Live @ SXSW: Vampire Weekend, The Parish 3/13

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interview by Jim Beckmann
photos by Chad Syme

Vampire Weekend. Wow! This band of Columbia graduates formed while still in school back in early ’06. Their story begins much the same way any college band’s does — play house parties and pretty much anywhere on campus that’ll have you. It started to get interesting when they self-released a three-song EP. Next thing you know their organizing their own tour assisted ever so slightly by Ezra Koenig’s (guitar/vocals) prior connections to Dirty Projectors. Musically, VW thrives on a combination of can’t-get-you-out-of-my-head ska rhythms, afro-pop and the beauty of simplicity. Whether you love it or hate it, a friend of yours is probably playing it nonstop — so get used to it. The band’s tour has experienced interruptions recently due to illness, a hit-and-run in London, and special performance on SNL, but they’re in full effect for the SXSW blitz and were kind enough to speak with us following their Parish performance.

Jim very briefly chatted with Ezra backstage before the show:

KEXP: We have plenty of Vampire Weekend stories, so I won’t make you repeat yourself, but I was interested in what you guys have been doing lately, and how things have changed since you released the initial blue CD-R, from then to now?

Ezra: Just being interviewed now by everyone and the airplay from KEXP, made us realize how far in advance you had that recording, way before it was officially released.

KEXP: We kinda feel bad about it but we kinda don’t.

Ezra: Ultimately it was a good thing.

Ezra: We played at Emo’s for like 50 people, and then we get to Seattle and played for a few hundred people, so there you go.

KEXP: What about New York? Are you still catching good buzz around New York?

Ezra: Yeah sure. People in New York had heard us, but when you’re from New York, hopefully you’re playing good shows in New York. There’s a New York/L.A. thing. People just go back and forth. But in Seattle, obviously a big city in it’s own right, they’re kinda doing its own thing. We have a good show there.

KEXP: I think it was Stereogum who first had something from the blue CD?

Ezra: The first blog that ever had our stuff was an African music blog Benn loxo du taccu (http://bennloxo.com). That was one of the first blogs I actually wrote to, to say “Hey, I really like your blog. Here’s an MP3.” He was into it. Probably how it should work. Obviously since then we just transcended the African music blog community. It’s great.

KEXP: That is what you, I would assume, hope for to cross those lines?

Ezra: He was such a cool guy, he understood what we were doing.

KEXP: Do people treat you different now?

Ezra: Hmm, no. Being here at SXSW, you run into people that you know. It’s a pretty different universe. Music people are much more likely to know who you are as opposed to being in the subburbs.

KEXP: How was that Saturday Night Live thing?

Ezra: We got the call about a week before the show. It all happened really fast. But it was fun, it’s an exciting place to be.

KEXP: Is the label thing going well now that you’re on XL? You must’ve had a bit of courting, I would imagine.

Ezra: It’s good. We’re definitely happy with them, everyone’s real nice.

KEXP: Well, thank you again for your time, we’re always happy when we’re able to sit down with you guys. Keep us posted!

Read more coverage of KEXP@SXSW.

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