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Ivan Campo Top of the League

Percussionist, pianist and all-round music man Benjamin Atha tells us more about the world of Ivan Campo.

Ivan Campo have been sharing their dulcet creations for over a decade now and have amassed a brimming back catalogue of chirpily crafted folk pop. Initially carving a name for themselves with a shelf’s worth of seven-track EPs, the trio have also unpacked their suitcase of assorted instruments at a range of festivals, venues and wherever else their music takes them, including a couple of Now Then live shows.

The band are on the cusp of launching their second album via Manchester label Debt Records, Season of the King, which is home also to local favourites like Honeyfeet, Louis Barabbas, Walk and The Bedlam Six. Percussionist, pianist and all-round music man Benjamin Atha tells us more about the new album, the band name’s origin and a televised performance in Madrid.

In what ways does the band share characteristics of the former big haired Bolton footballer?

It’s a question I have never really thought about. We’ve not had the pleasure of meeting the man himself, yet. However, we’ve heard lots of stories about Ivan Campo from various people and have been told that he is down to earth, and a decent human being with a good sense of humour. He’s had his ups and downs in his career, but he carried on playing because certain people believed in his ability and skills as a team player. These are perhaps some characteristics we share in common.

Which instrument do you pick up and play most at home?

I would love to spend more time playing instruments in general, but life doesn’t always allow it. My go-to instrument at home is the guitar, probably because I play very little guitar for the band, but mostly because it’s the instrument I used to play a lot of in my teenage years, which then became like a very close friend. So I guess each time I pick up the guitar, it’s like being reacquainted with a friend I’ve not seen in a while.

From where do you draw inspiration to write songs?

A lot of our inspiration comes from situations that life throws at you, particularly when loved ones are involved. There’s also a lot of inspiration from the books we read, and the films we watch. Three songs from our new album, Season of the King, are inspired by books. ‘The Bloodhound and the Fox’ is about the obsessive relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Professor James Moriarty, told from Moriarty’s perspective. ‘Crome Yellow’ is a song about the book by Aldous Huxley, and ‘Wind, Sand and Stars’ was inspired by the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, more famously known for his book, The Little Prince.

How has working and recording with Debt Records differed from your previous records?

Being part of Debt is an honour for us. We were asked from the very beginning, before Debt began, if we wanted to be on board, and, at that time, we weren’t in a position to fully commit, so we politely declined the offer. Then years later, we found ourselves in a much better place and asked if they would still be interested in having us, and we were delighted to be accepted onto the Debt roster. The label prides itself on collaboration and deals with musicians around Manchester and beyond who all have a similar approach to music and song writing.

Working with Debt has been the same as it’s always been, but that’s what Debt is about. It’s not a label that’s set out to change the way you do things, but more of a label that recognises strength in numbers and surrounds itself with like-minded people. It’s good to know that you’re connected with a group of people who all understand what you’re doing. It’s like having a family who are there to support and encourage you when you need it.

Tell me about your experience of performing on Spanish TV. How did that come about?

It was both an incredible and a very surreal experience. We flew out to Madrid the night before, got picked up at our apartment the next morning and driven to the television studio, where we spent the entire day getting everything ready for the live show in the evening. The people at Movie Star + looked after us and we had an amazing time. It all came about because some friends of ours recommended the band to the show, who then got in touch with us and invited us to perform.

Closer to home, I’ve seen you play in various places around the Manchester area. What’s the strangest show you’ve played, and what’s been the most memorable venue?

The strangest show we’ve played was a few years ago when we were booked for a Christmas party. The person who booked us thought they had booked a Ceilidh band. I don’t know how we ended up being booked for it. You would think that anyone who’s booking a band would at least listen to the music before booking them, but for some reason we ended up at this event and they soon found out that we were not what they were expecting. There’s a lot of great places we’ve played, and they are all memorable in their own way. One of my favourite places to play in Manchester is the Deaf Institute.

Learn more

Ivan Campo’s new album will be available from Sunday 22 October, the same day as the launch gig at Gullivers.

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