of space and distance as we were getting started, plus it undoubtedly piqued the interest of some people who might not have listened to us otherwise.
I can understand why a lot of bands release music the way you initially did. Now that we can find out what Katy Perry is having for breakfast while she is eating it, so a little mystery is refreshing. Was it interesting to have your music experienced like that, stripped of context expect for what you provide, like those faded Americana photos?
For some bands having Twitters and writing their thoughts/feelings online makes perfect sense, and just feeds into the music they’re making. However we’re pretty nostalgic and kind of miss the days when there would only be one interview with a band you could get hold of, and that one interview would be long and detailed and full of black and white photos of them looking sweaty and brooding in dressing rooms. Basically we wish we were Stillwater in Almost Famous and you were a cute fifteen year old boy with a bowl-cut. Obviously with the internet you can’t have that anymore, but you can still have a bit of distance… It was definitely great for us to have the music just being judged on its own, without it being placed in the context of him that did that and her that did what. It’s funny though, suddenly being secret has become a trend for a lot of artists, which is great, but for us it started completely by accident. It was never this big planned press thing, culminating with us jumping out of a cake at our first gig.
Let’s talk about those photos. Your blog is full of old photos, most look American (then you two pop up halfway down). Nostalgia is a word that shrouds a lot of the music made this year and your music and the visual side of your band are very much about that. What are you nostalgic for?
We’re nostalgic for something we never actually experienced. Although both of us visited America when we were kids, neither of us lived there. So the America we get homesick for is kind of all in our minds, pieced together from films, photos, and music. We kind of see the photos as the visual representation of our music, if that’s not too pretentious. Kids going to prom and having awkward photos taken by their parents, hanging out with your friends the whole summer and the days seeming endless, and falling in love with a boy or girl who’ll never even realize you exist. It’s all about that time when you’re young and everything feels so important and special, but as you get older you realize all it boils down to is yellowing photographs of some moron in braces looking pissed off with their dad. That’s what we try to do with our music, too.
There are samples from lots of great ’80s movies in your songs and you’ve cited John Cusack as an influence. What is your favourite movie?
Why would you ask us to do that? Why? This is like Sophie’s Choice. Sixteen Candles for Elizabeth and Breakfast Clubfor Jeremy. We would have both gone for Breakfast Club but Elizabeth can’t handle it when Anthony Michael Hall starts crying and Molly Ringwald goes all posh and eats sushi.
Elizabeth, the internet tells me that, as well as being editor at Platform, you’ve worked as a voiceover artist. What is your favourite voiceover work?
I’m doing this cartoon character called Mort at the moment. He’s this really nerdy, nasal 13-year-old boy who snorts in the middle of sentences. I think I’m going to start talking like him constantly.
Chillwave began as a joke by Carles on Hipster Runoff, but now it seems to have passed into common usage. How do you feel about being called a chillwave band?
We’ve been described as chillwave? We love most of the lo-fi, no-fi, no-wave, lo-chill stuff around at the moment, although we don’t quite know exactly what it is. There’s a lot of hazy twangy pop being made by clever people, so it’s natural that they’d be bunched together under one name, and we both love Washed Out, Active Child, Veronica Falls etc. But we’re also really into Fleetwood Mac, Altered Images and Korn*.
You guys are playing your first live show tonight. What should we expect?
A séance to bring John Hughes back from the dead. Maybe we’ll play some of our songs too, as that’s what “society” expects us to do.