Slash and burn

When it comes to new and ex­cit­ing bri­tish gui­tar rock noise, the Vac­cines are the fresh voices mak­ing all the din.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MUSIC - By Michael cheang en­ter­tain­ment@thes­

WHAT should you ex­pect from The Vac­cines? Well, if you like catchy, gui­tardriven pop rock mu­sic, you can ex­pect quite a bit of that from this four-piece band from Lon­don.

Com­pris­ing Justin Young (gui­tars and vo­cals), Árni Hjör­var (bass), Fred­die Cowan (gui­tars) and Pete Robert­son (drums), the band’s de­but al­bum What Did You Ex­pect From The Vac­cines? is still the big­gest sell­ing de­but al­bum of 2011 in Bri­tain, peak­ing at No. 4 on the Brit charts (in March).

As a re­sult, the young Lon­don out­fit has been hailed as saviours of Bri­tish gui­tar rock, and, wor­ry­ingly enough, such a rep­u­ta­tion tends to come with un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions and pres­sure.

It is a ti­tle that has Robert­son winc­ing vis­i­bly when the sub­ject is brought up dur­ing an in­ter­view back­stage with the drum­mer at the Splen­dour In The Grass Mu­sic and Arts Fes­ti­val at Wood­ford, Aus­tralia, where The Vac­cines played in July.

“I never thought gui­tar mu­sic was dead. Peo­ple have been pre­dict­ing the death of rock ‘n’ roll since Jim Mor­ri­son wrote Rock Is Dead in 1969! It’s got a lot of life left,” he said.

“Gui­tar mu­sic will al­ways been there; there are a mil­lion venues in Lon­don and New York that are busy ev­ery week with gui­tar bands. There just isn’t that many gui­tar bands mak­ing an im­pact on a com­mer­cial level.”

Still, with Oa­sis break­ing up, Blur in per­ma­nent limbo, and no new bands mak­ing any sig­nif­i­cant im­pact since the Arctic Mon­keys in 2006, The Vac­cines have stepped in nicely to fill the void left be­hind by these Brit­pop vet­er­ans.

Judg­ing from the buz­zwor­thy tunes of What Did You Ex­pect From The Vac­cines?, the band is cer­tainly head­ing down the right track. Kick­ing off with the fren­zied Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra), the al­bum in­cludes some pop gems such as the splen­did Wet­suit (which was one of the high­lights of its set at Splen­dour), the cheek­ily catchy Post Break-Up Sex and of course, a more pol­ished but still ex­cel­lent If You Wanna.

On stage, the band sounds even bet­ter. The group’s bub­blegum pop fas­ci­na­tion may have sounded more raw and less pol­ished live, but the lads made up for it with youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance and en­ergy that re­calls a younger Arctic Mon­keys.

In less than two years, the band has al­ready drawn com­par­isons with in­flu­en­tial names like Je­sus And Mary Chain and The Ra­mones, and has even been called the “Bri­tish Strokes.”

In­ci­den­tally, The Vac­cines will re­lease its new dou­ble A-side sin­gle Wet­suit / Tiger Blood on Dec 4. The new track Tiger Blood was recorded with Al­bert Ham­mond Jr at the helm, with the Strokes gui­tarist adding riffs dur­ing the record­ings at his home stu­dio in New York.

Next month, The Vac­cines have also se­cured some prime ex­po­sure when it sup­ports Arctic Mon­keys on a mostly sold out Bri­tish arena tour.

For­tu­nately, the band mem­bers, in their early 20s, are not let­ting this new-found suc­cess get to their heads.

“Since the first time we played to­gether, we’ve never had any pre­con­ceived ideas of suc­cess or com­mer­cial ap­peal. But I al­ways knew we were do­ing some­thing right,” said Robert­son.

The process of be­com­ing The Vac­cines be­gan early last year, when Young and Cowan got to­gether and started play­ing around with some ideas. All four mem­bers of the band had been in­volved with projects in the Lon­don mu­sic scene that had got them stuck in a rut, ac­cord­ing to Robert­son.

“We were all in mu­si­cal en­vi­ron­ments that were rather un­ful­fill­ing. I was play­ing ses­sion drums for solo artistes, Árni was do­ing his own thing, Justin had a solo project that didn’t quite take off... and we all felt that we were in a po­si­tion where we needed to reignite the fire, and to re­dis­cover the pas­sion and joy of play­ing in a band again,” he said.

“We needed to re­dis­cover what it was like when we were kids, so we all quit our jobs and threw our­selves into the deep end. Jump­ing into the un­known gave us a real sense of ur­gency, but we clicked very quickly and re­sponded re­ally well.”

The band had an­other stroke of good for­tune when Bri­tish ra­dio dee­jay Zane Lowe, host of BBC Ra­dio 1’s The Zane Lowe Show, heard its ma­te­rial and quickly be­came a fan. Lowe is well-known for cham­pi­oning new mu­sic through his show, and has been in­stru­men­tal in kick-start­ing the ca­reers of the Arctic Mon­keys, Kaiser Chiefs and Gnarls Barkley, to name a few.

“That was pretty ex­cit­ing. He played an early demo of If You Wanna on his show, and named it ‘ Hottest Record In The World’,” re­called Robert­son about the early buzz. “That was when we took a step back and thought that this might ac­tu­ally get us some­where...” n This trip to Splen­dour In The Grass was made pos­si­ble by Ai­rA­sia X.

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