A young man stands on stage smiling in incomprehension. His band, just 14 gigs old, are halfway through their set at Camden's Barfly. The crowd sing along, cheering to tracks they've only heard on the internet like they're Greatest Hits staples. It's one o'clock on a Saturday morning and this, ladies and gentlemen, is Los Campesinos!
Three days later and six-sevenths of Cardiff's new musical heroes gather in your correspondent's attic. The kettle is boiled and charity shop vinyl rattles away in the background.
Gareth (vocals/xylophone), Aleksandra (keys/vocals), Neil and Tom (guitars), Harriet (violin/keys) and Ollie (drums) hum with excitement over multiple cups of tea. Bassist Ellen is at the chiropractors – she misses out on a good cuppa.
In the space of about six months Los Campesinos! have gone from playing in the side room of a student union indie night to supporting Broken Social Scene; playing a session at Maida Vale, being wined and dined by every record company in Britain and, most recently, signing a deal with Wichita – on the basis that they gave good hugs and left kisses at the end of text messages. All this in a summer where Gareth was working on a recycling lorry in Somerset and Ollie was obliviously 'counting bugs' in Greenland.
What's the name about then? (It means 'The Peasants!')
Gareth points at Neil...
Neil: "I used to be able to speak Spanish but I forgot. I thought it sounded nice."
Tom: "It was like an idealistic Decemberists thing, wasn't it? So we could dress up."
Gareth: "The songs might not be good but at least we can dress up funny."
Neil: "We just wanted to wear dungarees (they all laugh). We did! We wanted to wear stuff like that - have wheelbarrows full of hay."
Ollie: "Like the Wurzels!"
Ollie: (Mock-offended) "More number ones than Radiohead."
Could Los Campesinos! have gotten to the stage of already being signed 20 years ago?
Tom: "Definitely not, not even five years ago."
Gareth: "When we did the demos we put them on MySpace and put them on a thread on DrownedinSound. That was literally all the PR we did. We didn't send out a single demo without being asked by a label..."
Tom: "We sent a few..."
Gareth: "I never did."
Tom: "We sent one to Pitchfork."
Gareth: "Oh yeah, I sent them a link."
Tom: "That's 'cause I sent all the demos. Cost me about sixty quid."
Gareth: "We'll pay you back. Someday."
Tom: (Points at dictaphone) "That's on record!"
Neil: "We've got these recordings, what do we do now? Er... put 'em on MySpace? And that's all we did."
Tom: "We've just got surprise and guilt at the fact that it was far too easy."
Ollie: "Because there's been other bands, other Cardiff bands, who've been around for a while and we've just sort of come along."
Harriet: "At the same time we do have to practise and we do have to be good, cause we're not at the moment."
Neil: "Bloody students."
Do you think your early success has got other Cardiff bands' goats?
Tom: (laughs) "I reckon a lot of people hate us but don't tell us."
Aleksandra: "The Cardiff music scene is getting a lot more attention now so it's good for everyone."
Tom: "Are you claiming credit?"
Aleksandra: "Yeah, me! It's all me!"
Tom: "It helps that we're all really good friends. There's not really any sense of rivalry. Or if there is, it's just towards The Automatic, hopefully. They take the brunt of it."
As self-proclaimed fanboys and girls, what's it like meeting your favourite bands?
Tom: "You just have to act normal."
Gareth: "But that's the problem! I'm afraid I will act my normal self. I don't want to get used to it. But Broken Social Scene..."
Tom: "...that was the peak."
Gareth: "You and Kevin Drew..."
Tom: "...and a Pavement jam..."
Gareth: "...and a slow dance."
Ollie: "But Tom can't remember that."
Gareth: "I was at home in bed at the time, because it was the first time we had a rider, we had lots of free beer and..."
Gareth: "I was scared that people would drink it before I got the chance so I drank three tins on stage (laughs) and, er, at the end of our set I was sick outside."
If being signed after such a short time together isn't weird enough, the band still have six months left at university.
What do your parents make of it? Aren't they a bit annoyed you've spent all this money on university and are about to sack it off?
Gareth: "My parents love it; I think they all do don't they?"
Neil: (pretends to be his dad) "Did you know that this is…? Did you read that?"
Gareth: "My dad's like, 'Yeah you've had 700 plays so far today…'"
Aleksandra: "My dad does that, he checks how many downloads we've had every half an hour."
Gareth: "He knows every person who's left a message (on MySpace): 'Yeah, Catherine left you a nice comment, didn't she?' 'Who's Catherine?' 'From Boston, in America!' My dad got the internet especially."
Together less than a year and already finishing each others' sentences, 2007 should be huge for Team Campesinos!.
What would make the next year great?
Neil: "Not dying."
Gareth: "That goes without saying. Playing somewhere where we don't know the language would be amazing, then we wouldn't be able to understand the heckles. This has been an amazing year. Even with the degrees going on, it's so much more than we ever… if people had said, 'What do you want to happen?' we probably would have said, 'Get to play a gig in Bristol'."
Tom: "You could say, rather than having ideas above our station, the station goes above our ideas."
Gareth: "Whatever happens in 2007, as long as we're still..."
And with that Los Campesinos! are dispatched from the attic and back to the rainy streets of Cardiff. I think I love them all. You probably will too.
Photograph by Adam Gasson