I recently had the opportunity to talk to the lead singer of The Vaccines, Justin Hayward-Young, whilst they were in the middle of their North American tour supporting Arctic Monkeys. In the following phone interview, we spoke about how they feel about the album being released in America and the tour itself, the rapid rise from small stages to a support slot with Arcade Fire later this year, the future of The Vaccines and more. Many thanks to Justin for taking the time to talk to us.
Hi Justin, how are you?
Yeah, really well thank you. Currently in Pomona, California.
So, your debut album, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?, has now been released in North America. How does that feel and is there a new sense of anticipation since it was released in the UK a couple of months ago?
Yeah, itís nice actually, it feels new again over here. Itís like that feeling which, I donít think you can ever truly replicate, when youíre starting a band and you know that people are hearing you for the first time and youíre hoping to impress or excite them. Opening up on this tour [with Arctic Monkeys] and playing to people that have never heard us before is kind of like recapturing that feeling. And aside from that, itís cool to say weíve got a record out and you can buy it in any good record shop in America, itís really cool...
... it canít have hurt to have Lyle Preslar of Minor Threat join you on stage in America too?
Yeah, that was pretty surreal and amazing for all of us. I was thinking about it the other day and if I could have told the sixteen year old version of myself that it would be happening, I just literally wouldnít believe it.
Youíve played a few shows on the current tour with Arctic Monkeys now plus a couple of dates over in America earlier in the year, including SXSW. Did you experience any sort of culture shock at all with the shows? Is there a noticeable difference at all?
I think itís almost a culture shock every show because itís just so vast over here and every city is so different from the last. Thatís what I actually really enjoy the most, the fact that every night is completely different because the places and the people are so different, like Salt Lake City compared to New York, for example and you really feel it.
With the places being so different to eachother, the crowds differ at each stop on the tour too, so you never know what to expect and that's really exciting and just good fun! Without any disrespect to our homeland, every city can be very similar to every other city there.
Youíre not only on tour with Arctic Monkeys now but you also have the big show in England with them. How did it all come about?
I donít really know to be honest, I mean theyíre really great guys so hopefully through some form of appreciation because I know that we never tour with bands that we donít like. So, that would be nice to think.
Talking of big shows, it seems like such a short space of time between playing tiny London venues to suddenly supporting Arcade Fire at Hyde Park. Whatís the general feeling amongst the band about that kind of transition and the rapid nature of the changes?
I mean, itís fucking good fun when itís happening to you. I think a lot of how I feel about it comes from liking punk rock and therefore Iíve always been really worried about being in a band that builds its house on sand. It was a rapid rise and, you know, so much of it was out of our control and has been out of our control. You can only control so much yourselves like, not posing on magazine covers before thereís actually any music to hear for example, you know? Things are taken out of your hands and moved along very quickly but anything we could do to slow it down, we did. I really hope that has a positive effect and continues to do so. I mean, there was naturally a lot of negativity, as there is with anything thatís sort of ďhyped upĒ or ďforce-fedĒ to an extent. But, I think what we as a band all feel really good about is that now the record is out, people, be it the press, fans or anyone, are able to celebrate or ignore which for a while they werenít able to do.
So, I think we all feel really positive and Iíd like to think, without predicting our future, that certainly in the UK weíve survived that hype and we now have a really good and healthy fan base and the people that donít like us, donít have to worry about us.
And with the shows and stages getting bigger all the time, do you feel you have to approach them differently, especially with the likes of Hyde Park or the festival stages for example?
Yeah, I think it all falls under that umbrella of ďfestival showsĒ and us losing our virginity on those stages in that respect. We are all really excited and I think weíre all aware, from playing in different bands before, that when youíre not the main attraction that you have to work harder at it. So, we are well aware weíve got to be on top of our game for those kinds of shows. I mean, Beirut is playing before us at Hyde Park so, we are following one of my favourite acts and Arcade Fire are obviously headlining, another band we really like, so we are sandwiched between brilliance and if we are anything less, then it wonít go unnoticed.
Youíre playing a whole bunch of festivals this year as well, all over the world. Are there any in particular that you are really looking forward to?
Really looking forward to Glastonbury because itís sort of known as the festival. I didnít actually have a very good time there as a festival-goer. I went once and lost my phone, lost my friends and there was so much rain so I was on a bit of a downer. But, to actually play it and to be playing where we are on the bill is unbelievable and a real honour.
You also recently played your biggest headline shows to date in London at the Electric Ballroom only a year or so into the life of the band. That must have been exciting to have two nights in what is essentially your hometown each with big sold out gigs?
Yeah! Really exciting and sort of...weird because I remember going to gigs at these venues around London. I saw Conor Oberst play the Electric Ballroom a few years ago and itís just sort of weird because you go to these big venues as a music fan I think you can see these people on the stage as from another world but then you are getting up there yourself on that very stage and itís just a bit of a ďpinch yourselfĒ moment but just fucking good fun at the same time. Itís so exciting that we are playing bigger and bigger venues too.
Earlier this year you released Live in London as part of Record Store Day. Was it important to you to be involved in that scheme as a whole?
I do think supporting independent record stores is important but unfortunately, if Iím being honest, I donít think itís going to slow down the way things are going. But as a music fan, I like to visit them so yeah, I do think itís important.
Getting back to the album, seeing as itís probably your main focus again right now, are there any songs that you are more fond of, particularly in a live setting?
I love playing the more energetic and youthful songs live like ďNorgaardĒ and ďIf You WannaĒ because they were written for that purpose. On the record, my favourite song is ďA Lack of UnderstandingĒ, though.
And are there any songs on the album in terms of tone or feeling that you can see yourselves channelling when the time for writing new material does come around?
I mean, thereís a sort of honest naivety to some of the faster songs on the record and whilst Iím aware a lot of people really enjoy that about us, it may be harder than I feel comfortable with to recreate that feeling...
...I think thatís a good thing though, an abrupt stamp with your debut and then you can flourish a little more on subsequent recordings?
I really hope so, exactly.
Itís easy to forget that the album has just been released in North America and has only been out in the UK for little over 2 months now, so it may seem a bit premature, but do you have any plans past touring and 2011?
Not just yet. Maybe soon, but not quite yet. I think right now, we are still very much ďin the momentĒ playing these songs and still feeling really fulfilled doing so. I guess there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when that changes but for now we are all really happy concentrating on this record. There was so much going on pre-album that people forget that it hasnít been out for very long at all, as you said.
Well, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us, Justin.
Not at all, itís been really fun and itís been to nice to talk to a website that I actually used to visit a lot when I was younger. Thanks a lot, it's really appreciated.