Interview: Justin Young of The Vaccines

The Vaccines is a band that needs no introduction. The band have had two widely popular albums ‘What Did You Expect Of The Vaccines?’ and ‘Come Of Age‘, which reached number one in the UK album charts. The Vaccines are now set to release their highly anticipated ‘English Graffiti‘ on May 22 via Sony Music Australia.

Spotlight Report had the chance to chat to frontman Justin Young about the concept behind ‘English Graffiti‘, social media and their upcoming trip to Australia for Splendour in The Grass.

So you are about to release your new album ‘English Graffiti’, could you tell me about the overall concepts and ideas of the album?

I mean at first I didn’t really know what they would be but I did have his phrase in English Graffiti in which it was written in my notebook, which I was using to write lyrics and phrases, during a certain period. I started discussing with friends and with the band and stuff about this feeling that I felt that despite being sort of connected by technology and homogenization of western pop culture, I felt a real disconnect from my existing friends and potential new friends, and love and meaning. I thought that was a great big sort of irony through connection comes this disconnect from this connection and sort of a constructed reality and shifting expectations. And ‘English Graffiti’ kept coming back to me as this sort of embodiment of that because wherever you go in the world there is the sort of English graffiti on every wall and everyone is wearing the same shoes and drink the same thing and listening to the same music. I’m definitely not complaining, I love technology and what it does but there is definitely points on the record that really are just me sort of exploring my place in the world where there is that kind of phenomenon maybe.

 It’s really interesting that you say that because alot of artists I have spoken to in the past, say that with social media (twitter, facebook and whatever else) there is actually more of a connection as opposed to a disconnection – so what is it that makes you feel there is a greater disconnect as opposed to a connection that social media aims to do?

Well I think there is a connection on face value but if you take social media and you take relationship with artist and fans. Like when I meet people now they just want a picture with me if they like the band and if they stand there and wait for us to come out after the show, they rarely want to engage in conversation.

It’s weird because they want a picture to show everyone, almost as though it’s a souvenir of us engaging in conversation but they didn’t actually want the conversation that comes with it.

I saw this footage the other day of U2 busking on the subway in New York and Bono was singing into this women’s face and she wasn’t looking at him or connecting with the moment, she was trying to take a picture of it and she didn’t even look at him once. I thought it was amazing that she was completely missing out on this connection and this experience for the benefit of a photo to show everybody that she had said experience. I think, obviously, things like social media and technology are incredible at connecting us but if you go past that there is this disconnect. You know, when people write under instagram posts ‘Come to Brazil’, that is not really connecting in the same way that it was perhaps twenty years ago when I would have written my favorite band maybe two or three sides of A4 paper, you know.

That totally makes sense! So I wanted to speak about the sound of the album, in an interview with NME you were saying that the record is a lot more “future sounding” – was that something really worked to achieve or was it more of a natural progression type of thing?

150316-the-vaccinesI think it was actually definitely an aim. I think that from our starting place, you know like we have been a relatively traditional sounding band and I guess we have made this two garage rock, in a loose sense of the term, and a light sounding very simple traditional sounding records and I think at times we have been great but I don’t think it has been important. I think we are keen to maybe slightly embody the time in which we are making music more, rather than sounding completely timeless. And I think the other thing is, is that rock music has become the music our parents know in the same way that jazz was say 30 years ago and I think its never been more in fashion and its also partly it has transformed because I think at one time it was very rebellious, exciting and new and I think now it’s a very defined framework and set of rules that most rock musicians kind of stick to and I think that sound and sonic massively fall into that and that was a big consideration that we sort of wanted to avoid on this record.

Other than the sound, obviously, what do you feel was the biggest difference in making this third record as opposed to the first two?

I think the process was massively different. The first two records were essentially songs that I had written on sitting on the end of my bed and than the band had provided a simple backburn where we just allowed to the song to provide the surface. Whereas making this record, aside from all the exploration we did before we got there, it was a lot more meticulous and these songs were kind of built on computers from loops despite maybe not sounding like that all the time but it was actually a much less organic process to be honest. It was very much like we went over everything with a fine toothcomb and piled everything on and than took everything off and I think there was more of a vision for the record as a whole to have this quite focused but synthetic sound.

Did you feel any pressure making this new record- since your first two were so well received or did you use that pressure to focus your sound in a certain way?

I have always felt internal pressure and I have always felt that the main reason why the record is so connected is because of the songs. I think I have always judged a good song by how much I like it and I think the more personal for me is obviously the more interpersonal in that hopefully it is universal. But yes, I definitely have internal pressure to be better and I guess to better myself and ourselves in that respect. But I always if like if you do than hopefully everything else will fall into place.

Do you feel like you like any songs on the album more than others, or do you just love them all equally?

At this point, there were so many songs that were in the running for the record and our favorite songs weren’t on it and this point I’m still in love with all of them because I haven’t read any reviews and we haven’t played them all live yet and I don’t know what are going to be favorites and what are not. So right now, we are just coming to the end of that period of time where I can just listen to it, sort of untainted. For me, ‘Handsome’ is maybe a song that I’m less excited by just because it isn’t necessarily completely indicative of the rest of the record is like and perhaps The Vaccines have evolved so I wouldn’t want to be in anyway misleading but with that said I’m still really proud of it.

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Speaking of the track list, you said you left a few out than what was the reason you used the ‘reimagined’ versions of your songs on the deluxe version as opposed to say some those other songs?

Just because I felt it was important for cohesion, I always feel like less is more. Also it felt like there were a lot of sonic Easter eggs that were there that people couldn’t really hear. I really like the idea of giving Cole and Dave free reign, because they come from very different worlds than us and I really like the idea to give them the opportunity to show what they would have done with the song had we not have been there making decisions as well. It’s kind of as much them as it is us really on those sort of reimagined versions.

You are playing Splendour in the Grass here next month – it’s not the first time you have played the festival, what are you looking forward to about those shows?

To be honest one of the best things about being in a band is going to places like Australia for free (laughs). Honestly, the first time we played Splendour, was our first time in Australia and I just remember the song being out and I just remember being overwhelmingly happy. I’m just really excited to come back. I’m not sure if it’s in the same place that it was at, it may have moved, but it has been about 2 and half years since we have been to Australia. I think at that time we have done quite a lot in a short succession but it’s been a while now and I’m just really excited and we are going by Japan and I’m just very excited to go weird and wonderful parts of the world that we don’t normally get to go to. I’m excited to play the new songs for you, and see the friends that we made the last time we were there and all that.

You are also doing some smaller sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne – do you prefer playing festivals or more intimate shows?

Honestly, this will probably sound like a politicians answer but I think one of the best things about being in a band is variety. I think when you play big festivals, I’m sort of always in awe of the size of the stage and how many people are there and that feels like a shared experience that I have with the band and I than I think that the audience has this sort of shared experience as well but I think that when you get into smaller places than I feel it becomes more of a collective and intense shared experience between the band and the audience, if that makes any sense. I’m always sort of in awe when I am playing bigger festivals but there is the real sort of energy that you get from a small room that you can’t always get from a field.

‘English Graffiti’ is out in Australia on May 22

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