- Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
- Oxford Comma
- White Sky
Vampire Weekend is an American rock band from New York City, formed in 2006. They are currently signed to XL Recordings.
The band’s first album Vampire Weekend (2008) – which included the singles “Mansard Roof“, “A-Punk“, “Oxford Comma“, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” – was acclaimed by critics for its world music influences. Their following album, Contra (2010), was similarly acclaimed and garnered strong commercial success. Their third studio album, Modern Vampires of the City (2013), won the group a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 2014.
The band members met while enrolled at Columbia University, beginning with a rap collaboration between Koenig and Tomson named “L’Homme Run”. They bonded over a shared love of punk rock and African music, and Koenig toured with The Dirty Projectors during a period of experimentation with African music, inspiring the band to incorporate world sounds into their earliest work. The band chose the name “Vampire Weekend” from the title of a short film project Koenig worked on during the summer between freshman and sophomore years in college. While home for the summer, Koenig watched a 1980s vampire film (The Lost Boys) and was inspired to make a Northeastern version of the film in which a man named Walcott travels to Cape Cod to warn the mayor that vampires are attacking the United States. Koenig abandoned the project after two days. The band began playing shows around Columbia University, starting with a battle of the bands at Lerner Hall. After graduating from college, the band self-produced their debut album while simultaneously working full-time jobs, Tomson as a music archivist and Koenig as a middle school English teacher.
In 2007, Vampire Weekend’s song “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” was ranked 67th on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Best Songs of the Year.” In November 2007, they toured the UK with The Shins. The then-nascent influence of blog hype and internet buzz played a role in their success and led to a large prerelease following sufficient to support them performing on three tours before their debut album was released. They were declared “The Year’s Best New Band” by Spin magazine in the March 2008 issue, and were the first band to be shot for the cover of the magazine before releasing their debut album. Four songs from the band’s first album also made the Triple J Hottest 100, 2008. The internet hype had its backlash, however, as critics reacted against a perceived image of Vampire Weekend as privileged, upper-class Ivy League graduates stealing from foreign musicians. One critic went so far as to call Vampire Weekend the “whitest band in the world,” to which they took exception, given their Ukrainian, Persian, Italian and Hungarian heritages. Koenig responded in a November 2009 interview by saying, “Nobody in our band is a WASP.” Furthermore, the backlash involving their social backgrounds was largely unfounded, as Koenig explained in the interview that the band members got into Columbia on scholarship and used student loans; he himself was still paying off student loans in 2009.
The band’s first album Vampire Weekend was released January 29, 2008. A success in the US and UK, it peaked at number 15 on the UK Albums Chart and number 17 on the Billboard 200. Four singles were released from the album; while “A-Punk” peaked at number 25 on the Billboard Modern rock chart and number 55 on the UK Singles Chart, “Oxford Comma” peaked at number 38 in the UK. “A-Punk” was ranked the 4th on Rolling Stone’s Readers’ Rock List: Best Songs of 2008. “A-Punk” was also used to open the Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly feature Step Brothers, and featured in the UK television show The Inbetweeners and the video games Guitar Hero 5, Just Dance 2 and Lego Rock Band.
The band’s second album, Contra, was released on January 11, 2010 in the UK and the following day in the US. The album’s first single, “Horchata“, was released on October 5, 2009. The album’s second single, “Cousins“, was released as a single on November 17, 2009. Initial copies of the CD and LP sold at independent records stores in the US include a 3-track bonus CD containing two “melts”, which featured bits of album tracks and a remix. Contra was the band’s first album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
On January 9, 2010, the band did an acoustic show for MTV Unplugged. The following month, the band toured Europe and Canada with Canadian electro duo Fan Death as their support. The video for their next single “Giving Up the Gun” was also released on February 18, 2010 which included cameos from Joe Jonas, Lil Jon, RZA and Jake Gyllenhaal.
They also played festivals across the USA such as Coachella, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits Music Festival, All Points West and the Groovin’ The Moo festival in Australia. Their third single, “Holiday“, was released on June 7, 2010.
On June 25, 2010, the band played the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival, in Pilton, Somerset, UK. The band were also on the main stage at T in the Park 2010 at Balado Kinross, Scotland, on June 8, and played the Oxegen Festival in Ireland on July 9. They also headlined the Latitude Festival in Suffolk, UK on July 18. On 16 July the band headlined the Main Stage at the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim. In the summer of 2010 the band played at the Utopia stage on Peace and Love, Sweden’s biggest Festival. On July 30, 2010, the band played at Jisan Valley Rock Festival in South Korea.
In 2010, Vampire Weekend embarked on a North American tour with Beach House and Dum Dum Girls. The tour started off on August 27, 2010, in Vancouver, British Columbia at the Malkin Bowl. Koenig mentioned to the audience that before this concert, the band had the longest “vacation period” that they have had in a while.
On November 11, 2011, it was revealed that Vampire Weekend had been in the studio, writing and recording material for their third album. On April 26, 2012, Rolling Stone reported that the new album could be released by the end of the year. Koenig said, “We do have a ton of stuff. It would be cool if it was [released] this year…We just never want to be in a position [where] when we put out something, we feel could’ve benefited from more time.” Until its release, members have been decidedly discreet about the details of the next album, stating that a band “can give a bunch of interviews when they’re working on stuff” but they “don’t want something [they] said six months ago to influence how people hear it when it’s done.”
Modern Vampires of the City was released in May 2013, and written and recorded in various locations including SlowDeath Studios in New York, Echo Park “Back House” in Los Angeles, Vox Recording Studios in Hollywood, Rostam Batmanglij’s New York apartment and a guest house on Martha’s Vineyard. The album was co-produced by Batmanglij and Ariel Rechtshaid. After Batmanglij produced the first two albums himself, this marked the first time the band worked with an outside producer on any of their records.
In an interview for the February 2013 edition of Q (released in mid-January), Koenig described the upcoming album as “darker and more organic” and “very much the last of a trilogy”. The album was recorded and co-produced by Ariel Rechtshaid in his Los Angeles Studio (alongside Batmanglij). The band discussed the album with The FADER and appeared on the cover of the magazine’s 84th issue. On March 16, 2013, the band played the closing show at Stubbs on the last day of the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. In the show they played two new songs from the upcoming album: “Diane Young” and “Ya Hey”. On March 18, 2013, Vampire Weekend released a double-sided single, “Diane Young”/”Step”. On May 11, 2013, Vampire Weekend were featured as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live with Kristen Wiig hosting, their third time on the show.
Released on May 14, 2013, the album debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. This marks the second time Vampire Weekend has achieved such a historic feat: its second album Contra also debuted at #1 in 2010, making this the first time an independent rock band has entered at #1 with two consecutive releases. Modern Vampires of the City also shattered the previous record for first week vinyl sales, moving nearly 10,000 units on vinyl alone and debuting at #1 on the Soundscan Vinyl Charts. Additionally, the band charted #1 at Indie, Alternative, Digital and the top 200. In 2014, Modern Vampires of the City won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.
On January 26, 2016, Batmanglij announced his departure from the band on Twitter. He noted that he and Koenig would continue to collaborate.
In January 2012, President Barack Obama added Vampire Weekend to a short list of musical artists that he sought support from for his re-election campaign. Vampire Weekend made it onto this list with Jay-Z, John Legend, and Alicia Keys.