9:30 INTERVIEW: The Vaccines
Over the weekend we caught up with Vaccines drummer Pete Robertson and talked about Pop, Satisfaction, and living out boyhood dreams. Check it out and catch Pete and the boys at the Club on February 1st.
[9:30 Club] So what’s going on with you guys right now? I know your first US date is the 29th up in Boston. Are you stateside yet?
[Pete] No we’re not, we’re flying in on Sunday, so were actually just having a few days at home to sort of recover and regroup after the first tour of the year; which was three weeks in Australia and throughout Southeast Asia and Japan so now we’re just recuperating and getting pumped for round two which I’m really excited about.
[9:30 Club] Of course, how did round one go?
[Pete] It was good! It was nice to get out of the cold and down to Australia which was beautiful and full of sunshine from start to finish, and they have their festivals this time of year so it kind of felt like a holiday. To get to have festival season in the middle of what’s been a pretty bleak winter was really fun, and we got to play in a couple of brand new countries in Malaysia, Bangkok, and Thailand where we had a massive show, way bigger than what we were expecting. It was brilliant.
[9:30 Club] Congratulations, That’s great!
[Pete] Thank you very much
[9:30 Club] Going onto your new record now, “Come of Age” seemed to be a really appropriate title for the project as it just seemed to be, musically, a much more complex album than “What Did You Expect…” which was full of very direct, to the point songs that allowed everyone to classify The Vaccines as a post-punk Ramones style of band.
[Pete] I would definitely agree. In many ways it happened out of just succumbing more to our instincts. The first album, whilst we are incredibly proud of it musically and everything it did for us, was way more than what we had bargained for. I think we were almost a little bit afraid of letting ourselves go too much, you know? I think we were consciously underplaying. Obviously brevity was very important we wanted to do short sharp songs, and basically trim the fat wherever we could. The second time around though we kind of wanted to just let people into our world a little bit more, and that was reflected with the decision to use Ethan Johns as the producer; his records very much have a sense of putting you in the room with the band, which we love. The writing process was also a lot more personal and kind of reflected the overall feel of the band. All four of us come from quite different places musically, socially, and economically, and even geographically as well, and I think we wanted to make the music reflect that so everything was a lot more collaborative and we ended up with a collection of songs that are a lot more diverse than the first record. We’re very proud of it.
[9:30 Club] I totally agree with that. This record does seem much more open and fluid. You mentioned that this record was much more collaborative than the previous one. How did the songwriting process change between albums?
[Pete] The process was completely different. Justin is definitely our principal songwriter, and our most talented one, and during the first album he would come in every day with fully formed songs and then off we would go just figuring out how to dress them up. This time around we would start with a shell of an idea that could come from a drumbeat, a guitar lick, a lyric, a melody, and we would put them together between the four of us so it was a completely different way of working.
[9:30 Club] That’s impressive to be able to do that kind of work together. I wonder though, you guys have had a relatively rapid rise with two albums in just over two years. Your first single, “If You Wanna” came out in 2010 and is seems like since then you guys have been non- stop. Has it hit you yet that all of this is happening?
[Pete] (laughs) You get moments along the way where you feel like ‘this is for real’ and all those things you wanted to do with your life when you were a kid… its like all that is happening now. It happens every so often but honestly the reality is just looking ahead to what’s next, looking to push ourselves as a band trying to write better songs, put on better shows. And that’s kind of the annoying thing about being in the creative process, and not even for just musicians; it probably happens to you as a writer just constantly looking for what’s next, a new corner to turn. I’m glad it happens but it does mean that you can’t actually sit back on your laurels.
[9:30 Club] So is it safe to say that achieving satisfaction in your line of work is pretty much impossible?
[Pete] I think it depends on what you want. There are moments where it all kind of comes together and you can see where you’re from, where you’re going and where you are, and it all sort of comes together in one sort of brilliant incredible moment of satisfaction, but most of the time it’s a little more difficult than that.
[9:30 Club] So at what point did you think to yourself I could do this for a living?
[Pete] Ummm I don’t know man! I’ve been really lucky, I had been playing drums professionally two or three years before The Vaccines happened but I was sort of a hired gun for studio stuff and going on tour, and that was awesome and I felt like that was it, I was fulfilled. I was playing drums and people were giving me actual money and it’s like what the hell is that about! [Laughs]. But there was a moment early on with The Vaccines when I had quit my job because I wasn’t happy about not having any ownership over the music I was making and suddenly people started listening to The Vaccines on Radio One over here and they called it “The hottest record in the world” and Zane Low, who is a big dj over here, called it that and it was just our demo, and it was like oh shit this is kind of happening now!
[9:30 Club] That was initially got me into you guys as well!
[Pete] Ha! Thanks man
[9:30 Club] Of course man. Now, the term ‘pop music’ has almost become a dirty word in indie music. You guys seem to have embraced it, certainly Justin can write one hell of a chorus and you guys seem to build off of that. Are you guys afraid of being classified in that area? And why do you think other people might be nervous about that label?
[Pete] We’re not afraid of that at all. What we listen to is not genre specific at all, and I would kind of go as far as to say Pop isn’t a genre at all it’s more of an aesthetic. I think in the indie rock guitar band world over here we’re still reeling from the explosion of the early 2000’s with bands like The Strokes or Franz Ferdinand and then major labels giving guitar bands pop songs to play which went against how the alternative scene saw their guitar bands and then they’re saying “this shouldn’t happen to our music”. I totally understand that and I suppose that’s kind of lead to some slight mistrust unfortunately and it’s bled its way into how some people approach our music, which is a real shame. All of this I think has lead to alternative bands shying away from writing big pop songs because they are worried about the stigma. We have always sort of worn it on our sleeves though, it’s one of our strengths; if people sort of struggle with that or find it hard to position under an umbrella or a genre then that’s kind of their problem not ours.
[9:30 Club] I like that.
[Pete] Yeah it’s funny and Justin said it quite succinctly the other day in an interview when he said “At the moment we’re probably too pop for the alternative sphere and probably too alternative for the pop sphere.” People may struggle with where to position us, but I’d say just listen to the tunes and enjoy it.
[9:30 Club] That’s all anybody has to do to realize what you guys are all about.