Interview: “This is us cementing and solidifying our identity” - The Vaccines talk new album ‘Combat Sports’

“This is us cementing and solidifying our identity” - The Vaccines talk new album ‘Combat Sports’

Watch out 2018 - The Vaccines are preparing to make their return with a bang, and a very special night at Alexandra Palace.

The standard plot line for a returning band these days is to creep back into view with a series of seriously intimate shows and build back up to the lofty heights they’d previously scaled (and hopefully beyond). That may have been the case for The Vaccines in the past, but not now - the always ambitious band are jumping right back into the deep end with a huge show at London’s Alexandra Palace on 14th April. 

“We felt like we were bored playing that game and we should do something different,” says frontman Justin Young over the phone during a mid-afternoon stroll through the capital. “It’s a statement of intent.”

Ally Pally is a room he and his two co-founding bandmates Freddie Cowan (guitar) and Árni Árnason are familiar with. Back in 2012, they played their then-biggest ever show in its cavernous hall in celebration of second album ‘Come Of Age’. “I remember walking in to do soundcheck and there was a crane and a transit van,” Justin reminisces. “They were both in the middle of the room and they were dwarfed by it. I just remember thinking, ‘Fuck, this room is huge.’ From the front to back [of the show], I felt like I had electricity running through me.”

Their return to Wood Green isn’t the start of a campaign to clamber up the hierarchy of London’s venues to even more impressive rooms. In fact, according to their leader, this is likely to be the only time you’ll see The Vaccines in London for some time. “We’ve done The O2 and I think Wembley is the same size as Ally Pally, but with more seating,” he says nonchalantly. “We are planning on this being our only London show for the record. That’s the official party line.”

Never fear, though, because you can always count on The Vaccines to give you a special night. Comparing their last visit to Alexandra Palace to their “own festival”, Justin says they’re in the process of booking a line-up that’ll guarantee a good night out. Given this is a band who’ve invited the likes of DIIV, Fucked Up, Iceage and The Big Moon to support them over the years, it seems unlikely they’ll disappoint us now. 

The band aren’t planning a night of fun for the hell of it, though. There’s a new album on the way, as teased in the same video that announced their live return (for the lazy but curious, Justin says you don’t need to look too closely to find all the information you need about the record). The gigging experience was at the forefront of their minds while making the follow-up to 2015’s ‘English Graffiti’, with their aim to make something that “felt good to play live”. “We’re really proud of the last record, but we made it in the studio and we never really rehearsed it and we’d never played any of those songs live [before the album came out],” Justin explains. “They were made in the box and, when it came to playing them live, they felt… different. They didn’t feel like a traditional Vaccines song does to play.”

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“I haven’t been as in love with being in The Vaccines as I am now for a really long time”

Justin Young

The as-yet-unannounced record is the band’s “heaviest” and “definitely most energetic record since the first album”, and was inspired more by themselves than any other band. “The sound of the record came from us more than it maybe has done for a long time, or maybe ever,” says Justin. “It’s us cementing and solidifying our identity, and not being afraid of who we are on record, who we aware as music listeners at home, and who we are as a band on stage, and just wanting to be loud, and exciting, and energetic. You should be able to hear 10 seconds of music and, even if you’ve never heard the song, be able to know the band.”

At a handful of festival dates, the group previewed three of the upcoming album’s tracks, one of which is already capturing fans’ imaginations. Despite there only being tinny live videos available right now, one person has covered the gleaming FM pop of ‘Your Love Is My Favourite Band’, turning it into an emotional piece of electronic pop. “Her arrangement was 90 percent right, which made me happy,” its original creator notes.
It’s not just excited fans that are feeling eager for the band’s return, though.

Thanks to a new line-up (Spector’s Yoann Intonti has replaced Pete Robertson on drums, while touring keyboardist Timothy Lanham is now a full-time member) and their new approach to making music, Justin says an “insane breath of fresh air [has swept] through gangland”. “I haven’t been as in love with being in The Vaccines as I am now for a really long time,” he says happily. All that’s left for him to do now is spread that love this spring. Bring it on.

Taken from the December 2017 / January 2018 issue of DIY. Read online or subscribe below.

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