QUICK CHAT W/ THE VACCINES
Justin Hayward-Young from The Vaccines took some time out to chat to us right before the band head to Australia for Splendour in the Grass. We discuss the new album English Graffiti, turning guitars into synths and how the band have grown over the years.
How do you feel a week out from your Australian tour? How have you felt your shows have gone here in the past?
Good enough that we’re coming back! It’s been two and half years since we’ve been to Australia and probably five since we played our own shows. We always love coming and we’re really excited. This will be our second Splendour, second time at The Metro in Sydney.
What do you think English Graffiti stands for in terms of the band’s journey?
I think it’s just a really important record for us, it’s like the first chapter in a new book. I feel like it’s an important transitionary record for us to make, to show to ourselves if not anyone else that we can go anywhere from here hopefully.
Who were some of the artists you were listening to when you started work on English Graffiti?
I don’t know if it’s necessarily sound but specifically for me I look at all those great acts that evolved over time. Who kept pushing themselves to be better, find more focus and calve your niche, but also have these aspirational, other worldly qualities to write great pop songs. Glam was important – we listened to a lot of T.Rex, Bowie, Gorillaz, Daft Punk. Everything that felt kind of innovative but felt human at the same time.
A song like Give Me A Sign features a use of synths which isn’t present on your other albums. Is this something you wanted to do for a while in terms of experimenting with your sound?
It’s actually guitar! We just wanted to try and make it sound like it was synth. One thing we were trying to do with this record was to try and use everything we used in the past but make them sound different. In the past we looked back and thought “Oh how do we make this sound from 30 years ago, 50 years ago” and I think we realised that all that stuff from the time they were looking forwards, trying to make sounds no one had made before. We spent a lot of time on this record trying to make guitars sound like they weren’t guitars and get vocals to sound like they weren’t vocals. We wanted to expand our sonic palate and do something a bit different. I’m always happy when people think there’s synths on the record because there weren’t.
I’m a big fan of the recent videos for 20/20 and Handsome, but also of Teenage Icon. Where do you get your inspiration for music videos typically? Do you work closely with the director and give them ideas you want to work with?
It’s definitely about collaboration. Quite often we work with friends and we work with people more than once. I guess music videos are an extension of your art and they’re also an opportunity to bring a visual element to your music and add character. For us there’s an explorational quality to it but it’s also tongue-in-cheek. Sort of bubblegum and embracing pop culture, there’s a lot about us in the band which is kind of what music videos should be like really .
What songs off English Graffiti have been the most enjoyable to play live?
I’ve been really enjoying playing ‘(All Afternoon) In Love’ and ‘Minimal Affection’. But I also like the singles ‘Dream Lover’, ‘20/20’ and ‘Handsome’, More people have heard them then they’ve heard the record. It’s nice starting to see them get a reaction in the same way the old ones do. It kinda makes everything feel worthwhile.
How do you go about putting together set lists now that you’ve got three albums at your disposal?
It’s increasingly more and more difficult. We’re now at a place where we can have different parts of a set, we can have slightly more of a journey. We try to entertain, so it’s important to us that we play a crowd-pleasing set to a certain extent. We always play our favourites and crowd favourites, a mixture of the two.
I’ve noticed that over the last few years the band have had what one might call a uniform? Is that something you’ve put a lot of effort into, or quite spontaneous?
I wouldn’t say we put effort into it, to a certain extent it happens naturally. I think we’re aware of it because I think it’s important to have a gang mentality, an ‘us vs. the world’ mentality. I think it just goes together. I love looking at pictures of my favourite artists and looking at them and thinking “I would have loved to have been part of that gang”.
Did you ever expect to be a songwriter that people would really identify with and want to get to know?
The thing is I definitely didn’t expect it but I do think that with my lyric writing it’s important to be honest with myself and personal. When you’re personal and interpersonal or even universal I almost feel that you’re more likely to connect with people. At the heart of it we’re all the same.
How has your recording process changed or evolved over the years?
With the first two albums we sort of went in and pressed play and recorded the songs really. It changed around ‘Melody Calling’, we wanted to use the studio as an extra band member and embrace production and embrace the fact that anything is possible. It became a place of exploration more than it had been in the past, it’s a lot more daunting that way but it’s a lot more fun and exciting.
What side of the band do you find yourself favouring more, the more anthemic songs like Family Friend or short and punchy like Handsome?
Well, it depends on my mood! I love the fact that there’s two sides of a personality and we’re able to tap into both of them. Definitely different songs for different moods.
So it’s just been announced that you’ll be coming back to Australia, clearly you love touring here. When you’ve been here in the past have you had a chance to sight see around the country?
Oh yeah, definitely! We’ve had some amazing times in Australia. Big Day Out is great because you have a lot of days off in between shows. Last time we were her we took a trip up the coast when we went to Brisbane. For the Mumford shows we have a few days off in between every show, it’s kinda like going on holiday for us.
You’re also playing some shows with Palma Violets when you’re here for Splendour. Have you played with those guys before?
Many times, we’re friends from London. In fact I saw them two or three days ago. Both bands compliment each other really well, they’ll be fun shows.
Who is your dream collaboration with?
It’s a very difficult question! I’m a fan of The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson is such a genius. He’s had a bigger influence on me as anyone. I’d love to write a beautiful soundscapey song with him.
By Holly Pereira / @pseudoholly