Band of the Day

2012.03.17

Summer Camp

Effervescent indie pop that manages 80s nostalgia without the melancholy
Autumn brought you to me. Speed from land to sea. Land to sea and back again, and now there's only me, alone.
lyrics from Ghost Train

Summer Camp is a London-based duo consisting of multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Warmsley, and vocalist Elizabeth Sankey. Originally from the U.K., Warmsley and Sankey have been making music together since 2009. They went viral on the Internet after they posted a series of short music videos that showcased their brand of music over vintage movie scenes. The combination of new wave sounds with nostalgic imagery from the 60’s and 70’s is indicative of Summer Camp’s influences, as the pair list The Beach Boys, Duran Duran, and New Order as a few of their favorites. The debut EP Young was released in 2010 by Moshi Moshi Records and provided six new songs as material for the band’s videos. Their full-length album Welcome to Condale was released in 2011, and was co-produced by Steve Mackey from Pulp.

Social media gives fans full access all the time, which can destroy a lot of the mystery around bands. However, the Internet had the opposite effect for Summer Camp, allowing them to build a powerful blog buzz without anyone having a clue who they were. They unleashed the wistful nostalgia pop of “Ghost Train” on the world in 2009, claiming to be a group of seven friends from northern Sweden. They are in fact a London duo made up of Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey, but who cares when the thing that got them all the attention in the first place, great songwriting, is not at all fictional? Their sound is steeped in nostalgia, combining twee 80s indie pop with a 21st century makeover of hi-fidelity production and crisp synths. Arriving two years after their songs first surfaced, Summer Camp's debut album Welcome To Condale is a concept album centered around a fictional Los Angeles suburb called Condale in the mid 80s. The concept comes through more by ambience than anything too solid. Frankly, the album's best moments don't seem to have much to do with the concept beyond general ambiance, but that's not exactly unprecedented in the annals of rock and roll. Summer Camp's best tracks have an effortless upbeat swing to them, nostalgia without all the melancholy. “Ghost Train” starts with an acoustic guitar shuffle and Sankey's measured echo-laden vocals before adding a wash of dreamy 80s keyboard and then the thing that the really sets them apart, a chorus of classic soulful pop that's eminently hummable. “Better Off Without You” sounds like a zany new wave hit, perfect for teenage joyrides through palm tree lined SoCal boulevards. The animated drumming and 80s keyboards are spot on, but once again it's Sankey's vocals that bring the track to the next level. She's just so enthusiastic, belting out the chorus “I'm better off without you/there is no me and you” without a hint of the too-cool-for-school ennui that trips up so many talented musicians these days. Welcome To Condale can be a bit all over the place stylistically, but Summer Camp shows they've got the ability to hit the sweet spot whimsical genre spanning indie pop.