Starting with a friendly exchange in greetings and a happy day-after birthday greetting to Freddie, Justin Young and Freddie Cowan of the Vaccines sit back to tell their stories of adventures in Portland, heartbreak, and inspiration. Portland, Oregon: the next up and coming thriving city of the Pacific Northwest. Summer has been one for music, brew fests and staying cool. Starting with their interview it helped to feel even more involved in the music when they went on stage. The Vaccines came onto the stage at Wonder Ballroom with a bang, and with being a bit smaller of a venue, no matter where you were in the audience it was as though you were sitting front and center. Being a UK band that has had number one hits and platinum albums, their indie-rock sound will continue to change as the years roll on. What better way to stay current and leave an impression on each fan throughout the next coming years.
B-Sides: So you said this is your second time in Portland, welcome back! Have you had a chance to get a feel for the city- any new places you’ve visited this time around?
Justin: Yes, second time in Portland. First time back here in over 4 years. Last time we played at the Crystal Ballroom, this is the first time we’ve headlined out here though.
Freddie: Crystal Ballroom was an awesome venue.
B-Sides: It is pretty awesome, bouncy floors and all. So, have you guys had the chance to explore the city at all?
Justin: Yeah. I went across the bridge and walked around, went guitar shopping…I mean, I remember last time I walked around for like 8 hours or something. It’s a beautiful city, beautiful day!
B-Sides: Have you guys found any favorite spots in the city?
Freddie: Well, we haven’t been here regularly enough to have any favorites per say but we did make it to this Old Town Music guitar shop today that had some really bizarre, rare, kind of things you find on eBay…you kind of rarely get allowed to see them use up shop space. Like hundred dollar glass guitars, you rarely see that.
B-Sides: That sounds pretty cool, definitely one of the best things about Portland is how everything is rare, unique and most of the time made locally. Now, it’s been a little while since the release of your last full-length album in 2012, and then the one released this year which you have kept busy with touring during that time. Did you get any downtime for any hobbies or vacation? What do you do during downtime that’s non-music related?
Justin: We had a couple very short holidays, but we actually spent a variable amount of time working on this record. So there wasn’t much downtime, I think we took a couple weeks off but then started right up into writing the record again. So, I mean to be honest all my free time is spent going out and being an idiot.
B-Sides: Well who doesn’t do that, sometimes?
Freddie: I think with touring it’s a certain type of wiring for us, it’s what you do, and you’re kind of, I guess, exploring music, educating yourself in music or expanding your musicality worth. You know that kind of stuff happens off the road, so by the time you’ve finished lots of touring you’re kind of ready to get into the other side, rather than like taking up Spanish lessons or something.
Me: Oh, yeah that definitely makes sense. This kind of actually rolls into the next question: when did writing for English Graffiti start and did being on the road contribute or inhibit the process?
Justin: Well I think being on the road, sort of, inhibits in a way because it’s difficult to find…the right head space or personal space. Actually I think when you’re really feeling creative that kind of bullshit doesn’t really matter though, it’s not like you need go into a room and make sure to have everything in its place before you can be like ‘okay, now I’m ready to create,’ it should just sort of pour out of you and so actually being on the road is amazing because you live life three times as fast, you know, than you would ordinarily. You’re meeting ten times as many people, going to a hundred times more places than you normally would, and so you can sort of draw inspiration from that and the life experiences you gain from doing that and being in those places, meeting those people. And I suppose a lot of just playing gives you a real hunger…like I definitely felt like at the end of our last cycle we are almost cheating people, where people had been seeing the same show for about 18 months, so it was really quite invigorating to try and make something better and more interesting.
B-Sides: I can understand how doing something the same, over and over again would get a bit old after a while, especially in the creative world. Something new is always exciting.
Justin: Yeah, it’s the worst you know, like it almost feels like it gets sloppy to do the same thing again and again. That’s why you are a creative… is to avoid things that have been done over and over.
B-Sides: In keeping with the creative process and inspiration…do you have any specific ways of gaining inspiration? Talk a walk, listen to other bands etc.
Justin: Getting my heart broken…yeah…that’s usually quite good for that.
Me: I can understand that one. In no way am I a songwriter but I used to write poetry and that definitely inspired writing.
Justin: Well that’s not too dissimilar.
B-Sides: For creative people there comes a time when writer’s block happens…now from a musicians stand point is there ever an “ah hah!” moment that strikes when not focusing on the problem. Do you ever walk away from something and then inspiration just hits?
Justin: Yeah, I think creativity comes from a band. That’s the tap basically that can show how free your mindset is. Like the best pop songs are written from a band, you’re not able to create all the time alone and over think it. Sometimes it’s not about doing things, it’s about NOT doing things.
Freddie: There is that thing of when you come to that, it kind of shuts off parts of your brain and only allows for more focus on that one thing…versus just allowing your full brain to have potential in coming up with a solution by not over thinking.
B-Sides: I had never really thought of it that way, but it makes sense. I only have a couple more questions for you guys. Now Justin, you told NME in January: “We wanted to make something that sounds amazing next year but terrible in 10 years!” This quote is something I’m sure will continue to be a topic of conversation. It speaks to representing and living in the moment and capturing “the now”. In terms of legacy, how would you like The Vaccines to be remembered by?
Justin: I think we’d like to be seen as an important and impressive band. And I think that what I said might have been taken a bit out of context, but there is some truth in it; we were working to make a record that was of the time rather than timeless in its sound. Not necessarily in its strength or its songs but its sound. I think if you listen to, like Never Mind, for example…I think that record sounds terrible, or it doesn’t really sound terrible, but comparatively to how like the drums sound and then fast forward 15 or 20 years later how good you can make drums on rock records sound now. It so self fulfilling and brilliantly perfect… it becomes more of a perfect record that sounds terrible. I think that’s what I was trying to get at.
Freddie: Then as you move past it, past the records time…you kind of, your perspective changes on it. Like at the time that was what you wanted.
B-Sides: A lot of artists today that seem to be sticking to a sound that is perfect for “now.” Mashing up genres and making music to fit more of what today likes.
Justin: Yeah and there’s nothing wrong with it, there is just no sense in trying to make something that is completely timeless
Being able to watch them on the stage later on was incredible. The show’s sound was spot on and they rocked the crowd. There was a great turn out for them, some of those amongst the crowd being parts of other well-known bands or artists stopping by to support while on the road with Warped Tour.
Great both on and off stage, the Vaccines are definitely a show that’s recommended to go to in whatever city you can! That also goes for getting their albums if you haven’t already!