Vampire Weekend

By , June 8, 2010 7:16 am

Most people from my work that go to Mexico City don’t like it. I suppose I like going because I long to see the world’s cities but don’t have the financial means to do so.  So when the opportunity to travel on the company’s dime comes up, I grab it. The coolest things about Mexico City have to be its culture and history.   One of my favorite simple things about being there is MTV in Mexico City.  They’re cutting edge when it comes to music.  Music is a passion of mine and I have picked up on some great bands while watching MTV in Mexico City in my hotel room.   In fact, when I’m watching it, I always have a pen and paper handy.  A band that I was introduced to in Mexico City through MTV  is Vampire Weekend.

The video A-Punk was playing and I was grooving to it.  It was a rich sound the likes of which I hadn’t really heard and it was fresh and captivating.  I wrote down the name of the band and song at the end of the video and added it to my list of songs to look up when I got home to Detroit.  This was in April of 2008. 

I added A-Punk to my playlist as soon as I got home.   My like of the song never really waned and I enjoyed it whenever it would pop into the mix.  I never really pursued the band, however, and couldn’t have told you anything else about them…  That is until now.

Vampire Weekend played on Saturday Night Live on March 6, 2010 and I was excited to see them live.   For me, seeing a band perform live is always a major test of whether the band is “for real” or not (for example, the Ting Ting’s – I’ll get to them in another post).  When you see a band live, you are going to find out a lot about them.  When I saw Vampire Weekend perform, the first thing that struck me was how young they looked.  The second thing that struck me was the drummer, Chris Tomson.  The first song in their SNL set was Cousins and it’s a very drum heavy song, so it was not surprising to have that be the first thing that popped out at me when watching them play.  The drums are fast and furious throughout the song Cousins and I must say it’s a total jam.  I love it.  I remember liking it enough that I updated my status on facebook saying something about it being cool that a band actually comes out and jams and doesn’t lip sync.

After that SNL performance, it was time to download some more music from Vampire Weekend and really check them out.   Here in Detroit, Vampire Weekend gets no play.  Detroit is an awesome music town; one of the best really.  But, a band like Vampire Weekend doesn’t catch on here with a majority of folks.  I’m sure there are a ton of people in Detroit that know and love Vampire Weekend like me, but not enough to inspire them to book a tour date here.  Well, there not going to be booking one here any time soon.

So back to that drummer, Chris Tomson, he’s pretty awesome.  Now that I’ve listened to a bunch more of their songs and really had a chance to study the music, I would liken him to John Bonham.  I have never bestowed so high a compliment upon a drummer before and do not dare do so lightly.  This is after much introspection, listening, and study.  I really think that he’s that good.   It’s neat to hear a rhythm section guy set up a musical framework from the drum set.  A lot of times I hear people say stupid shit like “we can get anyone to play drums”.   Sometimes there are drummers that make a dramatic difference in the music and they should be recognized as such.  One example that comes to mind is the Smashing Pumpkins.   I actually went out and bought their first CD Gish because of the drummer when that band was new and unknown.  I rocked that album all summer and rode the wave of popularity until we later found out that Billy Corgan was a bloat-headed control freak and kicked the drummer out of the band for drug use.  Then, lo and behold, the Smashing Pumpkins music deteriorated and the band eventually fell apart.  I’m not saying the band fell apart because they got rid of their drummer, I’m saying their music started to suck after they got rid of their drummer even though Jimmy Chamberlin and Billy Corgan later reconciled.  Billy Corgan being a giant a-hole is probably more the reason the band broke up.   And people tell me that drummers don’t matter.  Whatever.

Anyway, a drummer does not a band make, and there is more to be looked at here than percussion alone.   Vampire Weekend has talent in other areas too and one of those areas is song writing, in particular, the song Oxford Comma.  Oxford Comma is probably my favorite song by the band or at least the one that really hooked me and it’s what I’ve been liking currently.  I’ve never before related to lyrics so geniunely.  Here are a couple sample stanzas from the song Oxford Comma:

Why would you speak to me that way
Especially when I always said that I
Haven’t got the words for you
All your diction drippin with disdain
Through the pain
I always tell the truth

And also, this little stanza from the same song:

Why would you lie about how much coal you have?
Why would you lie about something dumb like that?
Why would you lie about anything at all?
First the window, then it’s to the wall
Lil’ John, he always tells the truth

When I write down those lyrics, I can hear the music in my head.  When I heard it the first time, I related to it.  I know “that guy” that he’s singing about.  A lot of people know “that guy”.  In art, like in comedy, the most powerful stuff is stuff that is rooted in truth because everyone can relate to it; those lyrics resonate because of that fact.

Because these guys are young, it is possible we will have much more music to come from them.  Of course, you never know what the future holds and they could always break up or something.  But for now, the future looks bright.  Let’s hope we get to check out music from Vampire Weekend for years to come and watch these young guys develop.  Here are some songs I’d recommend checking out:

  • Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
  • Giving Up The Gun
  • I Stand Corrected
  • The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance
  • Walcott


Click on photos to enlarge

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