The eclectic alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven released their first album, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, in 1985, which includes such classic songs as “The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon,” “Where the Hell is Bill?,” the Black Flag cover “Wasted” and “Take the Skinheads Bowling.” They released four more acclaimed albums before burning out — the independently released II & III, the self-titled Camper Van Beethoven, and the major-label albums Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Key Lime Pie.
The band re-formed at the end of the 1990s and has released several more albums, with a new one coming out in January 2013.
Camper Van Beethoven will be performing at Zoey’s Cafe in Ventura at 8 p.m. next Monday, Sept. 10.
Jeff Moehlis: I work at UC Santa Barbara, and I live in Goleta. With that in mind, do you want to apologize for the Camper Van Beethoven song “(Don’t You Go to) Goleta”? [Lyrics include: “Baby don’t you go, don’t you go to Goleta.”]
Victor Krummenacher: Do I want to apologize?
VK: Actually, I did not write the lyrics to that song, so I can’t really apologize for it. Maybe that’s a chicken**** answer, I’m not really sure.
No, actually, I don’t really care to apologize for that. You know, I went to [UC] Santa Cruz, so I’ll maintain a rivalry. I think rivalry is healthy.
JM: Fair enough. Any chance that’ll be on the setlist in Ventura?
VK: No, it’s really been a long time since we played that. I think we’re in a different phase these days. I don’t know, I think we’re just a little more serious than we were then. Not entirely. It’s hard for us to be completely serious. But I think we’re a little more serious.
JM: So, what can we look forward to at the show in Ventura?
VK: Well, we just finished our first record [to be called La Costa Perdida] in eight years, so you can look forward to some new songs. And you can look forward to us being a little loose, because I don’t think we’ve actually played since February, so we’ll be kind of getting our sea legs back on. I mean, I’ve been playing with Cracker off and on this summer, but we haven’t done any Camper dates in a while. It’ll be real rock ‘n’ roll. We’re not afraid to fall down in front of people. I don’t think we’ve ever been afraid of doing that.
JM: And how would you compare that record to the other albums you guys have done?
VK: This is an interesting record. First of all, it’s just really maturely played, which may sound boring, but it’s not actually. We play a lot more confidently and a little more reserved, a little more stately in how it’s played and how it’s articulated. It just kind of rolls off the fingers in a more adult fashion. But what we do musically is still unlike anybody else. There’s a natural chemistry between us that I don’t think resembles any other bands I can think of. It’s just a weird group of people and such a weird group of influences.
And then above and beyond that, I think it touches on the strengths of the last three records of the first run, which is to say the record called Camper Van Beethoven and then the two Virgin records. Like the lead track, I think, in some ways is really reminiscent of many things we were doing in Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, but there are other things on there that are really reminiscent of Key Lime Pie, and then again there are other things that are reminiscent of the tape collage work we did back in 1986.
JM: Going way back, I’m quite fond of the first album you guys did, Telephone Free Landslide Victory. o you have any reflections on that particular album?
VK: Rarely do I listen to my own stuff, but when I do listen to it — you know, I guess they say “lightning in a bottle” is the way to describe certain things that just kind of happen that are unexpected and spontaneous and very real. I think that record is a really good example of something that nobody anticipated being anything other than what it was. We were just making a record for a friend. We did it in four days — two days of recording and two days of mixing. It’s 17 songs or something. It’s basically about everything we were playing at the time. We just threw it in there, and had no clue that it would become this culty kind of thing that people like R.E.M. would be interested in, and basically it secured us a place.
You know, Camper was a joke band. Camper was the band that played at parties. We all had serious bands that we were trying to play with at the time. I think we were serious about making the record, we thought we were a pretty cool, interesting, weird garage band. But I don’t think we thought it would be what it was. Which is good — there were no expectations going into it. I think that’s when the best stuff is made, when you just don’t have an expectation. Expectation is really kind of the enemy of rock ‘n’ roll. Once you get too thinky about things it’s just not good.
JM: Could you comment on why Camper Van Beethoven broke up at the end of the ‘80s, and what brought you guys back together?
VK: You know, we broke up because we couldn’t get along, and we got back together because we could get along.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.