This spring, The Vaccines will release ‘English Graffiti’: their third studio album, co-produced by Dave Fridmann is set to make them bigger than ever. Luckily, frontman Justin Young and the rest of the band have been telling NME exactly what to expect from one of the year’s most anticipated albums…
They’re forgetting the past. In the past, The Vaccines carved a reputation for simple, timeless rock’n’roll. But singer Justin Young told NME that the band weren’t looking in their record collections for inspiration this time around. “I started to feel being timeless isn’t a good thing,” he said. “I wanted to make a record that was important in 2015 and sounded like 2015.”
And they’re not fussed about the future, either. Justin says that The Vaccines aren’t bothered about making a record that will necessarily stand the test of time, either. “We wanted to make something that sounds amazing next year and then terrible in 10 years!” he claimed. “If you listen to anything from the 1990s now it sounds fucking awful, but that’s part of its identity.”
They’re channeling the spirit of pop and hip-hop rather than rock’n’roll. It’s unlikely The Vaccines have been influenced sonically by Grimes or Kanye, of course – but they’ve been inspired by the ambition of pop and hip-hop, at least. “People just aren’t ambitious in rock music,” says Justin. “If you take hip-hop or pop, they’re a lot more adventurous, they break a lot more rules.”
Justin’s a big fan of Weezer’s ‘Pinkerton’. According to the frontman, producer Dave Fridmann was chosen for his track-record of helming top-notch albums – with Weezer’s 1996 classic one of his particular favourites. “Dave has made consistently made fantastic records,” he says – Fridmann has also worked with Sleater-Kinney, Flaming Lips and The Cribs.
The recording sessions were a bit… dangerous. Recording in Fridmann’s studio in New York, the band were regularly interrupted by the sound of gunfire and the producer insisted they wore high-vis jackets when they went outside for safety. What were the locals shooting? “Animals,” says Justin. “And English people.”
But Fridmann isn’t the only producer working on the album. Dave’s involvement may have taken the headlines so far, but Cole M Greif-Neill, a former member of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti and a beatmaker for label Stones Throw, is also involved. “He’s been taking everything we record into the other room and chopping it up,” reveals Justin of the producer “dream team”.
‘Want You So Bad’ should make the final track list. Despite arriving at the studio with 50 tracks to whittle down, the band have already been talking about some of the songs they were desperate to keep. ‘I Want You So Bad’ is a hypnotic, groove-based track which, according to Justin, is “a really pretty love song. It’s my best attempt at sounding sexy.”
And so should ‘Radio Bikini’. At the other end of the spectrum is the “hyper” ‘Radio Bikini’, an answer to Dead Kennedy’s ‘Holiday In Cambodia’. “It’s a song about the bombing of Bikini Atoll [after World War II] disguised as a song about summer,” Justin told NME.
They’ve written their ‘biggest ever song’ for the LP’. If what Justin says is true, then ‘English Graffiti’ will boast The Vaccines’ biggest song yet. ‘Dream Lover’ is about the feeling of going home with someone when you wish you were with another person entirely. “I think that’s the biggest song we’ve ever written,” says Justin. “It’s like a monster to me in my head.”
Experimenting saved The Vaccines. Ditching material helped the album grow, reckons Justin. “If we ended up keeping all of the stuff from the first time we went into the studio, then it wouldn’t have been a Vaccines record. I think because we had time to explore, we were able to take a few wrong turns. It’s now ended up sounding more like a Vaccines record than it did six months ago.”