Musician and keyboard player with Camera Obscura

Born March 1, 1982

Died: October 11, 2015

CAREY Lander, who has died aged 33, was the keyboard player for Glasgow indie stars Camera Obscura and a cult legend in horn-rims and a tea-dress; a terrific musician with an ear for heart-soaring, vintage pop. It is hard, and heartbreaking, to try and imagine our Scottish pop landscape without her.

Lander died on Sunday, October 11, from Osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer – but not before she had raised in excess of £60,000 for the charity Sarcoma UK. That Lander’s fundraising campaign was so successful in such a short space of time (it was launched in late August) is testament to the love that people had – always will have – for Lander, her music, and her band.

When she joined Camera Obscura in 2002, Lander quietly transformed the group. “We needed a keyboard player who could actually play,” recalls Camera Obscura vocalist Tracyanne Campbell of Lander’s induction into their ranks.

“I knew Carey liked us, she’d been in our video for Eighties Fan, and we were all kind of friends. One day Gavin [Dunbar, bass] said, ‘Carey can play keyboards’. And she was like, ‘Well, I’ll give it a try’”.

They immediately commandeered Lander for a BBC Peel Session. “That was one of the first things she did, actually,” Campbell says. “I remember her in John Peel’s living room, talking away to his wife, Sheila ... And I think that’s sort of the measure of Carey: people thought she was shy and unconfident, but she was really brave, you know? Very courageous.”

Lander first appeared on Camera Obscura’s second album, Underachievers Please Try Harder, and subtly shifted the group’s aesthetic. “That’s when the band really started taking off,” says Campbell. “I remember sitting on the wee couch beside her in Cava Studios. We were listening back to some of the album mixes and her piano, her keyboards, were all over them.”

Their next two LPs featured Lander less prominently, but she made her presence felt. “When we made Let’s Get Out Of This Country and My Maudlin Career, the keyboards weren’t really featured that much, because the producer wanted to focus more on guitars,” Campbell recalls.

“He kind of asked her to play it down. And she was quite p****d off about that. Pretty annoyed. You can totally hear that on our song, James. This noise comes in at the start and it sounds like somebody really whacking something. And that’s because it is – it’s Carey kicking the piano,” she said with a gentle laugh.

Lander was originally diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in 2011, but had periods where she was healthy enough to record and tour the band’s fifth LP, Desire Lines. It is a beautiful, celebratory album, albeit one written in, and for, devastating times.

“It was a really hard record for all of us to make,” says Campbell. “It really wasn’t a priority, because Carey was very sick. I don’t know how we managed it but we did. And Carey was the star of that record – I felt that even at the time. It’s a record about us, about the group. And although I didn’t want to spill my guts, in a way I kind of did anyway. We all did.”

Lander’s battle with her illness, says Campbell, was private and dignified. So it came as a shock when the band pulled all live dates and engagements due to her deteriorating health this summer.
“The day that we announced that Carey had cancer and that the band would probably not be doing anything – that was the day that she got told from the doctor that it was really bad news,” Campbell says.

“But that was also the day we announced the fundraising campaign, and all these messages and donations started coming in right away. And Carey said something super-powerful. She said they turned the day around. She said they turned it into a good day.”

The donations and messages have also offered comfort to Lander’s family, friends and band-mates. “It’s just amazing,” Campbell says. “It’s just so generous to give like that. I can’t get over how people have been. The love is tangible.”

Campbell’s lasting memory of Lander will raise a smile for all who knew her, or admired her from afar. “She was the baby of our band, and she was so bright,” she says.

“And she was a bookworm, more than anything else. She was very stylish, oozing the old granny chic, poncing about with arsenic-coloured cardies, stinking of Chanel No 5. That’s how I’ll always think about her,” she offers.

Others have been left speechless by her loss. Among tributes from Zooey Deschanel and Franz Ferdinand came moving thoughts from Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake. “So very sorry to hear that Carey Lander has passed,” he wrote. “She was such a lovely person and she will be missed. Words are never enough.”

And he is right, words never are. But they are all we have, to try and say that Carey Lander was a hero. That she could kick a piano as well as she played it. That she was inspiring and brilliant and joyous. That she made a difference. That she was loved.

To donate to Carey Lander’s UK Sarcoma fundraising campaign, see