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