The Vaccines’ Freddie Cowan announces debut album as Freddie Cowan & The Scenarios

Check out first single 'Sonic Boom', as the guitarist speaks to NME about his new record – which sees him reunite with Vaccines' original drummer Pete Robertson

The Vaccines’ Freddie Cowan has announced details of ‘Answering Machine’ – his first album as Freddie Cowan & The Scenarios. Check out the new single ‘Sonic Bloom’ below, alongside our chat with the guitarist-turned-musician.

The record, which sees Cowan reunite with Vaccines’ original drummer Pete Robertson, features a cast of musicians Cowan met while living in Mexico – alongside The Vaccines’ keyboardist Tim Lanham, Laura Marling’s bassist Nick Pini, and producer Ethan Johns on percussion. The drummer left The Vaccines in 2016 to pursue “new challenges”. Since then, he has served as a producer for the likes of Beabadoobee, Nasty Cherry, Crawlers, and more.

“Pete is such an incredible drummer,” Cowan told NME of why he wanted to hook up with his old bandmate on this album. “He’s phenomenal – calm and so conversational, he just speaks with the drums.”


Cowan continued: “The musicians on this album were people I’d just unconsciously earmarked over the years. Ethan Johns, the producer, played percussion and he’s the best percussionist probably in the country. Then we went to Mexico and recorded the brass section with players there because we thought if we got a bunch of English brass players, it wouldn’t sound like [what we’re looking for].

“It’s this certain sound. The same way there’s Mexican boxing, there’s a certain fire to it you can’t really replicate.”

‘Answer Machine’ began to come to life after Cowan spent some time living in Mexico in 2019 – an experience he described as “really difficult”. While there, though, he “fell in love with it without realising” and befriended some of the musicians who would end up on the record.

Although he had had the idea of making an album, he hadn’t planned what the record would be or how it would sound. The albums came into fruition in lockdown when his past tendency to try and work “at maximum capacity” was no longer possible.

“I realised that maybe the reason I want to be doing so much all the time is because I’m quite unhappy or uncomfortable or I have a lot of things I’m running away from,” he said. “In lockdown, there was nowhere to run so I had to start dealing with those things and, as I was dealing with them, the music started coming.”


The Vaccines
The Vaccines, 2021. Credit: Frank Fieber.

The new single ‘Sonic Bloom’ details Cowan’s relationship with his mother and letting go of “judgment or resentment” he felt about things in their shared past. “We don’t have to try / It’s not my place to correct / Anything you ever wanted me to,” he sings on the brass-laden track.

“My parents got divorced when I was seven and my role in the family was the perfect child – my big brother [The Horrors’ Tom Cowan] was the problem child,” Cowan told NME. “My role was like, ‘I don’t have a problem – your new boyfriend is great, Dad’s new girlfriend is great, I love that we’re leaving our house’.”

During lockdown, the musician visited his father’s house in northern Scotland and found something that “seemed unloved”.

“I just had so much anger and nowhere to really put it,” he said. “There were all these family photographs and I just pictured [my mum] as a young person – it’s so easy for us to write our parents off as inhuman, but they have all the same experiences and emotions. For whatever reason, on that day it hit me really hard.”

“Her family life was full of addiction and suicide and all this crazy shit. In that moment, I just thought, ‘Forgiveness is the truth’. It’s quite difficult to really try and forgive people and to really try and level it and say, ‘I can’t put myself above you, I can’t live with this judgment and resentment’.”

Cowan described the song as “appearing” fully formed – something he took as a sign to make peace with his feelings about his mother. “I don’t want to waste the time we have on Earth wounded over something I can’t go to her about,” he said. “That’s the crazy thing about trauma – you can’t go to the people who’ve traumatised you with a list and ask them to apologise. They can’t help you. You have to find peace within yourself.”

“In my language, the universe tells you when you’re doing the right thing,” he added. “So you’re doing all this work and trying to let go of all this stuff and do the right thing, and then a song will appear. I’ve really experienced that in my life – that when things are meant to be, doors just swing open. We went to Mexico in May and The Scenarios then were a nine-piece band. We were doing this tour and I just thought, ‘This is completely insane – I don’t know how we’re paying for this or how this is working or has come about, but it has’. I definitely feel like a passenger in the whole thing.”

One musician who had a big impact on the record is saxophonist Diego Herrera, a member of the legendary Mexican rock band Caifanes. After meeting on a plane while touring with The Vaccines, Herrera became something of a mentor to Cowan, looking after him in Mexico and introducing him to other key players in the album’s journey.

“I have people I send bits to sometimes, like Albert Hammond Jr or Paul Banks from Interpol or Tim Burgess – all these people I’ve met over the years – just to help with the confidence,” Cowan said. “Diego became just like one of those people.”

The Vaccines
The Vaccines Credit: Frank Fieber

Cowan’s new album sees him transition from guitarist to frontman, the stereotypical image of which he said he doesn’t fit into. “I like the idea of being a conductor,” he explained of how he leads The Scenarios. “We set up in a kind of semi circle so I’m almost facing into the band and can conduct as it goes and see where the songs go.”

He explained that, live, the band never plays the same thing twice. “You can take a song from being three minutes to seven minutes and you’re doing it in real time. I guess what I got so bored of, essentially, it was a little bit like playing Guitar Hero, being in a big band on stage. You hit these certain points, almost like Tetris, and if you hit something else everyone would give you a look like, ‘Where are you going?’.”

After the album’s release, The Scenarios will tour Mexico in April, with plans to bring the live show to the UK later this year. “I want to do a small amount of shows and do them really well and make it really, really interesting,” Cowan said. “The music business in the ‘60s and ‘70s was much more based around records and when people did play shows, they were amazing. So I only want to play a small amount of shows with the best people.”

Elsewhere, the guitarist has been back at work with The Vaccines as they continue progress on the follow-up to 2021’s ‘Back In Love City’. “The album’s half done and I think the plan is to get back on it in late spring,” he shared. “I think there’s definitely a respect paid to what The Vaccines is – it’s definitely a Vaccines record.”

‘Answer Machine’ will be released digitally on March 9 via Bandcamp, with a full streaming release two weeks later and a vinyl edition to follow.

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