Camera Obscura: A Year to Define a Career

By • Feb 1st, 2007 • Category: Interviews

Good luck understanding Tracyanne Campbell on the phone if there happens to be the slightest background noise. It’s not that the frontwoman for Scottish twee-poppers Camera Obscura just has a syrupy-thick accent, but she also speaks as softly as she sings. Her waif-like voice also carries the concern of a woman weary of the inevitable Belle and Sebastian questions.

The comparisons have become expected. The bands share a hometown, shared a band member and started out the same year. It also doesn’t help that Belle frontman Stuart Murdoch directed the first video for Campbell’s ensemble, or that the two bands sound…well…alike. And much like Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura released a compassionately introspective and wonderfully mature record in 2006. So on the strength of Let’s Get Out Of This Country, Campbell and her mates might finally see those comparisons start to diminish.

Chicago Innerview: What’s in store for 2007?
Tracyanne Campbell: This will be the biggest year for everything. Touring on the back of this record and such…We’ll need a new label…Technically we’re on Elefant out of Spain, we’re just licensed to Merge [Records].

Chicago Innerview: How many questions does it usually take before Belle and Sebastian comes up?
Tracyanne Campbell: I’ve done four [interviews] tonight, and no one has brought it up yet.

CI: Okay then, let’s talk just about Glasgow and how ‘twee’ has become synonymous with that scene.
TC: We don’t really think about our profile. We just play shows. I just happen to live in this city — I’m actually from Glasgow. None of us go around thinking how we’re viewed, or if we’re supposed to be a face of whatever. All I care about is who’s coming to our shows. And people do, so I guess they like it.

CI: Last year you said pianist Carey Lander had just graduated and was ‘homeless and looking for a job.’ Has this record helped you all live off the band full-time?
TC: We’re trying to. Right now we’re in limbo-land. But just about everyone quit their job for this tour. [Trumpeter Nigel Baillie] couldn’t because he’s self-employed, so we got a friend to fill in. It’s just easier to [quit work] for some than others.

CI: So, literally, this tour is career defining.
TC: The entire year should be, not just this tour.

CI: This marks your third stop in Chicago, but your first not at the Empty Bottle. Do you know how rare it is to play the same spot your first two times when there are hundreds of venues?
TC: I do, but last year was an accident. When we played there [July 17, 2006] it was so hot that the power in the club went out because of the air conditioning. Fire trucks came and we weren’t able to play the show because there would have been a fire. We thought about doing an acoustic thing, and went out to the street and talked to the people waiting…but there’s no way I could have sung that lightly. We had a day off, and moved the show back and changed it to the Empty Bottle. We feel really bad about it, because not everyone who planned to come could make it to the new show. Some people drove for hours and didn’t get to see us. So Chicago is one place we’re looking to play most, like we owe it.

CI: Now that you’ve toured America a few times, where are you looking forward to going?
TC: Places like Colorado really stand out because we’ve never been. Others like New York and Toronto because they sell out fastest, or San Francisco because I’ve got friends there.

CI: You know Toronto is in Canada, right?
TC: I just group it with the States.

CI: This magazine spoke with you before your first U.S. tour. You said you were nervous, but promised that by the end you’d be ‘surfing the crowd and swigging from a bottle of Maker’s Mark.’ Are you?
TC: No, I haven’t done anything like that. I guess I lied. I’m going to try and cut back on the Maker’s Mark now, too.

Chicago Innerview Magazine, February 2007

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