Artist Interviews

Q&A: The Vaccines

By | Published on Tuesday 15 March 2011

The Vaccines

Indie hype-magnets The Vaccines were formed last year by Justin Young (formerly known as folk artist Jay Jay Pistolet) and Freddie Cowan, younger brother of The Horrors’ Tomethy Furse. The core duo were soon joined by bassist Arni Arnason and drummer Pete Robertson, quickly garnering renown with early demo ‘If You Wanna’ and a series of raucous live shows attended by hordes of celebrity peers.

Debut track ‘Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ was released in November 2010 on Marshal Teller, with the band signing a lucrative deal with Sony/Columbia shortly after for second single ‘Post Break Up Sex’. The band then worked with producer and mixer Dan Grech-Marguerat (Howling Bells, Radiohead, The Kooks) on a first album, ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’, recording over a busy fortnight last autumn in London.

With the album out yesterday via Sony/Columbia, The Vaccines have been selected as a support act by Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire for their high-profile summer shows. Meanwhile, as they prepare for a string of headline dates beginning with a gig on 26 Mar in Belfast, we asked vocalist Justin to reflect on the band’s swift rise to stardom, guided ably by our Same Six Questions.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
We all started differently. I started because my dad played music. There were instruments in the house. He encouraged me to play guitar and listen to his records. When I was seven we recorded some music together – ‘Johnny B Goode’ and ‘Hound Dog’. Then when I was eleven, I found some friends who wanted to start a band. And we did.

Q2 What inspired your latest album?
Many things. Lyrically it was inspired by personal experience. Jealousy, anger, love and lust. I only ever write lyrics about things I’m obsessing over. It’s therapy and I think you’re best qualified to sing about things you know. I think you can always tell when lyrics are emotionally void.

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
On this record, I wrote the songs on an acoustic guitar at home. Usually they are lyrically driven, but sometimes melodically too. Then I took them to the band and we tried to dress them up in the simplest and most hard hitting way as possible. We wanted a record where the song ruled instead of the playing or the arrangements.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
Obviously we’re four different people with different tastes. I think we take different things from different music. We never honed in on a particular era or genre when making this record. As musicians and music fans I think we’re bound by the constant search for the ‘perfect’ pop song. More often than not, that has taken us back to things like 50s rock n roll and the 60s girl groups. Pop music was pure and certain melodies and sounds were being used for the first time. We also really like artists that play simple and direct pop music with depth and passion. I love The Modern Lovers, The Velvet Underground, The Clash.

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
I don’t think I need to. I like to think our record has depth lyrically and sonically and is played passionately. We believe in it. I don’t think it’s throw away. But essentially it is pop music and I think people will know pretty quickly whether or not they like it.

Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?
I think we’ve already fulfilled our ambitions on this record. We’re really happy with the songs and the way they came out. I was worried I’d never get to make a record, especially not one I was happy with, so it’s a great feeling. Hopefully it can connect with people and mean something to people. We all want to become the best live band we can be and progress creatively and make an even better second record. Hopefully different from the first too.