Vampire Weekend happy to enter post-breakout phase

From left, Ezra Koenig, Chris Tomson, Chris Baio and Rostam Batmanglij are Vampire Weekend.

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at 6:52 p.m.

After a flood of hype, Vampire Weekend hopes the storm is over.

"At this point, we feel like we're a normal band,'' said singer and songwriter Ezra Koenig in an interview before the band's performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Vampire Weekend's self-titled debut album was released in January, but the band has already lived through a year's worth of excitement over its arrival. The process of blog chatter and media fawning has become increasingly predictable, and while most bands dream of such a reception, Vampire Weekend is happy to be done with it.

"We've paid our dues,'' said Koenig, who wore dark sunglasses, a light blue shirt and pink shorts.

The band, formed in 2006 while its four members were students at Columbia University, was playing its first festival at Coachella and was happily considering ways to expand shows to suit bigger stages.

The desert setting of the Southern California festival appeared to fit Vampire Weekend, whose sound draws heavily on afro-pop. Before launching into "A-Punk,'' Koenig suggested to the crowd: "This song is good to dance to in the desert. But if you're feeling hot, don't push it.''

Their worldly sound is melded with classical inflections, a distinct and unabashed preppy fashion sense and lyrics about their Ivy League collegiate experience. They've described this blend as "Upper West Side Soweto.''

"We were interested with, on a certain level, in the connections between preppiness - whatever that means - and colonialism and the rest of the world and how there are these connections, good and bad,'' Koenig said.

While Africa might appear to have little in common with upper Manhattan, Koenig said: "We weren't interested in how different African music and classical music were, or how different preppy clothes and Indian patterns were, but how similar.''

They're now more than a year past their college lives, but it's well represented in such songs as "Campus'' and "Oxford Coma.'' The band is now looking elsewhere for lyrical inspiration; Koenig, it should be noted, uses the past tense in describing the group's cultural mash-up.

"The songs on the first album were about a specific time and place, and that involves college. And we've now been out of college for a while,'' Koenig said. "In the past two years, we've had a lot of different experiences and we've been all over the place. We haven't just been hanging out in uptown Manhattan.''

Said drummer Chris Thomson, "The second album is always the road album.''

Koenig has been writing new material and says the band members have a lot of ideas they're eager to work on once they're done touring. He introduced a new, untitled song at Coachella.

"We've only got one album,'' he said, pausing. "We're going to make another one. That's a promise.''

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