The Edge’s live editor Megan Downing and head of relations Dan Flynn spoke to Freddie and Pete from The Vaccine’s prior to their Benefit Show at The Joiners. For such a worldly successful band to be coming back to their roots to play a Benefit show is fantastic. They tell The Edge how exciting they are to be doing something for such a good cause and how people need to start appreciating the smaller venues in their local music scene.
How’re you feeling about tonight?
Freddie: I think it’s wicked, it’s a really cool thing to be able to do. And I’m really glad we’re here.
Pete: It feels like a field trip. It feels like we’re just doing something for us, for fun.
Freddie: For us, not so much for the guys that have been setting up all day, trying to make everything work. In soundcheck I was taking loads of pictures from the stage because it really feels like when we started the band. The first gigs we were doing, which seems like a lifetime ago, but it really was only about two years ago.
Pete: Yeah! It’s weird, we’re even using the same drum kit as when we started!
Have you played a lot at The Joiners before?
Freddie: I played once when I supported Mr Hudson and The Library which was about 3 years ago. Justin has played here a lot. That’s kind of the reason for us doing this, this is Justin’s hometown.
Pete: This was his hangout. He spent his formative years of getting into bands and getting into music here. I was just down the road, in Winchester.
How does playing the smaller, more intimate venues compare to the massive festival crowds?
Pete: As an environment for making music, you couldn’t get much more different.
Freddie: It’s very separated and much more controlled being in a larger place. You can generally play slower, you can’t hear each other, it’s not as intimate so it’s a little bit more regimented and you’re so distant from the actual sound that everyone else is hearing. I feel like I’m filling a piece in a puzzle. Doing the big live shows you’re part of a greater picture, which has to satisfy how ever many thousand people. Whereas these things, they’re extremely intimate, you can see everyone in the room, you can hear everything that’s going on. It’s all very simple.
Pete: My favourite festivals to play are the one’s where there isn’t that massive gap between the stage and the crowd, some of them go on for miles! I love having people leaning on the stage. I think it’s amazing, it’s much more fun and you feel like you can make more of a connection with the people that way. In many ways it’s more fun but the variety is good.
Do you get intimidated by big audiences now?
Freddie: It’s not really very intimidating. Maybe we’ve just been lucky, but I don’t think I really feel that people are out to get us. It’s more encouraging that anything. Some of the smaller venues can be far more intimidating, people are right in your face.
Have you had any bad heckling at gigs before?
Pete: Heckling’s alright, the worst one is when you’re playing and you notice someone right at the front on their phone.
Freddie: When you’re in a support slot, even at festivals, when the headliner is someone like Bruce Springstein and you have some mega fans who aren’t really interested in anything else.
Pete: It is annoying, it’s like that one bad comment you get amongst a million good comments. If I see something on an article my eyes can’t detract from it.
Freddie: Sometimes we get annoyed about it. You’ve told someone to ‘fuck off’ once haven’t you?
Pete: Haha, yeah.
You’re pretty much constantly on tour. If you could choose the best that you’ve played in the world, where would that be?
Pete: Probably my favourite place that we’ve been on tour is Brazil. For some reason it just clicked there. I think for us as a band it really worked there, there are a lot of rock and roll fans down there. They respond to music in an incredibly positive, meaningful way. It was all a sea of smiles and people going crazy and they know all the songs.
Freddie: Where else were we recently where we were talking about how it was amazing, the lack of cynicism? [ponders]Bangkok! Just places where people aren’t cynical, you know, not mindless, but Mexico was great.
Your second album has been out for 4 months now and obviously many of the songs aren’t that new to you guys anymore. I saw ‘Ghost Town’ at Reading last year, I’ve been hearing them live for a while, how do you feel the new songs are received in a live setting?
Freddie: Really well. We followed the first album up quite quickly and we never stopped touring so it just seems like the songs we’ve chosen to perform from the second album are as well received as the first. It’s all like one big collective.
Pete: We started playing ‘Teenage Icon’ and ‘No Hope’ over a year ago.
Freddie: They’re totally intrinsic parts of the set. I really wonder how we managed to get on without those songs.
So do you feel like, stylistically, there’s much of a change between the two or do you consider it as more of a collection of songs now?
Freddie: I think people assume you finish a tour after the end of the first album cycle and you sit down and brainstorm, and that’s not really how it works.
Pete: A lot of people do it that way, we do.
Freddie: But I mean, it’s a development that happens every day of your life as you’re growing, it’s a very organic thing and you’re putting that down as a snap shot of where you are at that point. I think it is a big development, but it’s a natural development, it wasn’t, like Pete said, it’s not that we tried to sit down and turn our sound upside down and change everything, we felt like we’d grown a lot.
Pete: We weren’t setting up to re-invent the wheel. I think it showed a natural progression and reflected a natural progression, cause we were different people a year ago.
Freddie: It was a very different environment to make a record in. Because with the first album it was like we didn’t have a care in the world. We didn’t really know what there was to be afraid of.
You worked with Albert Hammond Jr (The Strokes) on ‘Tiger Blood’ was that an ambition? Something you’d looked for?
Freddie: Not an ambition when I was younger, it was just a cool thing that came up.
The Strokes are a cool band.
Freddie: We just loved it! It was kind of my important band growing up so it was just an honour to do it. It was funny cause I hadn’t really listened to The Strokes that much recent to that point and going up and just seeing all his guitar pedals and his guitars, I knew everything about him, cause I was a complete Strokes geek!
Who would your ideal collaboration be?
Freddie: I would like to work with Daniel Lanois, a producer. Does that count as a collaboration?
Meg: I can’t really see you guys collaborating with anyone.
Dan: What about Calvin Harris?
Pete: That’s the one!
I usually ask a question about influences, but I thought I’d put the ultimate question to you guys. Favourite album of all time. Pete, go!
Pete: Woah! That’s tough. [ponders, for a while] Probably, erm, Revolver [The Beatles].
Solid choice. Freddie?
Freddie: Hmm. I think London Calling [The Clash] is probably the best album of all time. You know when someone understands a lot of different genres and nails them in their own style. It’s just the perfect record.
I’ve got a topical question, what are your views on HMV shutting down?
Freddie: It’s just what’s gonna happen, I’m sure people had a lot to say when they stopped making vinyl and started producing a really inferior format as the norm. Digital’s even worse than CDs, it’s just user consumption, it devalues it. I mean there some people who say the 20th Century was the peak of people making money out of art. You could make a successful record and live of off it for the rest of your life in the sixties. It just so happens that music has been targeted first. But the digital age is gonna cause problems for so many things, you know now they can do 3D printing now? I guess it comforts us to know that you can’t replicate a live concert. I think there’ll be no CDs in less than two years.
Pete: I had a strong connection with CDs when I was young. The whole thing with HMV is a physical manifestation of what is happening. Everyone feared it coming and now it’s here.
Freddie: In the music industry because digital is so effective. If you’re a big pop band and you make a massive pop single at a pop producers house and it’s a hit or whatever, it goes on iTunes, there’s no distribution, the only cost is marketing! And they’re selling fucking millions of these singles. I went to my first ever gig in HMV, so it’s a massive shame, but I’m not gonna say it’s a terrible thing because it was inevitable.
Meg: I was just going to ask about tonight, what can we…
Freddie: [jumps in]What can we expect from The Vaccines?!
No! Of course I wasn’t going to ask that!
[All laugh at Meg]
Freddie: You should have, you were half way there!
What I was going to say was: What can we expect from tonight’s show?
Freddie: It’s really hard to say, we don’t choreograph anything.
Pete: It is! Especially with nowhere to run to, you know, on the small stage, there’s not a lot of space we can occupy.
Do you have a set list then?
Freddie: Yeah we have a set list. But anything could go wrong. It is just four people, with four instruments. It will be what it will be, it depends what the people and the energy in the room are like.
Pete: I hope it feels like what it is! Sort of a celebration, an awareness, obviously, the HMV thing ties in with small venues going down tubes. It’d be a real shame to lose one, it feels really good for us to be doing something to raise people’s awareness, I hope people treat it with respect and look around and sort of appreciate what it is. It’s not just any old venue.
Have you been to a gig here before? The sound is pretty much unrivalled!
Freddie: Is it really?
Meg: Yeah, every time I’ve been here it’s been great.
Dan: It gets really hot though.
Freddie: That’s right, we want a sweaty Joiners!
Finally, what does the rest of 2013 hold for you guys?
Freddie: It’s just started! So probably quite a lot! Justin and I are thinking of relocating for a little bit to America, just to try and write and work with some new stuff. I dunno. We wanna do an EP, sooner rather than later. We haven’t taken a break yet but I think there’s still a lot of creativity left. I think we’re gonna make some more music and we’ve got an American tour that starts at the end of the week. And then we just tour through until Festivals.
Pete: Touring, touring, festivals, writing.
Freddie: We’ve just got to find the energy to keep going!
How do you find the energy!?
Freddie: Sometimes you don’t. We were just saying, looking out from the stage earlier, it really does seem like ten years ago or something.
Will this be the smallest gig you’ve done in a while?
Pete: This is the smallest one for in a while.
Freddie: It’s gonna be great moment, to make us grateful for where we are.
Read The Edge’s review of the night here.