The Vaccines have announced details of their sixth album ‘Pick-Up Full Of Pink Carnations’ and shared its first single ‘Heartbreak Kid’, plus news of a new UK tour. Check it all out below along with our interview with frontman Justin Young.
‘Heartbreak Kid’ marks the band’s first piece of new material since their 2022 EP ‘Planet Of The Youth’ and the first release since the departure of original guitarist Freddie Cowan.
The track details romantic loss set to widescreen, surging guitars and a punchy, anthemic rhythm section – while Young sings about a relationship crumbling to nothing.
“I’m not necessarily professing to be the protagonist,” he told NME. “The whole record is very personal and real, and experienced and lived, but there are some songs on the record that are very literal and there are some that are stories. With ‘Heartbreak Kid’, I think it pretty much does what it says on the tin.”
The chorus of the single finds the frontman switching between two usages of the title, first urging: “Let your heart break, kid.” Later, he twists it into a new moniker, singing: “Oh you never thought they’d leave you but they did / Now everybody calls you the heartbreak kid.”
“I do enjoy a call to arms sometimes, which I don’t really know how often we’ve done because maybe it can be hard to get right,” Young said. “But there’s a subtle flip in there, which I quite like.”
Loss in many different forms fuels ‘Pick-Up Full Of Pink Carnations’ – a theme that Young said has been a part of The Vaccines’ DNA for a long time. “That’s always been in not just our lyrics but our sound as well,” he explained. “There’s a sense of nostalgia and looking in the rearview mirror and wondering if what you left behind is better than what you’re heading towards.
“It’s quite explicitly in the lyrics, but then it’s in the music as well. It’s in the melody and the sound. This record feels nostalgic. Something I’ve said about our music so many times is there’s euphoria and melancholia in equal measure. I don’t think this is a sad or depressing record – I actually think it’s quite hopeful and euphoric – but I do think it has these melancholic undertones.”
The album was written while Young was living in LA and going through his own period of loss. Although the album is not strictly about growing disillusioned with the reality of America, he said it uses that feeling as a “quite literal, overt metaphor for what one expects versus what one experiences”.
“A city like LA or New York, or even London, is in every song, every book, every movie and every TV show,” he said. “These kinds of places, we think that they’re going to provide us with this sanctuary or escape, or this environment to cultivate this person who we always hoped we’d be able to become.
“Then actually, you realise, ‘Am I running to something or from something? And, actually, even if I’m running to something, am I going to be able to escape what I’m running from?’”
‘Pick-Up Full Of Pink Carnations’ finds The Vaccines making a clean break from the sonic palette of 2021 album ‘Back In Love City’ and ‘Planet Of The Youth’, which pulled from everything from disco to spaghetti Westerns. That’s been replaced in favour of something more organic. Looking back on that previous era of the band, Young said he was proud of what the band had achieved with those two records, but that there were parts of him that questioned if they were utilising their members best on it.
“We have this incredible, amazing rock drummer [Yoann Intonti], who everybody I know that plays with him is like, ‘This guy is insane’, so why are we programming all the drums?” He said. “Why are we taking the humanity out of that? Tim [Lanham] is now playing guitar and he’s this incredible, melodic guitar player – why would you not bring that to the front of what you do?”
He added that, now, it feels harder to “create something that feels natural and human and imperfect”, suggesting that was drawing him more towards live drums, “parts that are being played and lines that are being sung, and having a bit more vulnerability and imperfection in the music”. “I think that’s ultimately why we’re all drawn to music and musicians in the first place, right? And why AI will probably not triumph in that respect.”
That humanity and vulnerability was also recorded in LA, with The Vaccines teaming up with producer Andrew Wells (Halsey, Phoebe Bridgers). “We were in his home studio in the hills with this amazing view,” Young shared. “It was a very inspiring, exciting place to be every day and I think you can hear that too. The more we make records, the more I really value being somewhere with someone that makes you feel excited to be there.”
The band’s sixth album marks a new era not just in sound, but in personnel too. It is the first Vaccines record not to feature original guitarist Freddie Cowan, who left the band last summer. “He actually left about two weeks before we flew to start recording,” Young explained. “There was maybe some trepidation going for all of us, wondering what that was going to be like.” Within 10 minutes of the sessions starting, though, they settled into their new roles and things “felt very natural and easy”.
Although there was some apprehension going into the studio, the frontman reasoned that if the band didn’t think they would be able to work without Cowan, they wouldn’t have “attempted to get through it”. “Ultimately, bands can often end up being quite fluid and I think we all had faith in each other,” he said. “There was trepidation, but mostly just a renewed sense of purpose.”
Young described ‘Pick-Up Full Of Pink Carnations’, as with every album The Vaccines make, as the latest step in a “never-ending quest for perfection”.
“It’s more cohesive than most [of our] records in terms of songs, but sound as well,” he explained. “It feels like we achieved what we set out to achieve. There’s this brief love affair that you get to have with the album you’ve made between finishing it and everybody else hearing it, and before people telling you it’s not pretty enough or clever enough, or whatever it may be. I’ve really enjoyed that period – I’ve played the album to death and it’s given me a lot of joy, so hopefully it’ll give other people joy too.”
As The Vaccines look forward to another chapter in their story, 13 years after forming and with so much success and change under their belts, the frontman said it is the simple things at the core of the band that keep him pushing forward with it.
“[It’s] the catharsis that comes from writing and recording music and the fulfilment that comes from performing around the world with your best friends,” he said. “I understand why people don’t want to keep doing and maybe as you get older, if you don’t get any bigger, it maybe becomes less comfortable, but I’ve just never stopped loving writing, recording and performing music.”
Young added: “I feel so lucky to have an audience of people that want to hear it and connect with it. I can’t really think of anything else in life that would bring me so much joy. We want to keep getting better and enjoy what we do.”
‘Pick-Up Full Of Carnations’ will be released on January 12, 2024
The band’s new European and UK tour dates are below. Tickets will go on pre-sale at 9am on September 26, with a general on-sale beginning at 9am on September 29. Visit here for tickets and more information.
The Vaccines’ 2024 UK dates are as follows:
5 – Birmingham, O2 Institute
6 – Manchester, Academy
7 – Nottingham, Rock City
10 – London, Troxy
11 – Margate, Dreamland Margate
13 – Folkestone, Leas Cliff Hall
14 – Southampton, O2 Guildhall
15 – Bristol, O2 Academy
17 – Oxford, O2 Academy
18 – Brighton, Dome
19 – Sheffield, O2 Academy
21 – Leeds, O2 Academy
22 – Glasgow, Barrowland Ballroom
23 – Newcastle, NX