When the worlds of music and football meet their coming together is usually treated as a collision to cringe at rather than a marriage worth savouring.
Unfortunately, many of their most high-profile moments of mingling have only provided more ammunition to those who assert that combining the two is as fundamentally wrong as ice cream with a Sunday roast.
The removal of Fulham’s tawdry tribute to Michael Jackson, erected by their eccentric former owner Mohamed Al Fayed, offered up yet another moment of kitsch to lampoon the notion that these two realms could relate in any meaningful way.
Writing for The Guardian’s Music Blog, Jeremy Allen declared that, "football and music, the uneasiest of bedfellows, should never – and I mean never – ever meet again. Finally, in 2013, this symbolic gesture, this moment of clarity, this new broom sweeping away all the haplessness and idiocy that came before it! Now, perhaps, we can put to an end once and for all the idea that pop and the beautiful game can live together harmoniously. History is on our side."
Some Goals Are Bigger Than Others headed to Bristol a few weeks back to speak to one man in particular who would disagree with both Allen’s conclusion and the relish with which he announced it.
I wasn’t alone in heading out west in search of football either, with Chelsea travelling to Swindon on the same dreary and wet Tuesday night to play a midweek League Cup game against Swindon Town.
Arriving in the town famous for spas, Romans and rugby, I headed to a pub to sit down and watch the match with Gareth of Los Campesinos!, a goalkeeper turned lead singer, turned director of his local club Welton Rovers FC.
I asked him where it all began…
"First football memory is the last day of the 1994-95 season: [Manchester] United vs. West Ham, and that’s really when I started following United when they lost that Premier League title. I had an uncle who always followed United who was trying to get me to support United. My dad always had a soft spot for them too. I don’t know why. Probably some FA Cup.
"After that I remember the ‘95 FA Cup final. I didn’t really start playing football competitively until I was 9, and then it seemed to engross everything I did. I don’t really know why."
So it was a gradual thing?
"Yeah. Most people think that you just start young and get involved very young, and it was constantly there with me. Perhaps because it was always a constant I engaged with it quite late.
"My first ever game I was left-back. The whistle went for kick-off and I just hared up to centre-forward. The other team kicked off, we played in green and yellow halves - proper Newton Heath style - and I scored two goals that game. Eleven-a-side.
From left-back?! Was that all Denis Irwin’s fault?
"It was just a case of it being a new team so I played where I wanted, but I was a centre-forward from the age of 10 till 16. I was top-scorer in the league every year, but then I was never fit, I was never fast, so I just gradually sort of dropped back. Centre midfield, holding midfield, centre-half and then… alright, I’ll play in goal! But I love it in goal because you’re in charge: nobody’s in-charge of you.
Plus, if you can play the ball a bit…
"I am very much a Hugo Lloris type sweeper keeper. There’s a Johan Cryuff quote where he sort of thinks a sweeper keeper will cost you two goals a year, when he gets lobbed, but the amount of goals he’ll save you every season gobbling up loose balls."
Did you get into music in the same way then?
"No. I didn’t like music until I was 16."
"I only remember liking two bands."
Is that because of football?
"Yeah, I think so. I’ve always loved The Beautiful South. My dad got me into them. So until the age of 16 all I would listen to would be them and pop music: buying compilations and really liking S Club, stuff like that.
"I think I probably got into music as a result of a rebellion against people in my age group at school. It probably wasn’t really until the very end of year 11, when I was about 16 that I recall getting into music. The cool kids would bring in their acoustic guitars, and they’d be playing Jeff Buckley and all the girls would be swooning. I was like, ok let’s look into this.
"All my formative stuff music wise came from AOL chat rooms, meeting people who told, ‘try me this!’ So I pretty much got straight in at the deep-end just because I met some amazing people who were like, ‘listen to this’.
"So after The Beautiful South, one of the first bands I was massively into was Modest Mouse, or Pavement, so to go straight from that to that - from pop music to that stuff - was amazing. At the time I really liked The Libertines, The Strokes and basically every band’s first single. I read the NME religiously.
"But yeah, it was never really a thing for me until 16 and then got heavily into it and got into a couple of bands in sixth form, mostly just because there weren’t many people to pick from. It sort of went from there.
Did you find that you found more friends by being into football and music or where some people quite tribal about your sudden interest in something different?
"I think we all sort of evolved at the same time in regards to that. I’ve never had loads of friends. I’ve always had a really tight-knit group. My best mates now were my best mates when I was 15, which not many people have I don’t think. But we’ve always been really close. We don’t live far apart now but we have to make a little more effort to come together these days.
"But we just grew up together with the sort of thing where you’d work through the week, won’t even say anything and you know at 4 o’clock Sunday you’d meet in the pub. Everyone would be there, you’d watch the football and then talk about the same stuff all time.
"We probably bonded over football initially, moved over to music and then, nah, you know what? Let’s have both."
The new album features the track 'A Portrait of the Trequartista as a Young Man', which as something coined by Clive Martin of VICE, but there are plenty of other football references in the Los Campesinos! back catalogue.
You’ve said in other interviews that you’re constantly thinking about football all the time. How much does the game actually relate to and influence your writing for the band? To me, it seems that you use it in the same way other artists might reference films, books or other bits of music.
"It just makes sense for me to write about football, and it surprises me that more bands don’t because within art, football is a taboo subject. Football is slowly undergoing this sort of - it’s a terrible term - but re-intellectualisation of football, with more people writing perhaps more thought-out, intelligent pieces for places like When Saturday Comes, The Blizzard and slightly more left-field football websites and stuff.
"It’s kind of getting a little bit away from your stereotypical football fan. I’m noticing it more among bands - bands that I’m friends with and bands that we play with - that people are talking a lot more openly about football than they would before. I think even around the time our band formed and we released our first record I was kind of shying away from how much I like football. I wouldn’t talk about it because you can’t like sport and art, because of the way divisions are drawn in school like that.
"We know Ben Gibbard from Death For Cutie, and when we play Seattle they all come to our shows and stuff, and last time I saw him he said one of the best things that related to that that I’ve heard. He said that to him, he knew he was an adult when he could reconcile his love of sport with his love of alt music and not feel guilty about it, and feel like that could work.
"And because football does take up so much of my time, and the space in my brain, and actually what I know, because I don’t really know much other than football…"
[Chelsea score. Our eyes dart up to the screen.]
"When I’m looking for a metaphor or something, it makes sense. And it surprises me, because so much music is about love, sex, death, and basically love and death is all pop music, and there are few things in life that capture those same caricatures of those ideas and feelings as football. You get the elation and the depression of football, so for me it totally makes complete sense as a filter through which to run things."
So in a way, it shouldn’t be as novel as it is?
"I don’t think so, but for the amount of people for whom football is the national sport, and of people our age forming bands and writing songs who love football, there still is that segregation. I think generally with my songwriting I’ve got to a point where I just write for myself now. Previously, especially at the start of the band, I kind of second guessed what people expected of me, because I was totally in awe of being in a band, and thinking, ‘shit! People are writing about my band and people are coming to my gigs!’ It’s like: I’m in an indie band, I’ve got write these indie songs about indie things!
"And as I’ve progressed, not as a songwriter but as an adult who is comfortable with himself, I just like writing about what entertains me now, and football is a big part of that."
It’s pretty much the most mainstream interest in the country, and maybe that puts some people off or stops them from identifying as fans in case they’re categorised into one of two inaccurate, homogenous groups?
You’ve either got all that horrible banter culture or folks like Susanna Reid on BBC Breakfast, who’s a big Crystal Palace fan. It seems that football is kind of acceptable there and there, on these two extremes of the status quo, while there’s a sort of unseen alternative football thing going on in the space between.
Do you think there is almost a concerted effort at the moment to fill and promote that gap?
"Yeah. I think you’ve got a lot of people in that sphere doing the slightly subversive football criticism, be it in their very… it sounds horrific, but in some ways there’s quite a punk approach to it at the moment. Everyone is really happy to piss each other off, cause aggro and to kind of damage their chances of achieving things within their own careers by slagging the people above off as they go along.
"That’s something I’m hyper-aware of. People that I like, who I follow on Twitter, that will be saying stuff to people and I’m thinking, ‘Don’t say that to them! Don’t tag them in it! You might one day hope to be employed by them!’, or something like that. But that refusal to bow down to what people should be doing, I’ve noticed a lot of that in football writing, obviously from the focused group of people I follow. But it seems to be, less of a movement and more of a very clear-cut group of football writers who seem to be doing well for themselves."
Has Twitter changed things in that respect? Surely these people have always existed?
"Yeah, but they’d just be writing for fanzines and stuff. Probably making more of a focussed difference, speaking to supporters around specific clubs that they’re relevant to. But Twitter is great for that. You don’t have to take your information from people who have a party line to tread. It’s people who aren’t worried about upsetting people, for better for worse, and as a football fan and someone who enjoys reading football writing, that is a lot more interesting than the same tired, churned out stuff."
Do you think that it’s something that people within football are conscious of or does it only exist outside of the bubble? You see people slating Match Of The Day, BT Sport and Sky, constantly getting criticised because it doesn’t always feel very relevant to this new sense of awareness.
"Yeah. There was that incident the other day where Gary Lineker responded to Barney Ronay. That’s a bit… well, you’re not meant to do, that are you? When you’re someone as sort of untouchable as Gary Lineker, there’s no reason he should give him the time of day.
"Obviously it’s good that he does take offense because you want him to be proud and aware of what he’s doing, but that struck me as a really strange thing. Although Ronay within that sphere is a known character and a lot of people dislike him while others enjoy the way that he writes and the things that he writes about.
"Similarly, along that chain you’ve got a lot of Guardian journalists and broadsheet journalists who get sniped at by the sort of next tier of writers maybe, so everyone is aware of each other. And that’s good in that it keeps people on their toes I suppose, but it’s bad in that people deliberately exaggerate their emotions and their feelings to really get their point across, and everybody in every sphere considers the person disagreeing from the tier beneath them to be the trolls.
"It’s adding to the democracy of the hierarchy I suppose, but then again you never know how much to read into it, because it’s this fear, this group, this clique almost, that people like you and I are more aware of that know people, who know people."
How similar do you think that all is to the relationship between music fans and music journalists? We’ve passed the punk era in music now, so is the way people talk about music the destination where football is now heading?
"I guess the comparison would be, you’ve got your football fans who would be your music fans, your football journalists are your music journalists and the players I suppose would be the people in the bands, but I think being in a band, if you’ve got any sense you, wouldn’t mention any journalist ever.
"Obviously in a band there’s some you like and you’ll remember some who’ve said snidey things in the past, but you can’t ever mention it because they’ll inevitably end up reviewing your next record."
But then you’ve got Joey Barton and people like Azealia Banks…
"I guess but then the comparison would be people buying your record would be the equivalent of putting you in their fantasy football team, and I think I’m more worried about an extra 50 record sales than Joey Barton would be about an extra 50 fantasy football teams.
"It’s weird, music journalism. Football journalism seems to be on a bit of an upward curve while the music press is in a downward spiral. I think a lot if not most of the music writing is focussed on a few sites, and you’ve got a lot of people vying for not very much.
"And I think there’s almost more to write about with football than music."
Yeah, there’s more to base your writing on, definitely. It’s not as subjective. It still is subjective, but you’ve got goals, you’ve got results. The dreaded stats…
"Yeah. There’s constantly new things to get your teeth into, whereas music; sure there’s new records and stuff, but there not really new narratives being created constantly like there in football.
"I mean an incident could happen in this match that you could probably get 500 words out of whereas you’re not going to have a moment in a song that’s suddenly going to be headline news in the same way."
But I think that’s the difference between football and music in a way, at least in the sense of how we consume it now. Music back in the day before we had the gear to record it with, was all live, exciting and surprising, with lots of improvisation and new versions of songs played and made up on the fly.
That’s kind of what makes football great. You can watch a reply of a match but it’s not the same. It’s definitely different to listening to a record. It’s more transient. It hasn’t got that same kind of save-ability if you know what I mean. You can’t hold onto it.
"You can’t beat being there and seeing it. The game is completely different. I’ll come away from games that I’ve watched at a stadium and go home and talk to my mates who saw it on the telly, and it’s like we’ve watched different games. That’s why I love watching Welton Rovers because you’re at pitch level and you see everything. I think that’s the difference between some of my mates who are big football fans The last time they actually went to any ground to watch even a Sunday morning match was years. They never actually watch football in the flesh.
"I’m used to being pretentious about music a lot, and this sounds like I’m being pretentious about football, but you see so much more. You understand how players move. I’m a goalkeeper who plays Sunday morning, so I’m not the best but I feel like I understand football better as a result of watching the full pitch every Saturday than mates at home watching streams, and only seeing so much. You don’t understand it in the same way."
The angle that they film matches at is only getting smaller as well. I hate what’s happening on the screen now, zooming into players, getting closer to the ball. I prefer it when you look at the old replays of games from the 70s, 80s and even the mid-90s, you’re given a massive wide angled camera, taking in as much as the pitch as possible. That’s beautiful.
"If someone ghosts in at the far post, you don’t just want to see that last yard. You want to see it all and say, ‘Fuck! They’ve started 20 yards out, and somehow they’ve seen that run.’"
"Talking about streams and stuff, I think if anything it’s changing football at the lowest level because the quality of football at Southern League, Western League level - we’re talking a couple of tiers below your Skrill and that - has declined immeasurably in the past ten years.
"There’s a few things I blame. People are earning lower wages so they can’t afford to give up their time at the weekends. They’re working longer hours. More people going to University is damaging lower league football tpp, which sounds like a really out there statement to make, but people move away having played for their local team between 16 and 18. You see it a lot with Welton. They move away to University, they don’t keep up with their football and can’t play when they’re back. They’ve missed three years and they’re unfit.
"The other day a friend of mine was saying it’s ridiculous that Sky can’t show all the Premier League games like they do in America, but I think that’d be terrible if they did that. That would totally be the demise of lower league football, and people would stop playing football.
"Fans would have to chose between spending money on petrol to drive to an away game on a November afternoon, pissing down with rain to watch their team lose for a tenner with nobody else watching them. Or they could stay home, stay warm and watch their team on telly or on Sky or whatever.
"So streaming, if anything, will be one of the things that contributes to the downfall of lower league, non-league football. A lot of people turn their nose up at the quality of football at that level, but it’d be such a shame to lose it. But I’m not saying streaming is a bad thing at all, because I love it."
If we lost that grass roots romance though; it keeps football from becoming homogenous and identifiable. If we lost that…
"Yes, but I am really loathed to criticise the Premier League because they provide me so much entertainment and I wouldn’t be without it."
I don’t really buy that it’s all their fault either though.(
"No, it’s what we want. The public gets what the public wants, and we’ve caused it to be that way. We’re sitting here watching Swindon versus Chelsea, and Swindon is about 30 minutes on the train.
"And that’s why with the Against Modern Football thing - which I think is a relevant and a noble cause - I don’t see the benefit in criticising the top. You need to highlight how good it can be at the lower end. An amazing experience seems overly emotional, but you just can’t beat going to a match and being there, and even if it’s not the best quality football it’s the whole social experience of going to football. I do wish that more people would.
"That’s one of the things we’re trying to do with Welton, getting local people to reengage with football. And it’s difficult because even with a club like Welton, you have big bills to pay in terms of the lease and running the bar and things like that. The amazing thing would be if everyone could come watch Welton on a Saturday afternoon and pay a pound to come in, but you can’t do that. You’ve got to charge £5 and that suddenly seems a lot of money for what you’re getting.
How did you end up becoming a United fan, and what’s the deal with Welton Rovers?
"I started watching them because of my dad and my uncle. United were the team that I enjoyed watching the most and liked the look of best. That’s why people end up supporting a team, or that it’s the club that your mates support, or that’s most popular.
"Any other reason is a bit... when you’re 8 or 9, it’s not as if you can take yourself off to watch Bristol Rovers and Bristol City so you spend all Saturday looking forward to Match of the Day, and you just want to a watch a club that you know you’re going to be able to see goals from every week. One that you know all the players and that you can get the gist of everything from.
"I’ve always followed Manchester United. They’re my telly team but the older I get the more I’m just bothered by Welton Rovers, and that’s because my dad supported them, my grampie supported them and played for them, and his dad played for them, going all the way back to the turn of the 20th century.
"I’ve played for the reserves a couple of times, and that was my proudest moment, playing for them: I’ve supported them all my life, watched them week in, week out, home and away, but it’s weird. Supporting a team like that, the players don’t understand it because most of them are younger than me now. You’ve got a couple of older heads who’ve played for every team in the county, that sort of thing but I’m 27 now so most of them are a good couple of years younger.
"The other weekend, we had an away game at Barnstable, which is in North Devon so pretty much a three-hour coach journey. We go down on the player’s coach, and there was like seven supporters that went down with the players. They can’t contemplate why you support the team. They get paid like £20 a week - something like that - but you know how it is, once the team gets into you, you just can’t decide not to care about it anymore."
Are they alright about it, the players? Or do they think you’re all a bit weird?
"It’s a bit of both. I think they don’t fully understand it because they’ll play for a couple of seasons or a season and then get offered £25 at another club, and it’s just as cut-throat as the Premier League, which I guess is understandable because they’re just supplementing whatever they earn in the week.
"I’m a Director now and we’re doing a lot to try and rebuild the club. It used to be a really decent club, like in the sixties we were the first team ever to win the Western league three years in a row. It’s never been done since. And in the 1910s, 1920s they were only one division below Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth. It was all that close to each other.
"This is the first season I’ve been on the board and we’ve got a few younger people; a few people who are more au fey with modern goings on, be it the internet and just generally have that extra bit of passion. You know, I kind of feel like we’re stuck supporting this club for the next 50 years of our lives so…"
You may as well make the most of it.
"Yeah, so we can’t just let it peter out, so it’s exciting. And that’s what I like about supporting a team like that. You do really feel like you can make a difference to a result or how the team are going to progress over a season.
"There was a couple of seasons ago we won a penalty which I swear down I personally won just by being the one person, about five yards away from the ref, who was like, ‘penalty!’ And he was like, ‘yeah alright.’ We went on to win the match, and it’s just that feeling, like when the ref comes off the pitch or you’re stood a yard away from him, and you can call him a cunt. You can’t do that in the Premier League.
"The other weekend we did a hamster racing event, which is like wind-up hamsters and placing bets. Made about £950 for the club. As a result of that sort of thing, we’ve been able to sign a new striker because that money can go directly to telling that striker, "oh we can pay you like £25 a game," so it’s just… oh, Torres…"
Fernando Torres runs in on goal for Chelsea. I wonder how many hamster races it would have taken Chelsea to bring the Spaniard to Stamford Bridge had they needed the extra income. Maybe that’s how Roman Abramovich will attempt to bust his way through the impending Financial Fair Play rules?
I asked whether he felt that other people considered him to have more authenticity as a football supporter due to his involvement with Welton.
"Perhaps some lower league supporters are as snobbish about it as Premier League supporters. They might look down on the lower leagues being like, ‘oh you’re not a proper club’, while non-league supporters will look down on it all themselves saying, ‘support your local club’.
"But I don’t think you should support your local team just because. You need a connection and however that connection comes that’s what’s important. But I do think it gives me a sense of perspective. If someone says they support a team, they support a team, I’ve never questioned it.
"When I was a teenager and someone asked who I support I’d say Man United. Maybe even up until five years ago I would always be Man United, but now I’d say Welton Rovers. But then when we’re looking for a common ground to talk about I’ll go, ‘Oh but I follow Manchester United because they’re my Premiership team.’
"Welton Rovers is a United supporting club as well, like most of the supporters there are life-long Man United fans for some reason, like the core of them. The previous chairman was a United supporter."
Do you think that’s because there’s a lack of a big regional team round here?
"It’s terrible for the South-West with [Bristol] City now being in League One. Yeovil [Town] are in the Championship but I’d imagine they’ll get relegated this season because who’s going to want to move to Yeovil?
"If players have a choice between a London team or a Midlands team, you’re not going to move to deepest, darkest Somerset. Bath’s a difficult one because it’s a Rugby city. You come out on the weekend and Bath City will play to maybe like 400 people, and then you’ve got Bath - I don’t even know what it’s called - the Rugby stadium, playing to about 20,000 people or something. It’s weird. But then you go to Bristol and people are more into it. I prefer Rovers to City, but still, the fact that Somerset don’t have a team in the Championship is pretty damning."
You reviewed Football Manager 2011 for Rock Paper Shotgun didn’t you?
"Yeah, which I kind of forgot about! Someone reminded me the other day. I’ve spoken about Football Manager so often in interviews now but when our band formed the only place I posted about us was the Sports Interactive forums because I went on there so regularly.
"There’s this thread on the SI Games message board going back to 2006. It doesn’t get posted in very often now, but every time we release a single or something one of the original faithful will be like, ‘hey, they’ve got a new singles out!’
"There’s some good people on there; people will still come to gigs and be like, I’m an OTFer!"
Going back to this counter-culture idea we were talking about, how much of an influence has Football Manager has had on football outside of the game and its community?
The games often cited as the main way that people are being introduced to teams they’ve never heard of, players they’ve never heard; it’s that whole football hipster thing I guess.
"Yeah maybe, although the football hipster thing is something I’m not very keen on."
It’s quite a slippery term. Some people could call us football hipsters.
"Yeah, I think they would, and some good people I know will self-identify as a football hipster, but I think the great thing about football and football fandom is there’s no hierarchy. I think it’s quite snobbish. You’ve got your people who are Bielsa worshippers or who once bought a St. Pauli t-shirt and will be like, ‘I’m a football hipster!’ and will look down on people who support a team that lug the ball forward and throw men in the box.
"But it’s all football and the great thing about football is that it unites everyone. It’s almost like trying to impose a class structure system within football, which has always been for the working classes and it doesn’t matter who you are, you get the same enjoyment from it. So the notion of looking down on people for only watching the Premier League… 80% of the football I watch is Premier League football, and that makes sense because that’s what I know the most about and what’s most relevant to me.
"I’ll watch Spanish football and a bit of German, but the notion that there’s a right way to support football and a wrong way just doesn’t sit too well with me at all. I used to be a total snob with the music, and I’d chat shite and I’d slag off bands saying major label bad, indie label good, but I’ve grown out of that now. I think people are trying to impose it on football. I don’t think it’s right. It’ll only cause divisions.
"I feel I could walk into any pub. It’s the sort of people who’d be scared to walk into a pub packed wall-to-wall with drunk Chelsea fans or something and be like thinking, ‘oh no I’ll get my head smacked in,’ but football’s football. If you’ve got the common love of football you should be able to speak to anyone about it. Don’t dress yourself up as something different."
You said something earlier about trying not to be too pretentious about football, but what do you think of the idea of looking at football as something more, perhaps even in an arty way? Do you think that’s valid or part of some kind of phoney, middle-class gentrification of the game?
"It’s like people that I know and are close to who will deny my entitlement to be working class because I went to University, and they will say, ‘you’re not working class, you went to University.’ Which is saying, working class people can’t go to University. It’s a self-defeating classification.
"Suggesting football should be considered as art: no I don’t think it is part of this gentrification idea. It’s just people finding bigger ways and more engrossing ways to enjoy it. When you’ve looked a certain depth into football and enjoyed it in that way, and you’re just trying to get more enjoyment out of it by studying deeply the personalities, the systems, the history, the sort of social movements within football; they’re things that have always existed in football and it’s just whether or not you feel that it’s something you could get enjoyment from.
"And with things like The Blizzard as well, there’s so much in there that I’d never have even thought existed, or on face value wondered, ‘what’s the relevance in this?’ And then you get into it.
"There’s so much in the world to make people fucking miserable and dread waking up in the morning, that if you’ve got something like football… I genuinely pity some of my mates that don’t love football. They really like music, but I really like music. What about football?
"Because I’m quite a morose person, I think about growing old, decrepit and dying, and everyone I know dying and stuff like that but one sort of light at the end of the tunnel which I can imagine is that when I’m 90-years-old, with no family, in a nursing home, I can have a football match on.
"And for those 90 minutes, nothing else will matter. You’re in that. You can’t question it. So whatever you can use as a catalyst for that enjoyment, be it the slight intellectualisation of football, it’s fucking worth it, because it’s just about getting every last drop of enjoyment from the game."
Where you’re in that moment like you say, there is a kind of purity to it. I don’t know if it’s a primal thing that it brings out, but for it does blur the boundaries between sport and art.
Do you think we may get to the point one day where matches are enjoyed like a great film, a song or painting?
"Part of me hopes not because there’s that edge and predictability to football. Goals demand re-watching but football games as a whole don’t really, not more than a couple of times. If you stumble upon a good game previously on ESPN Classic, it’s great but it’s not quite… I think the thing makes football so amazing is the butterfly effect of it all.
"One thing that annoys me the most is when a team will be 3-0 down and they’ll lose 3-2, but when they’re 3-0 down someone will miss an easy chance then after the match they’ll say, ‘if he’d put that away it would have been 3-3!’ No it wouldn’t. If he’d had scored that then, they would have kicked off rather than taking the goal kick and it would have been a completely different game.
"And that’s what makes football so much more exciting for me than music or any film or book or anything."
Would you rank football above music?
"Oh, I much prefer football to music. If I could chose one I’d chose football in a second."
Is everyone in the band interested in football? Do they have a similar relationship to it as you?
"They love football, but I would say - and if they were to read this I wouldn’t want them to think I’m diminishing their love of it in any way - but it’s just the fact that it’s all I’ve ever known. Genuinely. It’s the kind of thing like when we’re on tour in America, and we’ve got an eight-hour time difference or whatever, and I’ll be trying to watch football in the middle of the night. The last time I remember doing it was the United-Villa game when we came back.
The Macheda one?
"No, that one wasn’t so bad. We were only on a five-hour time difference then. No, it was the Hernandez one: Chicharito from last season. I set an alarm for four in the morning to wake up. It was lights out so I had a band mate in the bed next to me and I’m trying to get a stream up on my laptop. Or actually, because every match is on in the states, it’s me trying to find the right ESPN channel.
"But no, I’m the only one in the band that plays football, that’s ever played football. I don’t think the way I enjoy football is anymore worthy or relevant but it’s different, slightly more encompassing. I think it’s why I watch the local team every week.
"I remember one game in particular. I used to play for a Saturday morning team. We had a gig in Edinburgh on Friday night. We drove back on the bus overnight. Got into Cardiff at about eight in the morning. I jumped straight on the train to go to Bristol, changed into my kit on the way, hadn’t got any sleep, played a game, I was shit, we lost four nil.
"But that’s the sort of thing that as a 10 or 11-year-old when on a family holiday to Pontins or Butlins, me and my dad would always drive back on the Sunday to play football, and then drive back again after the match. It’s always been a thing between me and my dad and always my priority. Football has always been my priority.
"I like music and I’ve been lucky enough to make a living from music, but it doesn’t compare even remotely from football. And I’d give it all up for a second for a season in any shite club really."
Los Campesinos! have a very sophisticated sound and some great songwriting so I’m quite surprised to hear you only really got into it all at 16.
"Tom takes credit for that though. I write the words, Tom writes the music."
But you must have a kind of appreciation of it to make your lyrics work so well within the songs?
"Yeah, I guess. A few years ago I may have tried to romanticise that, but it’s not complicated. It’s just writing words to music. And I like it. I do like writing, and I do like having an outlet, and I do feel very lucky to be able to write for someone like Tom because I think he’s a fantastic songwriter and it gives me a forum. I used to want to be a writer in a journalistic sense but I just can’t do it, so it’s nice that I have that platform.
"I think I can write like one good thing a year, like I did that Football Manager review I did. That was all right. I reviewed the new Placebo album for a decent American site. That was good. That got some good feedback. But that’s me until 2014 now!"
Have you ever been to a World Cup or European Championship?
"I went to the Olympics. I watched Team GB at the Millennium Stadium, which was one of the most horrific experiences of my life. It was vile. Nobody was swearing. It was just families. The noise was several octaves higher that it would be at any football match I’d been to previously. Just so many kids… I mean it’s great that kids are going to the football, but they weren’t there for the football. They were there for the Olympics.
"The thing that really interests me as a compromise is the Island Games I think it’s called? It’s happening in Jersey very soon, and obviously the people playing in that; it would mean the world."
I think Ralph Little was playing in the last one for Sealand. You know that little platform off the coast of Ipswich?
"Sort of on a similar note to that, there’s a song off our third record, Romance Is Boring, called Plan A, which is basically about a scenario where I move to Malta, claim Maltese citizenship, and subsequently end up playing international football for Malta, becoming a national hero.
"I can hardly remember it but it talks through the goal; the famous goal that I score. I think it’s something like an equaliser. But me and my mates at school when we were about 16 would talk about all that like it was a genuine possibility."
The reverse Danny Higginbotham method.
(Higginbotham is a 34-year-old defender who plays for Chester in The Skrill Premier, and who has just been offered a call-up to the Gibraltar national team.)
"That’s so funny! Has he agreed to play for them?"
Yeah, through Twitter.
The head of the Gibraltan FA got in touch with him, and pretty much said, ‘aye up mate, can you send me an email. I’ll send you an offer!" Why not!
"He’s playing for Chester isn’t he? So basically he should say yes, hope Gibraltar get drawn in the same group as Spain or France or England or something."
Ooh… Spain. Derby. Ooh…
"That could be nasty! Well actually, it would try to be nasty but couldn’t possibly be, could it? But England versus Gibraltar would probably be one of the worst displays of patriotism possible, because people who don’t know much about the scenario would suddenly pile in. There’d be a few newspaper articles if you know what I mean…"
Lots and lots of No Surrender too...
"Eugh, yeah. Actually, World Cups and stuff I am very much looking forward to. I always look forward to them. I like to think I don’t care about the England national team but I do, and I can’t help myself. And every time it comes up I’ll look at the team and think, this is shite, but then I’m sucked in and I can’t help.
"I’m not a patriotic person but the national football team has so many memories of watching footballing with my dad, my grampie and stuff like that, and my memories from France 98, watching that in the pub. At the time people came down with drums and they’d chant throughout the match. But it was all that like No Surrender, and the same in Euro 2000 with some terrible songs about Romanians.
"And I probably would have joined in because I was 14 and didn’t know what I was doing, and my dad probably wasn’t fully aware of it all either. But me and my dad have grown together now, and he’s sort of really right on now! If someone says something now he’s like, ‘oh that’s disgusting, they can’t say that!’"
I went to watch Dulwich Hamlet the other week and their diehard fans have a few chants based on punk songs, but when they started chanting, ‘Dulwich Hamlets! Uber Alles!’ the Dead Kennedys reference was lost on some of the people around me. Fortunately I got it but the guy I was with reacted as if they were singing the actual German nationalist anthem! It was a bit awkward.
Do you have a favourite football chant at all by the way?
"I like the football chants - the ones that apply to any team - where you just change it, with the right number of syllables, and it works. Relating it to our record, you can hear a football chant in one of the songs. I like that. I’m proud of that. But football chants… going back to France 98 and Euro 2000, I have very good memories of singing Give Me St. George In My Heart Keep Me English, which I know I shouldn’t say, but it’s the memories, and it’s the innocence of being 14, in a pub with a load of people."
And not knowing the connotations.
"Yeah, and just being like, ‘Yeah! You know what, we’re playing Argentina, and yeah! I’m English, and I’m fucking glad about that, so let’s sing about!’ But no, other chants, off the top of my head I can’t think. At Welton we chant ‘Green Army’, but it’s likely a case of, with an average gate of 60, somebody shouting ‘Green Army’, and then someone on the other side… and it’ll go back and forth.
That’s great in its own way though. Chant tennis.
"Yeah, and when you’re doing it you feel like it’s the right thing to do. You’re losing and you’re defiant or you’re winning and you’re like, fuck yeah! Of all the teams in the division, we’re one of three teams that actually do any kind of chanting, so however pathetic it may be, it’s worth doing."
If you could have one of your songs turned into a chant, which one would it be? It could be the one on the new album with the chant…
"I’m hoping when we do that live that it descends into a proper aggressive sing-a-long. We didn’t have time in the end, but I wanted to get that sung by a football audience or just a group of lads basically, and speeded up, to see us through to the next song. It didn’t work out in the end, but that’s what I hope it descends into live."
Well once they’ve read this interview, maybe they will.
"Yes! Hopefully. Our audience is so diverse and odd. You’ve got the front row, which is always 13-year-old girls without fail. Behind them you’ve a group of 16, 17-year-old lads trying to mosh and do circle pits. Yeah, genuinely, we get circle pits! When we play You Me Dancing, there’s always a circle pit without fail. We’ve had to stop songs before because fights have broken out, genuinely.
"Then behind that you’ve got your early 20’s; a lot of football lads in that, which is good. Then at the back you’ve got 30, 40, 50-year-old Indie boys and girls who see something in us that they saw in bands when they were growing up. We got all sorts."
Almost the same demographic as a proper football audience.
"I guess, yeah!"
You’ve got a Los Campesinos! football badge sorted haven’t you?
"Yeah, and did some few scarfs too"
If you had a kit, what would the design and colours be?
"It’d be green and white to mimic Welton. Green and white stripes; a sort of Ferencvaros vibe, that’s what we’d be going for. The badge that we have has like an eagle on it with a football."
The badge is a little bit East German I thought. Dynamo Campesinos?
"Yeah! Good point. I’d not thought of that before. We never really came up with the best initials for it though. We some few issues with the fact that Los Campesinos! becomes LCFC. So we did a blue and white scarf and a red and white scarf thinking, we’ll catch everyone with this! They were particularly popular with Leicester City fans. Did you see the Scott Parker t-shirt we did? That was very convoluted.
"You know Odd Future, Tyler The Creator and all that? So they’re like Odd Future Wolfgang, but they’d refer to themselves as ‘Golfwang’: the old switcheroo. We’re referred to as Los Camp as a shortening of Los Campesinos! and so we went with doing the same thing. I was particularly agro on the Odd Future lot because they’re quite misogynistic and abusive, and that pissed me off because loads of people who would normally stop to think, ‘hang on don’t be like that’, were into it because it’s cool.
"So we went from Los Camp to Cos Lamp. This was about two-and-a-half years ago before Scott Parker got into the England team. And then I don’t know how we got to this but the joke was, why hasn’t Scott Parker got more England caps? Cos Lamp. Coz Lampard… We only made 100 and we could have sold 300 odd. I still get emails.
"But that was a proper drunken pub conversation saying, let’s do it! Probably sent the email from the table when we were drunk. Next thing we know we got through the designs through and we thought, alright then. And we sold out of them in a day, 100 t-shirts.
"At the time Parker was still at West Ham and some people were like, ‘I would but I can’t buy it because I support Arsenal,’ or whatever. As soon as he signed for Tottenham though we had a few emails through from Spurs fans asking if we had any Cos Lamp t-shirts left.
"Including that in the conversation of the band, and within the lyrics, people like it. And when we do the football stuff people are into it. People like having a band that they like that talk openly about football and include it in their songs."
If Los Camp had a football team and a football shirt, who would be your sponsor?
"Budweiser, obviously! That’s the brand that’s kept us going for the past three years. Actually, with us being on the Budweiser advert, being down the pub at half-time watching the Champions League final between Chelsea and Bayern two years ago… I was at the Welton Rovers Social Club, and they all know I’m in a band but they’re all like, what does that mean?
"But then it comes on at half-time and my mates were like, ‘that’s his song’. I’m like, ‘yeah it is’. Everyone else is suddenly there like, ‘fuck! Bloody hell mate!’…
"And the Wigan-Man City FA Cup final: half-time, interviews on the pitch, tannoy; you can hear our song being played in the background because of the sponsorship. I was like, fuck! This is like… I’m never going to play at Wembley but I’m kind of there. And I’m on the telly, and anyone who’s recorded this, it will always be a part of that cup final.
"It would be Budweiser, and proudly. We don’t shy away. That kind of relates to the commercial changes of football. We’ve fully embraced any commercial opportunity we can get."
"I went to one of The Blizzard Q&A in Leeds. It was good because I got The Outsider signed by Jonathan Wilson, the Henry biographer by Auclair; I got my Issue Zero of The Blizzard signed by Jonathan Wilson. They go for like £100 on eBay but it was signed, "To Gareth" so that loses its value doesn’t it?"
I dunno. If you’re Gareth from Los Campesinos!…
"I can add that into the tags on eBay!"
That’s a piece of history right there.
"Yeah, when Jonathan Wilson met Gareth from Los Campesinos!"
Who are your favourite football writers?
It would just be the usual, predictable lot to be honest. And a lot of the ones that get a lot of criticism too really. It’s not really about the writers but probably things what they’re writing about. I’m a big fan of Football Weekly on The Guardian. I listen to that.
You did an interview with James Richardson…
"Tom did that. That was Tom, for Drowned In Sound. I’m surprised that doesn’t get around more."
It was a good interview!
"It’s really funny. Tom asks really good questions. James Richardson is funny in his responses.
"I love Football Weekly. I find it soothing just people talking about football. I’ve mentioned The Blizzard a couple of times now, and I don’t want to sound too cloying, but I do love it.
"My favourite feature is the legendary matches. It’s not called that but it’s on that theme. I love that, breaking it down. Was it Rob Smyth’s article on the United-Real Madrid game that supposedly changed Ferguson’s approach to Champions League football? That was amazing. Really eye-opening.
"Pat Nevin’s an interesting one. He’s supposed to be a big 4AD fan and he’s DJed at All Tomorrow’s Parties festival. The Belle and Sebastian one. There was a football tournament, and he was overseeing the football tournament. There’s a story about when he was at Tranmere and he was subbed off once at half-time in friendly because he wanted to go so Cocteau Twins to get to the venue on time.
When you watch football highlights on YouTube, what do you make of the music?
"First I think why have they even put music on it? Does it need music? It’s either Euro-pop vibe or screamo dubstep or something - something that I don’t know properly how to fit into a genre. I do wonder about the sort of people that do that, and I’m glad that they do because I’ve watched plenty of them.
"I’m not sure if this is pairing music and football but I very, very much want to write a World Cup song next year. Is that pairing music and football?"
There’s two ways people seem to look at it. Whenever I get talking about music and football there’s always shouts of, ‘oh yeah! Three Lions!’ It seems that most people often gravitate towards the idea of writing songs about football, whereas I wonder what they’d think of stuff like Mogwai and Zidane: a soundtrack almost to what’s going on, on the pitch.
"My instinct would be to say no to that because I don’t think it can work. Like I said, the flow of football, it is that butterfly effect. If you were to pair football and music, you’d have to pair it with jazz or something: something that doesn’t rely on a time signature or a narrative within music, or a structure.
"How are you supposed to put into music somebody taking a shot, the keeper parrying it, defender kicking it out for a corner; you can’t do that. The only way you could possibly put that into an audio experience would be to have a band watching it, not knowing what’s going to happen. You can’t script it because football isn’t scripted. Just like how commentary won’t work if…"
Well that’s one thing I suggested in the Mogwai interview: what if we crammed them in a commentary box to improvise to the game?
"Well that could work! It would probably be terrible to listen to, but that would work. When you know what’s happening, that’s the thing with football: you don’t know what’s happening, and can’t second-guess it.
"You can predict the score line, place bets on the number of corners in a game but I’m not a fan of that concept because it’s kind of… that’s when you’re trying to elevate football to art in a way that’s with hindsight. And the great thing about football is that it exists in the moment, and everything’s happening then, with the butterfly effect."
I’m paraphrasing but there’s some quote by John Frusciente in which he says something along the lines of, ‘when you talk about your art you shit all over it, and ruin whatever you’re talking about’.
I’m suspicious of those who suggest that if your average footballer’s isn’t able to discuss football as an art form or articulate what they do, then football can’t be art. Plenty of musicians and artists don’t like to or can’t talk about their own work. They don’t always know what it is they’re doing, but that doesn’t stop them creating music, books, films, art.
"Yeah, and that’s the thing with me too. This has been good because we’ve been talking about football, and when it comes onto the music it’s natural. Oh, it’s suddenly there. But starting a new album cycle you become aware that these are questions that are going to be asked, and if you’re being honest, people will ask about lyrics and what do they mean, and I’ll be like, "oh yeah, I remember", but you don’t. Because you’re creating in that moment and it doesn’t necessarily stick with you."
1) More Some Goals Are Bigger Than Others Music vs Football columns
2) Gareth from Los Campesinos! DiS singles column takeover; chats about b-sides
3) Gareth from Los Campesinos! interviews Paul Heaton
4) Los Campesinos! takeover week featuring an interview with Football Weekly's James Richardson and interviews with band's on the bittersweet feeling when your team loses.