The Vaccines

Monqui Presents

The Vaccines

Jesse Jo Stark

Fri, October 5

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm


Portland, OR


This event is 21 and over

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."