Before the Show at Bournemouth O2 academy, Bassist for The Vaccines, Árni Hjörvar took time out from his busy schedule to talk to Becci Ford from The Edge.
Firstly Hello… how are you?
Hello to you too! I’m good thanks, a little tired as it’s been very busy these last couple of months, but they’ve also been the best few months of my life so far…so I can’t really complain! [laughs]
Well I understand it must be tiring, especially as you seem to have gained public exposure very quickly this year! How did it all begin?
Well…we formed the band back in may 2010, originally it was me, Justin Young (vocals) and Freddie Cowan (guitar), then our drummer (Pete Robertson) joined us in late may, the press seem to have claimed that we all got together in June 2010 but you see in truth it was actually a bit earlier than that! We were initially just jamming for a few months, and playing for our own enjoyment really it was only when we all decided that this was what we wanted to do for a living that we took the plunge and actually begun to get some serious demo tracks recorded and sent them to the BBC. As a result Zane Lowe on BBC Radio one heard one of our tracks ‘If you Wanna’ and got some music producers to track us down at the studio where they then listened to us…a couple of weeks later we got a phone call asking us to play on the Jools Holland Show…that was when I think it all really began for us, as before no one even knew who The Vaccines were, but after that show, NME cited us as a band to watch for 2011 and it just kind of snowballed I guess.
Wow, that’s pretty impressive, were you nervous beforehand?
What for the Jools Holland show? Nah…Ok well initially I wasn’t that scared as I’m Icelandic and I figured that not that many people would be watching the show. But just before we walked onto the set, one of the shows producers…Claire I think her name was?! Came up to me and said; ‘You do realise that at least 8x the population of Iceland will be watching you tonight?’ As soon as she said that, the nerves kicked in…I reckon I must have gone to the toilet about 10 times at least before we performed [laughs], I was both terrified and excited, it really was a make or break moment for us!
Well I saw it and I thought you guys did great! The nerves definitely didn’t show!
Well thank you!
You’re Welcome! Out of interest what made you choose ‘The Vaccines’ as your band name?
To be honest we had been messing about for quite a while with all sorts of names…
Well I can’t remember all of them now as there were about 6 or 7 different options that we went through, but we seriously did consider being called ‘The Catholics’ or ‘The Red indians’ [laughs]at one point for quite a while, but we soon saw sense, that they weren’t very marketable names!
I remember there was just such a pressure to find a decent name. It’s so difficult! We wanted a name that would be a blank canvas…one that wouldn’t tie us to a particular genre so that we could be free to create whatever we wanted. Then by chance we came across ‘The Vaccines’ it just had that classic ring to it, it sounded like a 50’s rock n roll band, but we could also use it to explore other genres of music! We presumed that another band would have already taken it though, so we even googled it to make sure, but we were in luck!
It does sound a bit like a 50’s band! Is this where you look for your influences?
That question isn’t really right for such a young band! As we tend to just be influenced by our experiences of life at the moment, rather than looking to other bands for our inspiration, as we still need to discover our own sound to be honest! [laughs]
Ok fair point, well what artists/bands do you listen to your spare time?
We all have really varied music taste, I mean obviously I enjoy listening to bands such as The Strokes and The Ramones and instant pop classics like the Beach Boys, but honestly I really just like to listen to as vast a range of music genre as possible, though dub step and rap isn’t really my sort of thing I would be happy to listen to anything once.
Obviously your debut album is coming out very soon which I am very excited about! I love the title ‘What did you expect from The Vaccines?’ how did you come up with it?
It really was just a completely spontaneous decision, like the band name, we were under pressure to think of a classic debut album title and we wanted something that was quite original. Somebody in the studio was talking to Freddie (Freddie Cowan, Guitarist) and asked him ‘what did you expect from The Vaccines?’ as in where did he think the band was going to progress to. But we loved it as an album title. It sounds almost like a lyric out of one of our songs, what do you think? But also because it’s a rhetorical question it heightens curiosity which is really what we wanted, as people try to fit us into the classic genre, which is annoying! We try to fight this as we don’t want to be seen as a band that imitates other records, we want to be known as a modern twist on British classic rock records, and that is what you can expect from this album!
One of my favourite songs from the album is definitely ‘Wrekin Bar (ra ra)’ it’s just so full of energy! But it’s so short! What made you limit it to only 1min 24 secs?
Well for us we like to let the melodies lead the way, and with Wrekin Bar it was a case of just simply stripping away everything that wasn’t really essential to the song, besides it would get boring that riff if it was any longer.
True, also I have to ask this one…is ‘Post break up sex’ based on any personal experiences?
[Laughs] Well I have been asked this before, and I can luckily say for me personally no it isn’t, however for my fellow bandmates I think it may be a bit of a different story! [laughs]
[laughs]OK understood! As a band you have very rapidly been spotted and noticed considering you only formed in 2010…did you ever imagine that this would happen so quickly?
No way! [laughs]we are all way too stupid and lazy to have had a plan…none of us can believe it, we never expected it to happen! But we appreciate that this is the best job in the whole world!
What were you doing before this?
I was just a dead beat wannabe musician and I think the rest of the guys were as well, I pretty much just played various sessions and thousands of gigs with friends, but I was never really in a band as such! But then I met the others and we formed The Vaccines, it just felt natural we had all always wanted to do this for a career, so we gave up our day jobs and decided to follow what we loved!
Who do you write your music for?
This sounds selfish but for ourselves really…none of us are fans of self-indulgent music where false emotions are created! We just write songs that we are going to enjoy playing, and hope that in return the audience will enjoy listening to them! We try to stick to writing classic good songs, we’ve been labelled ‘lo-fi’ in the past but that was just because some of our demo tracks were recorded in our houses on a home recording system so they sounded shit, and people thought that we were trying to be ‘retro’ or ‘vintage’, but really in reality we just hadn’t recorded anything in a proper recording studio! [laughs]It’s funny now that I think about it, but nothing really within The Vaccines has been a conscious decision it’s all occurred quite spontaneously and naturally, I guess that’s the right way to be if you want longevity in this business!
I’ve really enjoyed this interview today so thank you!
Just as one last question I was wondering if you have any tips for struggling student bands (such as my own!) on how to become a success?
You’re in a band? Cool nice one! Well as I said before we have just been very lucky…but we have always tried to maintain a sense of our roots in music. So make sure that you have conviction in anything that you play, whether that be covers or originals, you need to believe in the message of the song that you are playing! Secondly rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! We were like madmen when we first started to go serious and even practised five times a week sometimes, but if you want to reach the top then that level of dedication is what it takes! Finally work from the bottom up, don’t try to take short cuts, you will only end up doing things that you aren’t convinced about, and then you could risk being seen as a wannabe. Basically be true to yourself and the sound that you are trying to create, and be stubborn enough to not let anybody stop you.
That’s some powerful words of advice there! Well it was lovely to meet you and good luck with the gig tonight I hope it goes well!
Cheers! Hopefully the crowd is friendly and they enjoy us!