Camera Obscura are set to play one of the biggest shows of their career so far at Coachella tomorrow and last week they were in Austin for a show at Emo’s on 6th. I met up with the band at Casino El Camino to talk about Coachella, the Beastie Boys, Craig Ferguson and Doctor Who.

Dear Scotland: You’re playing some new locations on this tour, hows that going?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: Yeah maybe about half the places we are playing are new which is nice because our experience of playing in the States is that lots of people will drive 5 hours to come and see us in a bigger city, but now those people get to see us in their home town.

DS: You’ve been to Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Indonesia recently and you’ve been around the world a few times in the past year?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: We realized a fortnight ago when we were on the flight out to Indonesia that it was a year to the day that we flew out to South by Southwest last year which was the start of this album’s promotional stuff. So it’s been a long year.

DS: What’s your memories of that Scottish showcase at South by Southwest last year? You played with We Were Promised Jetpacks, The Proclaimers, Glasvegas, Dananananaykroyd and Primal Scream. How was that?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: It was great. We knew some of the folk from back home but it was just funny seeing Glasvegas and The Proclaimers walking around backstage.

DS: I’ve seen some great photos of Traceyanne and Carey with the Glasvegas guys. Did you know them before?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: I think Traceyanne knew them. It was weird because we’ve been doing this for about 10 years and they were finding it a bit crazy. In about 6 months they went from playing tiny clubs to being absolutely massive and headlining stadiums. They were one of the biggest bands in Britain last year and I think they were just finding it a bit mental to deal with all of a sudden.

Camera Obscura and Glasvegas, Austin, March 2009


DS: Are there any countries you’ve not visited yet that you’d still like to play?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: The big one would be China. We’ve been in Taiwan but it would be interesting to go around China.

DS: You’re playing at the Coachella festival next week in California, you’ve not played that before right?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: Yeah I’ve heard that it’s quite a big deal. Festivals are often the only chance we get to see other bands too. The Beastie Boys are playing so it would be great to see them.

DS: Do you change your setlist much for big festivals like that then?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: It changes a bit. I guess if you’re playing a Festival it tends to be a bit pop heavy and maybe you leave out some of the quieter stuff because the chances are that a whole bunch of folk there will not have heard of you before. Plus you’re sometimes battling against some of the bands on other stages.

DS: Have you seen the footage of Belle and Sebastian at Coachella? It’s on their DVD and they are having to compete with the Foo Fighters on another stage? They end up just playing along with them.

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: Yeah is it on the Fans Only DVD? I think I’ve seen it.

Belle and Sebastian at Coachella 2002





DS: Well you might get a bit of Gorillaz or Beastie Boys coming into your set next weekend whether you like it or not.

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: That’d be quite nice actually. A bit of ‘Sure Shot’ coming over the top of ‘If Looks Could Kill’…

Camera Obscura – If Looks Could Kill





DS: Frightened Rabbit are playing Coachella too. Are there any other Scottish bands that you look out for?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: Aye it’s always nice to go and say hello, but it has been that long since we’ve actually been home that there’s a whole new battalion of Scottish bands out now and we’ve got no idea who they are.

DS: Ok I wont ask you about any more Scottish bands then. What questions do you get asked all the time by the way?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: It depends on whether it’s a fanzine interview or press. If its press they always ask about Belle and Sebastian.

DS: Shit and I mentioned them earlier to you too! What about fanzines then?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: Actually they always ask about Belle and Sebastian too.  It’s weird actually, in America we don’t get asked that much about them. More in the UK and Europe. Over here people are a bit more open minded about it. Which is nice. They’re a great band though.

DS: Who does your tweets by the way?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: Carey does most of them but we all chip in.

DS: I notice that you’re not following anyone. You have ten thousand followers but you are not following a single person. What’s that about?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: Thats just pure shenanigans. It’s too late to start following anyone now too.

DS: You could do what Conan O’Brien just did. He’s an American talk show host and he had about a million people following him on twitter. Then he decided to follow one person and she instantly became a celebrity. You could do that?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: I don’t think anyone would care!

DS: You played Craig Ferguson’s show last year right? How was that?

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: He popped his head in and said hello but we didn’t really meet him. It was weird because the stage for the band is basically where the desk is, so they set you up, soundcheck you and then move it all out to bring the desk in. Then they record his show and wheel the sound stage back after the show. It was quite bizarre. It was funny walking around the studios too and seeing them do Wheel of Fortune down the stairs.

Camera Obscura on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson





DS: So talking about TV, lastly I wanted to ask you about Doctor Who because I know you’re a big fan. You even dressed up as Tom Baker in the ‘Sweetest Thing’ video so you must be excited about the new Doctor.

Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: Yes i was tremendously looking forward to it and I saw it last week and wasn’t disappointed. I was really excited about it because Stephen Moffat is the head writer. He wrote Press Gang and Coupling and he’s written the best Doctor Who story each year. I think he’s from Glasgow too. Not the other place. But he was off doing the first of the three Tin Tin films with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson and he got offered the Doctor Who job and jumped at it. So that’s a good sign.

Camera Obscura – Eighties Fan





Camera Obscura are in Las Vegas tonight and will play at 3.10pm on the Mojave stage at the Coachella Festival in California tomorrow. Unfortunately for Scottish music fans, Frightened Rabbit will be playing at the same time at the Outdoor Theater. Full Camera Obscura tour dates and ticket links at Scotland on Tour.

More info at www.camera-obscura.net

Follow the band on Twitter at twitter.com/Camera_obscura_ (they wont follow you back)

Buy Camera Obscura music at iTunes:

Camera Obscura

Photo Credit: Just Patrick

Thanks also to Gavin, Stevie, Sonya and Fran for their help in making this interview happen.

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