Vampire Weekend may bring to mind an Eastern European blood-sucking binge, but the name is quickly becoming synonymous with a group of four preppie Columbia University grads clad in khakis and penny loafers. Guitarist Ezra Roening, keyboardist Rostam Batmangliz, drummer Chris Tomson and bassist Chris Baio got together in early 2006, and before long they came up with a mix of South African pop and indie rock that they describe as “Upper West Side Soweto.”
“We were pretty much uniformly agreed on the things we didn’t like,” Roening said in a recent interview with The Independent in London. “It was important for us not to be using the same rhythms or the same styles of playing that so much rock has used.” That said, the band has drawn comparisons to the likes of The Strokes and Talking Heads (not to mention Paul Simon’s Graceland), but their sound is definitely their own.
On their self-titled debut, the lads also display a cheeky gift of gab, dropping clever yet catchy lyrics that’ll have you singing along after a few listens. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” is the most Afro of the tunes, while “Oxford Comma” serves up a lesson in diction, but “A-Punk” is particularly perky and danceable, with the drums pulsing lightly under vocal lines like “Johanna drove slowly into the city/The Hudson River all filled with snow/She spied the ring on His Honor’s finger/Oh-oh-oh.”
A far cry from the typical indie-rock bands that come out of New York City, Vampire Weekend has captured the imagination of local blogs and press, as well as a few national magazines. Now they’re out on the road for their first major tour, taking a bite out of cities all over America and a few spots in England, no doubt winning over new fans with their quirky, upbeat party music.