Summer Camp's rise to fully fledged international touring popstars has been a wonder to watch, with last night’s Scala show a triumphant return to the capital: “The UK’s great, but London’s home,” Elizabeth Sankey declares, visibly in awe of Scala’s sell-out crowd.
From early days masquerading as Swedes, playing low key shows, becoming cult heroes and then releasing 2011’s finest pop record, the route has been a perfect display in classic DIY indiepop; simple and catchy songs, with an unbreakable bond with fans. Jeremy Warmsley and Sankey always say hello on Twitter, make muffins and play for fans through Pledge Music. They’re like your best friends you don’t really have.
On the eve of their debut album Welcome To Condale’s release, Summer Camp described themselves in an interview with Londonist as “like all your worst dreams rolled in to one”. My personal nightmare is falling down neverending escalators, but if I was listening to I Want You or Down, I’d happily be careless in Angel station, or John Lewis.
There’s nothing to fear as the band enter the stage to what almost feels like a fan club gig, such is the adoration of the homecoming King and Queen. Looking humble in Scala’s vastness they play in front of a screen projecting dance routines from your favourite teen flicks including Pretty in Pink, Jailhouse Rock, and Breakin’, all perfectly matched to Summer Camp's songs and reflecting their attitudes and loves.
Their slick alt-pop starts with Welcome To Condale and Last American Virgin, illustrating their agenda of sprightly teen sugar-angst, while Nobody Knows You reflects their raw musicality with pounding rumble beats and shadowy vocals, “Nobody knows you when you're down and out, Nobody knows you, You had everything but you shut down”.
Their core talent is laid bare as they go fully acoustic, not even a microphone, for Losing My Mind which they perform while weaving through the bulging crowd with every note and harmony audible. This is what makes Summer Camp so special, their musical skill. Warmsley has always been impressive as a solo musician, but Sankey really can belt them out.
This is further seen with new songs Hurt and Life (or Give Me Life – they haven’t decided yet), where Sankey’s vocals honour Kim Wilde and St Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell, or even a badass Communards. They even have a St Etienne aura to them, with their energetic and poptastic rumpus-beats and smash hit melodies. Hurt and Life will make them proper pop stars.
Of course Better Off Without You is their current pop at the top, but it’s already starting to sound like a standard, played because they have to, such is the potential of the new material. For an encore we are given a beautiful rendition, again fully acoustic, of Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere before Brian Krakow envelopes Scala with pummelling fuzz-pop.
Summer Camp have managed to achieve cult-cool status without pandering to scenesters, and occupy a role of genuinely enthusiastic indiepop which is timeless yet so essentially now. With new material of the quality heard tonight desperate to be released, their coming of age is assured.
Welcome To Condale is out now on Apricot recordings/ Moshi Moshi.