Everyone loves a tale of triumph over tragedy, and Brian Christinzio (BC Camplight) has had to battle more than his fair share, from being deported from his home in the UK back to the USA to coping with mental illness, yet through it all, his music has flourished, culminating in the forthcoming album ‘Shortly After Take Off. It’s as if, for once, all the stars have aligned, with it being his most astutely poetic album as well as maintaining his uniquely brilliant grasp of melody. Well, at least it looked that way when we met in Manchester’s Common cafe bar a few weeks ago, but this is the world of BC Camplight and anything can happen. If anyone was going to release their best album in the middle of a global pandemic, along with live dates, it would be him!

Now firmly a Mancunian having lived her for many years, we begin our chat by going back to the beginnings of his relationship with our city, staring with what brought him here from Philadelphia in the first place, and how and why he’s stayed:

“When I came here, the only thing I really wanted to do was not be in Philadelphia, I didn’t think things were going to pan out for me at all. I had no recording studio, no label, no friends, I didn’t know anybody here, well I knew one guy who was a journalist. So when I got here, I slowly started to piece together my fist record ‘How To Die In The North’, and I pretty much just did that, as that used up all of my resource, all of my energy, but that was it, at least I got to make another record. Then once I got signed after that, it was like ‘oh shit, this is a real thing now, this might be what I do’. That dream sort of went away many years before, cos I’m sure you know the story, I was basically homeless in Philly and stuff. So, once I started getting my engines going it felt like I was going to be here for a while, and it still feels like I’m going to be here for the rest of my life, barring little excursion to do other records and things. I’m a Mancunian now, I don’t see that changing! I’ve got my settled status!”

Prior to moving across the pond, Brian grew up in New Jersey then relocated to Philadelphia, where as well as launching his solo career, he became a live touring member of the War On Drugs, and also contributed to Sharon Van Etten’s album ‘Epic’ in 2011. Growing up, he was always obsessed with music, which hasn’t changed, but the way he associates with music has, in a big way as he explains:

I was obsessed with Jerry Lee Lewis when I was a kid, like obsessed with it. At six years old I was playing ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ and ‘Whole Lotta Shakin Going On’ and stuff like that. My dad used to have a record collection that was really strange, like Pavarotti and really theatrical stuff, so I guess looking at it, if you put those two things together that’s kind of what I do now! (Laughs). I was obsessed with music but I didn’t listen to a ton of music as a kid, and as I get older I listen to less and less music to the point where in the past three years, I don’t really listen to music at all, it’s a weird thing. I’ve kind of always had it, it’s not like a synaesthesia thing, I can’t really enjoy listening to music without my brain automatically latching on to what I’m listening to technically and in theory. I know it all sounds very pretentious! So if I listen to music, it has to be something that my brain has no chance of comprehending on first listen, so I do listen to a lot of classical music now, or when I’m drunk I like listening to music!

BC Camplight

So is that when the indie greatest hits albums comes out?

“Yeah definitely! (Laughs). When I was a kid it was pretty much those two, and Little Richard, and I liked country music. I basically had the childhood of someone who grew up in like 1958! I think it’s made for a unique kind of meld in my musical brain.”

A big part of Brian’s life is his dog, Frank, he even has a song dedicated to him on BC Camplight’s last album ‘Deportation Blues’ dealing with the trauma of being separated from his beloved pet ‘When I Think Of My Dog’. He makes regular appearances on the BC Camplight’s social media feeds, so I had to check, how will Frank the dog be celebrating the album release?

“He celebrating by enjoying the new place we got him to live – we moved house, and just moved in.  We’ve now got a nice big, yard or garden to run around in, so that’s how he’s celebrating. He’s not involved directly with this record, like he was with the last one. So he can take a little time off and just be a dog for a while!”

It’s no secret that Brian has dealt with mental health issues throughout his life, and around the release of this new album, says he wants to ‘start a conversation’ around the often misinterpreted reality of what it’s like to live with a history of mental illness. As all of his albums have reflected what’s going on in his life at that particular time, this one seems to be his most open yet, so I asked  Brian ‘you mentioned that you wanted it to start a conversation about mental health, what did you mean by that?’

“I think a press angle that really drives me insane, is where publications sort of make people who have mental illness out to be ‘cool’. You always hear the phrase ‘tortured genius’, and I guarantee if you went to Syd Barrett or Brian Wilson or any of these people and said ‘would you rather just not have to deal with these demons’ they’d say yes, I’m sure they wouldn’t have thought it’s very cool. I mean I’m not comparing myself to those people, but I think it’s important to be able to talk about it without of all the mysticisms and all of the overblown press angles that go with it. I’ve always tried to be really direct when talking about mental illness cos I think one, it doesn’t make me cringe – I know a lot of people when people talk about that, the person they’re talking to, their toes are curling into their shoes, but I think it’s just something that in 2020 we really need to start talking about it as really is, and not making it into this cool thing, when it pertains to artists, and also not having a stigma about it. I just thought fuck it, I’m forty now, I’m just going to say what I want, and it seems to be working.”

It’s really refreshing, as like you say people hide behind the whole ‘tortured artist’ image, and it’s really misleading

“Yeah, it’s just really boring.”

BC Camplight

Your lyrics have always been great at combining humour with the serious points you’re making.

“I think a big part of the record for me was to be able to put the listener in an altered frame of thinking, before they listen to the song. Like I have the song ‘Ghosthunting’, which starts up with a stand up comedy routine, and I thought, how do I get people to listen to this song, almost in the mind frame that I’m in. So by the end of the intro, you’re kind of feeling a bit lost yourself, you don’t know what’s going on. So I wanted to use lyrics like that for that purpose, but I also wanted to be less whimsical.  For instance, if I had to do a song five years ago about my dad dying, I would have said some bullshit about ‘the berries fell off the bush’ and all this stuff, and now I’m like, you know what, fuck it, my dad died. It’s those kinds of things I’m really trying to be way more direct, as I think it makes it more interesting. It’s making me be able to connect with my audience now, which I never really did before on a lyrical level. It was all very opaque, which a lot of people liked, but I want to kind of have a direct line to the listeners now.”

It’s strange how people react to you when you’ve lost someone, as people generally don’t know how to react. As someone who’s also lost their parents it’s a strange situation to be in.

“It is strange, I mean it’s been a year and a half now, but it seems like yesterday. I mean even for me, the person who’s lost the family member, I’m starting to feel awkward about how long am I allowed to keep talking about this. I brought it up to a couple of people, in a couple of interviews, and they said ‘oh when did he die’ and I said ‘a year and a half ago’ and I feel like they’re going’ oh, ok geez, why are you still singing about it!’ (laughs). I was touring for Deportation Blues, and my dad died two days before Deportation Blues came out. I was touring that whole period, and I had no time to think about it. That ended and then my sort of natural cycle of mental illness kicked in and I had time to deal with my dad, and all of this stuff, and I just thought, there’s no way, I’m going to be able to do this, it just feels like, just as things are going well for me,  my goddam brain is ruining it for me again. So that’s why I thought of ‘Shortly After Take Off’.”

As BC Camplight gains a greater following with each release, Brian is having to adjust to becoming more acclaimed and dealing with any pressures that may bring. On one of his social media posts while ago, he mentioned that he found it awkward adjusting to the fact that people liked his music, even though he believed in the music himself which begs the question, how has he been adjusting to that, now that he’s getting more acclaim and playing bigger venues?

BC Camplight

“I’m just really comfortable being uncomfortable, so I don’t really find the need to adjust. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m eternally going to be making like Woody Allen look like Cool Hand Luke basically. So the thought has crossed my mind. I mean I went fifteen years with virtually nobody paying me any attention at all, and I thought a lot of that music was pretty good. Now it seems like people are catching on, and I hear the music that people assume to be popular, I’m thinking ‘shit I’m not  becoming one of them am I?’ Not that I’m necessarily popular, but you know, not to be that specific, but some of the records that get so much attention, I listen to them and think this is just meaningless. So I’ve been consciously trying to make more and more meaningful music, and just basically, I look at Tame Impala and just do the opposite!” (laughs)

Many people not only really like the clever lyrics but also the way the music chops and changes yet still holds together.

“It’s just the way I put together music, I have, and it probably shows by taking until being forty years old to get any notoriety, but I have no desire to ever sound like anybody else or be in any sort of ‘scene’, to be cool or uncool. The only thing I’ve ever relied on is, kind of going into a studio, waking up with empty beer cans on my stomach and there’s a weird song there. I don’t have really any attention span in real life, I can’t read very well, cos my brain’s always shooting off in different directions, so I let it just go wild in my songs, and try to know enough about craft to make it so it’s not a terrible listen for the listener. So that’s why I’ll have songs that go in one direction, and then they go over here, because that’s just my brain. I mean, sure, it hurts me at radio (laughs), but I don’t care. I don’t want to fit in anywhere, ever!”

I don’t think it necessarily hurts you at radio, as you’ve done five sessions already for Marc Riley on BBC6Music, that’s where I first heard you. When you’re going to do a session like that, how do you prepare differently for that, or do you just treat it as a live gig?

Well, with this past record, that did fairly well at radio, and this one coming out, looks like we’re going to have a lot of sessions. I don’t treat it differently musically, but one of my favourite things to do is talking, and to be on the radio. I did like a 6Music sit in for Guy Garvey, and I loved it! It just gives my brain a chance to go ‘alright go!’. So, I like to maybe prepare what I’m going to talk about beforehand, but we’re not that professional enough a band to actually practice too much. This should be a really interesting year!” (He wasn’t wrong there!!)

You also did that podcast for the BBC World Service with Stephen Malkmus, Peter Hook and Jesca Hoop, are you going to be doing more radio presenting in the future?

“I’m trying to start my own podcast right now, my fiancé bought me all the equipment for Christmas, but that ‘s pretty much all I know, cos I’m such an idiot! I know that if I talk into this box but than I don’t know what to do after that, I could end up walking around the streets playing it for people. It’s definitely something I want to get more and more into. With that podcast for the BBC World Service, I just woke up one day and there’s an email there saying ‘hey, can you come and do this thing’ that’s all I know. I didn’t even ask where it came from. Now, that I’m thinking about it, when I showed up, they acted like they didn’t know what I was talking about (laughs!). Maybe that email was like, from someone just playing a joke on me, and I just ended up making a radio show! But I love doing that stuff. If someone figured out the logistics of doing a podcast and launching it out there, I’d be all over it.”

Doing research for the interview I came across previous articles, mentioning Brian’s desire to get into the film and TV score world. It’s easy to see why his music would be a perfect fit as the end credits roll or even to accompany some comedy drama series somewhere. It’s something that’s still very much on his radar as Brian states:

“I think it’s pretty much why I’m on this earth, is to be making film scores! (laughs). I don’t have anything to back that up, I have no evidence cos nobody’s ever asked me to do one, but that’s what my head is telling me. I did sign to a publisher recently whose sole goal is to sort that out for me this year, so maybe you’ll be seeing me there. I’ll probably work my way up through some like awful animal sex documentaries or something and then get up to you know, the arts stuff!”

Yeah, then we’ll be seeing you at The Oscars after doing a nominated film score

Well, as long as they don’t require their composers to read, then I’m your guy!

Going back to lyrics, I was thinking the other day, Nick Cave does this thing called The Red Hand Files where people email him questions, often about his lyrics, and one question asked how he felt about any old lyrics written in the past, now maybe being viewed as a bit non politically correct. So I wondered as a writer, do you have to censor yourself anytime, so you don’t offend people, or like Nick Cave, do you think, I’ll write how I want to write?

“I think it pops into your mind when you’re being a public person when you’re on twitter or Instagram, I mean it’s never really crossed my mind to think that way when I’m writing a song.  I’ve had people write to me about stuff. This girl wrote me a while ago and said she’d always been a fan, and then listened to my song ‘Because I Love You’ and the word ‘bitch’ was in there, and I think she overshot it a little bit, and said that was, well she didn’t say hate crime, or she may have said hate crime, I can’t remember, and it just infuriated me. I mean I don’t mean to sound like a prick, but this is art.”

I know, it’s creative freedom, as long as you’re not writing something really nasty in there, you’ve got to have a bit of creative licence with words

“I mean there’s context, you don’t know who I’m speaking to, I could be speaking to myself in these songs. As far as writing music and writing lyrics goes, I don’t let anything or anybody have any input on me, not the label, not the band, not the missus, anybody. But there are times nowadays when I see myself tweeting something, and I’m laughing at it, and I go, ‘oh shit’, I should probably save that and not do it!”

BC Camplight’s lyrics have humour running through their often darker undertones, and his live shows often involve Brain doing what can only be described as a one man stand up comedy routine in between the live performances – it makes for a truly entertaining night out. As humour is such a large part of what he does, I wondered where that love of comedy came from?

“George Carlin, my mum had his records when I was a kid. He’s incredible. There’s also Richard Pryor, when I was a kid. I think a device I find useful, which I hope no one will rip off now, is that you have to combine that humour in a delivery that is serious, or else your songs are going to come off as goofy. So it’s almost like, you remember those movies ‘The Naked Gun’, it was almost as if the actors were acting in this serious police 1950s detective way, but the stuff they were saying was just so ridiculous, but it was so hilarious, because they just looked so serious. It’s another way of making people feel genuine emotion. I mean it’s like if I wrote a song and I was trying to be funny, it might be too obvious, but I think the sincerity comes across, as unfortunately I’m somebody as you can probably tell by listening to the songs, is quite dark, so it makes the light more meaningful, or genuine I think.”

As things move forward at a huge pace for BC Camplight, playing bigger venues, gaining a greater audience, what has been the highlight so far?

“I think one thing that really threw me, was right when things started to pick up, we played a sold out show at The Scala in London. After the show there was a bunch of people crammed up against the barrier as I was walking off the stage, and they were yelling at me, and I really thought that something was wrong, so they got my attention, and they were screaming  like ‘Brian! Brian!’ and I was looking behind me thinking, you know, what’s going on, looking behind me thinking, is something on fire. Then one of them grabbed my sleeve, and I just noticed that they just wanted to be near me, and I mean, my fiancé doesn’t even wanna be near me, so this was all really new to me. So I got off the stage and my first thought was ‘what the fuck was that?’ and my second thought was ‘I guess that’s pretty cool y’know’ . So, the coolest part is seeing people connect with stuff, and I think the best thing that’s happened, in my career is getting message from people that either suffer from mental illness or just have everyday anxieties that people go through and they just feel comfortable talking to me about it, not that I feel qualified to answer questions or anything but it’s really great to hear when people say, you helped me so much, because it does give you a feeling like,’ ok this was worth it’. If I wrote down a list of all the bad things I’d been through to get to this point, it looks pretty bad! (laughs). It doesn’t look great, but it does make it worthwhile.

It seems to be with the album, that everything has finally aligned, so how are you feeling right now about it all?

I’m feeling pretty good. I mean I can’t believe the cosmos is letting me put a record at the moment and everything is going fine, then Coronavirus! I was like are you kidding me? So who knows what’s going to happen. Obviously it’s a selfish way of looking at the international crisis. I mean I know I’m not important enough but I imagine God sitting as his desk, going ‘I knew I had something to do today – Brian’s putting out a record. We’ve already deported him, err…. national pandemic!’ Other than that, it’s looking pretty good, the band is amazing. A lot of people I run into who I assume have seen the band live, and are big fans, sometimes say ‘oh, we’ve never seen you live’, to me that’s ninety-five percent of BC Camplight. That’s where you get everything. So, I’m looking forward to playing the bigger rooms.”

You’ve got The Ritz booked for the autumn, that’s going to be your biggest gig to date in Manchester.

“Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. The day before we also have Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, so big venues! It doesn’t mean a lot of people, but it insinuates there’s going to be a lot of people. I know The Ritz gig has sold a mind boggling amount of tickets already, so I’m just really, really thankful.”

Talking about touring, how difficult is that now with everything that’s gone on, what’s it like from a touring band’s perspective?

Well, I’m everything now! Suddenly I went from the guy that couldn’t go anywhere to the guy that can now go everywhere. I can’t imagine me being the best at this cos I’ve made so many mistakes, but as far as the practicalities go with touring, I wish I had advice for people. Obviously I’ve botched it. I stumbled upon being here. I didn’t know I was Italian, it’s not like I had some plan. I knew I had an Italian name, but I didn’t know I could be an Italian citizen. After I was deported from the UK, my dad, said ‘why don’t you become an Italian citizen’ and I said ‘that is a ridiculous idea’. Three months later I had my arm around the mayor of the town in Italy, wearing a sash, so no I have no advice, cos I’m the last guy to give advice! I’m forty which seems old to me, being forced to hang out with nineteen year olds every day like I do in the music business, but I sort of talk to musicians as if I’m like a seventy year old grandpa now. It’s always like it’s four in the morning and I’m somewhere going (drunken slur) ‘you just gotta keep going y’know!’ You didn’t even ask me this, but I’m going to give unsolicited advice to musicians – I know it sounds basic but nobody ever really does it, is to just not care about other people. It’s the only way. There was a big psychedelic scene in Manchester about five years ago, it’s not there anymore, and neither are a lot of those bands. You’ve got to listen to your brain, turn off Instagram and do what you wanna do, and expect to get your ass kicked! Expect to fail and don’t expect people to like you. Then, when you fail again the next time, you keep doing it, and keep doing it, and then maybe one day you wake up at forty years old, and you can afford a £4 cranberry juice!” (the drink of choice for BC today).

With all that said and done, what’s the future looking like for BC Camplight at the moment?

“I think this album is a perfect closing chapter to what I’ve called my ‘Manchester Trilogy’. I don’t know what that means but I’ve said it so many times. I’m looking forward to continue to grow the profile of the band with this record, I don’t have any illusions of it being number one or anything, but I’m looking forward to being in a position where it looks like I’ll finally be able to do what I want to do for a little while longer. So my advice is self isolate yourself with this record, you’re gonna need it. Then when all this blows over, get yourself down to the shows!”

‘Shortly After Takeoff’ couldn’t have been timed better, yes it may be released during a global catastrophe, but it’s a record that spins catastrophe on its head and turns it into a wry and witty triumph. Dripping with that dark sense of humour Brian excels at, it’s an album that will make you, laugh, cry, the laugh again often all in the space of one song.

The phrase Shortly After Takeoff summed up how things would inevitably take a turn for the worse for Brian, just after it looked like he was finally getting somewhere, and to that end, the album lives up to these strange times being released in the midst of all this global chaos. Yet it’s the album that will undoubtedly propel BC Camplight even further, with its winning combination of musical ingenuity and lyrical wit. If ever there was the perfect album for this year, ‘Shortly After Takeoff’ surely has to be it – an extraordinary album, made by an extraordinary artist.  Here’s hoping this time the musical take-off endures.

BC Camplight: Shortly After Take Off – Out 24th April 2020 (Bella Union)



From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.