The Vaccines discuss their latest album Back In Love City as a cinematic culmination of their previous work and their desire to evolve as indie-rock artists.
Venturing out from their indie-rock roots, Justin Young, lead singer from The Vaccines, spoke about the desire to escape and evolve as the catalysts behind Back In Love City.
The album exhibits the delicate balance between staying true to yourself whilst continually growing.
Back In Love City is an invigorating and transformative body of work – a vessel through which The Vaccines have liberated their sound and explored their identity and potential as artists.
Happy got access to the intimate workings behind the album, where we discussed with Young the power of environment at Sonic Ranch, spaghetti western and working with renowned producer, David Ledinsky.
HAPPY: Hi is this Justin?
JUSTIN: Yeah, it is yeah.
HAPPY: Hi it’s Alex from Happy Mag! How are you?
JUSTIN: Yeah, good how are you?
HAPPY: Yeah good! Is it early there, where you are?
JUSTIN: Well, I think in any other walk of life it would be to – It’s 9 am, it’s 9 am.
HAPPY: Oh yep *chuckles* lovely. Well, I hope it’s been a nice start to your morning so far.
JUSTIN: It’s been great, it’s a reason to get out of bed.
HAPPY: Sorry, what was that?
JUSTIN: I said this call has been a good reason to get out of bed so.
HAPPY: Oh lovely! (chuckles).
HAPPY: So, congratulations on the release of your two new singles Back In Love City and ‘Headphones Baby’. It’s been three years since you released your last album Combat Sports, how did you feel right before you guys released those two new singles?
JUSTIN: Uh, incredibly nervous, I think three years is a long time in music and it had been a good 18 months since we recorded this record, because we had made it in December 2019 so we had been sitting on it for a long time, which was quite a long time to let things stew and I think as well, you know with the pandemic, never really sure how much people would care. So yeah, nervous but it was gratifying as well to finally release new music that we’re proud about.
HAPPY: Oh definitely, I could imagine the nerves associated. Was the reception from fans what you expected and what you’d hoped for?
JUSTIN: Ah, I feel like what you expect for and what you hope for are always the same thing *chuckles* I think, I think so largely, I think it’s always funny when you release music ahead of a record because I think that singles and lead tracks are often what labels and teams think is going to have the best shot commercially but they’re not necessarily always representative of a body of work. You focus on a body of work and I think that when people hear an entire record it reframes a single track, you know what I mean?
JUSTIN: You know, so I’m always fascinated by people’s initial response and then how that’s kind of reframed six months later when they hear a song in the context of a record and I feel the same as a fan listening to other artists. But no, I think we were happy, I think we were happy with it. Now I suppose it’s wanting the record to be out there and be able to share the whole thing with people and play it live and, yeah!
HAPPY: Hm, of course. That’s interesting the way you said how once it’s released as a whole body of work how people’s perception of those initial two releases will change because I guess it is a story that you’re telling as a whole and each song kind of informs the other, and they have that sort of link to each other once you hear them all as a body of work. Especially because you guys did mention that it’s sort of like a form of escapism, like it reflects escapism as a necessary part of modern living today and the stories behind each song…are kind of… I felt listening to them, compared to your previous work, it’s quite experimental especially with the electronic backing tracks which emphasise that desire to escape or to seek a reprieve from everyday modern living. So, I thought that was really interesting.
JUSTIN: Yeah! I think there’s always a desire to escape, you know whoever you are or whatever you do and obviously the last year has reframed that too and I think, you know it’s funny listening back now and almost hearing it in a different light or something it’s almost more pronounced you know, for obvious reasons and yeah, again we’re a five-piece sound not a four-piece so that comes with, hopefully, more depth to an arrangement and it definitely was in an environment where we were able to experiment and we had the time and the freedom to try things and yeah no I think it’s, it definitely feels like the shackles are off. You’re always trying to evolve and move forward without abandoning what it is that’s at your core. So it’s trying to strike that balance and figuring out what it is that makes The Vaccines, The Vaccines but what it is we can do to survive and thrive in a world ten years later I guess.
HAPPY: Yeah! Well, you did mention previously that – because you guys are first and foremost an indie-rock band at the core – I remember watching one of your older interviews from a couple of years ago when you were talking about Combat Sports and you said that the indie-rock genre is in a sort of “cultural wilderness” at the moment and has been for the last 10 years. So, did this knowledge that you guys have as a band, did that make you guys want to explore new sounds in this album and maybe even distance yourself a bit from the indie rock sounds?
JUSTIN: Definitely, definitely, definitely not distance ourselves, but I suppose play our part in trying to expand that palette, if that makes sense. There are obviously artists far more committed to that than us but I do think that sometimes when genres and sub-genres find themselves in the wilderness I guess it’s often because of an unwillingness to adapt, maybe. I think indie rock is quite like an overarching, wide ranging term isn’t it, but I suppose it makes classic sense that it describes quite well our first couple of records, I suppose it is definitely still in the wilderness and yet I still see ‘Back In Love City’ as an indie rock record but hopefully as a slightly more interesting one and a more varied one with a bit more depth and colour.
HAPPY: Yeah, I definitely – sorry I didn’t mean to cut you off there!
JUSTIN: No, no! I just said more than our previous records maybe.
HAPPY: Yeah, ok. Yeah, I definitely noticed that there were a lot more electronic accents put throughout and nice use of choirs and harmonies that gave me Tim Burton vibes and Quentin Tarantino vibes as well in some parts, especially with the guitar riffs, so that was really cool. It feels like a very diverse body of work, so it was really, really awesome to listen to, I loved it.
JUSTIN: Oh, great thank you. Yeah, no we were definitely in quite a cinematic environment and we were definitely, you know, Tarantino and Tim Burton, definitely kind of picturing, almost joking at times that we were trying to soundtrack those movies in an indie-rock way.
HAPPY: That’s so cool.
JUSTIN: And obviously like a Morricone, and all of that sort of spaghetti western stuff.
HAPPY: Spaghetti western?
JUSTIN: Yeah (chuckles).
HAPPY: Never heard of that!
JUSTIN: It’s like, spaghetti western is like Italian, silly western movies. Yeah google it, you’ll get some enjoyment from it.
HAPPY: Oh mad! You guys, recorded in El Paso on Sonic Ranch, was it?
HAPPY: With David Ledinsky. When I saw the producers, you worked with on this album I was like wow, they’ve worked with some really different mix of artists – they’ve got quite diverse repertoire of artists that they’ve worked with. Was there a specific reason behind you choosing these producers to work with?
JUSTIN: Yeah! Again, I suppose it’s like expanding that palette and kind of making everything feel slightly more widescreen. I think we thought that if we went in with a more traditional rock producer, we might struggle to do that and Daniel, can you hear me sorry?
HAPPY: Yeah yeah!
JUSTIN: Yeah cool I was worried the audio wasn’t picking up, and you know we’d worked with Daniel before on our previous single All My Friends Are Falling In Love and I’d done some work with him out in LA and he’d become a great friend of the band and he was kind of the first name on the theme sheet really that wasn’t really anyone else that we’d approached or thought about approaching, we just felt that, he is a punk at heart but he also loves pop music and is responsible for some amazing pop music, it just felt like a great marriage of minds and it was! It was amazing and it was honestly the best fun we’ve ever had making a record and it was very immersive, you know we didn’t really leave Sonic Ranch for weeks at a time, it just allowed us to focus and try things and just kind of be nothing else but a band really.
HAPPY: And was being in that environment extremely important in that way because it helped form the sound of Love City?
JUSTIN: Yeah I think so definitely and you know what’s funny, even before we got there, in anticipation of going, it was already kind of forming the sound. I don’t know whether it was a bit of chicken and egg stuff, and even proceeding that, Daniel had heard some of the demos and he was like “I think this is really going to work well at Sonic Ranch, I think you guys are going to love it there” – this is a record to make there basically.
HAPPY: Wow, that’s awesome! That’s really cool.
JUSTIN: It was great!
HAPPY: Was the ranch something that he’d chosen after hearing the demos or was it a place you guys really wanted to go to, to have that reprieve from everyday life and really get lost in a sense of escapism and not have anything interfere with the product of the album in that way.
JUSTIN: Yeah, that’s exactly what it was and yeah he’d been doing a lot of work there anyway so I think he said you guys, yeah he suggested it and we were totally, 100 per cent on board with the idea as soon as we sort of – He sold it pretty well put it that way.
HAPPY: That’s sick! I was going to ask you, in what way would you say your musical and personal mindset has changed since you’ve been working on this new album. Were there any specific past or recent personal experiences that shaped the sound of these two latest releases?
JUSTIN: You know what I think that’s a really difficult question to answer and give you a meaningful – I think that as a lyricist I’m always drawing on personal experience and I think it’s all pretty close to home. I suppose the answer’s yes but I’m trying to think how – you know its funny because it’s also like been pretty much two years since we’ve stopped the writing of it as well, so like I said earlier on, a lot of it feels like it’s been reframed by the last year but it’s definitely a personal record.
HAPPY: Sorry, I just got a little buzz. We’ve only got 60 seconds left.
JUSTIN: Ok, cool.
HAPPY: Sorry, I don’t mean to cut you short or anything.
JUSTIN: Not at all, not at all I got that buzz too.
HAPPY: I wanted to ask as well, if there was one thing that you could change about the music industry today, what would it be?
JUSTIN: Umm, that’s a very good question. Umm, I-er-er-oh-er It would be nice if artists earnt a little bit more from streaming revenues.
HAPPY: From free streaming? Definitely, I’ve seen Spotify have introduced the donate option as well now.
JUSTIN: Yeah they have.
*Interview cut out so we messaged Justin on his Instagram*
HAPPY: Hey Justin! Happy Mag here, just wanted to thank you for the interview and apologize for ending it without properly saying goodbye! Really enjoyed our talk and hearing all the inspiration behind The Vaccine’s upcoming album. Honestly can’t wait till it’s officially out and people get to hear it – it’s so good I absolutely love it and I’m sure everyone else will too! Goodluck with all the upcoming press! All the best!
JUSTIN: Hey! Thanks for ur time! Was great chatting…hopefully see you in oz soon!
HAPPY: I’ll definitely be there when you guys come back! Fingers crossed sooner than later!
Back In Love City is out on Friday, September 10, and you can catch the pre-order link here!
Interview by Alex Stefanovic