Not a lot of phrases make us happier than ‘Summer Camp are back’, so thank goodness for this day, Friday May 10th 2019, because… Summer Camp are back! Yup, Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley have two brand new songs and the promise of a new album, Romantic Comedy, to accompany Elizabeth’s documentary of the same name. That being the case, we couldn’t wait to catch up with them to find out more about the film, the record and crowbar in a reference to LiS rom com favourite, You’ve Got Mail. So, take a listen to both ‘Love of My Life’ and ‘Danny and John’, listen again and then read on…
Summer Camp, welcome back! We’ve not heard from you since 2015; where on earth have you been?
Thanks! Great to be here. Elizabeth has been making a film and Jeremy has been working as a composer for film and TV. And also we’ve eaten a lot of cheese toasties and ice cream.
We’ll come back to those toasties in a minute. Romantic comedies – or maybe film in general – informed a lot of the early Summer Camp world (Welcome To Condale, especially). Does Romantic Comedy – the album and documentary – feel like a natural continuation of that? Has it always been part of the plan?
Elizabeth: No! Absolutely not! Never! I had always considered doing something about romantic comedies but never a doc. At one point I was thinking of a one-woman Edinburgh show – oh god – and then instead I decided to just rip-off Charlie Lyne and make an essay film about them instead. But now I’ve made a film I have predictably fallen in love and want to make more and more and more and more.
Jeremy: Not to completely contradict what Elizabeth has just said but to me it feels incredibly natural. She’s such a great storyteller with such a huge love of film that it made complete sense to me that she would make her own film one day. And as you mention we’ve always leaned a lot on our love of film & TV in our music, from referencing John Hughes movies on our very first EP to having a horror movie aesthetic on Bad Love, I love that now we’re fully embracing that and actually making music that’s almost directly about pop culture.
You’ve done it before, for Charlie Lyne’s brilliant Beyond Clueless, but how do you approach writing songs for a soundtrack? Is it a different process? And is there more pressure doing it for yourselves, or someone else?
Elizabeth: It’s actually much easier, at least in terms of lyrics, because you have the films for inspiration and stories.
Jeremy: It was great having this jumping-off point and it ended up inspiring a bunch of songs that aren’t actually on the soundtrack. So the album is kind of ‘songs from and inspired by the film’.
‘Love of My Life’ is a classic Summer Camp big pop track, ’Danny and John’, with its country-flecked moments and chaotic finish, is unlike much we’ve heard from you before. What can we expect from the album as a whole, stylistically?
Elizabeth: We really tried to make the songs sound like they were all coming from the same world. With previous albums we wrote loads of songs then tried to pick the ones we liked most, and since they would be written over the course of a year or more they would inevitably have very different sounds. With this album we took our time and there are very few “excess” songs that aren’t on the album. For the lyrics of ‘Danny & John’ I really wanted to tell a story that I don’t think gets told enough in pop songs – that of two men falling in love. I was going to sing it but I think it sounds so much better in Jeremy’s voice, and then he took it to this whole other place with the music and especially that outro.
Jeremy: This album is the most ‘live’ sounding album we’ve ever made – there’s not a single synthesizer or drum machine, loads of strings, guitars and pianos. Again, it was so nice having a starting point in the film because that really helped direct what the sound of the album should be.
How directly do the films featured in Romantic Comedy influence the lyrics? Is it ‘oh this is a song about (the god-awful) Friends With Benefits’, subtle references for the heads, or a more natural approach?
Elizabeth: Some of the songs are direct responses to what I was thinking about while I was making the film, others are more about us trying to capture the delight most people feel when watching rom coms, and some are us talking about what we’d like to see in the genre in the future.
Do you have anything planned in terms of presenting the film and record as one entity? What we’re saying is: we want a Summer Camp Romantic Comedy quiz…
Elizabeth: We will be doing the live score of the film at a couple of places around the country this summer. In terms of a quiz we maybe need to take a rom com break for a bit…
Right, before you take that break, let’s talk about films! As the trailer for Romantic Comedy alludes to, it’s a genre that’s often ~quite problematic~, so what remains so appealing about them, despite that?
Elizabeth: Is it OK if I say that you have to watch the film to get my answer to this question?
That seems more than reasonable. Okay, which would you say has aged worse? And which have surprisingly stood the test of time?
Elizabeth: To be honest most culture ages quite badly in terms of the fact society moves on, we all (hopefully) rethink our attitudes in regards to certain behaviour, language and of course story and casting choices, and sadly we also seem to find out things about our faves that are deeply problematic. I personally don’t think that means we need to have a fire and burn all our old rom coms along with our Friends VHS tapes, but it’s important to talk about the things that now feel uncomfortable and to recognise that we should be making films, TV and music that is more inclusive and forward thinking.
However that being said I would urge everyone to watch the old Marilyn Monroe classics, especially Some Like It Hot because Marilyn’s sexual agency and female power is so incredible, and the way the film plays with gender and queerness isn’t perfect but it’s so much more interesting than most rom coms from the past 50 years.
Despite starring the absolute giants of the genre, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and being an absolute LiS favourite, is there a romantic comedy with an odder concept than You’ve Got Mail?
Elizabeth: So many! Simply Irresistible with the magical crab, Failure To Launch with the parents paying a woman to date their son, and 50 First Dates where a man tries (and ultimately succeeds in marrying) a woman with amnesia so severe she is reliving the same day over and over again. And honestly that’s just the tip of the iceberg. These things are fucking batshit.
And, finally, What’s your favourite musical moment in a romantic comedy? Off the top of my head, the rendition of ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ in My Best Friend’s Wedding is hard to top…
Elizabeth: Impossible question to answer, but the bit in Housesitter when Steve Martin descends the stairs singing ‘Tura Lura Lura’ to his dad at a party – so good. Also Harry doing Karaoke in When Harry Met Sally, especially when he does it on the answerphone message, “phone moi”…that always kills me.