London’s Vaccines‘ recently-released debut, What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? is an album that unapologetically celebrates the best parts of youthful reckless abandon: getting dumped, (metaphorically) blowing things up and the quest for post-breakup sex, all backed with a Strokes-ian penchant for guitar hooks. Hive recently spoke with lead singer Justin Young about accidently forming a band and how to avoid rehashing rock tropes.
Reports are murky; How long have the Vaccines been a band?
We first started playing shows just about a year ago now. We’d been sort of writing the songs and getting the sound for about a year before that. So in terms of making music, coming up on a couple of years now. For us it was a real casual thing. We just talked about being inspired and being creative, and it wasn’t contrived in any way whatsoever. It was just about a new and exciting way for us as creative people to try out ideas. When we started the band I didn’t even own an electric guitar.
How did you actually write songs then?
It was literally like sitting down and making noises — just messing around with different sounds and different songs and having fun. Once we came up with a couple songs we thought were really good, we thought, “Maybe we can take this slightly more seriously. We’ve got something really good here.” [We realized] that other people might like it and maybe it would connect with people.
And that connection, you all desired that at some level?
You’ve got to put yourself out and see what other people think, don’t you? It’s scary. You’ve been cultivating something. You all feel very safe when you’re the only four people that have heard it. When you’ve been cultivating something, it’s like your baby and you’re giving it to the world. It was weird and it was scary but it’s got to be done.
With all the hype surrounding the Vaccines, do you feel pressure?
Fortunately we had the record ready to go. We’d written the record before people started taking an interest in us. We would have felt a lot more pressure had we not had all the songs finished. Also, we don’t really read press or anything like that so ignorance is bliss in that sense. It’s natural to feel a little bit of pressure. But we felt good about what we had and we’d worked hard on it. You’re always going to disappoint people when you’re hyped up, but fortunately it never really got to us.
Your record is full of tried-and-true themes: love, lust, jealousy. How did you work to make those themes new and interesting?
There are certain rules that you follow; it needs to be a subjective thing, you need to be honest with yourself. The more personal, the better. When you’re honest and believe what you’re saying, it’s better for the music.
What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? is out now on Columbia. Watch the video for “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” below.