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Ezra Koenig Elaborates On Vampire Weekend's "Emotional And Personal" 'FOTB'
Today, Vampire Weekend released their highly anticipated fourth studio album, Father of the Bride. It's been six years since the band released their last LP, the GRAMMY-winning Modern Vampires Of The City.
The indie stalwarts have been working up a buzz around FOTB for months, first when they revealed the album's title/eminent release and dropped the first double batch of singles, "Harmony Hall" and "2020" on Jan. 24, and then with a tour announcement, two more double-single releases and, finally, today's 18-track double album drop.
Now, in a deep-diving Stereogum profile, Ezra Koenig offers insight into the jubilant ease and complexity of the new release, how he and the group have grown, and how collaboration has helped the group expand its creativity and shine.
"I always wondered if people pictured us banging our heads against the wall for six years. In a way, given that it's a lot of songs, it came about more quickly than usual," Koenig told Stereogum.
Since Modern Vampire's release in 2013, a lot has happened for the group; Rostam Batmanglij departed, the other two remaining members, bassist Chris Baio and drummer Chris Tomson both released solo albums, and Koenig created an anime series on Netflix. In the interview, Koenig shares how he has, finally, fully embraced his role as the band's frontman.
"I never felt comfortable calling myself the leader because I felt like that was something that I had to earn. But I did start the band, so I had some degree of leadership. In the beginning, I made it clear that I was going to choose the songs. It wasn't important for me to write all of the songs, because I love writing songs with other people, but it was important for me to have that curatorial role."
And with Father Of The Bride, which Koenig first revealed they were working on and nearly 80 percent done with back in September 2017, both the collaboration and storyline are rich. It is the first time the group has brought in featured artists, with HAIM's Danielle Haim dueting on three songs, and The Internet's Steve Lacy making waves on two others.
Both Koenig and GRAMMY-winning producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who returned after co-producing Modern Vampires with the frontman, explain the collabs happened organically. As Rechtshaid put it, "The only people involved on the record were involved because it felt organic. It's an informal revolving door of the homies and the homegirls."
Koenig is evidently the type of artist always striving for growth and expansion, to always be covering new territory and pushing their group's creative boundaries. As a group with songs like the unabashedly nerdy "Oxford Comma," from their 2008 self-titled debut LP, their new material feels lighter and more lyrically accessible, but very much in the traditional Vampire Weekend vein of epic storytelling and upbeat sounds.
"Am I going to be throwing open the dictionary for every song? That doesn't feel exciting," Koenig said. He continued, "A lot of my favorite songs accomplish things I've never accomplished. What am I scared to say? What haven't I done? Part of it is emotional and personal, and part of it is the novelty of new artistic challenges."
He also explained how the duets he shared with Haim, one third of the GRAMMY-nominated sister trio of the same name, played a key role in this new artistic exploration. "A true duet is people in a shared situation with slightly different perspectives," he said. "That felt like the type of thing I hadn’t done before. It was hard. Lyrically, I think this is the most rigorous I've ever been."
Haim, meanwhile, emphasized the authentic nature of the collab. "I've known Ezra for a couple years now and have always been a fan. The first song he showed me was 'Hold You Now' and I loved it immediately. He asked if I would sing it with him and the rest kinda just happened naturally."
The album title, which Koenig shared had been "in the running three or four years ago," also ended up taking on a deeper meaning when Koenig recently became a father himself, with partner Rashida Jones.
"Why would a phrase like that be evocative to me? I think, naturally, you start looking at new themes as you get older. Father Of The Bride is meant to make you think of a wedding, a life cycle event, a moment of transition. I didn't know that I would be a father by the time this album came out… But it's not a crazy coincidence that a major life cycle event would happen to me in the years after I started thinking about what adulthood really was."