For a man who sings v a band whose last two albums visited No. 1, Ezra Koenig is comfortably anonymous in his neighborhood. Walking indigenous his Lower east Side apartment come a adjacent café, just one passerby seems to slip into an “I recognize that man from somewhere” expression. Koenig orders a cafe Americano and also talks about the crossroads he and the rest of Vampire Weekend to be at before releasing their critically acclaimed “Modern Vampires that the City” album in May.
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The new album is — ns hesitate come say this — much more mature. Was it a score to have it be much more mature? That constantly seems to have actually a an adverse connotation in music.
Well, because that me that was sort of an anti-goal. I was scared of make music the was too mature. And not due to the fact that I think the there’s something wrong v your tastes changing or your outlook changing as you get older, however the idea of do a maturation album connotes every kinds the whack things to me. There are just very couple of people that ns think have actually gotten more mature and better, so it’s virtually like friend don’t want to think about maturity or anything prefer that. You simply want to keep doing what you’re doing.
Sometimes we had actually to struggle to uncover the center ground. At the very least one that my favorite songs the we worked on in the recording procedure was an additional kind of slow-moving piano ballad, and also it to be cool and it had actually a lot of going for it, but if that had actually been ~ above the album it would have been one too numerous slow songs. … and it’s not since I don’t enjoy slow songs, but you have to an obstacle yourself to uncover the energy and also excitement. You deserve to express the exact same idea in a variety of different ways. And I think a great album has range anyways. Ns think we had actually to make sure there to be still part punky, energetic songs on there.
It absolutely does feel choose an album, in the feeling that there’s a cohesive running order, the songs segue right into one an additional smoothly, and there space a many recurring themes. In this particular day of the $1.29 single, how crucial is it come you to have actually a complete album that provides a statement?
That’s simply the means that i think. My entirety life, I’ve always thought in regards to albums, even though i love singles and also I don’t necessarily worth the album art type over a career of an excellent singles. There’s many of world that I placed in the singles category who are no worse than people who make an excellent albums. Yet for me, personally, even when ns was a kid, in bands in high school, we constantly used to do albums, even though us were a little bit unprepared to execute so.
I was hanging out with a friend of mine from high school and we were talking about our band’s discography
So probably it is just a vestigial quirk, yet a many the method that ns think about lyrics is album oriented too. There have to be connections in between them, and I think Rostam thinks around things in the same way in regards to music. We try to have actually there it is in something cohesive happening, at least for these very first three albums.
It’s amazing that you made decision a producer that is known for producing hit singles, through Ariel Rechtshaid having created “Hey there Delilah” for plain White T’s and also “Climax” for Usher.
He has developed Cass McCombs albums too! It’s an excellent to have actually your feet in both worlds. I’ll recognize as a listener, I probably listen much more to singles than full albums, however maybe that’s since I’m tough to please. I haven’t been that impressed in a while. However a an excellent album has to have songs the you have the right to take out and take away.
On a an excellent album, every song can be somebody’s favourite song. And also they might think that one song is not really because that them, but another song can be, and it i do not care a “single” because that them. I recognize in ours band and a many bands I flourished up liking, a many the favourite songs are singles. We’ve had singles that are really different from few of the deeper cuts on the album. It makes the band much more interesting to have actually those different sides.
When girlfriend signed approximately be rwandachamber.org’s distinct guest, we had brainstormed a format component, wherein we itemized each component of your outfit, however you males didn’t it seems ~ to like that idea. Why not?
I prefer talking around style, conceptually, however when I have to talk around what ns wearing, ns feel embarrassed. I don’t understand why i look at it so differently. I don’t think yes sir anything lightweight or frivolous about fashion or style, however CT and I went to the VMAs the other week and occasionally world would stop and say, “What room you wearing?” and I just wanted to be like, “A suit.” yet if we could do something on Ralph…
Ralph Lifshitz from the Bronx.
AKA Ralph Lauren…
OK, so ns don’t follow fashion that closely. Is Ralph Lauren a designer you’re yes, really into?
I provided to be a small bit more, yet I’ll constantly have a soft spot for the brand and the fun of the made-up human being that they put together. Someone was telling me that someone they knew was composing a book about all the these people that came from the Bronx in the same era. It’s exciting to me since that’s whereby my dad’s next of the family members is from and also where mine dad thrived up. Ralph Lauren and also this guy Mickey Drexler, who now runs J. Crew and also who had previously type of conserved the Gap and is sort of a fashion/business icon. Even Calvin Klein is indigenous the Bronx.
What’s interesting about the Bronx being next to Manhattan is the there’s some sort of power being just outside of wherein the action’s happening. I feel somewhat similar being from brand-new Jersey, back the Bronx is a different vibe and also is various socioeconomically. If girlfriend look at all of these world that came from the Bronx, and hip-hop come from the Bronx, Manhattan is more the facility of activity, yet as far as human being who come the end of it the Bronx probably has actually it beat.
Sense of ar has constantly been critical part the the Vampire Weekend aesthetic. In this album you cite so numerous different places — Phoenix, Providence, Los Angeles, etc. — but as a entirety this album seems to be the first one come be committed to new York City.
All of our albums have had some new York references, yet this is the first one that ns truly assumed of together being set in new York. I mean, when you live in new York, obviously it is going to always be a type of house base, however yeah, the an initial album was very much new England. In some means you might consider brand-new York to it is in an honorary part of new England, because I feel like once you acquire past brand-new York, brand-new England is totally done. But this is the an initial one whereby I believed of brand-new York as truly gift the center of it.
In our band we’ve constantly talked a lot about vibe, i beg your pardon is not distinctive to us, since music is frequently hard to define so you often have to talk in regards to vibe. Sometimes you have to be like, “Meh, the vibe is wrong,” or “We’re going for this type of vibe,” but a vibe is really a vague set of principles that somehow produce a entirety that’s better than the sum of the parts, and also to me that’s why locations are so valuable in terms of thinking about albums. Because that’s what a place is! new York has a vibe, Boston has a vibe, London has a vibe, but what is a city? that a mishmash of different people, most of whom don’t even talk to each other, different neighborhoods that occasionally don’t even cross paths and different places, but somehow we still feel like there is something bigger.
Do you do sure as soon as you namecheck a city that you do have actually experience there?
It depends on the song. Prefer on the an initial album, every one of the Cape Cod locations that i namechecked were places that ns actually had actually been, albeit somewhat briefly. However like on the song “Step” top top this album, there is a many namechecking, and also I’ve never been to someplace choose Dar es Salaam, but component of that track is about somebody who in the start is talking about how they to be going all of these various places, yet really ago at residence is wherein they really have to number things out.
That track “Step” is additionally the one whereby you song the line around a usually mouse. The last time friend dropped a recording artist’s name — Peter Gabriel in “Cape cod Kwassa Kwassa” — he finished up spanning the song. To be you hoping that Modest Mouse can do the exact same with this?
That would certainly be exciting, if they wanted to.
In the video, the phrase is no in location case. Does the lyric really have anything to execute with the tape Modest Mouse?
Not really. I witnessed some kids on Twitter and also YouTube debating, “Is that a recommendation to the tape or is that a referral to Virginia Woolf?” since that’s where they acquired their name, indigenous a phrase that she used. However to me — and this is tough to describe without sounding too highfalutin — basically that totality song, “Step,” can sometimes give the impression of gift a bunch of arbitrarily words and also phrases placed together, which ns think at times people have accused Vampire Weekend lyrics of being something favor that, just random s— put together, however to me that track is sort of making use of that randomness, yet still actually informing a story.
It’s kind of like a conversation in between two people and also rather 보다 somebody saying, “Oh, you’re talk yourself up” or “You’re being immodest,” they would say that in a referencey method and speak to somebody a usual mouse, probably sarcastically. It’s referencey since of the band and also because the band’s surname is a referral too. It’s certainly no type of a commentary or recommendation to their music, but it’s simply the idea of somebody calling a usually mouse.
The lyrics that you sing many in that song almost seem like an apt description of where Vampire Weekend space in 2013, “the gloves room off, the wisdom teeth room out.”
Yeah, to me that’s just a highfalutin referencey method to describe farming up. Also in that component about the modest mouse thing, the line prior to that, yes sir a reference to a Jandek album.
That’s funny. I got that reference, yet then thought, “No, they can not be to express that!” and I just assumed “ready for the house” was some poker or gambling term or miscellaneous that i wasn’t familiar with.
It simply seemed funny come me come tell a story or display a conversation that’s entirely made the end of references, because it deserve to be meaningful. I’m certainly not trying come make any kind of connection in between Jandek and Modest Mouse. A conversation prefer that can feel random, however to me that tune makes much more sense than practically any track I’ve ever done.
If we can backtrack a little, i don’t think us quite tired the layout discussion. Once Vampire Weekend first came out, a lot of people were paying fist to her style. Just how much consideration went right into that? to be it a mindful thing or was it you guys just wearing onstage what you to be wearing anyway?
It was both. My tastes had currently leaned toward the preppy side, however in a somewhat detached way. The not favor I grew up dressing that means exactly. But by the moment I gained to college ns got an ext interested in wearing watercraft shoes and also finding old Lacoste shirts at thrift stores, and also for me the was very much tied up v the music and with the principles in the music and also the idea of having actually a preppy band just seemed funny and also fun. Therefore when people talked about it, it no surprising. Also in the songs there are referrals to clothes, and also it’s an extremely much tied into the cloth — no pun intended — of that first album and also those early songs.
What surprised me was the civilization didn’t have the very same sense that humor towards it as I did. Occasionally I’d wear fairly extreme things. I offered to have this yellow Polo sweater v dogs on it, which come me is so funny and insane the it surprised me that anybody would check out somebody put on something favor that and also be like, “These males are favor prep college villains.” So the was surprising that no everybody got in on the joke, yet as you gain older, you establish that no everybody is going to have the very same super-specific feeling of humor in the direction of these things. That complicated. It’s not that I find preppy apparel or preppiness despicable and also it’s a huge joke, nor do I discover it completely natural.
I think the backlash probably had to carry out with the reality that never prior to had a preppy band really existed. Rock ‘n’ roll is no traditionally the domain of this kind of person.
I’ve stated this a few times before in interviews, however if friend look at the method people dress now— and I’m not saying that we were the reason of it, yet we were just in the right location at the appropriate time, once things were transforming — but definitely human being who would have previously looked at boat shoes and button-down shirts as being some uptight method of dressing, that now seems favor a really normal, neutral method for a hipster/yuppie/normal dude come dress. Every one of these things are just signifiers and at the time, these were just exciting signifiers come play with. Now, they’re not quite as interesting. They supplied to mean a lot of more. They offered to get human being hot under the collar.
Hot underneath the popped collar!
Exactly! however now nobody’s going come care. That’s how every little thing works though. Things mean something and then they resolve down and also don’t mean anything anymore.
It feels prefer your band has actually grown out of things in a similar way. A song around an Oxford comma or walking across campus simply wouldn’t right on the “Modern Vampires the the City” album. Conversely, the would have actually been monster if you were singing around mortality as lot as girlfriend do currently on the first album.
For me, personally, ~ above a simple level, I more than likely have end up being a bit more melancholy at this phase of my life than I was once I to be 21. Yet I think the natural. Once we made our first album, and also when those an initial songs were written — and also maybe this is why people associated to it — the album plainly gave off a collegiate vibe. Everything about it provides that aura, and also that’s exactly how old us were when those songs to be written.
In the an extremely early days, right about the time that I began writing “Oxford Comma” and also Rostam started writing “Campus,” the was every there. Choose anybody, whether you’re in college or in your early 20s, doing whatever, yes sir a sense that it’s an eternal springtime. And that’s also true because that a band that’s making their first album. For this reason we had that threefold: A bunch of young cats, fresh the end of college, suddenly people have attention in ours band! That environment was in the air. And also then once you carry out something a 2nd time it’s quiet exciting, and also you’re building and you start to obtain to the third time, and also unless you’re a complete craven careerist, you’re walk to pause a little bit and also be like, “OK, therefore we’re act this for a 3rd time. We’re now 5 or 6 years enlarge than once we started. Is this just a job? are we simply banging out commodities of varying degrees of quality, based on an initial template? Or are we trying to perform something different?” for this reason that best there is an introspective question.
You don’t have to ask you yourself too much like, “Who to be I? Who space we?” on your first two albums, since a good band normally starts and also a bunch of concepts are there and you’re excited. Yet if we had actually made “Contra” component Two that wouldn’t have actually worked. As soon as “Contra” come out, to me that seemed very different from the an initial album, but in some means the very first album is choose A and the second album is choose A Prime. It’s favor a many the same principles taken come a brand-new level. This album does feeling a small different. And also those an initial two to be a small closer with each other in time, for this reason that’s normally going to feeling a little different. However if we had made an additional album that was too close to the an initial two, ns think the fans most likely would have actually been a small bored and also we would have been a little bored.
You have actually to come to be a tiny bit much more introspective to figure out why you should keep gift a band. If your an initial batch of principles run out of steam a tiny bit, you need to stop and also ask what it way to be a band or a songwriter. Due to the fact that it’s very easy to succumb come the pressure of simply feeling like, “Time to make an album…” sometimes that can produce other that’s an excellent and casual and quick, but that wouldn’t have operated for united state this time. Possibly in the future. I don’t desire to invest every three years of my life obsessing over this.
When friend paused and also asked yourselves if you to be in this together a career, what was the answer you come at? I’ve review that you have said these three albums were like a trilogy. For this reason that means a chapter has actually closed now. What is the following chapter?
I’m not sure. It’s a funny time as soon as you job-related so difficult on an album and also then you finally finish it and then did you do it just obtained to walk on tour and also get right into the drudgery of touring. It leaves you in a funny place. There room times when I think of few of the leftover ingredient from this album; some of the stuff that stylistically wasn’t quite right or that us didn’t have time come finish, and also I think, “Man, it’s going come be exciting to work on the stuff and also to get ago into it and work top top the following album!”
And also this album has carried us to a ar where the comforting to know that there are world who have actually been true fans of our band for 6 years now. And also they’ve watched us readjust and make really different types of song on different albums, for this reason it’s comforting to know that there are human being like that the end there, due to the fact that that provides you feel like as lengthy as it’s good, you deserve to kind of do whatever you want, whereas occasionally people’s fans have the right to be a little bit much more judgmental. Ns feel like we’re in a good place, creatively. The next album have the right to be one of a million things. We don’t have to develop a specific sound or anything prefer that.
And friend have had the deluxe of having experimented through so plenty of different things prefer auto-tuning and also pitch-shifting, so that if you experiment more, you recognize that those fans will have actually your back, right? I do seem come recall part outcry once there was auto-tune ~ above the second album, but now that you’ve done that, it will certainly be harder to make human being say, “Where the hell go THIS come from?”
Certainly not. It’s like we desire every track to be somebody’s favorite, and also we want every album to it is in somebody’s favorite. And also in some means I feel like our greatest success is that we’ve made three albums of which large numbers of world consider each to it is in the best. What an ext could friend ask for? it is the hardest thing to pull off. Sometimes everybody likes the very first album the best, a handful of civilization like the second album the best and nobody likes the 3rd album the best. I was yes, really happy to watch in the an answer from fans, people were saying that this new album, world were saying, “This is my favorite album!” it’s not due to the fact that I have actually a chip on mine shoulder it is like, “I want human being to like this album more than the an initial two!” I simply want there to exist world in the universe who might feel that way, since that renders me feel like we’re tho earning your trust. Us haven’t begun the coasting duration yet.
And as soon as does that begin?
I think the coasting period begins as soon as you put out two consecutive albums that nobody thinks room your best. However people still concerned your reflects to listen the old shit and also people space still sort of interested in you.
It’s amazing to hear you speak around the fans so much and how plugged right into their opinions you are. From the music you do it i will not ~ seem choose you to be seeking approval.
Given just how many civilization — critics and also random civilization — hated ~ above us when we an initial came out, we need to have a somewhat flexible relationship to what civilization think.
But it is not exactly what this whole people of music the we get involved in is about. As shortly as you start releasing albums, you are out there cultivating yourself and promoting your product. You can not front and be like, “I simply made this because that me! Why is everybody giving it grades and also writing about it and expressing your opinions about it?” You can not say that. If you truly feel that way, then do music for yourself and also get a day-job. So that’s what that is. That’s the bargain. Together nice together it would be to not care what human being think, we’re constantly going to treatment what human being think, to part degree.
If you truly think in and also love pop music, the means that we do (and i’m considering ourselves pop music, and also taking the large view) and if you thrived up obsessing around pop music and also idolizing world like The Clash or Radiohead or Prince, who were able to have actually long careers in i beg your pardon they readjusted a lot, part of that is since in enhancement to following their own visions, they were additionally able to produce things the mattered to people. I think the it’s really cool the The Clash come out and also made this at an early stage punk album that had all this energy and also got human being talking, and also then 6 or 7 years later on they make this dancey hip-hop song around the Middle east that was favor a vast hit. Ns think that cool that at those 2 bookends of your career, they linked with people. It’s not simply cool that they readjusted stylistically. That cool that they did it well and that castle did it in a method that mattered come people.
I think to not care around what civilization think is in some ways not to take part in the grand legacy of pop music. The a pretty fantasy to imagine that it i will not ~ matter. However if our fans completely rejected one album and also nobody liked it, ns would need to blame oneself that us f—ed up, ns think. As soon as I look approximately at world who are an extremely popular, favor Drake, Kanye, The Weeknd (I’m simply thinking of people that I saw at the VMAs) ns think the the world isn’t stupid. Artists can take risks, do various shit and also it can entirely work. It’s not like the civilization is so conservative, you understand I think you will do be kidding you yourself if you tried to take it solace in some outdated idea the people’s tastes room so conservative or reactionary the they just don’t obtain it.
But the thing around people “not obtaining it” is that it can be advantageous when it come up for reconsideration 10 year later! girlfriend know, we talked about if a band renders two poor albums. What if they only make one negative album, yet it’s not really that bad, but just front of that time?
That’s true. Although I have actually a feeling that through music from that past 10 years, you’re walking to obtain a lot much less things that entirely slip v the cracks, just due to the fact that of the means that music criticism and also the Internet and also the voices that the fans are heard now. Yes sir so numerous ways to move approximately the old-school music machine that it to be a much much more plausible script in the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s. Someone releases one album now and the right human being don’t listen it? That simply doesn’t happen. Did you watch that big Star movie?
Yeah, yet the thing around them the I never ever knew prior to was the they yes, really didn’t tour! ns interviewed Jody Stephens for that movie, and I was questioning him around touring and he said aside from a couple of one-off gigs and also strategically booked shows, they never really toured! The movie type of glosses end that and that aspect seems conveniently left out of the big Star legend when world consider this exceptional band that was therefore tragically overlooked. But what you’re saying does it seems to be ~ to make sense. Ns mean, Nick Drake wouldn’t have fallen with the cracks if he’d had actually a MySpace page in 2007.
Right. And it doesn’t median he would have been Bob Dylan, yet he would have actually been able come tour, that would have had many fans, and large Star is type of the same in that way. Yet I don’t think the can take place today. There can be some great albums that nobody’s played for anybody though.
Is there even anybody the you’re privy to that you think could use an ext exposure?
Nobody comes to mind, yet maybe that’s because I’ve been the end on the road and also I’m a little bit the end of touch so i don’t recognize too many people who space just beginning out. I carry out feel like a the majority of stuff the gets released it s okay a fair shake. Usually, one way or another, an audience comes to it. … that is tough for me come think that anybody the is truly gaining slept on.
I walk on a drive last week and also I was listening to the A$AP Ferg album. I thought there were some really an excellent songs ~ above it, I favored his vibe and also I think that a well-crafted album. And then I experienced it debuted in the height 10, and it’s his an initial album and I to be like, “Well, that seems around right.” it is cool that human being are excited around that. … He’s part of the A$AP Mob and also it has a lot of in common, stylistically, with the A$AP Rocky stuff, and also Bone Thugs-N-Harmony room actually ~ above a track and there are various other songs whereby he actually sings choose Bone Thugs. And sometimes he gets right into this crazy nearly Jamaican patois thing. It’s simply a very vibey album. He’s likewise got really consistent imagery throughout, prefer the album is called, “Trap Lord,” and there’s a song called “Hood Pope.” … I’d listened to plenty of A$AP Rocky, but I didn’t understand too much about Ferg.
We speak briefly about the themes that mortality top top “Modern Vampires the the City,” yet let’s talk about it a tiny more. Did somebody close come you die recently?No, nobody close to me died, but some people close come me have started talking about death a lot of more. Very sewing I have actually not experienced a major loss, but aging and the transforms it brings about I feel choose are somewhat influential in my life, however in the way that it is because that everybody. For me, mortality and also the method we think around aging, dying and also death is something that is such an obvious part of the human experience. In ~ any component in your life, the can come to be a big concern or something the you think about, whether you think around it in a fearful, negative means or just in a philosophical way.
Some people, it happens when you’re 14. Ns think for me, it likewise has to perform with what we were talking around with the very first two albums gift this sirloin of excitement and newness and also then unexpectedly you simply kind that pause. And maybe a little bit too much time to ruminate on definition and purpose; ingredient that’s probably better to just keep her head down and also work. Yet that’s the only negative thing about not having a 9-to-5, is having actually a small too much time to think.
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Vampire Weekend kick turn off their tour at the Mann facility for Performing art in philly on Sept. 19. They play the Barclays facility in Brooklyn the next night on Sept. 20.