Chatting with Kim Campesinos!



Chatting with Kim Campesinos!

Jenessa Williams chats with LC!’s very own Kim about motherhood, tattooing and passing on the inspirational teachings of Riot Grrrl

Like so many things in LC! land, it all started on a football pitch. Introduced to the world in a spoof club transfer video, the Los Campesinos! fandom first met Kim over 14 years ago, right after the announced departure of founding member Aleks, and right before the single release of ‘There Are Listed Buildings’.

A vocalist, flautist and keyboard player, 2009 Kim was jokingly described in the video with the sporting metaphor of ‘unknown quantity’. But over the years, she has become not only ‘Los Campesinos! favourite member of Los Campesinos!’™, but a working mother, a tattoo shop owner, a health practitioner and an inspiration to a whole new generation of fans who can feel galvanised by how vocally and visibly she advocates for women’s inclusion in male-dominated musical spaces. In a world where ‘girl boss feminism’ has tried to convince so many of us that creativity must take a backseat to corporate ladder-climbing, Kim is a living embodiment of what it can mean to forge your own path instead.

“I just feel like there’s something so bad-ass about being a mother in your mid-30s, performing songs you whole-heartedly believe in with bandmates that you can stand alongside 100%,” she says. “It’s powerful, and it hits differently now than it used to; I spent my 20s working in retail and coffee shops because I was always willing to quit any job I had, in order to disappear on tour. At times it felt like I had to justify that decision to people — mostly strangers — but now I don’t give a shit. I’m not motivated by promotions or pay rises. I’m lucky that I get to do the thing I’ve always loved on my own terms, with my partner and best mates, and with my kids in tow. That’s the dream to me.”

For this edition of the newsletter, I thought it was time to get to know Kim a little better, and to hear more about everything she loves both in and outside of LC! life.

Hello Kim! Take us back to your earliest memories of music; who were the first artists or scenes to excite you as a fan?

Like most kids I enjoyed music, but I guess my taste shifted towards guitar music when I started secondary school. I liked the cliché stuff that every kid with a massive fringe got into; I learnt guitar and bass and would get lifts with friends to watch local pop-punk gigs which was super fun. But the first (and only) scene to really excite me was when I was introduced to Riot Grrrl. When I was around 15 G walked into my bedroom one day and handed me a CD copy of ‘The Singles’ by Bikini Kill and I instantly just loved it. Those voices that screamed about how I was feeling were vital to a young teen in Somerset who didn’t see girls in bands or have friends who liked the same music as me. Finding that scene was genuinely one of the fundamental things that shaped me as a person.

Kim plays her first LC! gig at Kasbah, Coventry in October 2009

Did you have any trepidation about joining an already established group?

I would have been foolish not to have some worries joining a band that were very used to playing big shows. Growing up I played the flute and I was pretty good, but leading up to every single exam or audition I ever took I would get stress-induced tonsillitis — the pressure felt massive and it really took its toll on me. Joining LC! I expected a similar scenario but it never happened. I was just so sure that I could be in this band and that was that. During my first show with LC!, after we’d played ‘Death to Los Campesinos!’ early in the set, Neil turned to me, gave me a nod and a high five and at that moment I knew I belonged.

How about playing music with a sibling? Lots of families play music together, but I imagine some folks might be curious about the dynamic of working with a family member professionally, especially when they write so personally.

I had no concerns about working with G either. Growing up we hung around together because we had the same interests, and we’re so close in age. We had a band at school together and we knew each other’s friends. Maybe it’s because we are from a close family, but I have always seen my siblings as fully-formed people and I want to know what they are willing to share with me because I care so deeply about them. I hope my kids feel that way about each other too.

Photo by Sonny Malhotra, Brudenell Social Club (February 2024)

What’s your favourite part of the LC! ecosystem: touring, recording, or something else?

I love every part of being in LC!, but it will be no surprise that touring and playing shows is my favourite bit. A lot of touring is just sitting and waiting, but I don’t mind those moments — I love the travelling, the sitting still and watching the world go by for hours at a time. Having time to read and think and listen to music is the perfect calm compared to the storm of the shows. Obviously there’s less calm now that I bring my children on tour, but it’s always been an environment that I’ve really thrived in. I took my ability to nap anywhere for granted before joining the band, but I swear it’s my lifesaver when it comes to touring. G is exactly the same, so maybe it’s in the genes.

Parenting on tour is obviously a huge shift; what kind of considerations need to be made, both in advance and whilst actually playing shows?

It’s completely different to what it was before. One major thing I strongly believe is that kids shouldn’t be expected to act like adults, and so I try to consider that a lot. A perfect example of this is the fact that kids can’t be quiet! As soon as the kids wake up, they are ready for the day to begin. Before kids my Google Map searches on tour consisted of thrift shops or coffee shops, but now Jason and I have to be more organised: we have soft plays planned, or a children’s museum or splash pad…it ensures no two days are the same.

LC! touring works the way it does because I am always asked ‘what would work best for you and the kids?’. In an industry that isn’t built for women, let alone mothers, my needs are always considered by my bandmates, and my opinions and preferences are always heard. That is how we can do this so successfully. And kids are so fun to be around — Arlo is 6 now and Wren is nearly 3, and they are funny and silly and it’s becoming more and more like taking your best little mates on tour with you. They bring a new dynamic to touring that is so wholesome — watching your bandmates hang out with your kids is just the most heartwarming thing.

What kinds of essentials would you recommend for gigging parents looking to keep kids safe and happy on the road?

Oh, God… I am as organised as I possibly can be in terms of packing clothes for every eventuality, medicines for any potential illness or injury, toys that will stop a meltdown, ALL OF THE SNACKS… but I am still winging it. Every time I go away I think ‘this time I will have the suitcase packed to perfection’, but in reality you just have to take it as it comes.

I have never tried to put my kids into any sort of routine and I think that works well for us on tour. There is no bedtime routine we have to keep intact, no nap time or set dinners. We tour with my friend/the kids’ auntie, Lois, and I couldn’t do it without her. My kids love her and she is so gentle and kind with them, so knowing that they’re in safe hands when I head onstage makes it easy to still enjoy the gigs. Lois is without a doubt my tour essential!

That said, I do think the thing that surprised me when touring with children is the need to “shake off” parenthood before playing a show. I have struggled in the past — I remember a sold-out show in New York when Arlo was 9 months old. I was clipping my nursing bra back together as I walked onstage and could hear him still screaming, but knew I just had to get on with the task in hand and play the show. As a full-time parent I’ve never had to change lanes so abruptly before, but it’s so much easier now that they are older and I can explain to them where I’m going and when I’ll be back.

Outside of the band, yourself and Jason not only raise your family, but run a tattoo studio. Can you tell us more about that?

Yes, I’d love to! We started Carousel Tattoo in 2016. Back then, I managed the day-to-day running of the studio and Jason tattooed. I am less present in the studio these days, but Carousel Tattoo has grown into something I am so proud of, with five amazing artists working there.

We started Carousel because we wanted to see more tattoo shops that were inclusive places where anybody could walk in and feel at ease — too often, tattoo studios are unnecessarily intimidating. It’s really lovely when LC! fans come and get band tattoos from us — usually after playing a show in London Jason will spend the next few days tattooing fans who have travelled to watch us and want a tattoo souvenir, which is really amazing to be part of. Spending time with people who like our band in a non-gig environment is always really nice.

As the group’s most long standing female member, you’ve come to be a rare beacon of representation in a music space that, in the mid-noughties especially, was extremely male-dominant. Whether it’s at the tattoo shop or after shows, what have your experiences been of interacting with fans who look up to you as an inspiration?

To put it frankly, I am only there for the girls that are watching. I remember what it was like when I watched bands with female members when I was younger and I totally understand how important that representation is. When we play shows, I stare out into the crowd looking for women who are enjoying themselves and it spurs me on. In the past our audiences may have been slightly more dude heavy, but I’m seeing more and more people like me in the crowd and it’s just the best feeling. When I was selling merch at our show at The Brudenell recently, I met some teenage girls that had come with their dads which felt so special, because I was their age when my dad was taking me to see my favourite bands.

We’ve been a band long enough that I recognise many people that have been coming to shows for over a decade, but that I only ever see at our gigs. We always pick up from where we last saw each other and swap brief details of how our life currently looks while I’m at the merch desk or grabbing a drink. At our London show in February a familiar face pulled me to one side and whispered to me that she was pregnant. We hugged and then we continued with our night. I’m rooting for her and she’s rooting for me, and we’re both glad that the other is there. It’s a beautiful thing.

Being visible is so important, but so is knowing that other people are also fighting for the same cause. How do you feel about the improvements that are slowly being made for women’s representation in music? What still needs to change?

There is definitely still so much more that needs to be done. From a woman in a band’s perspective, there are so many things that all-male bands should be considering that they clearly don’t. How often do bands tour with all-male touring parties? How often do these bands get all-male bands to support them? So many bands make no effort to ensure their shows are safe for everyone to attend. So many bands don’t call out sexist, homophobic, racist or transphobic language that is left as comments on their social media platforms. So many bands present themselves as allies by doing the bare minimum; maybe that’s out of pure ignorance, but they should be trying to do better. It’s in all of our interests that more women show up in the music industry. After all, we all know deep down that a band full of dudes have never made the most important or interesting music, and they never will!