Summer Camp, Interview

13 May 2010

Interview with Summer Camp

Interview with Summer Camp

Jeremy Warmsley is a singer/songwriter of considerable repute, with two critically acclaimed solo albums already to his name. Elizabeth Sankey is a well-respected journalist and writer, having cut her teeth on the NME and Platform among others. Together they make up Summer Camp, and despite only being together musically less than a year, they're already creating a stir with their mystery-enshrouded ditties that recall a less salubrious Gainsbourg and Birkin drinking in the park with Slow Club.

Contactmusic caught up with the pair recently in their native London. Let the interrogation begin.

Were you quite surprised at the amount of recognition Summer Camp had received in the music press despite hardly anyone having heard your music?
Elizabeth: It was a big surprise to be honest.
Jeremy: I don't know really, I mean it wasn't as if we just turned up one day and said 'Hey, we're in a band, do you want to write about us?' We'd already had four or five songs up on the MySpace for a few months prior to getting any attention.
Elizabeth: Considering we weren't expecting anything it was still quite nice to attract that kind of interest though.
Jeremy: We had our first Internet blog courtesy of the guys from Transparent. At the time we literally hadn't told anyone we were doing Summer Camp - at the time there was nothing on the MySpace about who Summer Camp were - so it was a real mix of emotions for me upon seeing that piece; denial, anger, contentment, and the more besides.

Does it worry you though that people might be quite cynical about the way you've appeared on the scene from nowhere, particularly bearing in mind Jeremy already has a successful career as a recording artist and Elizabeth is well established in the media?
Elizabeth: Definitely. What's funny is that if we'd put on the MySpace from day one who we were, I very much doubt we'd be sat here talking about Summer Camp today.
Jeremy: Some people would definitely have already made their minds up about us without actually hearing it.
Elizabeth: I don't think many people would have given us a fair opportunity, and that's kind of what made us carry on in secret because I didn't want anyone to ever think that our strings were being pulled by contacts either of us may have within the industry.
Jeremy: I think its quite important to mention that almost immediately after the Transparent blog, there was one on Platform which is one of the publications Elizabeth writes for, and at the time even they didn't know who we were!

That must have been quite a bizarre experience in the Platform office?
Elizabeth: It felt quite weird, almost uncomfortable even, because I actually interviewed the Transparent guys a few weeks later as well and they kept talking about this great new band they'd just heard called Summer Camp not realising I was actually in the band! It almost feels like we're lying to people in a way because we have deliberately avoided making our identities known for as long as possible purely so we would be judged on the music rather than just who we were or where we'd come from.

Do you feel that sometimes there may be a conflict of interests between what you do in your day job and your involvement in Summer Camp? For example, it must be difficult for anyone who's a close associate to write anything other than a positive review of your band, regardless of their opinion?
Elizabeth: Yeah definitely. At the same time, I would never get angry with someone if they said in a review that they didn't like our band. It is their opinion after all. Admittedly it hasn't happened yet to my knowledge, but if it did I'd think it would be justified regardless of whether it's someone I know or otherwise. I think the only real conflict of interest we'd have would be if I were deliberately using my connections to get media attention in some way.
Jeremy: There's a few things I'd like to add to that.Firstly, there are plenty of journalists in bands who aren't for all the best will in the world, ever likely to be going anywhere. Secondly, I think its every journalist's dream to actually be in a band, so just because Elizabeth is doing well with Summer Camp shouldn't be viewed negatively by the press, surely?

How does it feel being on the other side of the fence as it were, being the interviewee rather than the interviewer?
Its pretty unusual to be honest, although I don't really consider myself that experienced in terms of journalism either, as I only started writing in April of last year. I was only just getting used to interviewing people when Summer Camp started so to have the roles reversed so soon was quite bizarre. I'd like to think I've picked up some good techniques from bands I've interviewed that I'd use myself, and at the same time I sort of know how the process works and it's much easier to take things into perspective, such as personal criticism for example.

Would you ever consider turning your back on writing to make music full-time if the opportunity came along?
Elizabeth: I guess the two are linked really, as I always want to write whatever the context. I wouldn't call myself an accomplished writer so it would be nice to pursue that further, and even if the band were to have any kind of success, its something I'd want to do for the foreseeable future. I can't really picture a world where I'd have to make that choice. They can go hand in hand quite well.

How did you both meet and what made you form the band in the first place?
Elizabeth: We've known each other for years, although it wasn't if we had some long term plan to sit down and music or anything. We decided to do a cover - just for ourselves really - of 'I Only Have Eyes For You' by The Flamingos and we liked it so thought it would be fun to make a MySpace and see what happens. I remember saying at the time that we'll look back on it in a year's time and wonder what the hell we've done!
Jeremy: It was a series of events that made us continue really.
Elizabeth: Yeah, I mean we both really like working together, and I think we both compliment each other really well.
Jeremy: Its good as well that we're both quite focused when it comes to getting things done.
Elizabeth: I disagree, you're awful!

Was it a long-term ambition of yours to go into music, be that via writing about it first or otherwise?
Elizabeth: No not really. It's all been quite surreal. I never really intended to go into writing either - I actually trained to be an actress and ended up doing writing as something to do in-between jobs. Everything that's happened this past year is sort of hazy because its all been so quick and totally unplanned.

Do you sometimes think you're maybe trying too hard, particularly in terms of the acting?
Elizabeth: I wouldn't say that no. If anything it's probably the opposite with me. Other things have happened that have relegated acting to the back burner for now.
Jeremy: I can see why you'd maybe think that. It still amazes me that a band who've been together for six months with no recorded output can sell out 250+ capacity venues by word of mouth or whatever. I can understand where the cynicism is coming from, but the way I see it we're just a very young band who've written a lot of songs and want to carry on writing with the intention of getting better.
Elizabeth: I'd like to think that whole other stuff doesn't really mean that much to the majority of people who might show an interest in our band. What I do in my day job or studied at university is what's been created outside of Summer Camp. It's not like we've been pushing that as a way of introducing ourselves. We realise that hype works in two ways and there's a point where you can only force-feed someone for so long then after a while they'll start to reject it. To get to the point where a band is both credible and universally popular takes years and years of hard work, and we're under no pretences whatsoever that we're anywhere near that level.

Are you concerned about being perceived as a London scene band?
Elizabeth: Yeah, that's something that people could accuse us of being for sure. I think it's a double-edged sword because while no one wants to be seen as just an introverted part of a local scene, we sort of owe a lot of London promoters and bands a debt of gratitude for putting us on their bills in the first place, particular as we're still in many people's eyes a largely unknown quantity.
Jeremy: I don't think we've been a band long enough to worry about things like that.
Elizabeth: That's true actually. We don't even know where our sound's going to go next never mind whether anyone north of London wants to give us a show!
Jeremy: We definitely hope to transcend any scene we may or may not be attached to, but at the same time it is difficult to control that.
Elizabeth: There are so many great artists around at the minute and to us it's a compliment being compared to some of them, so I wouldn't want that to stop either.

Jeremy, in terms of your solo career, will there be a third Jeremy Warmsley album in the foreseeable future?
Jeremy: It's difficult to say at the minute. I've just been concentrating 100% on Summer Camp. I played a show at London Union Chapel in February and it felt kind of weird to be honest. I have other side projects I'm working on as well as Summer Camp so I don't really feel a burning need to work on any solo material at present.

Which other projects would they be?
Jeremy: They're all a bit under the radar at the moment so I'd rather not say in case they don't turn out as planned.

Does it bother you that in some quarters Summer Camp are viewed as a Jeremy Warmsley side project?
Jeremy: I guess that's inevitable if you've made records or whatever before. I wouldn't be doing Summer Camp if I hadn't already had my previous experiences in the past.
Elizabeth: I feel so lucky to be in a band with someone like Jeremy who's been through it all before because he knows all the pitfalls, and without sounding cynical, it makes me worry for new bands who don't have that because they really have no idea just what they may be letting themselves in for.

What kind of advice would you give to new bands who are just starting out?
Jeremy: You never have to stop making music just because someone's been negative or dismissive about your band.
Elizabeth: Always make sure you work with people you can trust, and of course do it for the love rather than money.

The single 'Ghost Train' is out now on Moshi Moshi Records.

Dom Gourlay

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