Camera Obscura are currently in the middle of a European tour and the band will be at La Maroquinerie in Paris tonight. Last weekend, bass player Gavin Dunbar (far right) spoke with Dear Scotland about Camera Obscura’s upcoming gig at the Barrowland Ballroom, hearing their songs on Sportscene and the importance of Lorne sausage.

Following their shows in mainland Europe, Camera Obscura return to the UK for a tour that includes dates at the Barrowlands in Glasgow and Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London. The band have just announced that Emma Pollock, formerly of The Delgados, will be an extra guest in Glasgow and Nick Garrie will join the bill in London. This is in addition to the Magic Arm who are supporting the band for the whole tour.

After the European leg of the tour, Camera Obscura will head back to North America in November and December. Full details and ticket information are in this previous article. Camera Obscura’s video for their new single “The Sweetest Thing”, out on November 2nd, can be seen after the interview with Gavin:

Gavin Dunbar 2

Dear Scotland: Where are you now and what did you do last night?
Gavin Dunbar, Camera Obscura: I’m sitting in the backstage area of the Firlej Club in Wroclaw, Poland. We’ve just soundchecked and had our dinner and are having a wee relax before we play. It’s our first time in Poland, so we’re all rather excited about tonight’s show. Last night we were playing in Berlin, which is always a bit of a blast for us, we really like the crowd there.

DS: Paul McCartney said he got into music to avoid a job – and get lots of girls. What made you get into music?

Gavin Dunbar: I was brought up in a house where there was always music on the go in some way, shape or form, so its been all around me since I was a wee kid, and I don’t think there is anything that fires me up in the same way that playing music does, so I don’t suppose I had much of a choice really.

DS: What is your favourite song to play right now?

Gavin Dunbar: Badly Drawn Boy’s The Shining. I recently went back and re-listened to his first album after not having heard it for a few years and I’d forgotten how much I loved the album in general, and The Shining in particular. It’s such a beautifully simple piece of music with perfect lyrics. A great combination.


DS: On this tour you’re playing all over Europe and North America, is there one place that you most look forward to playing?

Gavin Dunbar: Although we’ve already done it this year, I guess for us playing The Barrowlands in Glasgow is a bit of a lifelong dream, so to get to be playing it again later this year is pretty special for us. It’s the great gig venue in Glasgow, and we’ve all seen bands there and have great memories of live shows there, so to be playing there ourselves feels like a pretty incredible feat. Plus when we play there we get to stay in our own houses for a change, which is quite nice after being away for so long.

DS: Do you feel more Scottish when you are abroad, or do you adapt well to new places? Anything you miss about Scotland?

Gavin Dunbar: We’re pretty good at adapting to new places on the whole, although we probably do have the occasional Scots abroad moments from time to time. I guess we do feel pretty Scottish when we’re travelling about. Pretty much all the promotional stuff you see for every show we do describes us as Scottish Pop, so we can’t really escape from it, not that any of us would want to.
I’ll tell you what I miss when we’re away, nowhere else seems to understand the importance of Lorne sausage. Until the rest of the world catches up, and I can get a wee roll and sliced sausage when I’m away, thats something we’re really one step ahead of you all with. Potato scones would be good too.

Camera Obscura at Route du Rock, Saint-Malo, France

DS: What will be your first words on stage at the upcoming Glasgow Barrowlands gig?

Gavin Dunbar: Awright Troops!

DS: Are there any Scottish musicians, past or present, that have influenced you?

Gavin Dunbar: Yeah, there are so many Scottish bands we love that have been a great influence on us, either musically or the way they’ve gone about making the music the made (or cause one of them manages us, or shares a flat with one of us). People like the Cocteau Twins, Orange Juice, The Pastels, Teenage Fanclub, Vaselines, Jesus and Mary Chain are a great inspiration.

Teenage Fanclub on Rapido, 1992


DS: When you are on tour, how do people react when they discover you are Scottish?

Gavin Dunbar: People seem genuinely excited. They seem to like our accents even if they don’t understand them.

DS: What should the Scottish national anthem be? (It could be anything, perhaps from one of the artists you just mentioned, or one of your own)

Gavin Dunbar: Having one of your own songs as a National Anthem would be a bit of a burden I think. When Scotland got put out of the European Championship qualifiers, BBC Scotland’s Sportscene used ‘If Looks Could Kill’ to soundtrack the nation’s disappointment over the ‘highlights’. It’s not really how you want people associating you. I’d go for Orange Juice’s Blue Boy, you can’t go wrong with something that upbeat and exciting.

MySpace Music Playlist at

DS: What is the best after-show experience you’ve had?

Gavin Dunbar: We’ve had a few great after-show experiences, but both times in Mexico City have been pretty memorable.  The first time we were taken to this little old school club with old school dancing and that, which was a bit of an experience for us, and the last time we were there, it was Kenny’s birthday so a mariachi band played a song for him and we all got a bit drunk and had a dance about and ate tacos.

DS: And finally, many many years from now, when you finish your farewell world tour, is there one place to where you would like to retire?

Gavin Dunbar: I do love Glasgow enormously, and don’t really want to live anywhere else. Having said that, I love the areas round Dumfries in the south of Scotland, and could be quite happy pottering around there. And for the sake of a bit of sun, I’m sure I could cope with living somewhere in Spain. I’m a fan of pretty much everywhere I’ve visited in Spain, so I’d be happy anywhere there, as long as I could get a wee pincho de tortilla and a cafe con leche.

Camera Obscura – The Sweetest Thing


Photo credits: Elena Morelli, Coastal