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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”.

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