You know how some bands blow up right after they release their first album? Well, The Vaccines already were the talk of the town before they even dropped their debut. Some people thought that if it looks like a hype and if it smells like a hype then... But in the millisecond it took them to form that thought, The Vaccines already recorded a second album called “Come Of Age” which is as good as their debut. I'm thinking they're not going anywhere anytime soon but up. We got a chance to sit down with guitarist Freddie and drummer Pete at their recent show in Brussels. Read on!
PRT: First of all, congratulation on the new album. I really enjoyed it!
Both: Thanks man!
PRT: Do you read reviews of your albums when they come out?
Freddie: Well, sometimes when you go abroad they will give this stack of papers with positive press and we obviously can’t read it because it’s in a different language. But generally we try not to. It’s just that thing, you know? If you believe the good stuff, then you also have to believe the bad stuff.
PRT: Does it get to you when you read something bad about you?
Freddie: I guess it does. But that’s just natural, isn’t it? Someone you’ve never met is writing things about you and obviously only gave it a fraction of the thought you gave it when you were creating it. It doesn’t make you like critics.
PRT: And what gets to you the most then? Something about you as a person or about your music?
Pete: For me it’s that they are trying to create stories. We’ve never been a band that’s out to create media waves. We just want to play shows and write songs. And what happened was… well, it has only ever happened in England and only by a very small number of journalists… they took the only thing they could write about, which was that we were being talked about. The word hype was thrown around and as a result of that they decided to not like us. They never talked about how they didn’t like the music or that the songs had no value, they just didn’t like us.
Freddie: It’s all part of it. My dad told me that I should weigh the press and not read it. If people talk about you, obviously you’re already doing something right.
PRT: I wanted to ask about that as well because the music press in the UK has this reputation to pick up bands really fast before dropping them equally fast.
Freddie: That’s very true. They get promised the world and then have it taken away from them before they’ve had a taste of anything. And it’s really hard because 99% of the time it’s not like they picked up a guitar the day before. Those people have worked really hard for that and then they only get this brief moment. But at the same time you also have to applaud the kind of emphasis they place in the UK on new music, which is not something you find in every other country. And we benefitted from that because well, we hadn’t been a band for a long time but we have been in bands for a very long time. And when it came to some crucial moments, we were already kind of prepared whereas some of our contemporaries screwed up.
PRT: Things started moving for you really fast. Weren’t you ever worried that you were losing control?
Freddie: No, not really.
Pete: No, we were always in the driver’s seat and never really felt out of our depth. We’re still growing but we are right where we want to be.
PRT: You already mentioned that you’ve all been in bands for a long time. Now, everybody knows that Justin has been active as a solo artist and has played in a powerviolence band. But what about you guys?
Pete: Lots and lots… I was in my first band when I was 11. It was absolute rubbish but I played in as many bands as I could. Nothing of note though, nothing that ever came close to success. But it did show me the way to get involved with something that I loved and it showed me the direction. I think all of us had that.
Freddie: Same here. I played a couple of shows with The Horrors, my brother’s band. And I played some session guitar for people as a hired gun and I mean session in a very loose way. But yeah, I already had touring experiences but we never got beyond… you know? When we got our first bus? That was new for me.
PRT: Going into the second album, did you feel a lot of pressure?
Freddie: Well, we expect a lot from each other so I think the pressure was all internal. I’ve never really known what it’s like to feel pressure from outside because there’s already plenty of pressure from within the group. We’re very harsh for each other actually.
Pete: You do see band that take too much of the external stuff on board. You can’t please everyone though and you have to figure out what it is you want to achieve. That’s sort of the measure. If you want to achieve what everybody else wants you to achieve, you’re chasing your tail. So it’s best to ignore it… that’s what we do.
PRT: I read somewhere that you had over a 100 songs going into the studio. Is that true?
Freddie: Yeah well, a lot of them were just ideas.
PRT: And does everyone in the band pitch in?
Freddie: We do yes.
PRT: And are you equally harsh for one another then as well?
Freddie: We try not to do that because that’s just creative suicide, isn’t it? If you bring in an idea and someone laughs at you, you’re never going to bring anything else to the table.
PRT: The new album sounds like a natural continuation of the first one. There’s the sound that you already know but you added some new things as well this time around. Is that something you think about?
Freddie: Christ no! You expand your horizons but in the end, we are just who we are. And I think we sound more like ourselves on this album than we did on the first one. We stripped a layer back rather than just put on new clothes.
Pete: I think that things also sounded more diverse because the songs were written over a longer period of time and in a lot of different situations. It was written over the course of a year and it was probably the year in which our lives changed the most. So yeah, it feels like a natural progression.
PRT: You’ve recorded the new album live in the studio, which was a first for you?
Freddie: We did the first album live as well but not as live as this one. It’s pretty simple in the end… you do whatever you think will give you the best result and Ethan’s philosophy is that a rock song hangs on the singer. So why would you record the vocals last? Which is the way things are done nowadays. It was umm, interesting (laughs). You set everything up and then you do four or five takes. I don’t think we ever did more than five.
PRT: And is it simpler?
Pete: (laughs) It sounds simpler.
Freddie: I guess it wouldn’t have been as easy without Ethan, who is a very good guide. He has enough confidence in his ability to record a certain sound whereas it would take me a lot longer to make it sound right. But he can just see things ten steps ahead which makes it much simpler to record.
PRT: We’re talking about simple here and I think that’s what I like most about your songs. They sound simple enough but it’s those kind of songs that are the hardest to write.
Freddie: Simplicity can move mountains. That’s the most difficult thing in the world, to make things simple. And it’s very ironic but the first songs you ever write as a kid… well, not the first ones… they’re probably the best because they’re simple. So yeah, it’s very hard to distill it down to that core.
PRT: Is it hard to restrain yourself and not go like fuck it, let’s bring in a string quartet?
Freddie: Shit, I don’t think we’re in any danger of that (laughs).
Pete: That’s one of the things when we first got together.. probably me more than anyone else in the band… I wanted to put in drum fills here and change cymbals there and just play these intricate beats. But then we just went back to basics.
Freddie: But that’s the kind of fearlessness you have when you begin, you know?
Pete: Yeah, it wasn’t like skill or anything, that’s just courage. You want to steamroll through it. No fancy guitars, no fancy drum fills… just straight down the line. And it’s that kind of approach that puts the song in front of everything else, ahead of any individual member of the band rather than having four individuals doing their thing.
PRT: It sounds simple enough when you put it like that but still quite a lot of bands aren’t doing that.
Pete: It requires feel and you have to put that feel in the driver’s seat and not a lot of bands around have that sort of traditional band feel.
Freddie: Everything in there is so fucking loud because it belongs there. It’s all right there, it all works and it’s all supposed to be there. It’s harder than it sounds.
Pete: It was the classic approach and that’s the way we like it.
PRT: You also took the classic approach when it comes to releasing albums because this is already your second album in two years.
Freddie: It’s amazing… it really changed the way I thought about a lot of records. Especially by the Beatles. Albums that I thought were untouchable and that were made in very much the same way and under the same pressure. It really made me change my mand about those bands and about what is possible in such a short amount of time. You can almost hear which lyric was written right there in the studio at that moment. And it all adds to the magic because that album really is a snapshot of that band at that particular time.
Pete: And it’s more honest as well. You just do the best you can with what you have at that time. And that’s the thing Ethan brought to the table that we just jumped on. It’s so brutally honest. It’s about us looking at ourselves and going like ‘this is who we are’. We are not going to pretend to be someone else. And that’s what records are supposed to be like.