TALK: Vampire Weekend

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In an internet second, Vampire Weekend went from playing college house parties to being heralded by SPIN magazine as “The Year’s Best New Band…Already.” Pretty amazing stuff, considering the band posed for the publication’s cover before their debut album was even released. In the last three months alone, the recent college grads have played a string of sold-out shows, performed on Saturday Night Live, and had to turn people away at their “filled-to-capacity” showcase at this year’s SXSW.

How did it happen so quickly for Vampire Weekend? Are they just that good? Or did the internet bloggers of the world help give them a shortcut to success?

Jim Shearer: Are you tired of the word blog yet?

Chris Baio: To be honest, I never really read blogs when I was in college, as far as music blogs go. I guess since they started writing about us, I followed them [some], but I’m a little bit tired of them.

Rostam Batmanglij: The idea of writing and documenting your thoughts can be a very good thing, but now there’s almost this certain culture and type of writing that’s not thoughtful and just sort of silly.

Chris: We’re definitely grateful for all the support that certain websites have given us, but you can also understand when it’s overkill too.

Jim: Do you guys ever read any of the articles written about you?

Chris: You try not to. There was definitely a novelty to it at first. It was really encouraging and exciting–when we were starting out–that people were writing about us. At this point, I don’t think we really gain anything by reading about ourselves.

Jim: I ask, because it’s almost impossible reading about you guys without coming across the word “blog”.

Rostam: To some extent, with any band, what’s written about you early on perpetuates itself–that’s the nature of journalism. I think we’ll definitely get away from that as we make our next album. I’m not worried about that sticking with us at all.


(left to right: Ezra Koenig, Chris Tomson, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Baio)

Chris: I think that blogs, for whatever reason, become the go-to story for new bands that are emerging. With us, we did have support from blogs, but we were also getting written up in the New York Times fairly early on. I don’t view ourselves as a “blog band” phenomenon. I think that’s something that’s kind of overplayed, and it’s a somewhat clichéd media story, that bloggers have [built] these bands up. I don’t think it really works like that.

Jim: Various media outlets have also talked about your quick rise to fame. To me, you guys seem like you’re handling it very well. Was it difficult to go from playing house parties to the band everyone’s talking about?

Chris: As a band, we we’re living a day-to-day existence and not really thinking about a big picture like, “Oh my God, we were formed two years ago and now our first album’s doing really well.” For us, with day-to-day stuff, we’re just focusing on playing good shows and going out there trying to connect with as many people as possible.

Jim: Do you get nervous? When you played Saturday Night Live, did you feel any pressure?

Chris: I mean it’s sort of nice, they give you a whole dress rehearsal before the show, so by the time it’s live you’re used to it. Ultimately, you’re just playing in a studio for however many people. I had a good time playing on SNL, I wasn’t freaking out.

Jim: Can you take us through Vampire Weekend’s practice regimen?

Rostam: (laughs) We don’t really get the opportunity to practice that much, because we’ve been touring a lot. I guess we practiced for SNL once. We have sound-check on tour, so we get a little practice everyday. At this point for us, I think that stands in for practice. When we get home from all this touring we’ll definitely set up a real regimen.

Jim: Before you ever hit the road, how often did you practice?

Rostam: We don’t, we just write new songs.

Chris: Maybe we’d have a practice before a show whenever we were playing in New York, which would maybe be every other week.

Jim: For the type of music you play, it seems like the band has to be pretty “tight”?

Rostam: I mean we fine-tune it as we go. I think that we’re all pretty good with our instruments–I think that helps.


Jim: Rostam, you’re the group’s super producer. Before you produced Vampire Weekend’s album, how much production experience did you have?

(left: Rostam Batmanglij)

Rostam: I guess throughout college I was always trying to record stuff and get better at it. By the end of school, I got better.

Jim: Any good recording stories? Did you guys have to sneak into anyone’s dorm room to record certain parts of the album?

Rostam: Chris Tomson, our drummer, he worked for the official radio station of Columbia [University], so that let him sign-out these practice rooms, that were originally built for bands to practice in. [The bands] were too loud, so they lost their practice [privileges]. The rooms were just left there for acapella groups–I guess those were the only people quiet enough to use them. We kind of did our own thing and got in there late at night. We started recording the drums for “Oxford Comma” in one of those rooms.

Jim: Was it all done in Pro Tools?

Rostam: Yes, all Pro Tools, so we could start on drums, and then bring it back to our apartments and add bass, strings, and vocals.

Jim: Will you produce the next Vampire Weekend album?

Chris: I would like Rostam to produce our [next] album. I think he did a good job on the first one.

Jim: Any pressure from “the powers that be” to enlist an outside producer?

Chris: We make all the decisions, it’s up to us.

Rostam: I’m tempted to work with other producers, I think it could be fun. I think I have an idea of how things could sound on our next album, and I’m excited to make it happen.

Jim: Anything in the can yet?

Rostam: We have a couple songs now that we can play live.

Jim: Can you explain the “flavor” of these songs?

Rostam: (laughs) I guess we’re trying to get deeper, in some ways, with African music. Hopefully the album will sound like a “grime” record. That’s all I’ll say.

Jim: Are you going to get Dizzee Rascal to rhyme on it?

Chris: We’re not opposed to that at all. I think Dizzee Rascal’s great.


Jim: Speaking of rapping, do you guys remember any of the hooks from Ezra Koenig’s (Vampire Weekend’s frontman) rap group, L’Homme Run?

(left: Columbia University rappers, L’Homme Run)

Rostam: Like I was saying before how I got better at recording throughout college, one of the things we did was record [L’Homme Run] songs in our dorm room.

Jim: Are those up on the internet?

Chris: The myspace page for L’Homme Run should still be up.

Jim: Rostam, you’re responsible for getting the world “crunk” in the Oxford English Dictionary?

Rostam: I guess so. I was an intern there one summer and at the end I got to choose three words and define them. At the Oxford English Dictionary they revise everything really extensively. Having read the final version [of “crunk”], it’s pretty close to what I had.

Jim: When was the first time you heard the word “crunk”?

Rostam: Maybe in the Outkast song.

Jim: Rosa Parks“?

Rostam: “Rosa Parks”–definitely. That was one of the citations we had in the database. They have a bunch of people who read and then send in examples of words that they think have not been defined yet.

Jim: Were there any other good words that were added when you were there?

Rostam: (laughs) Actually as funny as it may seem, I remember something about the word “blogosphere”.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.