Interview | The Vaccines

Three years since their UK #1 record Come of AgeEnglish rockers The Vaccines are back with their highly anticipated third album English Graffiti, out later this month. Recorded at Tarbox Road Studios in New York, the record was co-produced by industry heavyweights Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala, Sleater-Kinney’s The Woods) and Cole MGN (Ariel Pink, Beck). The Vaccines will take the stage at Splendour in the Grass this July as well as Sydney and Melbourne sideshows and we had a chat to bassist/vocalist Árni Árnason about how English Graffiti came to be. 

You just came off a completely sold out UK tour a month ago, how’d you find the shows playing new material? 
Yeah they were great, it was great to be back. It was relatively intimate, they were relatively smaller rooms which was on purpose as it’s a new album we had no idea what kind of tour we should be doing. It was really interesting and intimate. It’s been really good fun to play new material and it’s been going down pretty well. Now we’ve got a catalogue of songs – I think you can say that after three albums. You can call it a catalogue right? I feel like the context sort of elevates the music. I feel like after three albums you can more easily see what a band means more than what it is.

English Graffiti is out in a few weeks and you guys recorded at Tarbox Road Studios in New York – what was it like working with Dave Fridmann?
Yeah, it was like a dream come true. I think anybody that’s a big fan of music is a fan of Dave’s. When you start making music as a teenager and there’s a list of producers that you want to work with – which isn’t particularly long – Dave’s name is on that list. It was an honour and an incredible experience.

Your last album was hugely successful, did you guys feel any kind of pressure going in to record again?
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do something totally different. We didn’t have any external pressure. I feel like, in retrospect, we may have gone a bit too quickly into the second album and it could have benefited from a bit more thought going in to bringing it into a new age. We’re still very proud of it but the third album was very important to us that it became something totally different.

It’s been three years since Come of Age – is this album a compilation of songs written over these past few years or did you guys write with the intention of making an album?
A combination of the two – it’s quite a strange mixture actually. Half of the album wasn’t written until October 2014 – we wrote a lot of material for this album. This time around we wrote without any inhibitions and allowed ourselves to experiment with sounds and genres and styles that we’d never dreamt of doing before. That took a long time on the journey so the music that’s on the album isn’t particularly old. The process of getting to that music was a long and winding and strange road.

You mentioned wanting to make something totally different with this new record and I read something you guys said about wanting to make a record that “sounds like 2015”. How does this album differ in that regard to your past releases? 
I think we had mistaken timelessness with being of the time. A lot of our favourite albums, like most people’s, are time defining albums. By being defined by the culture of that time, they become timeless. We’d sort of always assumed that if we made a record that sounded like it had been recorded in the last fifty years, it would be timeless music. This time around, we wanted to make an album that was reflective of the culture of it’s time.

What kind of stuff did you listen to growing up?
I was quite a big pop fan as a kid. I used to sit with the local pop radio station on as a kid and record mix tapes off them. I got really into hip hop as a teenager but I mostly just listened to Tu Pac. It wasn’t until I was about 13 that I picked up a bass. Like a week later, I was playing Nirvana covers on stage. That changed everything, then I became a punk kid and a hardcore kid. So, lots of different stuff at different stages in my life.

What have you been listening to lately?
My favourite band in the world at the moment is a brand new band from New Jersey but they’re based in LA, HO99O9 (Horror). That’s like the most dangerous music I’ve heard in years. I’m a big fan of dangerous sounding music.

You guys will be back in Australia in a couple of months, is there anything that you’re keen to do while you
It’s nice to return to places that you’ve been before because you’ve met people and made mates and you’ve got your favourite restaurants and cafes. We associate Australia with January/February because we usually go then – and it’s quite a shock to the system to go there around that time. It’ll be nice to go in July this time.

What’s else is coming up this year that you’re excited about?
The time around a new album coming out is alway an exciting time. There will be lots of festivals around the world this summer and that’s always exciting as well.

English Graffiti is out May 22 via Sony Music / Columbia Records.  

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