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Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Monday 13th May, 2013 8:55AM

Vampire Weekend released their third studio album, Modern Vampires of the City last week. UTR caught up with Rostam Batmanglij about writing and recording this one, what the nihilistic title stands for an how the viral release of a fake album cover and tracklisting had no affect whatsoever on the release of their album-proper.

Hey there, how’s it going?


What are you up to at the moment?

Well my friend has an art opening on 31st Street and 8th Avenue and it’s kind of a big deal and I’m really proud of him.

So you’re in the middle of something? I’ll keep it brief...

No, the art opening’s lasting a few hours I don’t need to be there for every single minute of it.

Are you briefly back home in-between touring?

Yep that’s right.

How’s the new album being received live?

It seems like it’s going pretty well. People have only been able to listen to it at will starting yesterday when it started streaming on the iTunes music store. So a lot of interactions we’ve had with people about the songs have come through Twitter – people talking about what songs they know and love and their opinion about songs.

How has it been going from your end? It must be nice to have some new material.

Yeah it’s been fun, although some of the songs are demanding, you know. In the song ‘Step’ I play four different keyboard sounds, none of them at the same time, thank God, but I have to stay on my toes. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t written things that were quite so complex but I always give myself homework in that way.

When you’re recording you obviously don’t take into account how the tracks are going to be performed live?

We only think about the recording when we’re making the recording, that’s right.

Tell me about writing and recording this one – where and when did you do it?

Well, me and Ezra (Koenig) got together in my apartment. Then we took a trip to Martha’s Vineyard where we wrote together - after about a year of being in Brooklyn. The three songs that we started there were ‘Don’t Lie’, ‘Everlasting Arms’ and 'Hudson’. After we’d taken those trips we took all these recording sessions that we’d started to L.A and we started working on them with Ariel Rechtshaid who co-produced the album with me. Then we just started to figure out what we needed to do to finish the record.


When you wrote the songs was there anything you were particularly influenced or inspired by? Any idea thread that goes across the album?

Yeah there are a few things that we talked about. We talked about the idea of this city at night. We talked about organic sounds and I was really interested in the piano as a sound, and as a way to connect songs and the album together. It didn’t have to be on every song but it could have a power to it that made it a connective tissue.

When you take into consideration the title of the album, Modern Vampires of the City, along with track titles and the artwork, there seems to be darker themes on this album than previously. Is that a fair statement?

We just felt it was right to go in that direction – a little bit darker and a little bit deeper, too. We felt that was the right place to take what we were doing and the right place to grow as a band.

You have released a couple of video clips for the album now and they are all lyric videos. What made you decide to do that?

Well we like lyric videos because in a very basic sense they’re functional because people get to see the lyrics so they know the songs. On another level a song is going to end up on YouTube eventually so we figure why not have control. One idea I had was that we use this Phantom camera that shoots at 1000 frames per second. We thought about what would be cool to view at 1000 frames per second - what would look awesome moving that quickly? We had a connection at the MetLife building where we were allowed to shoot on the roof, and that was the 'Ya Hey' video. It all came together really quickly.

Going back to any themes across the album, the waste of the champagne and the inherent nihilism in that action fits with the album title Modern Vampires of the City. Is that a concept you were exploring?

Well it’s interesting that you can see that in there, I don’t know if that was a conscious move on our part. We don’t like to enclose any interpretations of our songs or our videos on what we do in general and we don’t like to make any one interpretation The Interpretation: we like to think of our songs as being open. But it’s interesting that you made that connection.

You guys have been based in New York for a while, and from an outsider’s perspective it seems like New York has a strong indepenedent music community. How have you found the music community and how has it changed since you’ve lived there?

Well, it’s hard to say how it’s changed. It’s changed in a lot of ways - Williamsburg has changed a hell of a lot. There used to be this club in the Lower East Side called Tonic and it doesn’t exist anymore, but I saw some amaing shows there. When that closed down in 2006 it kind of signalled the end of an era, and that was before we even graduated. The whole thing has become super commercialised. Venues that used to be scrapped together still exist but now there’s all these super commercialised venues and it’s all kind of become codified. It’s all very accessible. You can still find those small, scrappy shows – they still very much exist – but it’s fair to say that things have changed and the original spirit of it has grown into something different.

It’s definitely not what it used to be, but that’s true of everything. It’s all getting pushed outwards. Manhattan is too expensive to live in and now a lot of Brooklyn is just as expensive as Manhattan and everything has become equally-as-commercial. There is still cool stuff that happens when you go deeper into Brooklyn or Queens. You just have to know where to find it.

Speaking of things changing, the internet has changed the music industry forever. You probably get asked this during every single interview but how did the fake album (a design student making and releasing a fake album cover and tracklisting called Lemon Sounds) affect the release of your proper album?

Not at all - it had no affect whatsoever. It proves how clueless these websites are that they don’t verify anything. They don’t check facts or verify anything with our publicist. It’s pretty shameful when those websites post something and then delete those posts like it never happened. At the end of the day that album cover is pretty far away from our real album cover.

The internet has also meant bands have to tour a lot more. You’ve been in this modern cycle for a while now, how do you find it?

It’s a necessary thing to do now because you’ve got to get your music out there. At least we have laptops so we can work on music and lyrics while we’re travelling but you’re right, we have to tour a lot.


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