Interview Series: The Vaccines

This past weekend, we caught up with The Vaccines as they kicked off the final show of their first headlining North American tour at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. Now, you’ve probably heard of The Vaccines. They’re the Indie rock darlings who for the last two years have continued a musical assault on the ears of thousands worldwide. The band, who’ve been compared to the likeness of The Ramones, The Strokes, Interpol, and even The Smiths, first broke onto the scene in 2011 with the critically acclaimed and commercially successful debut LP ‘What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?’

'What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?'

The album, which was full of teenage angst, surfer riffs, and cryptic lyrics, seemed to catapult the band to the top of the charts. After mounting an aggressive year of campaigning, touring, and recording, it seemed like the band was set to go on a worldwide tour. However, those plans were put on hold after lead singer Justin Young blew out his vocal chords for a third time, resulting in him having surgery.

That may or may not have been a blessing in disguise for the band as they were able to get back into the studio and record their new album ‘The Vaccines: Come of Age’. The new LP dives deeper into the heart and soul of the band and shows just how raw, honest, and fragile the Vaccines are. Before the sold-out show, we sat down and chatted with drummer Pete Robertson and guitarist Freddie Cowan about the new record, musical influences, and the future of the band.

'The Vaccines: Come of Age'


LF: Who are the Vaccines, how did it all start?

PR: We all kind of got into a bit of negative space about the kind of music we were playing. For Arni and I, we were playing sessions and just playing as hired guns for number of solo artists. It got to a point were I knew I would be using music to pay my rent. That wasn’t why I started playing, but there was this certain feeling to walk the tight rope and added a sense of urgency.

FC: Justin and I started playing together and were really into what we were doing at the time. We started with no ambition, we just wanted to do something for ourselves and for the fun of it all. We quite quickly decided that it was what we wanted to do despite the results.

LF: You mentioned college and jobs, what were you doing prior to The Vaccines?

PR: I was doing a lot of session playing and odd jobs.

FC: I was going to college, but left after and decided I wanted to play in a few bands. I just messed around. It was a lot of trial and error. There’s really only one way to learn and thats to just plug away at it and go to pubs and clubs and see what happens. I feel like after six years, it’s paid off.

LF: Do either of you have some formal training?

PR: I did four years at music school, but after that time I knew I had to strain really hard in not being institutionalized.

FC: I’m not formally trained in anything, I just play to play (laughs)

LF: Can you tell us about this new album and how its different from the first LP?

PR: Primarily, it was written over a long period of time. The songs came quite quickly. Justin was writing a lot and was coming in daily with a new killer song. Because we were really busy between the first and second album, we had to write a lot of the record on the road, which was a little different in that respect. Instead of coming up with fully formed songs, we were coming up with shells of ideas and then working them out later.

Whenever we got into a room together we compiled them and figured out what we liked and didn’t. It varied in terms of conception. Lyrically, it was kind of leaning more inward and was a bit more personal. That kind of gave us a feeling it was going to be a very personal album.

The Vaccines Tour 2013

LF: Do you find working the way you did with this one might be a trend that will continue moving forward?

PR: I’m glad we’ve worked it out that we can do it that way, but its not the only way will continue making music. At the moment, were working on a new EP and Justin has been coming up with a lot of great material. But yeah, its always good to have variety and be able to be pushed forward in the way we do things.

FC: However you approach it, the ultimate goal is to produce a great album.

LF: This is your first US headlining tour, how does it feel?

PR: The turn out by fans has been amazing. We’ve really been getting some great feedback from fans when we play.

FC: Yeah, were thrilled. When your two weeks in, you feel like its been going on forever, but when you get to California for those three weeks, your ready to break through. Were just really encouraged by the reception we’ve received on this tour – its just been so wild.

LF: Are there any songs either you like playing live more so then others?

PR: I’ve really been enjoying playing the new songs, but we’ve been playing them for awhile live, so there not that new I guess (laughs).

FC: I enjoy playing ‘Bad Moon’ a lot. Its probably one of my favorites on the record.

LF: Who were some musical influences on you growing up?

FC: A lot of blues music – my dad played blues guitar and was into guys like John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, T-Bone Walker. There was also a lot of British classic rock, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.

PR: I’ve always really been into Nirvana and indie stuff.

LF: Who are you listening to at the minute?

FC: I’m into Here We Go Magic’s new album, I’m listening to this Neil Young album that he did on tour with Sonic Youth called Will. I’ve also been listening to some of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s stuff lately.

PR: Yeah, I’d have to agree. I’ve been listening to a lot of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. I’m also digging this band Foxygen.

LF: What’s the future hold for The Vaccines in 2013?

PR: Touring.

FC: Yeah, touring and festivals, hopefully not as much touring as last year. Doing key stuff rather than just everything all at once, and then finishing up the mixing on the new EP.

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