How Camera Obscura Made Its First New Record in Four Years

Singer Tracyanne Campbell talked about the process behind the new songs, which you can hear as the band opens for She and Him this Saturday at the Aragon.

Photo: Courtesy Camera Obscura

Tracyanne Campbell and Camera Obscura open for She and Him on Saturday at the Aragon.

After becoming indie pop darlings thanks to its past two records, Scottish band Camera Obscura took a four-year break from recording. The group returned earlier this month with a new record, “Desire Lines,” that both pares down and punches up its lushly orchestrated sounds, and a tour that includes this Saturday’s show opening for She and Him at the Aragon.

Tracyanne Campbell, the band’s songwriter, singer and rhythm guitarist, spoke with C Notes about the new record.

The new record is a bit of a departure from your past music. What’s the reason for the change?

We were quite aware that the last two records had a certain sound, and the band was going in a certain direction, and we didn’t want to make the same record again. We were scared that we were getting too comfortable with something. We didn’t want that wall of sound thing, we wanted people to be able to hear individual instruments and tune into them. I think you can do that very nicely in this record. There’s real clarity and space in the instruments.

One thing that’s stayed the same is your sadly lovely melodies. How do you come up with them?

That’s the mystery, isn’t it? It’s absolutely magic. I don’t feel like I’ve got any control. I’m still mystified about it. I tend not to force the melody. I’m not someone who sits there with a piano or guitar endlessly trying to come up with hooks. It just sort of pops out. That’s the magic to me, because it means I can do no work and get away with it.

Are there singers who’ve inspired you?

There’s loads of influences, Carole King and great bands like the Beach Boys. When I was making this record, I listened to (country-folk singer-songwriter) Iris Dement, which people probably never would equate with this band. Her last album felt very pure to me and felt like the most soulful vocals I’ve heard in a long time. It was an inspiration, and it made me want to make a record that was as good as that.

Jim James from My Morning Jacket and Neko Case sing back-up on some of your songs. What was it like having them on the record?

It was amazing. We never actually met Jim James (he recorded his part separately from the band), but it was amazing that he could sing one of our songs, because he’s our favorite contemporary male vocalist. Neko I just loved, because she was in the studio (with them). It was amazing to sit in the studio and hear her sing. It was mind-blowing to hear her sing one of my songs. At first I was worried that she was going to knock my socks off and maybe our voices wouldn’t match, because she’s such a big singer, but it’s a nice complement on the record. It gives me a thrill when I think about it.

The core of your music has been jangly guitar pop, but the new songs also include elements of soul, doo wop, tropical music, even Afropop. Most of those elements have been on past records, but they’re more pronounced this time.

These are the types of things we’ve always wanted to express, but were limited by the ways we’ve made the records in the past, through time constraints and just not being as good as playing. We got a bit older and we were given time to really nail those things. Getting better and getting a bit more creative helped us bring them to the forefront.

June 29 at the Aragon Entertainment Center, 1106 West Lawrence Ave., jamusa.com. $42.50.

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