The Afropop indie Vampire Weekend has been the buzz band of 2008 for its fresh sound
"As a young girl / Louis Vuitton / With your mother / on a sandy lawn
As a sophomore / with reggaeton / And the linens / you're sitting on
Is your bed made? / Is your sweater on? / Do you want to? / Like you know I do
But this feels / so unnatural / Peter Gabriel too"
The sparse and clever verses to "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," intertwined with a gentle Congolese melody, has helped make Vampire Weekend an international buzz band since early this year.
VAMPIRE WEEKEND WITH OPENING BAND LINUS
Place: Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St.
Time: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $25 and $50 VIP loft, all ages (minors must be accompanied by an adult)
Call: 591-2211 or visit ticketmaster.com
Made up of four recent Columbia University graduates, and taking its quirky name from the title of singer Ezra Koenig's amateur horror film, Vampire Weekend makes a Hawaii stopover Tuesday night at Pipeline Cafe before heading to gigs in New Zealand, Australia and Japan.
Much has been made of the band's overt appropriation of Afropop in its original material, but the group is part of a recent history of white Northeasterners - e.g., David Byrne of Talking Heads (who has himself said VW sounds like an early version of the Heads) and Paul Simon during the time of the "Graceland" album - who've been inspired and taken West African music to heart.
Calling from the band's recent stop in Seattle during an intensive yearlong tour, bassist Chris Baio said their "first flirtation with Afropop started with Ezra's guitar solos during our first practice together." Combine that with the occasional classical flourish (check out keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij's string arrangements and sometime harpsichord sound on the band's tidy charmer of a debut) and Koenig's impressionistic views of the privileged prep life, and Vampire Weekend was on its way.
Their first shows in 2006 got the attention of music bloggers, and after much touring and the release of their self-titled album in late January, the band hasn't looked back.
They've already been tagged as possibly "this year's Strokes" by National Public Radio, but any possible untamed sex appeal is particularly muted in Vampire Weekend's fresh-face stage presence. The album, however, should make it on any number of critics' best-of lists by year's end, buoyed by such breakout tracks as "Mansard Roof," the ska-driven "A-Punk," the click-clack syncopation of "Oxford Comma" (a possible reference to Batmanglij's internship at the offices of the Oxford English Dictionary) and the aforementioned "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa."
"For three days after we did a European festival, we shot the video for that song," Baio said. "It starts at a party and centers on one girl who we follow and undergoes this transformation, which I won't divulge."
Baio would be the first to say that he never expected the band to receive so much attention and notoriety so early in their career. (In fact, Baio finished up his studies only last spring, with a major in Russian studies and a minor in math.)
But ever since he got his first guitar at age 12 (and bass as a high school graduation gift from his parents), "I've always wanted to play music, and it was great that I could help start this band with friends and play for people. But this has taken it much farther than I could ever imagine. We're practically touring on a full-time basis now."
Local fans of the band can expect to hear a couple of new songs not from the first album; those will probably show up on their sophomore release, which they'll start work on next year.