Emerging in the summer of 2010 with blend of retro surf punk, Ramones guitars and Everly Brothers pop hooks, The Vaccines’ high octane, ultra-melodic sound had an instant impact. The London four-piece – Justin Hayward-Young (vocals/guitar), Freddie Cowan (guitar), Arni Arnason (bass) and Pete Robertson (drums) had only formed in early 2010, but in early 2011, debut album ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’ quickly achieved platinum status. Just 18 months later, the follow-up, ‘Come Of Age’, hit Number One.
The band’s popularity has taken them across the world, playing arenas and experiencing the pop dream “way beyond what we ever imagined.” However, the ever confident but self-critical Young felt unfulfilled.
“We’ve often felt that we were a good band but not an important band,” he says, “and we want to be an important band.”
The Vaccines’ third album, ‘English Graffiti’, saw the band tear up the plans and see what happens as they fall around them. Whilst elements of the old Vaccines’ sound remained – certainly in the pop rushes of ‘Handsome’, ‘20/20’ and ‘Radio Bikini’, an eclectic and adventurous musical mix that acknowledges the Eighties had emerged.
“English Graffiti feels like a massive departure,” says Young;
“At times, making this record, I felt I was in a different band. All these
influences from Buddy Holly to the Clash often get laid on us, but when
they were around, they weren’t looking backward, they were looking
forward. On the first records, we may have tried to replicate some of
those guitar sounds, but this time we thought ‘Why not try and go for
a sound that’s from the future instead?”
The album has an otherworldly atmosphere and a very postmodern theme of internet/ social media-driven connection, but ultimately dislocation.
“…technology can connect us with whoever we want to be connected to.
We have constructed realities, but in the meantime being connected has
brought disconnection in lack of friendship and feeling and love. We’re
the first generation going through this. I was sat at a table the other day
and every one of us was on our phones and it felt like we were in the
These sort of dystopian themes emerge particularly on songs such as ‘Minimal Affection’ and ‘Want You So Bad’. Songs such as ‘(All Afternoon) In Love’ may particularly throw people who thought they knew what to expect from The Vaccines; it’s otherworldly, gossamer, melancholy pop. Young notes;
“I remember writing those songs on the first record thinking they were
good enough to headline the Barfly with,” he chuckles.
“Everything we’ve done and achieved has been so above everything we
ever expected, but I do think we’re a great band and that ‘English Graffiti’
is a great record. Good music triumphs in the end. I’m immensely
proud of it.”