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Jack Campbell of Excuse Me Princess released a studio album, “Control,” under a legitimate label and is still only a junior at East high school.
“It feels nice to have something to sell at shows,” Campbell said. “We got t-shirts made, so now we finally have a merch table and we can be like, “Go see us after the show, there’s CDs in the back!” It helps us feel more legit.”
If that isn’t amazing enough and well ahead of the learning curve, Campbell is also releasing an EP (that is short for a cd that isn’t packed full of tunes, but has enough to get you where you need to go) with some local professional musicians help.
“The EP I’m doing was at first just a way to pass the time, but when our label broke up, my manager Chris got a hold of some of the demos and was totally into it. He also manages the band Howler on Rough Trade, so he’s getting it out to their guy and the Matador Records guy. So soon he was asking me when and where I was gonna play shows in the cities, so I knew I needed Nate from Blue Water Dance and Keith from Coal Car Caboose, because they are way better musicians than I am and they make my stuff sound good,” Campbell said.
I asked Campbell when and where one could find the cool sounding new EP?
“Technically the EP is out right now on Bandcamp, and it’s free! But we’re in the process of finding a label for it, so this is basically a try to get it out to Duluthians and my friends before we master it and record it professionally and they stop letting me give it away,” Campbell joked. “It was a lot of work to make, but I did it and played all the instruments in my basement, so it was free to make and I’m alright with giving it away.”
This Friday Campbell, along with Excuse Me Princess, has a show at Thirsty Pagan in Superior.
“The show on Friday is pretty lax,” Campbell said. “Originally it was going to be us (Excuse Me Princess), Machine 22, and our orchestra teacher’s band, but they visited the Thirsty Pagan last minute and didn’t like it. So now it’s just a loud, free rock show, starting at 9pm at the Thirsty Pagan. Machine 22 is one of the coolest garage bands we’ve ever played with. I’m also playing a solo show at Amazing Grace on February 2nd and a Pizza Luce brunch gig on February 4th. EMP is playing in the cities at Station 4 on February 10th. Also, the first “solo” show I’m playing with Nate and Keith is on February 25th at Beaner’s with Andy Elwell and Silly Goose.”
I first met Jack Campell when he was eleven years old and playing the drums with his friend JJ Sivak in a band called Completely Random. They recorded a few demos and played the lunch hour at their Catholic middle school to a very appreciative young crowd.
Campbell eventually took the reins of lead guitar and vocals when he and Sam Wattrus started Excuse Me Princess as high school friends. They played the big High School Battle of the Bands a few years at the DECC, but over time the biggest hardship the band(s) face is the ever changing members and eventual right of passage to college.
“We somewhat feel a clock ticking with Sam graduating,” Campbell said. “He got accepted into Harvard, so he’s going places and never looking back. But we already have a guy who we’ve done a few shows with named Luke Wynn who is a super awesome dude and really good at the bass, so he’ll probably step in once Sam decides he’s played his last show.”
I asked Jack what the current line up of the band was.
“Currently it’s me on guitar, Ben Ouellette on drums, Kallie Gunsolus on synth, Sam Wattrus on bass, and Greta Konkler plays violin sometimes,” Campbell said. “Kallie and Ben are somewhat newcomers, but we’ve gotten super close and we’ve done a few shows where it’s only us three. We still love Sam and Greta, but they are in a college mindset, so Kallie, Ben, and I have had lots of adventures lately.”
The music business today has little care for art or an eye on the future of grooming their profits. Campbell learned that firsthand as his label made many promises and then fell apart.
“People who listen to our CD tend to like it. Sadly, our label broke up right as we released it, and didn’t even pay for us to make physical copies so we had to do it ourselves. Overall, it’s not selling at all and we don’t have any power over the sales anyway, so we’re just starting a new record and selling the physical copies that we paid for,” Campbell said.
One song that is really catchy off of that ill-fated album is “Stop the Flow.” I asked what Campbell thought made the song have such a buzz with fans.
“We hear a lot about Stop the Flow,” Campbell said. “That’s the one that most benefited from the recording in the cities because it has a huge hi-fi radio chorus and sounds really good with their producing. “Outdated” and “Lost the Nerve” also came out very well, and the Duluth East chamber orchestra played on the last song “Forgive and Forget.” So those are all cool ones. I believe “Stop the Flow,” “Outdated,” and “Lost the Nerve” are on KUMD at the moment. We also did a live session last November on there too, which is always fun. I have guitar lessons at UMD and the room is right outside the KUMD studio, so sometimes I’ll hear my own songs faintly coming from there and it makes me freak out inside a little bit.”
So what do people at school think about Campbell having a band playing major venues and releasing a studio album under a label?
“Most people at our school don’t care about us much,” Campbell said. “High schoolers have very short attention spans. Two years ago, no one cared because there was another band, and last year we were like the bees knees at our school. But this year there are new bands and we’re just too old, I suppose. That’s why we’ve started playing Luce and R.T. Quinlan’s and other 21+ places, because older people usually really like us and our all-ages fan base kinda died. Though there’s a whole scene that I just found out about with bands like Ultra Day, the Cold Starts, Bigger than Dan, etc, that is full of enthusiastic high school kids and they were all extremely nice to us. So it’s not the age group, it’s just the kids we go to school with.”
Check out Campbell at jackcampbell.bandcamp.com/album/control or at Thirsty Pagan with Excuse Me Princess on Friday night.