As fresh-faced Columbia grads, the four guys in Vampire Weekend are aiming to perfect the smartest brand of party rock since David Johansen moonlighted as Buster Poindexter. Not to mention the weirdest. Crying out for a record deal, they’re unlike any other band going in New York, offering up a killer blend of funked-up Afrobeat, slick ’80s pop, and polite punk. And their lyrics—mixing references both low- (Peter Gabriel, Louis Vuitton) and highbrow (Oxford commas, mansard roofs)—are by turns goofy and whip-smart. Their musical influences are symptomatic of just how much stuff people can absorb these days: Cuts like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” mix Radio Disney bubblegum with the diluted world music of Paul Simon’s Graceland, whereas “APunk” could be a toss-off from the Clash’s Sandinista. Still, doesn’t their band name sound like a black-metal group from Scandinavia? “It fits the music,” guitarist Ezra Koenig explains. “Although, once you get past the ‘vampire’ part and you realize it’s more about ‘vampire-plus-weekend,’ then it kind of makes sense.” Sure.
Sitting in a Lower East Side Mexican restaurant, the guys don’t seem comfortable with the whole interview thing—they’re new to the grind. So, to better figure them out, why not consult one of the last bastions of truth: Facebook profiles! Koenig, who talks the most and comes off like a young Rivers Cuomo, wisely keeps his private. But for the others, it’s open season. Keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij loves Day-Glo hip-hop hoodies and any TV show that “takes place in New York in the ’80s.” Tall, lanky, and eloquent, Chris Tomson is tagged as the band’s drummer, treasurer, and “team dad”; bassist Chris Baio jokingly describes his internship at a record label as “living off the fat of the land.”
The future of this band all rests on this summer: They’ve embarked on their first nationwide tour, sharing bills with acts like Tokyo Police Club, Shout Out Louds, and Ra Ra Riot. What’s impressive is that they did most of the preparations themselves, including filling out the proper tax forms to become incorporated and buy a van. This is a feat, considering that most start-up touring acts can’t even find a place to sleep. So how’d they do it? “We did some research and stuff,” Koenig coyly replies. Smart-asses.
Vampire Weekend perform at the East River Music Project August 11,ermp.org