Vampire Weekend switches it up on band's third album

Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend says the extra time the band took putting together its latest album is reflected in the quality of the songs on the disc.

The guys in Vampire Weekend changed how they wrote songs, how they record and what an album of theirs even looks like - the cover for "Modern Vampires of the City" is not another artsy old Polaroid, but a 1966 black-and-white photo of a smoggy New York skyline.

None of which will change some minds.

"There's certainly going to be people who listen to this album and say, 'Wow, more of the same from Vampire Weekend. I knew I hated these ... college boys,'" frontman Ezra Koenig said.

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Those ranks are thinning. Blowing off Vampire Weekend as smirking, preppy Ivy Leaguers too quaint and precious for their own good is a position becoming tougher to defend. Tables are turning. Now it's their eye-rolling critics who risk not being

taken seriously.

"Modern Vampires of the City," the New York quartet's third album and the follow-up to the 2010 smash "Contra, is its best to date. Band members call the album, released Tuesday, the completion of a trilogy, and it will likely crumble whatever mass-appeal barriers are left.

"I wanted us to embrace our identity in a way. I wasn't afraid of sounding like we had before in some ways, because I think there was an opportunity to go deeper than we ever had before," guitarist and keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij said.

"Modern Vampires" is still a distinctively Vampire Weekend album: harpsichords, gospel pianos, Jamaican influences are liberally applied. But they're also being more accessible.

Members of the group had largely avoided writing songs together before starting the new album. This time, though, three songs - "Don't Lie," "Everlasting Arms," and "Hudson" - all got their start during a cottage retreat to Martha's Vineyard after the group took a cue from their friends in the band Grizzly Bear and got out of New York City.

The trip was not a getaway to clear their heads. Batmanglij and Koenig, the band's songwriters, rolled through intense sessions during what was an entirely foreign and experimental approach to filling out an album. Koenig would walk around the grounds of the cottage with a legal pad, jotting down ideas, while Batmanglij stayed in the house and tinkered with putting songs together.

Koenig was happy with the results.

"We easily could have released an album a year earlier if we had just rolled with the songs that we'd written up to that point," Koenig said. "And, you know, maybe half of it would have been the same. But then another half would be mediocre."

I really can't stand the idea that we'd ever release a song that felt like a throwaway."

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