The Vaccines

The Vaccines

DIIV, San Cisco

Thu, January 31, 2013

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Terminal 5

New York, NY

This event is all ages

The Vaccines
The Vaccines
"With 'English Graffiti,' we've embraced modernity. I'm immensely proud of it."

Few modern British guitar bands have had such an instant impact as the Vaccines. Emerging in the summer of 2010 with blend of retro surf punk, Ramones guitars and Everly Brothers pop hooks, their high octane, ultra-melodic sound saw them instantly adopted as the hot new guitar band on the block. The London four-piece -- Justin Hayward-Young (vocals/guitar), Freddie Cowan (guitar), Arni Arnason (bass) and Pete Robertson (drums) -- had only formed in early 2010, but in early 2011, debut album "What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?" quickly achieved platinum status. Just 18 months later, the follow-up, "Come Of Age," hit Number One.

It was a mercurial rise, not least because guitar pop was unfashionable at the time and Young had previously been a struggling singer-songwriter. Under the moniker Jay Jay Pistolet, he'd hauled himself up and down the motorway to small audiences before forming the Vaccines and writing the songs that changed the game.

"I remember writing 'If You Wanna' in the rehearsal room at one of the first practices we ever had," he remembers. "Almost as a joke, I came up with writing what became the chorus. Once it actually sunk in and I realised that we had this big chorus on what had been this indie pop song I stopped and thought, 'There's no one else actually with pop songs this good, with guitars round their necks.' Most people were staring at their feet and covering everything in reverb. We really were in a lane of our own and we benefitted from that."

Indeed, Young vividly remembers playing the tents at Reading and Leeds festivals in summer 2011 and fretting that no one would be there.

"I'll always remember walking into the tent at T In The Park and 20,000 people chanting the Vaccines," he says. "It just sent shivers down my spine."

That was then. The last four years have seen them travel the world, play arenas, and experience the pop dream "way beyond what we ever imagined." However, the ever confident but self-critical Young felt unfulfilled.

"We've often felt that we were a good band but not an important band," he says, "and we want to be an important band."

Thus the Vaccines' game-changing third album, "English Graffiti," in which they tear up the plans and see what happens as they fall around them. The elements of the old Vaccines sound remain -- certainly in the buzzsaw pop rushes of "Handsome," "20/20" and "Radio Bikini" -- but their sonic palette is completely different. An eclectic and surprising adventurous musical mix with songs that acknowledge the Eighties pop of ELO and Duran Duran, while sounding firmly of the now.

"'English Graffiti' feels like a massive departure," says Young. "At times, making this record, I felt I was in a different band. All these influences from Buddy Holly to the Clash often get laid on us, but when they were around, they weren't looking backward, they were looking forward. On the first records, we may have tried to replicate some of those guitar sounds, but this time we thought 'Why not try and go for a sound that's from the future instead?"

The new sound has been achieved by first stockpiling over 50 songs -- Young writes every day -- and then working on the best in an upstate New York studio with Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann and Cole MGN, whose name is synonymous with sample-based pop and R&B, not guitar rock.

"They'd never worked with each other before but they became almost this dream team," chuckles Young. "Dave is this sonic wizard and anarchist really, never too scared to push it to extremes. Cole is our age and modern. He doesn't make indie rock records. Dave would record us in the main room and try and get these amazing sounding tapes and Cole would take them down the corridor and mess with them all. Then he'd give them back to Dave and Dave would fuck with them even more."

While making the record, The Clash's "Combat Rock" was a studio favourite. The ideal was to follow a similar trajectory as that band, who'd started off "rough and ready" but evolved into something nobody had expected. Similarly, Young wanted to
embrace modernity and what is going on around us in the world." As artists, this meant scrapping songs, remoulding songs, and at one point scrapping a previous version of the album, but it all felt liberating and exciting.

The album has an otherworldly atmosphere and a very postmodern theme of internet/social media-driven connection, but ultimately dislocation.

"That really came to the fore because of conversations I was having with friends," explains Young, who reveals that the title -- was informed by about seeing graffiti written in English, all over the globe. "I love technology, but you can go to a bar in Peru or China or anywhere in the world and everyone's wearing the same shirt and listening to the same music and drinking the same beer.

"Then technology can connect us with whoever we want to be connected to. We have constructed realities, but in the meantime being connected has brought disconnection in lack of friendship and feeling and love. We're the first generation going through this. I was sat at a table the other day and every one of us was on our phones and it felt like we were in the future. There's this clip on 'The Tonight Show' of Bono approaching this woman in the subway and singing 'With Or Without You,' but she wasn't looking at him. She just wanted to capture it on her phone. It's the strangest interaction I've ever seen."

These sort of dystopian themes emerge particularly on songs such as "Minimal Affection" or the funky "Want You So Bad." Songs such as "(All Afternoon) In Love" may particularly throw people who thought they knew what to expect from the Vaccines: it's otherworldly, gossamer, melancholy pop in the mould of 10cc's classic, "I'm Not In Love." "Radio Bikini"'s title had been in Young's diary for some time before he started playing around with combining a song that was ostensibly about the summer, but also about the bombing of Bikini Atoll in Vietnam -- a nod to the Dead Kennedys' punk classic, "Holiday In Cambodia."

These are some of the best songs of the Vaccines' career, none better than "Dream Lover," which nods to the Bobby Darin and Mariah Carey songs with the same title, but allies a hallucinatory atmosphere and lyric about an imaginary partner with a killer riff. Another dreamy monster is "Gimme A Sign," the last song written for the album, which found Young found himself chuckling at the pop hugeness of the chorus, which in a way brought him full circle, back to that day he penned "If You Wanna."

"I remember writing those songs on the first record thinking they were good enough to headline the Barfly with," he chuckles. "Everything we've done and achieved has been so above everything we ever expected, but I do think we're a great band and that 'English Graffiti' is a great record. Good music triumphs in the end. I'm immensely proud of it."
DIIV
DIIV
DIIV is the nom-de-plume of Z. Cole Smith, musical provocateur and front-man of an atmospheric and autumnally-charged new Brooklyn four-piece.

Recently inked to the uber-reliable Captured Tracks imprint, DIIV created instant vibrations in the blog-world with their impressionistic debut Sometime; finding it’s way onto the esteemed pages of Pitchfork and Altered Zones a mere matter of weeks after the group’s formation.

Enlisting the aid of NYC indie-scene-luminary, Devin Ruben Perez, former Smith Westerns drummer Colby Hewitt, and Mr. Smith’s childhood friend Andrew Bailey, DIIV craft a sound that is at once familial and frost-bitten. Indebted to classic kraut, dreamy Creation-records psychedelia, and the primitive-crunch of late-80’s Seattle, the band walk a divisive yet perfectly fused patch of classic-underground influence.

One part THC and two parts MDMA; the first offering from DIIV chemically fuses the reminiscent with the half-remembered building a musical world out of old-air and new breeze. These are songs that remind us of love in all it’s earthly perfections and perversions.

A lot of DIIV’s magnetism was birthed in the process Mr. Smith went through to discover these initial compositions. After returning from a US tour with Beach Fossils, Cole made a bold creative choice, settling into the window-facing corner of a painter’s studio in Bushwick, sans running water, holing up to craft his music.

In this AC-less wooden room, throughout the thick of the summer, Cole surrounded himself with cassettes and LP’s, the likes of Lucinda Williams, Arthur Russell, Faust, Nirvana, and Jandek; writings of N. Scott Momaday, James Welsh, Hart Crane, Marianne Moore, and James Baldwin; and dreams of aliens, affection, spirits, and the distant natural world (as he imagined it from his window facing the Morgan L train).

The resulting music is as cavernous as it is enveloping, asking you to get lost in it’s tangles in an era that demands your attention be focused into 140 characters.
San Cisco
San Cisco
Coming out of the small Australian coastal resort of Fremantle, a beautiful town nestling in the shadow of Perth's gleaming monoliths and separated from the more fashionable parts of Oz by thousands of miles of red dirt, you might expect the music of San Cisco to be limited in vision, comprising flimsy surf-ditties extolling the ephemeral pleasures of sun, surf and sex. You would be wrong, however. For while it would be untrue to claim that the unholy trinity of sex, sun and sea are absent from their songs, on their new album, "Gracetown," the band -- singer Jordi Davieson, Josh Biondillo (guitar), Nick Gardner (bass) and Scarlett Stevens (drums) -- extend their sonic palette to new territories. There is a deeper, chillier feel to songs such as 'Snow' and a looser, funkier feel to ones like 'Jealousy' that signals a new sophistication and maturity. Less sun, then, and more muted shades, as well as a deeper exploration of the hormonal tangle that is postmodern sexual politics. If there is a band that better explores the ache, paranoia and oestrogen-rush of young love I don't know it. The album shows San Cisco growing up, and this growing up is scary and magnificent to behold.

San Cisco are not newcomers to the scene, of course. They released their debut self-titled album in 2012 to international acclaim and have toured the world several times since, headlining shows and festival performances such as Lollapalooza, Pukkelpop and Reading. The fruit of this time on the road is reflected in the new sound, and sound which has paid its dues and has a sharpness born of hangovers, air-miles, homesickness and displacement.

The band first touched a global nerve with beguilingly fraught earworms such as 2011's 'Awkward', a song that garnered almost universal critical and popular acclaim. San Cisco's sound at that time approximated to their own definition of 'squelchy, crispy, streamlined, hairy indie', an acknowledgement of the band's eclecticism, embracing as it did a quirky mix of ringing Rickenbacker guitars, pounding rhythms and soulful vocals. Yet there was always more at work than energetic pastiche. Other hits from their 2012 debut such as 'Wild Things' and 'Fred Astaire' managed the trick of being great pop songs that nonetheless contained a hint of menace or madness, something that suggested the band was more interested in classic pop than indie navel-gazing. Their sources of inspiration always came and still come from unlikely sources. Guitarist and songsmith Josh has admitted to a deep love for US satirical cartoon series such as "The Simpsons" and "American Dad," and you can see it in the music. Think a sonic version of Neighbours scripted by the creators of South Park. Think quirky humour, twisted desire and bright colours, and then add danceability. If the original mix was intoxicating the new album is even more so.

On "Gracetown" San Cisco have enlisted the help of producer and long-term collaborator Steven Schram, and the presence of this 'fifth Beatle' is manifest from the first. Schram has furthered the band's experimentation with new styles and textures to great effect. Prior to visiting "The Compound" (studio-home of fellow Fremantle friend and musician John Butler) Josh and Jordi crafted the bones of the album at Rada Studios with friend and musician Matt Gio. Schram then encouraged them to tread boldly where they had not yet gone in sonic terms.

And so to the album itself. The mysteriously titled "Gracetown" is no homage to Paul Simon's 1986 anti-Apartheid opus Graceland, for the band doesn't address a preoccupation with world beats and racism, but rather their own more prosaic roots and backyard. 'Gracetown is a small coastal town in the South West of WA where our families have second homes and where there's an annual music festival,' Josh explains in a Skype interview across a scratchy line. The title is symbolic, he and Jordi say, of a nostalgic fondness for a childhood retreat, one that evokes the "Swallows and Amazons" hedonism shown in the video of their sun-dazed hit 'Golden Revolver' on their debut LP. The new album feels even freer in artistic terms, I say, and they tell me why. 'We're releasing Gracetown on our own label (Island City Records),' explains Jordi. 'So there were no men in suits from the label sitting in on recording sessions and demanding hits. We were in control of all facets of the music, and that was a massive relief. We could do anything we wanted, and we did.'

This freedom extended to matters of look as well as sound and feel. Guitarist Josh explains how the band commissioned the sleeve's eye-catching cover-art from Pete Matulich. He explains that this forms part of the album's self-crafted sensibility, comprising as it does memories, found sounds and serendipitous encounters. This search for 'authenticity and localism' is present in the lyrics too. Jordi explains how the words are rooted in personal experience, either his own or that of those he has closely observed. 'Lyrics must have some truth about them otherwise they're just a bunch of words,' he says flatly. 'I can't just fabricate a scenario. If I make stuff up I can't remember it, and the song falls apart.' His method, he continues, is to 'objectify' the words so they are not too literal but, rather, universal. 'We don't include a lyric sheet in the CD for that reason. We don't want to dictate a response. We want the listener to encounter a song and make it their own, even if they mishear it,' Jordi says with a sparkle in his eye.

When I say that new songs on the album -- songs such as 'Jealousy' (which features Isabella Manfredi from The Preatures), 'Super Slow' and 'Just For A Minute' -- are a massive leap forward in terms of depth and texture both guitarist and singer look humble. Instead of citing contemporary influences they speak of 'golden oldie' artists that inspired them -- Isaac Hayes, The Turtles, The Beatles, Bob Dylan. 'We like timeless, ageless melodies,' Josh explains, 'and a solid groove. We may not have written a classic of our own yet but we are getting closer.' This growing interest in classic song structures shows itself in the new sophistication of the sound, one that tips its cap to disco and soul, funk and hip hop but still remains defiantly its own beast. There is a lushness and sense of space in the new songs that the band once filled with youthful brio, with clattering and frenetic la-la-las. Now there is gorgeous languor and a supple muscularity that pulses under the beat. Jordi's voice, especially when wrapped around drummer Scarlett's or guest vocalist The Preature's Isabella Manfredi's, reveals itself to be what it always promised to be: one of the great soul voices of all time. And yet paradoxically the singer admits to worrying that the well of the global creativity may soon run dry. 'The world is running out of melodies,' he confides in a moment of seriousness, for all the world as if cosmic entropy will consume us before the end of the interview.

Fortunately the band's ease with melody and beat gives an elegant riposte to that fear. Jordi looks up again and grins, showing himself to be no precious artiste and far from the 'narcissist' he feels he might become as the band's fame grows: 'We don't write to fulfill our own musical fantasies,' he says passionately. 'We want to communicate and touch people. We want to write great pop -- there's no shame in that. We don't want to record a hundred year old piano and run it backwards through a shoe just to make a statement. We are entertainers, not artists.'

On the strength of this album the band are both, and there is much to look forward to, for both us and them.
Venue Information:
Terminal 5
610 W 56th St
New York, NY, 10019
http://www.terminal5nyc.com/