Throwback Thursday: Vampire Weekend Interview from 2007 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Throwback Thursday: Vampire Weekend Interview from 2007

The Band's First National Print Interview

Jun 05, 2014 Vampire Weekend
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For Throwback Thursdays we will be posting classic interviews from the Under the Radar print archives to our website. Under the Radar used to keep its print articles exclusive to the print magazine and so there are a lot of older articles that aren’t to be found on our website. For this Throwback Thursday we revisit our 2007 article on Vampire Weekend. At the time of the interview the band was still unsigned and almost a year from releasing their debut album commercially via XL Recordings (they were sending out burned CD-Rs of an early version of the album). In fact, this was the New York band’s first interview for a nationally distributed print magazine. Read on as the band discusses their initial influences and Ivy League beginnings.

It takes a special kind of indie-rock band to take after Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints. Formed in early 2006 by four Columbia University upperclassmen, Vampire Weekend is worthy of that title, playing music that is as influenced by Simon’s world music bent as it is by bands like The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Clash.

“I think we are all drawn to the pop music of every era,” says keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij. “We’re into bringing together musics that come from disparate origins: things that come from folk traditionslike African guitar turns and punk chord progressionsand things that are more vaulted, like Bach or Tchaikovsky.”

All in their early-20s, singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig, drummer Christopher Tomson, bassist Chris Baio, and keyboardist Batmanglij have begun to cause something of a stir around the New York area. The 10 songs on the unsigned band’s self-made debut combine pop melodies with African rhythms influenced by artists like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Kanda Bongo Man, and orchestral arrangements scored by Batmanglij, one of the band’s two music majors. Add lyrics that reference Oxford commas, mansard roofs, and religious Lamas and what you have is a literate brand of indie-pop that is as broad in its influence as it is catchy with its up beat.

“We probably meet a lot of people’s expectations of what an Ivy League pop band would be,” says Koenig, the band’s primary songwriter. “We’d much rather come across as fun than as deliberately obtuse or moody. We put a lot of thought into our music and lyrics, so by our own standards Vampire Weekend is as cerebral and ‘experimental’ as we want it to be.”

So far, the band has played gigs mostly around New York City, but they soon plan to expand down the eastern seaboard. Koenig says that reactions vary, but despite any idiosyncrasies, he sees no difficulty connecting to the indie-rock populace.

“Some people will say, ‘You kind of remind me of Paul Simon,’ and some people will be like, ‘Yo!’ and then start talking about some super obscure genre of Kenyan pop that I’ve never heard,” says Koenig. “Either way, I think people can appreciate our music without knowing or caring about our influences.”


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