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Anthem Magazine - 2008

Vampire Weekend: The name conjures up some kind of Lost Boys-on-acid image, hot-rodding wunderkinder full of vitriol and whiskey roaring angrily through dusky mountain towns. In fact, Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Christopher Tomson and Chris Baio are four college friends who met at Ivy League uni, Columbia. The quartet is more tingling pop than biting rock, more unrestrained romanticism than snarling histrionics.

The band formed around a year and a half ago while the four finished up their respective degrees and contemplated post-college life. Batmanglij and Koenig met while playing small parts in a school production of Romeo and Juliet. Baio was busy with a radio show on Columbia’s online radio station. And Tomson split his time between appeasing his parents (majoring in economics) and himself (a dual degree in music).

Koenig started with another project initially, a rap band called L’Homme Run, before forming Vampire Weekend in early 2006. Within months, there was enthusiasm from the blogosphere and a coveted nod of approval from the Flavorpill that sent New York music fans scurrying out to hear the band’s simple, Soweto-influenced pop melodies. Paul Simon, especially Graceland-era Paul Simon, is an obvious tie, but Koenig sees other influences. “We like a lot of pop music from a lot of different times. I wanted there to be elements of Elvis Costello, Squeeze, XTC. I hope that shows at least in the lyrics a little bit.”

As for the dozen or so songs the band’s currently got under its belt? “We started recording because we liked recording, and it evolved over the past year,” says Tomson. “It’s become sort of an album.” The band is hoping to release that album- either themselves or with the help of one of the dozen or so labels that are interested in them- by early 2008. In the meantime, they’ve put a 7-inch out with Free News Projects. And they’re about to quit their jobs and head out on the road for several months’ worth of touring. Ever practical, Tomson says, “There’s less at stake if we do it when we’re 22 or 23 than if we do it later.”

During their set at GlassLands Gallery in Williamsburg, Ezra Koenig teeters on the edge of the small stage. He’s clad in decidedly un-indie rock baggy khakis and looks tentatively over to Batmanglij, stationed squarely behind his keyboard. Tomson ramps up the mellow rhythm of “Oxford Comma.” “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma, I’ve seen those English dramas, too,” croons Koenig. The song is adorably collegiate, conjuring up university greens, dusty classrooms and feverish, tortured make-out sessions in between library stacks.

Koenig’s sweet urgency rushes up against the crowd. The audience knows every call and response and the intimacy seems almost familial. “We’re not interested in being linked to a fixed time,” he says later. “We’re just trying to get a feeling across.”

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