Monday, January 4, 2010

Who Gives a Fuck About An Oxford Comma? I do. Four Times In This Blog Alone: Examining The Vampire Weekend Backlash.

Let's talk for a second about the great blogger backlash against Vampire Weekend. Once a charming, affluent, and preppy indie band from the east coast, now hated by the vast majority of "cool kids", the hipster community hadn't seen a band go from beloved to despised so quickly since Zach Braff used Garden State to try to ruin former Vampire Weekend tour mates The Shins. (FYI: Just because a song is good does not mean that it will "change your life".) To quote fellow Boil It First ingenue Zach Braun, "I hated Paul Simon's Graceland when it came out and hate it even more when smug college kids rip it off."

As a self proclaimed "indie kid" (Definition: White person wearing a thrift store sweater with obscure band buttons on the collar; An individual who knows more about Jeff Tweedy's personal life than the personal lives of their siblings.), I found myself front and center for Vampire Weekend's rise to beloved, quirky pop band and subsequent fall to the ranks of the band no one wants to admit they like for fear of being judged by thick glasses clad bloggers and art school majors everywhere. Summing up the events that took place over the past three years in a few paragraphs would be a pretty easy, wikipedia aided feat but wouldn't it be more fun to create a Vampire Weekend timeline? Starting with their formation in New York and ending with a sophomore album featuring autotune, this is a quick glance at how Ezra Koenig went from being just another Jewish kid at Columbia to being called a pussy by Alice Cooper.


Ezra Koenig forms Vampire Weekend at Columbia University in 2006 with what I'm sure at the time he considered to be a lovable band of scamps, consisting of Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Baio, and Chris Tomson. The band, named after lead singer Koenig's amateur film which may or may not involve preppy vampires taking a shady vacation in Massachusetts while reading Salinger and drinking mimosas, thought it would be a good idea to combine indie pop stylings with elements of African music, reggae, and classical strings.

The band gets signed to XL Records and in 2007, their debut single "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" lands on many a "best tracks of the year" list before the quartet releases their eponymous debut in 2008. With assistance from the admittedly infectious song, blogger buzz begins to build before it's made a widely known fact that the band shot a cover for Spin magazine before their album was even released. Sure, that's not Vampire Weekend's fault but to say that makes them seem cocky and full of themselves would probably be an accurate statement. Add this to the fact that Koenig was barely of legal drinking age when all of this started, a slow and steady onslaught of anti-Vampire Weekend press began to start as the band was named best new act of 2008 by publications that didn't know any better and the boys appeared on Saturday Night Live, wearing their best Ralph Lauren scarves and cable knit sweaters.

Shortly after this, Alice Cooper takes a break from DJ-ing classic rock tunes to say that Vampire Weekend are pussies. I believe that Koenig attempted to defend himself at this point but honestly, when Alice Cooper calls you pussy, what can you say to remedy the situation?

Around this time, Vampire Weekend was reportedly named the whitest band of all time on, a site full of things that are funny because they're true. (I say "reportedly" because a half-assed search of Stuff White People Like yielded no Vampire Weekend results but according to their Wiki, it happened. Would the user generated wiki lie to me? Probably, but let's just, for argument's sake, say that Vampire Weekend was named the whitest band of all time and move on.) For instance, ask any white person who their favorite rapper is and chances are, they'll say Mos Def! Good call, Stuff White People Like! What else do white people like? Wes Anderson movies, Facebook, and girls with bangs! See what I mean?

In 2008, Vampire Weekend releases an arguably god awful track called "Ottoman" for the soundtrack for an arguably god awful Michael Cera vehicle Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist. This does nothing to help build buzz for the band's sophomore album.

Word is that Vampire Weekend launched a so-called "viral campaign" in preparation for the announcement of their album Contra. If anyone actually saw any of this alleged "viral campaign" before it's existence was revealed on Pitchfork, I have yet to hear from them. This proverbial "viral campaign" culminated with the reveal of the album artwork as well as a free download of the first track off the album, the polarizing "Horchata". Horchata as a beverage is something I can get behind. The song? Well, the most memorable thing about it is it's complete lack of memorability

A month later, they follow "Horchata" with "Cousins", a song that isn't as forgettable as "Horchata" but blends seamlessly with their debut, leading many to believe that Contra is going to be a slightly less endearing and catchy version of the band's self titled debut.

Now, Vampire Weekend is not only using autotune off at least one track off their forthcoming album but also defending their use of autotune.

I don't want to hate Vampire Weekend, not because I actually don't hate them but rather because it's so easy to hate them. However, the fact of the matter is that the part time Vogue models seem to make themselves unenjoyable. Like most of the modern Caucasian world, I am not immune to the catchiness of "A Punk" but instead of being a success story of a little indie band that could, Vampire Weekend come off in press as just what they are: Overprivileged white kids who thought it'd be fun to form a reggae band. The fact that they're so disliked is something the band seems at least mildly aware of, judging by the name of their new album (For those too lazy/rusty on their Miriam-Webster skills to remember, "contra" means "against; in opposition or contrast to" according to and the fact that it does seem to be a fairly popular topic of conversation in interviews with the band, although it's never addressed quite as bluntly as I would like it to be.

At the end of the day however, I don't hate Vampire Weekend. Reading all the above facts and dealing on a regular basis with Sterogum and Pitchfork's oversaturation of Vampire Weekend news makes me feel like I should hate Vampire Weekend but I think what it comes down to is that I semi-enjoy their music in social situations when used in moderation. They're like kittens (I love to cuddle with kittens but as I'm slightly allergic, I could never own one.) or snorting cocaine off a stripper's tits (Always a blast but can result in a pesky drug addiction). But on a whole, I just mildly dislike Vampire Weekend and am slightly perturbed by their existence. Blame my lack of a rich upbringing but I just don't find the sentiments of the band relatable. Koenig and company come across as so overtly privileged that listening to them spin tales of days on yachts and vacations to India borders on nauseating after ten tracks but hey, you write what you know and apparently, Koenig knows Vuitton clad coeds lounging about in Cape Cod while listening to Peter Gabriel.


  1. Grizzly Bear, who I view as mostly "meh," did an awesome cover of "Graceland." Recommended.

  2. Them boys in Grizzly Bear can sing! I saw em do "Cheerleader" on Fallon.

  3. oh wow, i'm so glad i saw this 'cause i didn't even know a new one was coming out. or that i could hear on myspace. myspace? damn, i'm glad i kept that account. it's fun. they're fun. not quite as african as, say, extra golden, and i dance a lot more at extra golden shows, but that's got a lot to do with the fact that there's always been a lot more room to dance at extra golden shows now that i think about it. thanks again. i've liked them since '07 and kinda followed them since, but didn't know about the new one. thanks again. good times.