Summer Camp are back, and they’ve no time for your Valentine’s Day nonsense

Elizabeth and Jeremy may "hate" that "awful holiday", but their new album 'Romantic Comedy' seems rather well-timed. We caught up with them to stoke the fires.

It’s been a while since Summer Camp last poked their heads above the waves of content, but all that has changed with the release of their new record ‘Romantic Comedy’. Penned to accompany Elizabeth’s film of the same name, it’s rather fittingly released on Valentine’s Day. We sat down with Elizabeth and Jeremy to get the low-down on ‘Romantic Comedy’, what they’ve been up to since their last record, and their tip-top Valentine’s Day tips.

What have you been up to while you’ve been away?
I made a film, called ROMANTIC COMEDY (yes same name as the album just to be really confusing). It’s a documentary about romcoms. Jeremy co-produced it with Chiara Ventura and Oskar Pimlott, and he also composed the score. Last year we took it to lots of festivals around the world, which was the best thing ever.
I’ve been doing lots of music for film and TV and also released a solo album.

Why such a long break?
It wasn’t on purpose! But we both wanted to try different things, so it worked really well. Plus we’d been doing nothing but Summer Camp for a long time, so it was nice to take a break, and still work together but in different ways.

Which rom-coms influenced the movie?
 It’s about the entire genre and its history, so I went right back to the 1930s to watch some of the first rom-coms – many of which are great by the way. I wouldn’t say any film, in particular, influenced it, it’s more my love of the entire world. I grew up in the 90s, which was the era of Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks, so that was my entry point. But god, there are so many brilliant rom coms from so many different eras.

What drove you to make the film?
As I say, it’s a genre I’ve always loved and been drawn to – I think partly because it’s one of the only genres that is marketed directly towards women and features female narratives so strongly. But the older I got, the more I became disillusioned with them and wanted to look into them a bit more deeply. In doing so, I talked to lots of other rom-com fans to see what their experiences were like, and also had to unpick some of my own internalised misogyny about loving these films. They’re seen as fluff, or for many feminists as a guilty pleasure, but men don’t belittle their love of similarly “male-centric” films such as James Bond, or action movies in general. Rom-coms are flawed, but there is a lot of good stuff in them too, and they’re never going to get better if they keep being dismissed as silly by critics and even audiences. I could go on for ages here so if you want more of my babbling, please watch my film! It will be out on Mubi soon.

“The film world is so different to the music industry in terms of how inclusive the festivals are”
Elizabeth Sankey

Jeremy, you released solo material during the break. Was any of it initially intended for Summer Camp or was it always solely your thing?
I actually worked a solo artist before we started Summer Camp, and I always had in my mind to release some solo music again one of these days. Doing music for film & TV was so much fun, and then it naturally sort of drifted into writing songs on my own again. I think there was one song on my solo album, a track called ‘November’, which was partially based on something I wrote for ‘Bad Love’ that didn’t make it on that album. But my solo stuff is mostly pretty different to Summer Camp, so there’s not too much overlap. It’s so nice having multiple outlets for stuff!

Considering the time it’s been since ‘Bad Love’, have you constantly been writing, or did you take a step away from the creative process altogether?
We took a break from writing completely, but then as soon as I had the idea to make the film we knew there were going to be songs in that, so it made sense to start writing those. We were writing as I watched/researched/edited, so a lot of the ideas for the songs came from what I was working on, and then Jeremy had a really clear idea of the sound which was great.
Jeremy: We’re always working on something and then it all bleeds into Summer Camp!

Are there any particular moments that stand out from the making of the album and film?
Well, it was two years, and within that time you have many ups and downs. I’d never made anything as long-form as this, and it can be hard to see it objectively at times. I remember a day towards the end of the process when Jeremy and I watched it together, and I’d finally got the edit in an order that we both thought worked, but we still didn’t know if it was actually “good”. It was that moment of realising it was finished and that I’d done what I set out to do, but I had no idea if anyone would actually like it, or care. And of course the day it got into its first festival – IFFR in Rotterdam – was really exciting. I cried. Oh and screening it in South Korea! That was incredible! All our festival experiences were wonderful. The film world is so different to the music industry in terms of how inclusive the festivals are, I’ve been thinking about that a lot after the appalling Reading & Leeds line up came out. Obviously, the film industry still has so much to do in terms of including and celebrating diverse voices, but at pretty much all the festivals where the film played, there was incredible representation in the programming. And it made me realise that it really isn’t that hard! I don’t understand why the music industry can’t sort it out and make equality and representation a priority, it’s so embarrassing.
It was just amazing to see this project grow and watch (and help) Elizabeth put together something that’s had such an incredible response from both audiences and the industry. With the album, one thing I remember is finding a track “Run” in a dusty corner of a hard drive and resurrecting it for this album – it dates back to 2012 when we were working on our second album “Summer Camp”! It was really cool to use some different sounds to our usual palette and pull from some different influences – there’s not a synth anywhere on the album.

Was it always planned that Summer Camp would do the film soundtrack?
Of course! I live with my favourite composer, so I knew I’d always get Jeremy. And then rom coms and all the conversations we were having between ourselves and with other people felt like a really fertile subject in terms of songwriting. Plus (Hollywood) rom-coms all have a very specific warm, colourful aesthetic which suits our sound.

How much of a coincidence is it for the album to come out on Valentines Day?
Very much planned by us and our label! Although we hate Valentines Day, so we’re hoping the album won’t be seen as an endorsement of that awful holiday, but more a way to subtly undermine it. The songs on the album might be about relationships, but they’re not all about heteronormative, traditional ideas of love.

What are your most favourite rom-coms ever?

What are your Valentine’s top tips?
If you like Valentine’s Day, then go for it, but if not, then either ignore it or do something really nice for yourself. We like to be righteously angry and annoyed that it exists, that warms our hearts right up.

Summer Camp’s album ‘Romantic Comedy’ is out now.

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