The Vaccines: In Conversation at the British Music Experience, The 02 – 30/10/11

The Vaccines have had the year of their lives, what with a top 5 album, numerous festival slots and working with their ‘modern icon’ Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes. Aside from this, they’ve spent 18 months touring all over the world from Scandinavia to the US, experiencing the cosiest bars, Las Vegas’ lion cubs and their discovery of ‘disposable’ underwear.

On this blustery Sunday afternoon Justin Young, Pete Robertson, Freddie Cowan and Árni Hjörvar offer up they’re precious free time to do a Q&A session for fans in the British Music Experience at The 02, prior to their support slot with their Sheffield companions Arctic Monkeys. The West London four-piece have previously supported them in the US.

They saunter into the darkened room, wearing their vintage-look attire, looking effortlessly cool and prepped for whatever question to be fired. Firstly answering various questions put to them by the organisers at the BME, mainly focused on the history of the band and the musical foundations of each member. The topic of first records brought was raised including, the Pokémon album (Freddie gives a rendition of the Pokémon rap…), Pete’s was Parklife, his ‘cool’ answer but we all know that his first was actually Spaceman by Babylon Zoo. Oasis and Elvis are also in there, it’s nice to see that they’ve pulled their influences from a range, aye? They also express their adolescent love for grunge pioneers Nirvana.

The long story about how the band got together is a regular question and one that Frontman Justin takes. (How he and Freddie started playing with a third member in their studio but the pair took the reins of the project and started to enjoy playing again after various past projects. They met drummer, Pete (who was a bassist in his first band) and Arni. They started playing together and felt they had something, practised and practised some more. Got Jools Holland and Zane Lowe involved, released their album, got to number 4 and there you have it, The Vaccines’ journey to their rightful place in British music. Happily every after.

“I felt that this was as good as anything else out there and I’ve never really felt that what I was doing was as good as it could be. I felt pretty much from the word Go thought that people might really like this.” – Justin Young

The hype surrounding them allowed everything to move very swiftly for them this year. Favourite moments of theres in 2011 include their triumphant sets at Reading and Leeds, T in the Park and meeting lion cubs in Vegas on their first trip to America, where they also managed to sell out the Bowery Ballroom in NYC with 80’s heroine Debbie Harry in the audience.

Justin: We went to Las Vegas, our bus was driving through and our sound man is from there, well he’s not actually, he’s from Birmingham (laughs) and he said let’s get out for the day and go to Las Vegas. We saw there were these lions, little cubs and it was $200 and you got like a minute with them or something.
Freddie: We have got the photographs, we’ve got the evidence.

Questions were then opened to the floor, after a bit of hesitance the questions got going. The subjects included: the best bars in the world, guilty pleasures, songwriting and how they wash their clothes on the road…

Árni: We learnt pretty quickly that underwear is disposable, you just wear it once. Otherwise you’re just going to be carrying around a massive bag of dirty underwear for two months.
Freddie: It’s like being in the army
Justin: We’re basically in the circus!

Justin: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I used to have guilty pleasures but now I’m very happy to admit that I like anything. I really like Taylor Swift and I like stuff that people would probably think were guilty pleasures like Abba. I just like good pop music, it doesn’t really matter how it’s packaged.”
Árni: I’ve got a soft spot for Jessie J
Pete: I don’t follow that whole thing at all. I think music snobbery is a bit like wine snobbery for me. Justin: Only you can know what music touches you here (makes a fist to his heart)” It’s true though isn’t it?
Pete: I think this attitude of guilty pleasures has seen the end of some very good artists bands because somewhere along the line someone has decided that it’s not cool to like that person and their career has ended as a result.

“We do write from personal experience. Songwrting serves as a very therapeutic process and I like the idea of being able to write about something that is quite intensely personal but at the same time it’s universal as well. Yeah, I always write from personal experience. When people talk about politics, I just think there are people in a better place to make those decisions, there’s no-one in a better place to write about me, than me.” – Justin Young

The session ends with Justin playing a solo acoustic version of new single, ‘Wetsuit’, sounding completely different to the normal version, it’s quiet and breezy and making an impression on the room.

What a year The Vaccines have had and it’s not over for them yet, after the rest of the Arctic Monkeys’ dates, they’ll embark on their own headline tour in December. This means in a year they’ve gone from playing KCLSU and the Electric Ballroom to headlining two nights at Brixton, concluding their year on an even bigger high. Where’s next for them? Only time will tell, I’m no mystic meg but I reckon that 2012 will be just as big and they deserve it.


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