Interview: The Vaccines are healthy, energized for first headlining American tour
February 12, 2013
Written by Roman Gokhman
The Vaccines’ Justin Young didn’t take care of his health as much as he should have, and the English garage rock band’s singer-guitarist paid for it. After mounting an aggressive campaign with buzzy 2011 debut What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?, which continued to build up through the U.K. press hype machine and a handful of acclaimed American festival dates, Young injured his vocal chords for a third time and faced yet another surgery.
An American tour planned for September of that year was scrapped as he faced post-surgery rehab.
“After the first operation I had, I felt I had been given a get out of jail free card and I didn’t make any changes,” Young said. “But now I’m really careful. I warm up every day; and warm down. I don’t drink before we play anymore. I don’t go heavy if we have a show the next day.”
After releasing a second album, October’s The Vaccines Come of Age, Young, bassist Árni Hjörvar, guitarist Freddie Cowan and drummer Pete Robertson will embark on their first headlining tour of the U.S. The Vaccines play The Fillmore Friday, February 15th.
The Vaccines, who draw influences from ‘50s rock and ‘60s garage bands and are sometimes compared to the Ramones and the Jesus and Mary Chain, will have to undertake this tour without the initial buzz, which has dissipated.
And this is fine for the Vaccines, who feel they achieved what they did through their own hard work and determination. They trusted their instincts and didn’t falter when it came time to record a follow-up.
“To be honest, the hype had already died down halfway into the (first) album campaign,” Young said. “We began (seeing) people come to the shows not just to check us out but to sing our words back to us. None of us felt external pressure of that ‘second record syndrome.’”
The band is expectantly excited about getting their names at the tops of American music hall marquees. They are a more seasoned live band now, Young said. In fact, the Vaccines had only been together for a year prior to their debut album release. Before that, Young was a solo folk musician who went by Jay Jay Pistolet and shared a flat with Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons.
“It was easy for me to go to open mic nights or, even better, open for a band and walk away with 50 quid at the end of the night,” he said. “It was my only option. After I got bored and lonely, the idea of starting a band became more and more appealing.”
His songwriting style didn’t change when he and the others formed the Vaccines. There was never a major shift, and Young still composes with an acoustic guitar. The Vaccines’ songs are typically lyrically direct and to the point, and no longer than they have to be. Young said that is intentional, and he wants as many people to identify with them as possible.
“Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra),” off the debut album, is only one minute and 24 seconds long. Others, such as “All in White” and “Teenage Icon,” off the follow-up, don’t mince words or the message.
“I’m someone who is part of the iPod generation; I’m drawn to singles,” Young said. “I’ve got a short attention span. When I’m writing, my approach is to be as direct as possible. I like that simplicity.”