The return of Vampire Weekend, with their first album in three years, rates really high on my list of excitement.
The Brooklyn quartet drop their new album Modern Vampires of the City May 14 and will headline Squamish Valley Music Festival August 9-10 with Queens of the Stone Age.
This week, Laurie Logan and I talked with Ezra and Rostam from Vampire Weekend on 102.7 The Peak in Vancouver:
We noticed that the album cover for 'Modern Vampires of the City' was taken in 1966, on one of the Smoggiest days in New York history. Why did you guys decide on that photo for the cover?
Rostam Batmanglij: There is something grabbing about it, because on one level it clearly looks like New York, but in another way it does have a quality of something mystical, or mythological about how it portrays a city. It could have been New York from the past but it could be New York from the future too
What role does New York City play on this album?
Ezra Koenig: We wrote most of the songs in New York, it's always been our home base. It's where the album was conceived. There were some other trips and we did go to LA to finish it, but New York is the starting point for this album.
So when you guys are writing it, is it in your apartments in Brooklyn?
Ezra: We do a lot of the writing and recording at Rostam's apartment.
One of the new songs that we are playing right now and loving is "Diane Young." Who is Diane Young?
Ezra: Apparently there are quite a few Diane Youngs out there in the world. We've been told there's someone who works for the British Music Industry named Diane Young. And there is a dermatologist on the Upper East Side, who specializes in anti-aging called Diane Young. But we didn't have any of them in mind when we wrote the song. It just came out that way, just a character that developed out of the song.
In the song "Diane Young" a lot of people are picking up on the Elvis-like inflections in your voice Ezra, what inspired that sound?
Ezra: I think when Rostam sent me the original beat that had this driving slightly '50s punky thing happening, it was natural to take on that kind of rhythm when I came up with something to sing on top of it.
In the video for your song "Diane Young," you guys burnt a Saab. What inspired that?
Ezra: Well the opening line of the song is, "You torched a Saab like a pile of leaves." There is a lot of dicey behavior in the song.
Were you guys actually there during that music video shoot? What was going on behind the scenes?
Rostam: We couldn't be there because we were in Austin for South by Southwest. But we wrote out very detailed emails of exactly what we imagined happening, and we were very lucky that we could find people that could help us execute our vision.
Rostam, was it one of your friends that inspired the actual visual?
Rostam: Yeah it was actually my friend Borna who is actually a video artist, and he was talking about the Phantom Camera. Which is this camera that shoots 1,000 frames per second and it got me thinking about how we could shoot this video and see what came out of it. So the actual video is only five seconds of time, if you can believe it.
Rostam, you have been working on a lot of side projects too. Have you found that that time spent way from Vampire Weekend is making its way in to your music now?
Rostam: I have always felt that all the music I make is connected in some way. I feel like it's good to have a lot of creative out lets, there have been songs that I have started on my own that I thought would never be part of Vampire Weekend, and when they did become part of Vampire Weekend I was happy that happened. To me it is just the process of discovering where things should go.
Is it true that you guys [Ezra and Rostam] spent more time writing together for this album?
Ezra: Yeah this is the first album that we had to actually think about writing. Previously most of the work was finishing songs, we started the album with more or less all the song writing ideas there. This one we really needed to figure out how to write songs. We found that it required some trial and error and some experimentation.
Rostam and I took a writing retreat, which is something we have never done. It's funny because some bands only write that way. Some bands only meet up and go out of town and write the album in a week or two. Where, as for us, we had never tried that before, we found it very fruitful.
We're right in the midst of taking applications for the PEAK Performance Project. What advice would you give new bands starting out, that might help them win something like the PEAK Performance Project?
Ezra: Don't be afraid to play really short sets. If you come out and play for 15 minutes and really pick your best songs and bring a lot of energy that is way better then playing 30-40 minutes. Keep it focused.
Rostam: People only remember the first and the last songs. If you are playing songs people have never heard before they will remember the first and the last, they aren't going to remember what is in the middle.
You guys sold out two shows in Vancouver the last time you were here. What about the city stands out for you?
Ezra: I remember loving the weather, it wasn't too cold but it was still grey and really vibey. Vancouver has its own aesthetics. I have a lot of visual memories from Vancouver, like looking out at the water the first time we came, or seeing all those glass buildings downtown, it really sticks with you.