With consecutive nights sold out at Glasgow Academy, The Vaccines are one of the hottest properties in British music. Max Sefton sat down with guitarist Freddie Cowan and drummer Pete Robertson to discuss Hurricane Sandy, rivalry with Two Door Cinema Club and Rihanna vs Radiohead.
You’re in town for two sold-out nights at the Academy, how does that feel?
Freddie – It’s great, we’re in the fortunate period where everything seems to be new and fresh. Everything is exciting and a new experience.
Pete – It’s always good to come back to places after a while. When we were here last we were on the NME tour nearly two years ago as the first band on the bill so to come back and do two nights on our own is pretty special. Funnily enough the headliner on that tour was Crystal Castles, who are playing down the road tonight so they were over here last night and we hung out. It was great.
You worked with Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon) on Come of Age. How was the experience of working with a big name producer?
Pete – You don’t really know what to expect when you admire someone and you build up this picture of what they’re going to be like in your head and personify them through their work so it’s interesting to actually get to know them. He was great, a really cool and inspiring guy, didn’t have a massive ego. He’s got a very direct and complete understanding of rock n roll coming from the family he comes from, more than anyone else I’ve ever met. His Dad [legendary producer Glyn Johns] had him mixing stuff from the age of six, some of the greatest rock and roll records ever made, and he was really generous and shared his view and perspective on rock and roll with us.
The lyrics of Teenage Icon seemed to be an attempt to diffuse some of the weight ofexpectation from your fans. Is this a fair assessment? And how does this album differ from the first one?
Freddie – A good record is a snapshot of a band. You’re changing as a person every day. You’ve lived more, experienced more and hopefully there’s been some growth. I think that lyric is more of a fleeting personal feeling rather than a statement about the band.
Your new album topped the charts recently, narrowly fending off Two Door Cinema Club. How did that feel? And is it a big deal to you when your records chart so highly?
Pete – It was definitely a big deal. It was amazing. It was very surreal, didn’t feel real at all. The whole week it was number one we weren’t even in the country though.
Freddie – We were in New York so we went out and had a big breakfast to celebrate. Some old ladies asked us if we were in a band? (laughs)
Pete – It’s a good feeling to be able to say, that’s happened. Whatever happens no-one can ever take that away.
Freddie – And it wasn’t that narrow the margin we beat Two Door Cinema Club by either…
You’re doing your first US headline tour in early 2013. With the success of Muse, Mumford and Sons and Adele now seems to be a good time for British acts stateside. What are your ambitions?
Freddie – Well I don’t think it’s anything to do with them being British really. All those bands really suited America. I don’t think there’s necessarily a new British invasion going on.
Pete – To my mind I think we haven’t skimmed the surface. I think of America as not really knowing who The Vaccines are, yet we’ve booked this tour and we’re playing Terminal 5 in New York. That place holds 3500 people! It’s like, shit, that’s a big achievement. I think we’re looking forward to giving it a go.
You also played a show in Iceland recently. How was that and is there anywhere else in the world you’d like to take The Vaccines?
Pete – Arni’s [The Vaccines’ Icelandic Bassist] big homecoming! We were there when it was in the middle of the Hurricane Sandy thing. We had a meeting before the gig to say that if the roof blew off the venue before the show then they had an alternative venue lined up. Fortunately, it was great. We met all his friends and one of them organised a little secret show so we went and played there too. It was really fun and the festival looked incredible. Arni had a little bit of fear of stepping outside the front door but it all went so well.
Freddie – A two week residency in the Bahamas maybe?
Pete – I want to go to South America. We did three days in Brazil and that was fantastic so I’d love to do all those countries – Argentina and so on. The people down there are absolutely crazy and they love rock and roll music.
Justin made a controversial statement recently when he said that Rihanna was as important as Radiohead. Would you defend your position?
Freddie – Well I was in trouble a few weeks before for saying she was shit [for having a team of songwriters]. I think it’s another example of journalists taking words out of context. NME trying to write themselves some news. I think what he was trying to get at is that just because its pop music doesn’t automatically make it less valid.
Pete – He was expressing his distaste for snobbery and people saying this is good, this is crap automatically. Radiohead are always held up as being the example of what an artist should be, but there are other ways which are right for some people.
What’s your response to people who say ‘The Vaccines are too polite to be rock stars.’?
Freddie – What would they rather we do? [I suggest some form of Robert Plant style hedonism] Robert Plant is the most polite gentleman alive. The only people who do the whole bare-chested rock-star hedonism thing now are these sort of LA douchebags. It was of its time.
Pete – Maybe they should come to one of our shows.
Billy Bragg recently delivered the annual John Peel lecture in which he bemoaned the lack of working class musicians coming through at the moment. Freddie, you were privately educated, do you feel that your education has had any impact on your career and the music you produce?
Freddie – No fucking idea. I don’t think there’s a lack of working class musicians. My education contributed to who I am as a person but I don’t think it really goes beyond that. I think music is more democratic than ever. With the internet you’ve got it happening all around you. People go for this whole working class hero thing, which is brilliant but its romanticising this whole thing which we don’t really have any more.
Pete – This band is a product of every education system. There are some people like Billy Bragg who really identify with being working class in the artistic sphere.
Freddie – It’s an important thing and he misses that but the world in general doesn’t give a fuck. I mean, it’s brilliant that you get someone like The Arctic Monkeys and suddenly all these kids wanted to start bands but just because you’ve got this band who are seen as “working class” doesn’t mean the music industry is normally elitist. It’s never been fairer or a more even playing field.
Finally, would you both tell us who your own teenage icons were?
Pete – I was always a big Nirvana fan so I’d say probably Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl
Freddie – When I was a teenager I was always into old records, Stax and 70’s rock so mine would probably be Gene Vincent.
A review of their recent live Glasgow show to follow tomorrow