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This article is from Issue 64: July/August 2013

Faith, Doubt and Vampire Weekend

One of our generation's favorite bands asks the big questions.

Almost everything you need to know about Vampire Weekend can be summed up in the first 10 seconds of their headline set at this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival. Before a crowd of sweat-soaked, bedraggled concert-goers, the quartet took the stage looking like they’d wandered in from the library. Somehow impervious to the oppressive heat, they were stuffed into creamy oxfords, finely tailored suit jackets and pressed trousers. Their hairstyles were appropriately mussed.

And it’s not just the style. It’s how they carry themselves. They don’t act like rock stars or even the paralyzingly shy prodigies so popular these days. Rather, they give off the collective vibe of that college professor you had who seemed just a little too young and cool to be a professor—the one all the girls had crushes on and all the guys would call by his first name and nobody would be quite sure when this kid found time to earn a Ph.D.

Vampire in Brooklyn

Despite the professorial vibe, Vampire Weekend is not a band known for their seriousness. They’ve largely dealt in breezy melodies and breezier lyrics, as charming and inconsequential as an afternoon nap.

But their latest album, Modern Vampires of the City, is a sea of change. You’re not likely to hear a more artful wrestle with mortality and the divine this year than Vampire Weekend’s, and the band themselves have moved on from sounding like eternal tourists. In fact, their guitarist/keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij says this album is homespun.

“We all love American music. I feel like you get a bit more of the immigrant culture of America in our music,” he says, referring to Vampire Weekend’s melting pot of beats and melodies. “That’s going to be natural considering it’s the product of Jewish/Persian/Ukrainian/Irish immigrants.”

“I think this album sounds authentically American,” he says. “As opposed to a narrow vision of America that’s sometimes—not all the time—but sometimes expressed in music that is ‘Americana.’”

“We’re all New Yorkers and we have a great love for New York and the history of the city and the music of the city. That music has its own kind of America. Maybe some people aren’t really interested in that. But we are.”

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