"I'm trying to understand a lot of the forces that made last year what it was" - hmv.com talks to Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio
His day job in Vampire Weekend are currently working on the long-awaited follow-up to Modern Vampires Of The City, but that hasn't stopped bassist Chris Baio channelling his frustrations about the world we find ourselves in into a brand new solo album named Man Of The World.
We spoke to him about making the album and why the death of David Bowie had such a huge impact on the process...
When did you start work on the songs for Man Of The World?
"I started writing the album in earnest in mid-September 2016. In the lead-up, I found myself paralysed and transfixed by world events, unable to focus on anything else. Writing these songs and this album was a way of addressing the anxieties I was feeling."
How did you want this album to move on from you did on The Names?
"The Names was a record with a very narrow tempo range, the slowest song is 120 bpm and the fastest is 128. I was really trying to make two DJ mixes with that album. This time, I wanted to use a much wider range of tempo, the slowest song is 77 bpm and the fastest 200, and use a different sonic palette with no instrumentals, and a focus on combining electronics with horn sections. I was feeling much more comfortable and confident with my voice, so I tried to be a lot more ambitious in the vocal arrangements."
You worked with John Foyle on the album, what did he give you as a producer?
"I worked with John on The Names as well, this is his first time co-producing with me. He's a great sounding board and is constantly coming up with ideas for tracks. I trust that together we'll come up with the best possible version of any song I've written. That's the ideal for a producer."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a common theme running through it?
"Lyrically, I'm trying to understand a lot of the forces that made last year what it was. Whether it's trying to represent powerful yet repulsive individuals through the lens of a love song or reckoning with the fallout from the US Presidential election, the overall vibe of the record is paranoid and anxious. That said, there are still straightforward love songs and a lot of the sounds and melodies are triumphant. I wanted the record to have a consistent tension between the music and words."
You’ve talked about the influence about the death of David Bowie had on you, do you think you can hear that in the songs for this album?
"Yes, absolutely. About half the songs have lyrics with Bowie references. A track like 'Out Of Tune' is very much modelled on and influenced by Bowie's 'Joe the Lion'. He, along with Bryan Ferry, are my all-time favourites and his passing last January set the tone in a way for my 2016."
Which song on the album took the longest to get right?
The toughest ones were probably 'Sensitive Guy' and 'Shame In My Name'. Getting the arrangements and vocals just right made for a lot of late nights in the lab!"
And which came together most quickly?
"It was 'The Key is Under the Mat'. I had a slight cold in the studio when I was recording the vocals and I liked that it made my voice slightly raspy. I also knew exactly what I wanted the arrangement to be and John came up with some really cool drum sounds for it. When you're in the studio and you're just rolling, it's a divine feeling!"
When did you settle on the title of Man Of The World?
"Before I started recording it. It felt instantly right. An album about thinking about the world."
Were there any other titles in contention?
"The only other title that was somewhat in contention was Villains. I'm glad I didn't go with that, as Queens of the Stone Age just announced it as the title of their new album. Can't wait to hear that one!"
What are your plans to take the album out live?
"I'm psyched to play again with my dear friend George Hume, an incredible guitar player who toured with me on The Names and also played a bunch on this record. I always love playing and want to do it as much as possible."
How is work going on the new Vampire Weekend record? When might we get to hear it?
"You'll hear it when it's done! It's a boring answer, but also a true one!"