VACCINES PROVIDE A DOSE OF RAW PASSION
RETURN TO ROOTS INSPIRES A BURST OF FRESH CREATIVE ENERGY FOR EDGY INDIE HEROES...
YOU could never accuse The Vaccines of not suffering for their art. When the British indierockers relocated to Sheffield last winter to record their fourth album, The Vaccines’ quest for musical perfection often led to arguments in the recording studio. And sometimes those arguments would descend into full-blown violence between two of their members, singer Justin Young and guitarist Freddie Cowan.
“I’m not sure how it started, but there was one argument which turned into a proper fight,” reveals Young. “We were fine about it afterwards though.
“Me and Freddie care about the same things, we were both determined to make the best record possible. And when you spend 15 hours a day in a windowless room, working on something you feel so passionately about, there’s gonna be tensions. But it’s all for the benefit of the music. It was never going to finish the band.”
For their long-term fans, however, the prospect of The Vaccines perhaps calling it quits had been a genuine concern over the past three years.
Having first exploded onto the musical landscape in 2011, charming fans and critics alike with their brash, exuberant rock’n’roll anthems, the Londonbased quintet were one of the few post-millennial guitar bands to dent the pop charts and headline big arenas on a regular basis.
As we’ve witnessed many times before, though, a band’s need to maintain that success and stardom can so often be the thing that ultimately derails them – and it very nearly did with The Vaccines. By the time the band were making their third LP, 2015’s English Graffiti, singer and songwriter Young had, he now admits: “Become obsessed with modernising the band’s sound.
“I wanted to make this big universal pop record, something that sounded relevant. At that time, guitar music just didn’t seem very relevant.”
English Graffiti – which certainly fulfilled Young’s remit to make a more contemporary pop album – performed well, reaching No2 in the charts, but The Vaccines were already starting to have doubts about the creative path they had taken.
By June 2016, the band’s drummer and founding member Pete Robertson made the shock decision to quit – the most tangible sign that The Vaccines had begun to lose their way.
“Pete leaving was a real fork in the road for us,” admits Young. “Because it did make us sit down, have a big chat and decide if we wanted to make another record.
“On English Graffiti, I think we sounded confused; we were trying too hard to appeal to as many people as possible. It was important that we started making the music only we could make; the musical DNA that made us stand out in the first place.”
Now joined by two new members, drummer Yoann Intonti and keyboardist Tim Lanham, The Vaccines’ comeback begins in earnest this month with a massive UK tour, and – most importantly – a new album, Combat Sports.
It is definitely the band’s strongest collection of songs since their debut, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
Recorded over four chilly months last winter, the album’s back-tobasics approach owes much to its producer, Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys, M.I.A, The Fall), a man who hadn’t seen The Vaccines since their initial breakthrough.
“Ross hadn’t really followed our career since he saw us on our debut album,” Young explains, “So when we sent him the new demos we were making, he was very harsh and critical, he said, ‘what happened to the band I saw all those years ago? I thought you sounded a lot edgier than this’.
“Ross was really instrumental in helping us reclaim the things that made us stand out, the things that no other band can do besides us. I think Combat Sports really captures the energy and spirit of our debut.”
And so all is well, at long last, in The Vaccines’ world. But as they prepare to embark on a lengthy UK tour, are the band concerned – especially given their recent fisticuffs – about tensions spilling over again on the road?
“If that happens, it happens,” says Young. “Artistic tension is always a good thing. The minute you stop having those arguments, you stop caring. And that’s when we’ll know to call it a day.”
The Vaccines play Manchester Academy 1 on Monday, April 9. The album Combat Sports is out now
●● The Vaccines