Our Interview with The Vaccines

There is a noisy party going on in Freddie Cowan from The Vaccines room. “I am having a party on my own!” he yells above the racket. “I’ve got the Thrills on now, a blast from the past…”

Recently Freddie held a party in his hotel room in Mexico that went on for two days, “but I don’t want to talk about it,” he says, not entirely convincingly, before adding, “We weren’t playing The Thrills that day. There were members of the Maccabees, some of Florence’s band, but not Florence! Just good people doing good things,” he laughs, “ in a nice, safe environment.”

So where are you right now and what are you doing?
I’m in Stockholm. It’s a beautiful day and we’re not playing until tomorrow, so I’m going for a haircut, then I’ll be sending some stuff to friends in New York for Halloween. I want to go and explore Stockholm now. It’s beautiful and the people are pretty.

What music was playing in the house as you grew up?
A lot of blues music – my dad played blues guitar; John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, T-Bone Walker. There was also a lot of British classic rock, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. He grew up in Stockton and would see bands like that playing in the local theatre or cinema. And my mum liked a lot of Motown, so it was pretty good education!

What was the first record you fell in love with?
That was probably The Beatles’ Rubber Soul. I mean, I loved the Pokemon record when I was ten, but the one I first committed to was Rubber Soul. It was all about that painful first break up! Michelle and Girl were the songs I’d listen to as I’d sit and doodle on my desk and feel crushed. Actually, as a much younger child I loved James Brown, particularly Cold Sweat. That was the one for me.

What was the first record you bought?
The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa, but it was a mistake! I went to HMV to get something else, but all the Pixies albums were only £3 and there was a half-naked girl on the cover so I got that instead. I liked Bone Machine, but it took me a few years to really appreciate the rest of it, I was probably only 11! I also used to skateboard a lot, so we would try and find records by the punk bands we heard on skateboard videos. That’s how we found The Strokes. We were looking for The Stitches and found The Strokes EP that came out a while before they were hot. That’s how found The Doves, A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, Craig Mack and a lot of other punk stuff like the Ramones, The Damned, The Undertones and my favourite, The Buzzcocks as well as hardcore like Minor Threat.

Did you ever go straight edge?
I didn’t, no! But Justin (Young, singer) did go straight edge for about four or five years, but it made him ill in the end. Now he can’t stop eating cheeseburgers.

What record made you think, ‘I actually could be in a band…’?
The Velvet Underground’s first record demystified rock and roll for a lot of people. It seems simple, but it isn’t really. We loved Pale Blue Eyes from their third album too, but being in a band never seemed impossible. I loved the attitude of The Clash, they were very important too.

What five records couldn’t The Vaccines exist without?
Milo Goes To College by The Descendents, Velvet Underground’s first album, Glenn Branca’s Lesson No. 1, the Best of Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps and Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.

Does the perfect song exist?
It exists everywhere. If you’re honest, if it’s a personal commitment, then who’s to say that’s not perfect. Dolly Parton has written some perfect songs. Neil Young’s Harvest Moon is a perfect song and so is Heart Of Gold. So is God Only Knows. But they exist everywhere. Suzanne by Leonard Cohen is perfect. Perfection is about commitment – if an artist really means it there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be perfect. It’s nature, and everything’s perfect in nature.

Who are you listening to at the moment?
I was out with the guys from Trentemøller last night. The have a track called Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider Go!!! which is just brilliant, oh and Jan Hammer’s Don’t You Know is amazing. Dr John has just made a record with the Black Keys and there’s a track on it called Ice Age which is fantastic.

What records would you fight your way to the decks to put on?
None! I don’t want to push my taste on people. If I was DJing that would be different, then I’d go with Train In Vain by The Clash, Rock and Roll Pt 2 by Gary Glitter – sorry – Why Should I Love You by R. Stevie Moore, Don’t You Know by Jan Hammer and Silver Machine by Hawkwind.

That is, literally, a great party.
Oh yeah. I’d throw A Half Full Glass of Wine by Tame Impala in there too.

What would you recover to the next day?
Well, you’d have to be careful not to get too bummed out. I like Emitt Rhodes, he’s fantastic. I’d put on Transformer to get me in the mood again. Too chilled and you’d get depressed. I’d listen to Exile On Main Street, something that was cool that justified my bad behaviour. My reasoning would be, these people behaved just as badly as I have and most of them are still alive so how bad can it be?

Finally, what’s your favourite noise?
Running Water. I’d like to be by a river. A heavy river, not a stream. A big, fuck off river! When I die I want to be cremated, get thrown into a river and be washed downstream.