A Band I Love: Vampire Weekend
“Who is your favorite band?” is a question I always have a hard time answering. How can I be expected to sum up my enjoyment of music through just one band? It feels entirely restricting, forcing oneself to be defined by just one band, one genre, one discography. That said, it would be hard to find a band that I love as many aspects of as Vampire Weekend. Their collaborative work on their three albums (Vampire Weekend, Contra, and Modern Vampires of the City), their side projects and solo work, their performance, and their personalities, rank supreme in my book.
Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson, and Chris Baio formed the band in 2006, their connections made in the dorm rooms of Columbia University. I should note, here, that Tomson and Koenig first explored rap with the group L’Homme Run, during which they made jams about Pizza, Bitches, and even a song that would later be remastered and featured as “Giving Up The Gun” on Contra, “Giving Up Da Gun”. Koenig has explored his rap interests in collaborations with the likes ILoveMakonnen and Sbtrkt, but the majority of his work has been as the frontman of Vampire Weekend.
The three studio albums Vampire Weekend have put out seem to be reflective of their growth as a band. Vampire Weekend was a fun, lighthearted album that drew comparisons to Graceland in its use of African and world music influences. Their second record Contra expanded on this, and drove them further into the weirdness that fans already loved about them, singing about things like “Horchata” and using creative arrangements of American synth-pop, reggae, ska, calypso and Afro-pop. Modern Vampires of the City became what Koenig called “the last of a trilogy”. Where the band retained their lighthearted sound in tracks like “Unbelievers” and “Finger Back,” the lyrics and many of the tracks on the album became more melancholic and mature. Ryan Dombal at Pitchfork described the album as “a remarkable progression from a band that was already functioning at a high level. The songs are more spontaneous and dynamic and, along with the more lived-in sonics, Modern Vampires finds the group taking a leap forward into emotional directness.”
Last year, Rostam announced his departure from the band in order to work on solo material and producing with artists like Ra Ra Riot (who he has previously worked with in his side group, Discovery) and Charlie XX. Ezra has collaborated with many artists (he and Father John Misty are both credited on Beyonce’s “Hold Up”) and has a radio show on Beats 1. Chris Baio has released solo work and frequently DJ’s and Chris Tomson recently announced a solo release. The band has mentioned a fourth album that they are in the studio for, which Rostam will still be featured on.
At the end of the day, Vampire Weekend wants to spread joy. When I saw them at Radio City in 2010, Koenig refused to let fans feel restricted by the assigned seats at the venue. “Your seats are nothing more than a gilded prison,” he told the crowd as he encouraged us to dance. Their work clearly reflects a passion for music, experimentation, and growth. If I had to pick a favorite band, Vampire Weekend’s ability to touch me with their lyrics while also making me dance wins out… Not to mention Ezra Koenigs tweets.