INTERVIEW: The Vaccines

When Rolling Stone magazine likened their work to a The Ramones, fifties jukebox (Frankie Avalon) and The Strokes, it could only be a classic recipe for capturing the spirit of youth and rebellion.

The Vaccines are candidates for picking up the baton of good old-fashioned teenage rock ‘n’ roll – sounds like a delicious combination for their upcoming performances and appearances at Falls Festival and Field Day.

The Londoners are no strangers to the great southern land, having performed at Splendour last year. We got talking to Justin Hayward-Young, frontman and lead singer, before they head on their tour down under.

“Yeah, we’ve been to Australia twice now and had amazing gigs. It’s just nice being in the sun and you know everyone back home’s in the darkness and the cold –and probably just hang out on the beach. Snakes really scare me so the fact that you’ve said there could be this wildlife at Falls is scaring me.”

Since their creation in 2010, The Vaccines have performed with the likes of guitar legends The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stone Roses, Arctic Monkeys as well as releasing two albums and appearing at international festivals. This year, The Vaccines were voted NME magazine’s Best New Band. All of which might mean they have released themselves from the label of “emerging group”.

“I suppose you’re either on the way up or the way down,” Justin laughs. “We’ve got two records out and we’ve been playing a lot – “up and coming” and “new” are two different things, so it feels like we’re still growing as a band… we did all that sort of stuff last year so it feels like we’re very much into something now rather than just beginning.”

The Vaccines have just kicked off their UK tour performance and right now are performing a string of gigs in their home country. Pre-Splendour, they came in at #3 in the BBC Sound of 2011 poll. Justin, however, says that the band really made their break in touring overseas and so still might consider themselves as separate from the UK music scene.

“We’ve been touring for the last couple of months but we haven’t really properly toured the UK for about a year so it’s exciting I guess to get out and playing again in our own country.”

How important is it to make that move overseas in this day and age? “I think it all really comes down to ambition and inspiration and what you want from being in a band. We wanted to go out and see the world and be exhilarating as possible – have fun!”

Apart from dodging snakes and less-than-fresh morning afters, Justin says that he’s excited to perform over new years, even after a hectic year of international touring. “I think the adrenaline and the variety of excitement keeps you going. It’s just fine – I just really find it all exciting.” He cites performing at UK festivals Reading and Leeds as 2012 highlights.

“I do feel the difference – obviously at your own gig you’re preaching to the converted so at festival gigs, there’s always a bunch of people out there who like you, there are other people who’ve stumbled across you, a bunch of people dragged along by their friends and I try and win people over that’s what I find really exciting, the idea of winning people over who wouldn’t necessarily have liked our band before.”

The Vaccines released Come of Age in September as a follow-up to last year’s debut album What Did you Expect from the Vaccines? so we’ll be hearing the now well-rehearsed favourites of 2012 (‘I Always Knew’, ‘No Hope’) and possibly Justin’s favourite track to perform ‘Bad Mood’. If their energy-fuelled music videos are anything to go by, The Vaccines are coming full force through their string of live performances. However, Justin makes sure to avoid the intense pyrotechnics of modern concerts harking back to the classic minimalist rock shows.

“We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band so we’ve got a lot of simplicity and directness and I think on stage that’s part of the ethos. I don’t think we want anything too pantomime. But we have got the lights show – we’ve always thought of ourselves as a good live band and we’ve thought of ourselves as a band getting better live and I think that high energy, that’s something that we really feel and really connect with emotionally.”

“I think we’ve got human elements to what we do, I don’t think it’s perfect in any way – I feel like what we’re doings is natural. It’s often quite an endearing thing and there’s a mystery about rock ‘n’ roll perfection. I don’t think really think about it. I probably get shy talking to a crowd sometimes but in depends what mood you’re in as with anything you do in life.”

Unfortunately along with the kick of being a touring rock band there is a touch of job-specific casualties. It was around the time of Splendour in the Grass last year that Justin lost his voice in what seemed to be a permanent injury. Luckily, he’s made a few lifestyle changes and is back on his feet ready to continue belting out those rebellious, youthful sounds.  “I just take it every day as it comes…generally it’s all good at the moment.”

“I haven’t fallen off stage or anything, it sort of petrifies me that I’m going to do that because a) it’s physically painful but it’s also emotional scarring as well – there are many people just face planting off stage and I think most people to do it at some point.”

Despite always thinking about writing new songs, Justin said that he hasn’t had the best luck with instrumental encounters. “I picked up a bunch of instruments but I kept putting them all down, I just had the worst ADD, I could never do anything for too long. I always wrote songs actually, especially when I was 11 or 12, I just found it really therapeutic, and my dad taught me a few chords on the guitar so I could write but I’ve never really had any kind of technical ability.”

And what’s on the cards for The Vaccines? “Heck knows what happens now – I think we just keep going. I think we want to keep getting better and better and making better records and being a better live band.”

Words by Anitgone Anagnostellis

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Dubbed most likely to revitalise the hippy movement at the end of high school, Antigone is secretly working on a time warp back to 1969.