Continuing our occasional series in which we look at the often complex relationships between bands and football, we turn to probably the most vocal recent practitioners of the “Yeah I’m in an indie band but yeah I also know what the Zenith Data Systems Cup is” dichotomy: the don’t-call-them-twee Los Campesinos!, and in particular their lead singer and lyricist Gareth Paisey.
“Some people don’t like the football lyrics,” Paisey told Goal.com in an interview last year. “The nature of being an indie pop band is that a lot of your fans are likely to be sort of beta males, and in the past a few people have sort of openly been ‘I don’t like it when you sing about football because football’s for those people, and football and music are separate. We’re artistic and we don’t bother ourselves with sport,’ and it’s like, ‘Nah, mate. Get over yourself.'”
We couldn’t agree more (well, the existence of this website is pretty much testament to that), so with that in mind, let’s have a look at some of LC!’s more notable forays into football referencing.
The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino
Whether or not it was a deliberate attempt to keep the interest quiet, football didn’t really make an appearance in the lyrics of early Los Campesinos! records. It wasn’t until 2008’s We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed that Gareth paid tribute to one of his favourite players, with the line You asked if I’d be anyone from history, fact or fiction, dead or alive: I said “I’d be Tony Cascarino, circa 1995″ in “All Your Keyfabe Friends”.
“Cascarino is one of my all-time favourite footballers,” the singer told Sky. “His autobiography is amazing, it’s like no other. The honesty and the way it’s written is fantastic. We’re still in a situation that so few English players will take a chance and move abroad and experience different cultures. There’s an ingrained attitude that English football is so much better than any European equivalent. The fact Cascarino went to Marseille and was as successful as he was, as a typically British centre forward for the then, albeit disposed, European champions was really admirable. Add to that the side issues of what he was experiencing in his personal life at the time, the perhaps not so moral parts, and it becomes such a great story. I don’t think his punditry career has quite lived up to his Marseille days but I still admire him.”
Second album proper Romance is Boring, meanwhile, featured the following in the lyrics to “Plan A”: I’m called up to the Maltese national team, My vision is impeccable, my first touch is obscene. It’s not as much of a non-sequitur as you’d think. “When me and my mates were 17 and still foolhardy enough to harbour dreams of making it as professionals we seriously believed we’d be good enough to represent Malta at international level if we moved there. I’d give up all this being in a band malarkey for one international appearance for Malta.”
It’s hardly unusual to be a Football Manager addict in this day and age, even in the pop world, but Paisey’s credentials go further than most. You suspect he’s exactly the kind of person who’d spend hours on Sort it Out SI downloading badges and facepacks, and was once tapped to review the 2011 instalment for reputable gaming blog Rock Paper Shotgun.
“Whilst overthinking, it becomes apparent that the Football Manager series is a massive constant in my life,” he wrote. “A safety rail running parallel with an icy slope. Some of the moments that have most shaped my life were played out while I was more concerned about how I could tweak my Southampton side’s preferred formation while star winger and provider Youssef Hersi was undergoing ligament surgery.”
The undoubted highlight of 2011 album Hello Sadness, “Every Defeat A Divorce (Three Lions)” has an obvious inspiration in its title – and its loss-drenched lyrics are as much about watching England at major tournaments as they are about love.
It also contains perhaps one of the most obscure lines Paisey has ever come up with: When West Clewes was my Waterloo / My most dramatic test, something that only makes sense if you know West Clewes is the home ground of Paisey’s beloved hometown non-league club, Welton Rovers. Gareth used to play for Rovers, and now serves on the board as well as running the matchday programmes.
Deadline Day Tomfoolery (I)
It’s maybe surprising that the lead singer of a mid-level indie band, with nearly 10,000 followers, doesn’t have the fabled “blue tick” of “this person is really who they say they are” verification on Twitter. Well, Gareth used to have it, but then he lost it for what might be the first ever example of a celebrity using its status for evil: on Transfer Deadline Day 2013, he changed his name and photo to that of Daily Mail writer Martin Samuel, and spread a rumour that Jose Reina was leaving Liverpool for Arsenal.
“The aim was to keep it as believable as possible really,” he later said, “so [a Messi rumour] wouldn’t be believed. That’s why I chose Martin Samuel because he’s trusted and he has spoken out in the past about deadline day. He once said that Joey Barton should come out as gay, so there was no chance of defamation of character. I have a few friends in sports journalism, one at Eurosport, they gave me a plug so I managed to get 200 more followers in 5 minutes. There were a few of his colleagues at the Daily Mail who tried to out me but they were a bit late. The funniest thing that happened was someone tweeted saying they had put £100 on Reina to Arsenal based on a Martin Samuels tip off.”
That wasn’t the only consequence, however: someone somewhere at Twitter HQ got wind of Paisey’s scam, and promptly revoked his blue tick privileges.
Deadline Day Tomfoolery (II)
That said, LC! did once have an actual transfer story of their own to break – and they couldn’t just announce the joining of a new member the ordinary way, oh no. They had to record a spoof Sky Sports News item when Kim Campesinos! joined the band in 2009. They went and filmed it at Cardiff City Stadium, and everything.
The band’s breakout hit, “You! Me! Dancing!”, had nothing to do with football – at least, that is, until it inexplicably began to be used on adverts by erstwhile FA Cup sponsors Budweiser:
And if it could be construed as “selling out”, the band don’t particularly mind. “Where I’m from, people know I’m in a band but they basically think I’m a waster,” said Gareth. “But after that ad was on the telly, people at the pub were like, ‘Oh, that’s him.’ I’m actually really proud to have that song on there.”
Sadly no longer available to buy, the LC! “Amateur International” t-shirt, complete with knockoff Admiral logo:
Aside from being their (so far) magnum opus, 2013 album No Blues contained the most sustained barrage of football references yet, with no fewer than four songs containing allusive lyrics. First up, on opening track “For Flotsam”, there’s The last set of goalposts taken down / Summer of odd-numbered year and I’ve thrown my goalkeeper forward / She’s Catenaccio:
And in “What Death Leaves Behind”, there’s this reference to Middlesbrough’s 2004 League Cup final hero: I proofread the book of Job for the lord / Edit one, League Cup 2004
Following the clever punnery of the title of the track “A Portrait of the Trequartista as a Young Man“, there’s also “Let it Spill”, which contains the dazzling piece of metaphor Bela Guttman of love / Curse all my exes to a life of celibacy:
But the highlight has to be “Glue Me”, which prior to its closing terrace chant of Ex-boyfriend, give us a song also contains Diving into headers / Put this pretty face where the boots are flying in; But we connected like a Yeboah volley; and finally And leave with all the dignity / Of a missed Panenka penalty:
Read Gareth talking about football in a load more detail in this excellent Drowned in Sound interview from 2013.
Saint Etienne & Football