They may look like the quintessential indie band (glasses, the odd beard, staffroom fashions), but Camera Obscura want more than a cult following. Carey Lander talks to Tony Clayton-Lea
CAREY Lander, a member of way, perhaps, that Lander’s Kentish accent Glasgow’s Camera Obscura, gradually mutated into a distinct Scottish reminds you of the kind of perburr – a change in their plans took place. son who once featured in BritAs a John Peel favourite, it was only a matish kitchen sink dramas – the ter of time until other people, other record ones Morrissey rifled through for visual labels and other countries cottoned on to iconographic images and lyrical conceits. the band. To say that Lander is as quiet as the pro“I’m not very good at being ambitious,” verbial church mouse is akin to saying says Lander, “or having the courage to be that Podge and Rodge are ever so slightly ambitious. I loved the music of Camera Obrisque. And yet, as Bananarama once so scura before I joined, but in the late pithily sang, it ain’t what you say, it’s the 1990s/early noughties the band didn’t play way that you say it. very much. When I started with them
Lander might be soft-spoken but one of there was talk of going off to Europe to her favourite books (wouldn’t you just play, which we did. But we never really know that she prefers the solitariness of thought we’d be doing what we’re doing reading to the popcorn communality of now, which is touring all over the world on moviegoing?) is Martin Amis’s The War the back of a relatively successful album Against Cliché. [last year’s aptly titled Let’s Get Out of This
Such a choice says much about her Country]. We knew that touring is what modus operandi, both as a person and a many bands do, so it must have been a posmusician. She says she joined Camera Obsibility in the back of our minds, but it still scura in 2001 as a fan rather than as a jobcomes as a surprise to us that we head off bing musician. “I moved from Maidstone, to parts of Europe and beyond.” Kent, to Glasgow in 2000, and I met some The change was gradual: “It took a while band members around the city, loved what they did and then heard that they were looking for a new keyboard player. I tried out for it, and got it, I’m quite sure, because they were too lazy to audition anyone else.”
Camera Obscura, formed in 1996 by lead songwriter Traceyanne Campbell, have always trodden a resolutely indie path. You’d wonder they made any progress at all, considering their concentrated lack of ambition and penchant for twinset’n’pearls, afternoon twee and the collected works of Muriel Spark.
And yet, slowly but surely – in the to get to where we are now; we’re quite slow workers. I don’t think it was too painful along the way, however.” Three albums in the space of 10 years isn’t exactly prolific, but Lander argues – well, emphasises might be a more truthful word – that to take time over a collection of songs isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Besides, she implies, they want to be good, and to be good takes time.
Inasmuch as Lander can bristle, she does so when it’s suggested that Camera Obscura’s early gigs were little more than rehearsals.
“That’s a bit harsh in that we always had the intention of wanting to be good. We certainly didn’t want to be bad, or that we’d want to go on stage and not play a good gig, although, that said, there was always a slightly shambolic element to those days. We’re playing much better now, but we’re still plagued by on-stage technical problems.”
Not musical ones, though. Let’s Get Out of This Country, their third album, thrusts us into a parallel universe where Connie Francis fronting The Cardigans isn’t such a bad idea. If the music has indie stamped all the way through, it seems the collective sense of ambition (which sweeps not-verygood-at-being-ambitious Lander along with it) rises way beyond it.
“We definitely want to be a bigger band,” she says, almost tremulously. “We don’t want to be a cult indie band. We want to be able to tour, to sell records, and do it properly. It all helps you to become a better band. It’s been a gradual thing, but the comparative success of Let’s Get Out of This Country has made real success seem
more of a possibility.”
-, See/Hear Listen to Camera Obscura on www.myspace. com/camera_obscura_records
Camera Obscura play: McGarrigles, Sligo (today); Róisín Dubh, Galway (tomorrow); The Village, Dublin (Sunday May 6); Cyprus Avenue, Cork (MondayMay 7); and the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Belfast (Tuesday May 8)