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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

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