Last week we reviewed the beautiful Back In Love City by British band The Vaccines, and it was the perfect occasion for us to meet with Freddie Cowan, their guitarist. It’s from their bus tour, on the morning of another gig, that Freddie answered our questions. Interview.
Unis Son: First of all, congrats on realising Back In Love City last Friday. It’s a really good album, I really liked it!
Freddie Cowan: Thanks!
US: What I’ve got from it is that’s an album about feeling and emotions that are accessible to all at all times. Where did it come from?
FC: Yeah. I don’t think it’s a concept album, although I do think we wrote and worked on it around a concept that was developing alongside the music, and that wasn’t something that was premeditated. We were on tour, we had some sort of discussions on the aeroplane, talked about different things, we just reflected on our life experiences at that time. And I was just witnessing a culture of addiction and was really interested in it. The easy thing is to point to drugs and alcohol, but then we had a way where we could completely addict to a culture of escapism. Social media is about escapism, it’s about kind of shaking off reality, building around realities. And there are young people, who aren’t developing certain skills because of their social media. So basically, I just saw, what if in the future, in the same way, that companies are providing with anything, what if Google or Amazon could provide us like love. It’s just this idea that we will forget how to love each other basically… because all these basic things we’ve forgotten, that technology is allowing us to let go off, like, love could become a commodity. Because, to me, drugs and alcohol, it’s a clumsy way for people to feel safe and loved, but as technology progresses, it just, imagine if you could be sold it. And Love City is this kind of metaphor for this place; it could be a physical place, it could be a place that you can access however… It’s about escapism, essentially.
US: As you said, Love City is a metaphor, fictional, it’s about escapism, but if you could place it on a map, where would it be?
FC: Well, because we made the album in Texas, that would be this kind of aesthetic… to me, it’s like some kind of dingy roadside, not somewhere they will serve any alcohol or anything, it’s just you go and you know it’s a bit of a shithole, but you come to plug in, and everything will be great. You will feel everything, a bit like an old opium den or something. Just imagining in this Love City, they got it right down to a T, you know. it gives you one big warm hug, and you feel like everything is fine. Love is an emotion that requires a lot of work, a lot of practice, patience, it’s a verb you know, and I think it’s a, perhaps that’s what has been forgotten about it, we just want to feel good right now regardless of what we’re doing, sane behaving you know, we just want to be at peace.
US: As you mentioned you recorded in Texas, I believe in El Paso?
US: There is a feeling of massive deserted landscapes when we listen to the album as well. And you recorded it just before the world stopped.
US: Were you feeling impatient, and were you relieved to finally get the album out?
FC: Yeah. Personally, I’m really glad I had my own coping mechanism because it was a long time to just sit on the record. But, that said, we finished the record by December 2019, and we met by about February 2020, or maybe January, just before the pandemic, and said: ‘I think, you know, it’s a great record but it could be better’. So we actually kept working on it for most of 2020. And previous to the pandemic, we would never have an opportunity to do that, because we were always touring, always getting a record, getting it done, and this is the first time since What Did You Expect, our first album that we kind of… I think we gave a record sufficient time, gave us some space, come back to it, get working on it, grow it to a place where we went ‘Okay we can’t make this any better’. So it was a real blessing for us in that way because it forced us to sit back, take a breath, reclaim it and reach for better potential, so. Yeah, it was difficult in some ways and in other ways, it was profitable.
US: You did celebrate the 10 years anniversary of your first album this year. Do you feel like you already had a bit of Love City in your previous albums?
FC: I think we wanted to make like a wild “modernist” record, a record of its time and something that refined, colourful, all the things Love City is, I think we wanted to do that probably since English Graffiti. The intention for a record like Back In Love City has been there for a while, and it’s just showing us you can have all sort of intention, you can want a record who sound like this, a record who sound like that, but really it’s kind of not up to you. You can set the intention it doesn’t mean you’re ready or capable to carry it out. But I think we wanted to make something that sounds like this for a long time, I just think we weren’t ready yet.
US: Yeah and because it’s been 10 years between the first one and this one, I think we can feel and hear the evolution of your sound as well.
FC: Yeah, but the first record was something we had such a little view of, it’s just: we met, we started the band, we had absolutely no expectations of anything happening, and suddenly all these people were so interested, and people wanted to manage us and people wanted us to play, and I thought certainly, this is really strange. People are going mad about this music. And now I listen back at the album, and I think it was a real moment. You know. Like again, it’s not something you… You can’t set the intention to have a moment. In some ways, you’re kind of a passenger to your own music.
US: This is very interesting to hear as well. Then you put Back In Love City on a massive beautiful vinyl, that you did with Blood Records. How was the process?
FC: I didn’t ask for anything. They’re a very cool company, I like the model, and you know, they do really cool things. I think in the music industry and in general, it’s beneficial for people to behave like small business owners. Companies like Blood Records certainly works really well with the bands, with smaller bands, I think that’s just a really cool company, and they’re doing amazing stuff for the LP they make. It’s wicked, very cool looking things.
US: Excellent! This is my last question: what is your earliest memory of music?
FC: Probably just being at the back of a car with my parents or my dad and listening to… probably not very good music like… Well, some good music: Annie Lenox, she’s an amazing artist. But some not so good music like, something I shouldn’t say [laughs]. My dad was really into rock music, so yeah, my earliest memory, singing at the back of the car, listening to Annie Lenox or… but not feeling very connected to that. The real connection with music came when I was 11, 12 years old… listening to, I guess classic rock. Led Zeppelin and stuff like that. And that was the first thing really connecting me to music. But also just, I like really angry music. Really young, I loved Slipknot, and I liked Metallica and just for whatever reason, and… like I used to go to sleep listening to Slipknot and now it’s way too dark for me but, it was just a kind of opening an emotional spectrum, kind of ‘ wow this is really concentrated anger and rebellion ‘, and it’s very powerful.
I’d like to thank Freddie for kindly accepting to answer my questions. The Vaccines will be on tour this spring, and tickets are available now. We’d like to thank Telma and Alex for this amazing opportunity too.