“A Girl and…” is a new monthly column where we take the time to find out about our fellow gsd&m’ers. These will be a little longer than a “typical” post (really, is there such a thing?) but hey, we’re all worth it right? Take a few minutes and we’ll try to make it enjoyable.
Here’s the deal. I had too good of a time talking Victor and Jake for it to be a true “interview”—one where I ask a bunch of questions and they answer them cleanly. Between the beer, nachos and the laughing, the conversation meandered in that wonderfully messy “good dinner-party” way where we talked over and under and around each other on topics ranging from beer to family to food to music to muses to baseball to Belgian fans (12 of them, specifically) and back again to beer.
But given this was technically an interview and it was by me, I (big surprise here) kicked it off by asking about their family. From the broad hints and what wasn’t said I know there are some great stories from the Camozzi family tree that we didn’t get to, but what I did hear was clear—we’ve got two brothers, artists and co-workers with a solid understanding of exactly who they are.
Basically? With the Camozzi brothers, no artifice allowed.
Victor Camozzi (GCD/Writer) was named after his grandfather who was named after Victor Emanuele, King of Sardinia and then Italy. Father of two, singer/songwriter, and budding children’s author. Younger brother to two older sisters.
Jake (Jacob) Camozzi, (ACD/Writer) soon to be father of one, younger brother to two older sisters and Victor. Home chef, home brewer and culinary writer at https://leavemetheoink.wordpress.com.
Seeing these quick personal sketches in black and white it is easy to imagine that Victor and Jake grew up in a very creative family…but the reality is that you have to go back a few generations to find ‘the other black sheep’ as Victor put it. Their two older sisters were more academically inclined, both with PhDs, one being a specialized veterinarian in San Diego. And their parents loved listening to music—their mother blaring Pavarotti to drown out the vacuum cleaner—but it’s not until you go back to the “just off the boat Italians” would you find family members who not only participated in the arts but were the more stereotypical creative personalities. The sisters of their grandfather, were, according to Victor, “…very dramatic, very artistic, all speaking something like 13 languages…and then a gap and then, Jake and I.”
This gap found the brothers growing up in Boise, Idaho—a splinter off of the Seattle Camozzi’s—where there was plenty of outdoors to play in, but ironically for modern-day ad guys, no big brands.
“There were no brands in Boise….or the makings for good Italian food,” said Victor. “When our (extended) family came to visit from Seattle, they’d bring all of the good food. And when we went there to visit, we’d be excited to see a Gap or Sears…the big names would be the big highlight of our trips to Seattle because we never got to experience them in Boise.”
And maybe these are the roots for their very pragmatic approach to advertising.
“God bless advertising,” Jake interjects. “But it’s not art. Advertising is a problem to be solved…a problem you solve with craft and creativity.”
This honest pragmatism extends past the output of their day-to-day work and into the process of advertising itself.
“It’s as easy as and as simple as this: we are all better off when we work together…” states Jake with Victor overlaying, “I think people would do a lot better if they would just write how they talk….”.
Both bring same thinking to their outside lives…or maybe it’s in reverse. Or more likely yet, there is no divide because what you see is what you get, to utilize a tired, but apt, cliché.
“When I write music it tends to be very simple, honest and it’s language you hear every day.” Victor goes on, “you asked earlier about our muse…for me it’s beer and the record player. Oh, and a good bar. The best muse is a great bar where people are just being themselves. You overhear a conversation, maybe two words of it and the way they say it. Two days later it’ll come back to you, sparking something and it will become a song.”
After ordering another round we come back to Victor and his process/philosophy. While this question of artistic philosophy was one Jake was comfortable with, I get the feeling that Victor is being a good sort and going along with me, which I completely appreciate.
“Philosophy about my music? I don’t know that I have one, I just want it to sound honest. I’ve written my best songs walking my dog, so there’s not a lot of philosophy there…”.
“If I may speak for you, for Victor, it’s about the writing, the simplicity of the story…everything is identifiable from the story to the instruments, there’s no bullshit to cover up what is wrong.”
Victor comes back in. “For me I might have just 12 Belgian fans who listen to my music, and that means a lot to me…yes, I feel accomplished and good that 2 million people might see my ad, but those twelve Belgians mean more personally because they actively choose and listen my work and it means something to them, they’ve brought it into their lives.”
Make that 12 Belgian fans and me. Did I originally buy his first album because he was a co-worker. Yes. But three years later you’ll find two songs from the album, “3 Peso Cigar” on my playlist alongside Mumford & Sons and Lords of Acid (what can I say, I’m a complicated girl). Why these two particular songs, “Normal People” and “Light it Up” ended up on my playlist makes even more sense to me now because of this conversation. Knowing his influences (John Prine, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle), his process and philosophy, I can see what caught my ear about these songs aside from the pleasure of the melody, etc.
While I’m contemplating his music and the twelve Belgian people, Jake picks up the conversational string.
“I’ve never had 12 Belgians eat my food or drink my beer, but food is what we live on literally, so it’s a way of showing love to people you care about. I’m a home cook, not a chef….. and for me it’s all about local, organic, simple. I like to know the guy who raised the cow, killed it and sold the meat to me. I like to know or be the guy who raised the vegetables I eat.”
I see firsthand just how Jakes writing style and food philosophy come together when perusing his blog and found a post about the perfect beer for a two-beer lunch…or more honestly, the two-beer nap. It (the beer and the writing) is spare, honest and makes you feel good. I know that I would love this beer, and not his most recent brew, Jimmy’s Cascadian Dark Ale, described by Jake as “…black, bitter and big as a bastard”. An honest description that would attract or repel people accordingly…which is the exact information you need to make your decision.
Jake goes on to discuss the idea of a muse and it won’t be surprising to those who know him that music plays a lead role, the majority of his days spent with his headphones on, his playlist on shuffle, heavy on the Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt. As he talks about music and his other likes—sunshine and food and the wind and beer and books—I break in because those who know me know that I love books…love, love, love them. Not surprisingly I’m in good company…definitely a “real book” versus an eBook guy.
I ramble a bit, excited to talk to people who understand the visceral pleasure of books…their feel and smell…and ask him if he likes baseball because I’m reading this great non-fiction history of baseball called “Baseball in the Garden of Eden”.
“I hate baseball,” he starts. WTF? Suddenly I’m less than amused. “I love the aesthetic of it and what it’s about, but it’s boring as shit.”
Humph! Before I find myself going on and on about the beauty of baseball, trying to convert the unconvertible–and besides Victor is, nicely, laughing at me at this point–I divert the conversation to what they are reading now.
Jake is instantly back in my good graces when he mentions Jim Harrison, although I find it adorable when he mentions he’s a little worried about reading him on the plane because “…he’s gotten a little dirtier lately.”
For a girl who reads bodice-rippers and shifter romances on the plane (again, complicated girl), the lightly libidinous nature of Harrisons newer books (especially The Farmers Daughter) is mere child’s play.
But seriously, Harrison is a fitting end point in this conversation as he, like Hemingway (another Camozzi favorite) and like both Jake and Victor, is a ‘tangible’ artist. You can feel their words and the end result are spare and honest stories with impact.
This tangible perspective about their work and it’s role/place in their life relative to their creative passions is what, ultimately, makes their work for us better. Each written word, like Jake’s food and Victors songs, are crafted purposefully, impactfully yet not overwrought in their combining.
All in all, like the Camozzi brothers, no artifice allowed.