Music / Behind the Lens


After quietly serenading numerous fans yet not hitting the charts, Kevin Mulligan finds out whether Camera Obscura is going to stick to the anonymity of their moniker.

SCOTTISH INDIE six piece Camera Obscura may not be the most recognisable band to come out of the UK music scene in the last number of years but their new album, My Maudlin Career, is set to see them placed very much in the public eye.

A band with an obvious since of humour, maudlin certainly is one way to describe the group. Vocalist and pianist Carey Lander came up with the name while talking to lead singer and songwriter Tracyanne Campbell, saying, “I think you should write a pop song called that. And she did. And it was good.” Later adding “I like the name, I think it’s obviously sort of laughing at ourselves and we sort of mean it a bit as well.”

The band, who formed in 1996, are at this stage old masters at creating the lush indie-pop layered with orchestral flourishes and romantic lyrics which has come to define them. However, this album is seen as somewhat darker than their previous releases. Lander voiced this, saying “I think the lyrics are, well, they seem quite brutal to Tracy who wrote them and in particular knows what they are about.”

The album’s sad songs aren’t simply about love lost or life’s troubles, but something much deeper and more meaningful to Campbell. That said, the group haven’t lost sight of what’s important; making great pop songs. Lander speaks of the album as “not a departure, but, you know, of course we’ve tried to improve it and do something different as well.”

Despite their rich and appealing sound, Camera Obscura still aren’t really in the mainstream of popular music. When asked if this was a deliberate move to steer clear of fame, Lander answered “Oh no, were quite happy for people to actually know we exist and listen to our music whenever possible.”

She then went on to cite the possible failings of radio in the UK for their limited mainstream success, saying, “I don’t know if that’s just the fault of a lot of radio here being, I don’t know, just short sighted or focused on the latest tread. And we’re never really going to be a part of that. And that’s fine.”

However, this new album has already received notable interest and airplay, Lander adding “I think that they’ve actually started to pick up ‘French Navy’ which has been getting played quite a lot on BBC Radio 2 here.” ‘French Navy’, the new album’s current single, is a pop song which does indeed sound perfect for the radio.

Lander is still somewhat sceptical though, adding “it sounds like a song I would like to hear on radio but, I mean, the people who make these decisions… who knows what they’re like… some strange man in an office somewhere. Well, we’ll see, I think there’s a few singles on the album that could be good on radio.”

Lander is not the only one to hold this opinion, and with any luck the strange man in charge will see fit to playing their music much, much more.