ROMANCE MAY or may not be dead, but Gareth Campesinos! (né Gareth Paisey) makes a good case that love met its maker a long time ago. Paisey began dumping journal entries into Los Campesinos! songs 2006. Two years later, the band released its debut full-length Hold on Now, Youngster..., a record that birthed a brilliant noise-pop single called "You! Me! Dancing!" while ensuring their spot on many a tastemaker's year-end list. Things have only gotten gloomier since.
Not that the Cardiff, Wales, seven-piece has lost any musical momentum. In fact, with each subsequent release their music has only become weirder and cleverer. The flipside is that the brilliance usually comes at a price—typically in the form of Paisey's tumultuous relationships. The band's latest, the aptly titled Hello Sadness, documents a breakup that occurred one week before Los Campesinos! were scheduled to begin recording. And as with past releases, the lyrics blur diary-like candor with absurdist imagery and the frontman's self-deprecating sense of humor to great effect.
"Obviously the songs come from a personal viewpoint," Paisey explains. "If it was just that—without the sugarcoating—it would become tiresome."
Los Campesinos! have grown up since forming five years ago; Paisey, in particular, sounds wise beyond his years. Sure, he still sings about love, sex, death, and football, and he still goes for the time-honored tradition of using bouncy melodies over sad-bastard lyrics, but the songs backing those un-obscured thoughts are more textured and lasting than the go-for-the-throat "You! Me! Dancing!" And Paisey has become an even more convincing storyteller.
The band's indie-rock survival skills have also kicked in. "You! Me! Dancing!" has been used in Canadian Budweiser ads (Paisey admits the move will keep Los Campesinos! afloat at least a couple more years). Romance may not be dead, but album sales have certainly flatlined. And Paisey—even if he's wallowing in love gone sour—seems genuinely happy his band will live to see another day.
"People used to buy records. Bands didn't have to find alternate ways to make money," he says. "I'm really proud that our music gets heard by so many people."