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18 juillet 2008

Vampire Weekend bites back

By Brian Towie/Metro News

Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut has drawn comparisons to Paul Simon’s Graceland.

Vampire Weekend faces the danger of getting killed with kindness.

Sources in the know have gushed over the four Ivy League preppies from New York — named by Spin Magazine as “The Year’s Best New Band” in their March 2008 issue — and how they’ve appropriated African sounds into their perky, self-titled indie pop release. The album earned ubiquitous comparisons with Paul Simon’s 1986 Grammy Award-winning Graceland, a work he recorded in South Africa that featured several of that country’s artists. But Vampire Weekend accepts the praise “with a grain of salt,” says keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij. One can easily tell the band frets that the “world music” label the press has given them, and that the Columbia University grads consider inaccurate, might stick.

“F—k them!” he says over the phone from Utrecht, Holland. “I’ve read stuff about us that the press has written and half the time they don’t know what they’re talking about. Parts of it are definitely inspired by African music and world beat, but we think it sounds pretty Western. It’s a blitz: You can’t go anywhere without hearing someone’s opinion and everyone wants to respond to what’s said about them.”

Possibly a much more difficult handle to rebuke given recent events: World beat maestro Peter Gabriel released a cover of Vampire Weekend’s single Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa — VW’s version made Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Songs of the Year — as a response to the band dropping the ex-Genesis member’s name to hand-drummed Congloese dance music, Kenyan benga beats and off-time guitar licks. Batmanglij says British electro-pop act Hot Chip provides the instrumentals while Gabriel lends vocals.

“It’s pretty surreal to hear him (Gabriel) cover us because he’s so huge,” Batmanglij said. “But I think it’s cool. You get the feel of his music in the cover.”

In the meantime, the band has set to work penning songs for their sophomore effort, experimenting with two new tracks at the recent Bonaroo and Glastonbury festivals. Batmanglij says the second will have less of an afro-beat, but will still feature an eclectic mosaic of various global styles — one features a back-up six-string for frontman Ezra Koenig, and an electric backing track. For Batmanglij, a return home to record might be the most welcome part of it all.

“We’re interested in plurality in our music and combining points of view,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be different, and we’re looking forward to getting back to New York to do it. Since the album came out, we’ve had this ‘out-of-town’ lifestyle. It’s hard to justify paying my rent.”

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