Vampire Weekend wants to know: “Who gives a f— about an Oxford Comma?” Well, certainly not the Record â€“ it’s against our rules on style â€“ and most of the College probably couldn’t care less. But students sure seemed to care about Vampire Weekend on Friday night at Greylock. After all, what’s not to love? The band is made up of four cute Columbia graduates who play infectious Afro-pop-infused indie rock (self-described as “Upper West Side Soweto”), and sing tongue-in-cheek lyrics about Cape Cod, mansard roofs and Louis Vuitton. I was definitely sold â€“ and I was also lucky enough to sit down and chat with Chris Tomson, the drummer for the band.
Where does the name Vampire Weekend come from?
That was a movie . . . Ezra had done summer between freshman and sophomore year of college and then he kind of found the cassette tape of footage and put together a trailer . . . It was kind of a joke that was happening at the time. That was kind of it, it was just like this joke that was there and we had a gig and it was like yeah this name’s kinda good and it just stuck.
How’d you guys meet at Columbia?
Probably the same way you met most of your friends here. It’s like, I met Rostam at class, Ezra at a party . . . you know just like being different, kind of musically inclined people, we just ended up eventually in the same social circle.
And what is “Upper West Side Soweto”?
It’s essentially a joke â€“ there’s a style of music, which is named after a section of South Africa. It’s more of a signifier thing where when you put those two together, those two kind of images, what that means will mean different things to different people. . . . There was not too much thought behind it but a lot of people grabbed onto [it].
I know you said you met each other just through friends but it seems funny that all of you play African pop. Were you all originally interested in that or was it just one of you who turned your music in that direction?
We’d all listened to it and been in touch with it before we started the band, just being friends and trading records or sending MP3s, whatever, back and forth . . ..I would self-consciously say that none of us actually play African pop because we don’t know how to play; it’s just something we like and enjoy and there’s the vibe there that we’d like to get across and there’s something that that music communicates to us, instead of learning how to play it and playing this one style. I think none of us could claim to play African music; that would be too much.
How did you start out? Just playing shows at Columbia? Did you get a fan base that way?
Well yeah, certainly â€“ our first six months, our first 12 shows were all on Columbia’s campus at parties and stuff, and so when we finally started playing downtown, naturally a lot our friends and people who saw us at Columbia would come to that, because Columbia people had heard of us. I think for the most part it was people responding to the couple songs they would hear that had made the rounds, I guess, and I think that’s kind of the main reason why people got into it, for better or worse, on the strength of two or three songs people would get really interested in it and liked what they heard and wanted to hear more. So I think that was the main thing, these songs on Myspace â€“ those are the ones that when we go to a town, people know more than any other.
How do you, and I guess your parents, feel about spending four years at Columbia and ending up doing something different, like this?
[Chris] Baio graduated this past year so he didn’t get a job but the rest of us all had jobs . . . and if we were the type of people who were going to be bankers we probably wouldn’t be in a band in the first place, so it was not really like this thing that shocked [them] â€“ we had been in bands in high school and doing all this s— so when there was an opportunity to kind of pursue it and be a full-time thing and make it happen, I think they were all very supportive and the job that I had was a fine job, but it wasn’t like I was throwing away this incredible career, so it’s really not a big of a deal.
So what are your plans for the near future? Just touring?
For the next couple months, yeah, but we’re excited to start to work on the next album. We started working on it last January so it’s nice to have it out in stores and be this thing people can get . . . But we’ve already been thinking for kind of a while now; figure out new stuff.