Interview: Coming of Age: The Vaccines talk the “journey” of making ‘English Graffiti’

Coming of Age: The Vaccines talk the “journey” of making ‘English Graffiti’

Third full-length promises a ‘Handsome’ supply of new ideas, says Justin Young.

Even when The Vaccines first emerged all the way back in 2010, they had their fates paved out for them. Arena-prepped and ready, they came complete with an album full of bombastic rock and roll anthems. Unsurprisingly, it took only a few short years and a second full-length to get them into the hallowed halls of The O2 Arena. 

So when the band made their short-term return with an out-of-the-blue EP which was a bit of a departure from their previous efforts, a fair few eyebrows were raised.

“That was kind of the beginning step on the journey to making the album,” the band’s Justin Young reveals, over the phone. The busy hum of the city’s traffic lies in the background, while he walks around London’s Oxford Circus. “We had always kinda been held back, essentially, by our own ethos: this mantra of writing short, sharp, fast, simple pop songs. I think, if anything, with the last record we started to feel maybe a little constrained by that so making the EP was just an experiment. It was like, ‘Are we capable of doing a little more than this? Are we capable of doing what we keep telling ourselves what we maybe want to do from now on?’ It gave us an opportunity to essentially produce and arrange our songs, rather than just plugging in and playing along.”

When the band released ‘Melody Calling’ halfway through 2013, it shimmered with Californian warmth, all scuzzy guitars and blissful vibes. It was exactly what we wouldn’t have expected from The Vaccines and it opened up the doorway for their third record.

Now, as 2015 gets well underway, the band are ready to go: having decamped to upstate New York to work with David Fridmann last year, their new effort is now on the horizon. They’ve even unveiled its first cut, ‘Handsome’, but Young is adamant that their infectious new single doesn’t offer too many clues as to the full album. “The song itself is, if anything, bridging the gap. It’s probably one of two or three songs that sound most like the stuff that’s preceded it.” He confirms our previous suspicions. “They’re not all two minute, three-chord, fast-paced rock songs.”

As it turns out, their forthcoming album is set to be more of a personal effort. Whilst Young decided that he longer wanted to be as literal in his lyrics - “I think, in the past, I’ve been too matter of fact in the way I talk about things” - he’s opening the songs up to be more subjective by exploring themes that many of us are constantly facing. 

“I was actually tackling it from a very personal place,” he assures. “I sat down and spoke to a friend about this, but about a year ago, when we were first really started writing the record, I realised that - despite feeling so connected on so many levels - so many of us felt this disconnect. So many of us are 26, 27 year olds approaching our late twenties and thirties, we’re single, and we’re a little bit lost. Perhaps with previous generations… My dad for example, he was married with kids by the time he was my age. I actually think that because we’re so wrapped up in this idea of connection and being connected, I feel more disconnected, even within myself and from my peers, more than I did ten years ago.” Somewhat of a quarter-life crisis? “I think so much of that hinges around this feeling of isolation. Those themes to me, really feed into the way I am as a person.

“I think there’s obviously those themes running through it,” he goes further, on how he hopes his listeners will perceive his lyrics, “but the beauty is that really, it’s a very subjective experience. With this record it was really important to me - although I am still pretty on-the-nose about a lot of stuff - that I didn’t just say things as they were. I intentionally made verses a lot more open to interpretation, rather than telling people exactly what I want. It was really important to try and hinge songs around very strong, simple choruses and then leave the verses and everything else open to interpretation.”

Taken from the March 2015 issue of DIY. The Vaccines release their new album ‘English Graffiti’ this May through Columbia Records. They play Sound City (22nd-24th May), Latitude (16th-19th July) and Kendal Calling (30th July-2nd August), where DIY is an Official Media Partner. Visit  diymag.com/presents for more information.

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