Summer Camp


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"What if the songs you say define you were just the ones you heard first?"

The past is in the rear-view mirror but every blaze of glory burns out eventually. You quit town and vow never to return only to realise that your problems are staring right back at you.

'Bad Love', Summer Camp's third album, is set in the same spooked domestic terrain in which they made their name back in 2009, but the perspectives have changed. "I think we got all of our teen angst out on Welcome To Condale," says Elizabeth Sankey of the London duo's 2011's debut LP. "But this looks at how the cycles of those relationships repeat. The experiences you have as a teenager still happen to you, but as you grow up you're better at dealing with them: the relationships you have with yourself, your family, your friends."

So with 'Bad Love', they set about refining what they do best: those heart-racing heavily distorted guitars, battered synths that sparkle like dirty tinsel, the nostalgia triggered by a pastel sky. "We made a fairly conscious effort to try and avoid being so explicit about our influences on this one too," says Elizabeth's counterpart (and husband) Jeremy Warmsley. "We've wound up in a place where we have our own sound."

On 'Bad Love' they tried to push that sound to its extremes: "'Keep Up' is the most oppressive thing we've ever done," says Jeremy of the record's rapidly intensifying, crashing closer where Elizabeth satirises the toxic social conventions of romantic game-playing and one-upmanship between friends. Meanwhile the softer 'Run Away' and 'Horizon' - a Jeremy-led pastoral shuffle recalling Nilsson or 'Ram'-era McCartney - "they're pretty broad," he says. "We were figuring out what we do best and then doing that as much as possible."

That also meant self-producing for the first time: Pulp's Steve Mackey produced... 'Condale' and Smiths legend Stephen Street did 'Summer Camp', "which taught us a lot," says Jeremy. "But self-producing means you get the most direct expression of what you're trying to do. It's not filtered through anyone else. That can lead to self-indulgence, which I hope we've avoided, but I do feel like this album is the purest expression of what we're like since the 'Young' EP."

Summer Camp followed 2011's ...'Condale' with their 2013 self-titled LP, on which they wrote more personally about their lives.
"I'm proud of that album but it's not a world I wanted to exist in," says Elizabeth. "I really need to engage with the world that we're writing in. I wanted to go back to something that had more of an overarching theme, but addressing the world a bit more: a way of discussing the kind of emotional violence that people commit against one another."

The title came early on, inspired by the duo's shared love of horror films, "but the monster or killer is a bad relationship," says Jeremy. That in turn had come from writing the soundtrack to Charlie Lyne's acclaimed 2014 documentary 'Beyond Clueless', a "hypnotic, narcotic and dreamlike cine-essay about the contemporary American teen movie phenomenon" (The Guardian).

"Working with Charlie was really interesting," says Elizabeth.
"I realised that those teen films I grew up loving - they say so much about the teen experience through metaphor, and horror in particular - so much of it symbolises fear of sex, acceptance, masturbation..."

They started by rough-cutting together clips from classic horror films like 'The Shining', but soon realised they didn't need the external visual guidance. 'Bad Love' told its own story, one of people dealing with their ghosts rather than romanticising or suppressing them.

The band worked with the bold and beautiful photographer Charlotte Rutherford to realise their dreams of recreating the covers of '90s Point Horror and Fear Street books for the album's artwork. Elizabeth explains: "I grew up reading those books, and always loved the illustrated covers. They were so dramatic, and so beautifully drawn, but with a tongue-in-cheek campy quality. I wanted to live in those American suburban horror stories - I found them aspirational rather than scary".

Horror films of the '90s played a part in not only the artistic aesthetic of 'Bad Love', but the music too: "There's something very fascinating about a teenager's relationship with gore and horror, it's a space for them to experience the ideas of death, pain and their own mortality, but in a very safe and dreamlike way. We were also interested in the violence in these films, and how so often watching physical violence is less harmful psychologically than watching emotional violence. To this day I would rather sit down and watch 'Idle Hands' or 'Disturbing Behaviour' on a loop than watch one second of 'Blue Valentine'".

"It's so easy to think of an ending, so easy to start all over again/But the truth is you have to stick with it, you'll always fall sometimes when you begin"

That's the crux of the 'Run Away', 'Bad Love''s heartfelt centerpiece.
"I think my natural instinct would be to write a song like, 'we've gotta get out of this town!'" says Elizabeth, with a mock-dramatic flourish. "But that's a song we've written before. I've realised within myself and my own family that sometimes you have to stay put.
There's one line that Jeremy wrote on 'You're Gone' that I think about all the time: 'Once you know why you're hurting it hurts a little less' - that's something I've always felt, but never said."

"Maybe it's better to actually work out why you wanna run away instead of just doing it," adds Jeremy. "Instead of giving into your first instinct, take a look in the mirror at actually look at what you're doing."

The title-track's sparkly overdrive is early single 'Better Off Without You' approached from a more mature perspective. "'Better Off...' is looking back at things, but I think 'Bad Love' is happening to someone who is in the middle of that experience," says Jeremy. "It's more like, how do you live through a bad relationship?" Meanwhile the soulful 'Angela', sung by Elizabeth, makes peace with a friend who can't live without drama. "Some people love chaos and instability and emotional upheaval and that's great for them, so it's like, if that's what you want, you're not going to change and I can't change you."

There are still runaways on the dreamy krautrock of 'Drive Past My House' - "I wanna be someone they talk about and wonder where I ended up, how I broke out" - but they're breaking out with purpose. "It's running to have something better for yourself, having the courage to go for it," says Elizabeth. "It's like at the end of 'Good Will Hunting' when Ben Affleck says to Matt Damon, one day I want to turn up at your house to take you to work and you've just gone - it's that desire for somebody you care about, or yourself, to be that person."

"Musically that's a song I've been trying to write for about 10 years," adds Jeremy. "Little bits and pieces that have come from different places, songs we've worked on before that haven't made it onto albums."

Six years into their career, Summer Camp undeniably have their own gorgeous, romantic niche. 'Bad Love' is a testament to them recognising that and seizing the opportunity to use their powers to their fullest extent: the pearlescent 'If You Hate Me' recalling Chromatics' 'Drive OST', the cloaked obsessive danger of 'Beautiful'. As Jeremy sings on 'Horizon': "If you never push yourself into the blue / You'll never do the things you want to". "That song, I re-read Haruki Murakami's 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running', which made me start running, and that song is inspired by the feeling of achievement I got," says Jeremy. "It's about not settling." With 'Bad Love', the band that originally made their fans reminisce about a past they never experienced are looking firmly forward.

Summer Camp

Summer Camp