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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The Vaccines

If you follow me on Instagram (@NarzraMusicBlog), you might have seen me hinting that I interviewed Tim and Justin from The Vaccines back in October. We spoke about forgetting to stay in touch with your friends via Zoom, their brilliant side project Halloweens and The Vaccines' upcoming new album. You can find the interview below. 

Where are you at the moment?

Justin: I’m in London, in my house. In my front room. 


Tim: (I’m in) my family home. I’ve been here all year; over in Australia, Sunshine Coast.


How often do you Zoom each other? 


Tim: Probably not enough.


Justin: We never Zoom. We never really Zoom. That’s been the weird thing about being away from everyone. I don’t know. That always happens with bands. Even though we’re friends, I’d like to think, above and beyond bandmates, there’s like a weird thing with bandmates where you get so close and you get so used to seeing each other so often that I think it’s easy to forget to make an effort with each other when you don’t see each other. It’s almost like family or something, you forget to check in because you know that, if and when, this is all over you’re going to go back to seeing each other 24/7. I remember when Vaccines took the year off in 2015, I didn’t see Árni for like a year and it was this unspoken thing. It didn’t mean that we didn’t care or whatever. I guess we just knew that we’d soon (see each other again).


What have you both been upto, apart from the Halloweens EPs and album?


Justin: Yeah, I guess that took up a bit of time. From my side, I’ve been doing writing. Writing loads of new Vaccines stuff. 50% trying to stay busy and 50% not beating myself up too much about not being that busy. Tim, you’ve been doing your solo stuff, I guess.


Tim: Yeah, keeping busy with the solo stuff as well. It is kind of a weird thing. The weeks just evaporate before your eyes. I think it’s good to try and have a good attitude about taking some time off because it’s been thrust upon us. 


Justin: Yeah, it’s that paradox, isn’t it? Of making the most of this time and staying busy and creating something for yourself out of nothing but then also not being too methodical or too regimented with the creative process and the other weird thing is, obviously, the situation we’re in now…a bit like, I would say with records that are being released at the moment - there’s a few notable exceptions - but I think most of them really struggle and I think the reason why is that people aren’t able to experience the records. They’re able to listen to them but they can’t…they don’t hear the big single at a wedding or they don’t put it on on a road trip. It doesn’t soundtrack a holiday or a house party or you know a romance or whatever. You put it on while you are on the treadmill or walk to the shop and that’s your only real relationship with it. I actually think it’s kind of a similar situation when thinking about writing music because you kind of have to live life and experience life and go through these extremes to really unlock, I guess, the best of creativity. So it’s hard. I think most people I know are trying to write and trying to work hard, trying to create, but also it’s that balance of not beating yourself up too much when it doesn’t feel like the most inspiring situation. 



Photo Credit: Finn Constantine


Do you usually write when you’re on tour or is it more afterwards?


Justin: Actually, I don’t know about Tim, but I find it quite hard writing on tour. I always think of tour as the reward for writing. I like exploring and nursing hangovers and prepping for shows and all that sort of stuff more than writing for days on end. I’m always jealous of people that have that work ethic or have that inclination to write on tour. Well actually, we all just like exploring and hanging out. Or doing nothing.


Tim: I’ve definitely written in the past on tour but it’s pretty consuming being on the road. You’ve got other things on your mind and you want to see the places you’re in but if the urge comes upon me, I’ll definitely sit in a hotel room and try and get the ideas out. I’d say more often than not it’s when you’re off the road that you write.


Justin: We definitely don’t make ourselves sit down and write on the road.


With Halloweens, what difficulties have you faced in terms of cancelled shows or cancelled tours?


Tim: No tours.


Justin: Well, I mean we did have shows booked actually and the plan was to tour it this year so I guess that sucks. I don’t know about for Tim, but for me, it was hard to get too upset about that just because when all those shows got cancelled there were far greater tragedies occurring and far more stressful life events taking place. I’d almost forgotten that we were supposed to tour the record. It is frustrating because it would have been nice to take it to an audience and see what it felt like live. We’ve talked about doing another record next year so I’d be surprised if there weren’t ever Halloweens shows. I’d be disappointed if there weren’t ever Halloweens shows.


Tim: It feels sad that we didn’t have a tangible experience attached to the music we made but, I think Justin just spoke about that, relating the art that you digest to a real experience, it’s sad that that didn’t get to happen with the release of that album but it’s happened to everybody in the world, every musician, so there’s not too much you can do. You can’t get too down about it.


Personally, I’ve been really down about no live music at the moment but then it’s hard to complain because, like you said, there’s so much going on at the moment…


Justin: Yeah, but you know, I agree but it’s also easy to belittle music and the arts and live music as this kind of luxury that we’re all allowed to experience when everything’s going well but we live in a civic society, very communal beings and I think being starved of that shared experience, it’s really difficult. We hate not being able to perform. And I hate not being able to go see shows or go to bars and parties. As humans, we thrive on that shared experience so that’s a legitimate way to feel. That is your tragedy. It’s everyone’s tragedy really. I think that’s a legitimate hang-up.


Can you tell me about ‘I Never Go Out On Fridays’ and why you decided to release it when you did?


Justin: Well, I guess that was at the very beginning of the pandemic. It’s a song we always liked. Tim, had it been written for ‘Combat Sports’ or did it come just after ‘Combat Sports’?


Tim: I feel like we wrote it for ‘Combat Sports’. We had a demo for ‘Combat Sports’ and then it just didn’t make the cut. 


Justin: It’s a song we always liked and, I’d forgotten this until someone pointed out on Instagram the other day but we played it live at least once in Chicago and maybe somewhere else. It’s just one of those songs. I think most artists have this pile of songs that haven’t really fitted into any kind of release or body of work. I think we’d always liked it and then when the world shut down, we wanted to do something, we wanted to give people something and it just felt, lyrically at least, a perfect on point message. 



What is the relationship between Halloweens and The Vaccines, and do they influence each other?


Justin: I guess we’re [him and Tim] the relationship between the two. One thing I really like about writing for Halloweens is when we were writing the first record, there was no expectation or framework so it made the process a lot freer, particularly as no one knew it existed so we weren’t crippled by the fear of what fans or labels or management or other bandmates might think. It was just purely for us. For me, the really big thing, when you’re writing something, let’s take Vaccines, you’re loosely working within a five-piece and you know that certain members are going to like some things. 


Tim: I think it’s good having outlets for your creativity because it also makes you feel like…Justin and I have a tendency to write songs when we’re together that normally fit into the Halloweens camp naturally and it’s nice that when you’ve got a home for that stuff, you can still write great songs and they don’t just disappear into the music graveyard. They get a home and you move on and you keep writing. It’s nice to have pigeon-holes for your songs and you know what’s for what and I think it can release you to just write a song for a song and let it be where it needs to be. 


Justin: I think that’s what I meant. It kind of made it more obvious. ‘Oh, obviously that’s not a Vaccines song, that’s a Halloweens song and oh, that’s not a Halloweens song, that’s a Vaccines song’. It almost clears things up or something. 


So Justin, you’ve described the new album as ‘heavier’ and ‘face-melting’. What exactly does that mean?


Justin: I did say that and I think I also said it’s more pop-y. It’s a very technicolour record, I think. There’s lots of sonic depth. It’s weird because it’s definitely the heaviest record we’ve made. Hang on, I’m going to count. I’m going to look at the [laptop]. There’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight…there’s at least eight riffs on the record which I guess [before] we’ve only had one song on a record that’s had a riff, maybe. There’s riffs. It’s like heavy music but then, in other places, it’s the poppiest and the lightest we’ve been. I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s definitely the most coherent record since the first record. We’re still finishing it actually so it’s hard to kind of…


Did you record during the pandemic?


Justin: No. Well, we made the record in Texas in December last year and then we did record one extra song which is going on the record but we did it all separately. 


When are you releasing the album?


Justin: I think end of next year. There’s going to be new music towards the beginning of next year, I think. 


Is the album good?


Justin: What do you think Tim?


Tim: I think it’s amazing. We’re all really excited about it. 


Justin: I don’t know how we could have made a better record. It’s the first time I feel like…I definitely think we’re at our best on it. Not to say we can’t go on and do better things, but from the songs to the production, the arrangement to the playing, I don’t think we could have made a better song or album; the five of us, at that point in time. It’s us operating at our best. 


Tim: It came from a healthy environment as well. We just had a really nice time and separated from reality for a bit, recording, which felt very different to the previous album. It felt very creative and free and a lot of ideas flowed very quickly and the production process was different to the last one and we reaped a lot of benefits in how the album’s turned out as a whole. 


Justin: I think it sounds really fun. Very characterful and playful. It just sounds like fun. It’s not moody. 


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