The band's fourth record "is done"
The release of 2013’s ‘Modern Vampires of the City’ – Vampire Weekend‘s third album and the last we heard, musically speaking, from the collective New York indie prep school dons – seems like a long time ago now. Luckily there’s a follow-up on the way. Much has changed for the band in the interim but, if the evidence currently available is anything to go by, long-term fans are in for an absolute treat. Here’s everything we know so far.
We’ve had a couple of progress updates
Frontman Ezra Koenig has spent the summer teasing festival audiences with updates. Back in August, the band performed at Chicago’s Lollapolooza and shared five new songs. He also revealed that the album is completed. He explained: “I wanted to tell you that the album is done now. “I mean, we’re mastering itM but it’s done. More on that to come – in the meantime, just enjoy the rest of your summer.”
Later in the summer, at End of the Road Festival in Dorset, south-west England, he took questions from the audience – it sort of descended into a Q&A – and said: “When’s the new album coming out? “Oh, who cares? No, it’s done. We’ll talk about that later.”
When the topic recurred, he explained: “We don’t wanna make big deal about it, but this is our first time playing in the UK since Reading & Leeds 2014. We agreed to do [End of The Road 2018] a long time ago and, yeah, we hoped we’d be doing a victory lap with our new album. But, you know, this is what happens. Life goes on. We promise we’ll come back to the UK and we’ll play new songs. And they’re good – I promise.”
One fan asked if the vinyl had been ordered. He replied: “Yeah, but the vinyl takes a long time. You know the industry. There’s a real log jam at the vinyl factory these days.”
A clued-up fan has revealed what the new songs sound like
Punters at the Lollapolooza show took to Reddit afterward. “The new stuff was very cool and def good but looking forward to hearing it on good headphones,” one wrote. “Last song he played was my favourite easily.”
They continued: “The best way I could describe the sound is a more spacey and empty sounding record, almost reminiscent of [Fleet Foxes’] ‘Crack Up’ in parts, but VERY bright and sunny – a summertime sound with almost a protest song sound vibe to them (no political lyrics I heard or anything like that), and then big dense flashes of instrumentation with heavy percussion and a slick, almost sexy taste of ’70s funk licks. Going to be an interesting record.”
There’s been a line-up change
Rostam Batmanglij has departed the group – though there’s no bad blood and, in fact, he will even appear on parts of the upcoming album. Koenig told Entertainment Weekly: “We’re working on some songs in the exact same way we’ve always worked. We have some stuff that we started a pretty long time ago.” Long-term producer Ariel Rechtstaid is back twiddling the knobs, so don’t expect a total overhaul.
And a label change
Back in 2016, it was rumoured the band had left their longtime label XL Recordings for a major move over to Columbia. Now, it’s been confirmed that they’ve signed up with Sony Music instead.
There’s been much progress since last September
Back in September last year, a highly extra fan tweeted Koenig a picture of a delicious pie she’d made, with the message “Where’s the album” written in pastry on the top. He replied: “80% done but the last 20% is always the hardest”. In May 2018, he gave another update in the band’s Instagram comments, telling another fan the record was “94.5% done.” He’s been a busy bee, our Ezra.
In May this year, the Vampire Weekend Instagram account shared some cryptic photos – a smashed up old TV, a colourful fleece and, below, a car sticker. Ezra also shared a video of himself wearing surgical mask in a car, listening to reggae, with the caption:“Follow @vampireweekend.” What could it mean?
And there’s even a working title
In a highly revealing Instagram post shared last March, Keonig confirmed that the album is currently called ‘Mitsubishi Macchiato’. The reason? According to the caption, “cuz it is a helpful concept”. He also argued that “guitar’s not dead”, implying the album won’t stray far from the indie-pop sound that heralded the band’s arrival with 2008’s self-titled debut. We glimpsed a couple of song titles, too: ‘Conversation’ and ‘Flower Moon’. The musician wrote: “Flower Moon is hard to finish but I think it belongs on the album.” Keep on trucking, Ezra!
Curiously, it might be influenced by Ezra’s Netflix show, Neo Yokio
Yes, Vampire Weekend (members both present and semi-past) have spread their wings somewhat since ‘Modern Vampires’… Batmanglij worked on the soundtrack to his brother Zal’s (excellent) sci-fi Netflix show The OA, while bassist Chris Baio and percussionist Chris Tomson both released solo albums.
For his part, Koenig created and co-wrote and co-produced an anime Netflix cartoon named Neo Yokio, which featured the voices of Jaden Smith, Jude Law and Tavi Gevinson.
Speaking to Pitchfork about the show, he revealed that his diversification into a new artform could seep into the fourth album. “This next album is pushing in a lot of different directions,” he said. “There’s one or two things that make me nervous, but there has always been some sense of that with anything that I’ve ever been a part of that was good.”
There’ll be guests aplenty
Koenig has worked with Kanye West and told Rolling Stone that the artist’s collaborative approach to creativity had rubbed off on him. “I had this experience where I was in the studio with Kanye in Mexico,” he said. “It was so different than anything I’d done. One day [Dirty Projectors frontman] Dave Longstreth is there; the next day Big Sean shows up. Sometimes it wasn’t people working, just talking about music.”
This struck the musician as an exciting way of working: “I was, like, ‘I like this atmosphere. I need to loosen up.’ So I’ve been working with this 68-year-old guitarist, Greg Leisz, and this 18-year-old guitarist, Steve Lacy. A bunch of other people have been coming in and out.”
And it might be a bit more straightforward than Vampire Weekend’s previous output
In that Instagram post, Keonig said the new album will be “a lil more springtime” than ‘Modern Vampires’... Given that that album had a May release, let’s assume he’s not being literal. Perhaps he means that, sonically, it’s a bit more breezy than the band’s last album, which was complex and mature.
This seems to be backed up by the conversation he had with Entertainment Weekly, in which he revealed the influence that the Texan country singer Kacey Musgraves has had upon him. Koenig watched her perform in 2016 and said: “She would start to sing and I realised, within the first 30 seconds, I knew what the song was about. There are very few Vampire Weekend songs that could be summed up in a sentence. I used to be proud of that, and now I’m a little ashamed of it.”
But it won’t be trap
In that Entertainment Weekly interview, Koenig said: “Nobody wants to hear the Vampire Weekend trap album.” Well, we wouldn’t go that far, Ezra…