|Featured Band (9): The Vaccines - Rock Fundamentalists|
|Written by DJ Space|
|Wednesday, 22 December 2010 23:00|
"I don't consider our songs to be growers that take ten listens to get into," Frontman Justin Young said. "People will either like us or they won't, it's that simple." The band is called The Vaccines. It's Jay Jay Pistolet and Freddie Cowan, younger brother of Tom from The Horrors. The Vaccines' tracks are short - similar to American Hardcore punk - but played in the style of good, old-fashioned Rock'n'Roll. In fact, the music's so retro, it's Pop. It's like listening to the Ramones, The Beach Boys, and The Shadows, all playing with the distorted guitars of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
This London band only played its first-ever show two months ago and just released its debut single, but will make its American debut headling Bowery Ballroom, New York on January 20 and then play Glasslands two days later. In October, the Vaccines played their first London concert. An audience of nearly three hundred included Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Marcus Mumford, members of White Lies and The Maccabees, and a few journalists. More than two hundred were locked outside, including some of the band's friends and Nick Hodgson of the Kaiser Chiefs.
"On the strength of just a demo and a soon-to-be-released debut single, nearly 300 people have turned up for the Vaccines' first hometown gig [Flowerpot, London]; another 200 have had to be turned away," Betty Clarke reported in the Guardian.
"Young, having eschewed his previous persona as the acoustic guitar-wielding Jay Jay Pistolet, has ample opportunity to use his sore throat to his advantage as he roars through the Vaccines' retro-flavoured rock'n'roll. On record the Vaccines wallow in the echo-drenched wooziness made famous by the Jesus and Mary Chain, but live they reach back further through pop's past glories, stirring the shimmering girl group drama conjured by Phil Spector and scuzzed up by the Ramones."
"Diving into the less-than-two minute wonder of Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra), Young, dressed in a striped shirt with neatly folded short sleeves, looks like a pre-sandpit Brian Wilson. Grabbing a rhythm guitar, he spits out the short, impudent singalong If You Wanna, before jumping in among the gleefully dancing hordes."
"Young's big, blank voice works well against Freddie Cowan's elastic rhythms and atmospheric keyboards and, despite drummer Pete Robertson's sprinting beat and Anri Hjorvar's solid bass, the excitement comes from these two. Jostling for centre stage, fighting for the photographers' attention or lining up beside one another to take on all comers, there's a Libertines-like frisson as Young and Cowan push the curt melodies towards stadium greatness."
"We were convinced nobody was going to show up," Guitarist Freddie Cowan told Dave Simpson, also of the Guardian. The band, he says, arrived to find an empty venue, went upstairs and came back down to find it packed. On The Vaccines' first tour, the band's packing out small venues and generating wild enthusiasm.
"The reason for the excitement is that the quartet have emerged at a point when British rock is sorely lacking in genuinely thrilling guitar bands," Dave Simpson reported in November. "The Vaccines, who play catchy surf punk gift-wrapped in walls of noise, seem to fill a hole that no one realised was there.
"We wanted to be as direct as possible," Young told Dave Simpson. "Because no one's really doing that. All the good guitar bands are sonically interesting, but it's very 'clever' – put on your headphones and you'll hear something new on the 10th listen. I like music in that vein but we're the antithesis of that. It's straight-up rock'n'roll that people will either get or not within the first few seconds."
“It’s about trying to capture that click we feel when we play, some real energy,” Young explained to The Fly. “Sometimes you just want to hear three chords…I think that’s what people want and need at the moment.”
"We didn't set out to exploit any gap in the market," Young commented to DIS. "There are plenty of guitar bands out there, but just not any that are making the same kind of pop music as us."
"The songs are all short and bittersweet, some even coming in at under the two-minute mark, and they make a sound that is a sort of poppy west coast take on dour'n'dirty New York drone-rock," Paul Lester told Guardian readers in October. "Imagine the Mary Chain on happy pills."
"Young's got a good voice for this kind of thing. It's just strong enough, almost soulful, but it's also got the requisite blankness to convey – and we're guessing at their lyrical concerns here – numbness, nihilism and all the other stuff appropriate to the milieu."
Young was once in a Powerviolence band, and then played as Nu-folk aspirant Jay Jay Pistolet. "Pop's the ultimate arena where you can reinvent yourself."
He was born Justin James Hayward-Young – inheriting his surname from Walter Hayward-Young, a noted postcard painter of the late 19th century. Young is well-spoken, writes on acoustic guitar, and loves wildlife. Growing up in England's New Forest, he moved to London to study history at King's College, bought a guitar and mixed with the burgeoning London new folk scene. Young led a double-life, skipping lectures while touring, and he once lived with Marcus Mumford. "I wasn't moving in with the singer of an albums-selling band. He was just another kid with a guitar."
"The milieu is back-to-basics rock'n'roll, the Vaccines riding into town to reassert rock's fundamentals and kick all those prissy Klaxons and Vampire Weekends – and Drums – into touch." Young explained, "I'd always liked faster music and thought: 'Maybe I should do something completely opposite.'"
Young is known for his alter ego, folk rock troubadour Jay Jay Pistolet. Cowan is the brother of Tom Cowan, better known as The Horrors' guitarist Tomethy Furse. The band was formed a year ago by a mutual friend who then quit. Cowan quit music college after three weeks because he felt it stifled creativity. He brings the noise and distortion to the band. Arni Arnason was an Icelandic youth worker. The demos landed on the desk of Franz Ferdinand's management and the band hasn't looked back.
"Me and Freddie started the band with a friend who quit soon after," Justin Young told DIS in November. "To be honest, when we started it wasn't a calculated thing to make fast guitar music. We just started messing around with some song ideas and it was almost like a happy accident really in the way the songs developed."
The Vaccines consists of Justin Young (vocals, guitar), Freddie Cowan (guitar), Anri Hjorvar (bass), and Pete Robertson (drums), and recently signed to indie label Marshall Teller.
"There actually wasn't a scramble at all," Young commented. "We signed a small modest deal with Columbia Records before our London show recently, and to my knowledge there were no other labels taking an interest."
"The deal itself didn't include an advance payment or anything like that," he added. "It is purely focused on us and they haven't imposed any timescales or tried to tailor us in a certain direction. They just want us to get out there and play to as many people as possible, which is what we intend to do for the rest of this year."
After attracting considerable interest in the summer with its demo track, "If You Wanna," the band released its debut single "Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra) / Blow It Up" at the end of November. The video of "Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra) can be viewed here .
The quartet has been together properly for about four months and is influenced by “’50s rock ‘n’ roll, ’60s garage and girl groups, ‘70s punk, ‘80s American hardcore, C86 and good pop music.” The debut album - “recorded completely live, straight to the point, no overdubs” – will follow at the start of next year.
"To me there are two ways of making a record. The first one is deliberating over it for months and creating a personal masterpiece that sounds three dimensional the first time you listen to it through headphones, and then the other way is just to capture a moment," Young said. "We haven't used any tricks. I don't consider our songs to be growers that take ten listens to get into. People will either like us or they won't, it's that simple."
"We've been recording it with a guy called Dan Grech, who also works as Nigel Godrich's engineer... but in terms of arrangements we'd pretty much decided all that ourselves before going into the studio," he continued. "He's just taken care of the recording process."
"If You Wanna, the demo that got a lot of blog attention at the end of the summer, rattles along at a surf-pop pace, but there's squeal in there, and feedback, and reverb/echo/delay," Paul Lester told Guardian readers.
"The first single proper, Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra), is one minute and 24 seconds' worth of Ramones-style ramalama... it's like the Drums with squall, more fierce than fey," he continued. "It starts virtually at the chorus, then it ends before you've had a chance to decide whether it's CBGBs revisited, a burst of pop noise worthy of Creation Records circa 1986, or merely tiresomely derivative."
BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe has tipped The Vaccines, announcing, "a band that will kickstart a new era".
Clash magazine declared the band, "a game changer, that will launch a hundred wannabees".
"They play some classic rock'n'roll. It's catchy as hell and packaged nicely in a handy three-minute dose," SoundoftheOverground said.
The "demo from new UK band The Vaccines floored us when we heard it. Eddie Cochran meets The Jesus And Mary Chain by way of Stiff Records? We love it!" Alternapop wrote.
The Vaccines, suddenly fielding "the kind of hyperbole that hits British pop once or twice a decade," gives a cautious response. Young says he's "a worrier" and fears there will be a backlash.
"The downside of media attention is that people don't ask 'Are this band good?' but 'Are they as good as people say?'" Young explained. "But we didn't start the band to be great white hopes. We started the band to be in York tonight playing to 100 people. Y'know, we're in a room above a pub, and it's raining. It's not a 'pinch yourself' existence."
"We're playing on the NME tour at the start of next year, so it is non-stop really I guess. It's all very well being surrounded by hype and buzz but I've always been really wary of bands that build their houses on sand, so what we want to do is play as many places as we can and build the band up in the right way, and we're quite happy to play wherever we can whenever we can."
"The band don't create media interest - the media do, then funnily enough the media then complain about all the media interest," he added. "We're really happy with our songs and very confident that we're a good band, but we certainly weren't expecting as many people to prick up their ears at this stage."
Based on The Vaccines experience, Young's advice to other bands is to "avoid hype at all costs!"
"We're going to be putting out another single in January, and the album's almost finished so hopefully that will be released in the early part of 2011 as well."
The next single, "Post Break-Up Sex" is now available to pre-order at the iTunes store. "Post-break-up sex makes you forget your ex/ What else did you expect from post-break-up sex?" Lyricist Young penned. The video can be viewed here .
"The Chinese whispers that preceeded the arrival of The Vaccines was something to behold," the NME wrote in the summer. "For about a fortnight every 'in-the-know' music industry type I came across would speak of this mysterious new London rock'n'roll outfit who were set to be the future of everything."
"Key members had been in other known bands, so the legend went, some were family members of other notable acts, or something to that effect," it added. "They make indie rock'n'roll that makes total sense... but with something scorched and woozy sounding of its own. It's ace."
“If you look at our website,” Cowan commented, “there are a load of film stills and videos that we used to send to each other when we first formed. Often pictures can convey more than you can actually say, so it’s the opposite of trying to keep people out really, it’s showing them completely what we’re all about.”
"The Vaccines are a name that's on the tip of everyone's tongues right now," DIS reported. "Having been together for less than a year, the hotly tipped London four-piece seem to be carrying the whole future of UK guitar music on their shoulders."
"We don't create the hype and we aren't in control of it. We're not the ones saying we're the next big thing," Young responded. "It's other people who are saying that so surely the weight is on their shoulders not ours? Secondly, we've all been in bands before - I've been playing in various bands for twelve years - so we know what we're letting ourselves in for. This time last year I was driving up and down the M1 every other day to do shows to no more than about twenty people so I don't feel guilty about the attention this band is getting because we've all put a lot of hard work in over the years. I feel it's taken a long time for me to get recognised so perhaps these bands who are critical of us should really be concentrating on their own music rather than ours."
"It's never been easier for bands to progress than it is nowadays," Cowan added. "You have so many ways of networking via the Internet that bands from small towns don't have to move to London any more. There are so many amazing opportunities for bands to put themselves on a pedestal without having to wait around for someone else to do it for them."
"We're touring for the rest of this year and then we're going to be on the road pretty much for the first three months of next year," Young said.
"Its pretty non-stop," Cowan confirmed.
"I like feeding of the audience, so to me the best thing about being is a band is playing a live show," Young told Betty Clarke.
"You get satisfaction from recording - our album has been recorded live pretty much so far for example - but it's not the same as performing in front of an audience," Cowan said.
"That's more like creative satisfaction rather than the raw energy of a live show."
"I guess if this all goes wrong we'll probably look back and wish there were some things we could have changed, maybe from a songwriting point of view at any rate," Young concluded.
"We really haven't done much," Young told Dave Simpson. "Later [with Jools Holland] was different, because it was an opportunity to play the songs. But we're playing everywhere we can, and the people getting behind us are doing it because they genuinely like the band. We can't really feel guilty for that. We're doing everything the right way."
The video of The Vaccines playing "If You Wanna" on "Later... with Jools Holland" can be viewed here .
"It feels a bit like when Franz Ferdinand suddenly appeared," Alison Howe, the producer of "Later … With Jools Holland," commented. Howe booked the Vaccines for the TV show without them having released anything, an honour previously granted to Adele and Corinne Bailey Rae. "They fit together like four guys who look like they're in a band. We saw them, thought they were great and wanted them on the show."
"It's all very well being on Jools Holland but we're gonna go wherever we can to play to people," Young said. "A lot of buzzy bands leave London and there are four people at the shows. We're trying not to read the media, but none of us has ever sold out venues in advance before, and that feels real to me."
The video of The Vaccines playing "Blow It Up" on "Later... with Jools Holland" can be viewed here .
"Imagine the Mary Chain on happy pills, Spiritualized on speed, or the Strokes jamming with the Shadows," Paul Lester wrote. "They're riding into town to reassert rock's fundamentals."
Short and sweet, back to basics with simple chords, this style of music from rock fundamentalists, The Vaccines could easily catch on.
The Vaccines - 2011 Tour Dates
|Last Updated on Friday, 24 December 2010 14:48|