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Vampire Weekend: Anatomy of an Album

By Jason Lamphier

Photography by Alex John Beck

While crafting their spry, gospel-ish new record, Modern Vampires of the City, America’s premier suppliers of worldly wit-pop, Vampire Weekend, found themselves drawing from a host of influences. Writer, producer, and queer member Rostam Batmanglij (second from left) charts a few of the band’s recent fascinations.

JUNIOR REID: The album’s title was lifted from the first line of “One Blood,” the Jamaican musician’s 1989 reggae hit. “There were a lot of connections between the song’s message and the ancient themes we explored on this record.”

 

 

 

 

VINTAGE NEW YORK: MVOTC’s cover is a shot of N.Y.C. taken in 1966 by photographer Neal Boenzi on one of the city’s smoggiest days in history. “When I first saw it, I thought, Is this a rendering of New York in the future... or something old?”

 

 

 

MID-1960s BOB DYLAN: “I thought, We should try to do a song that has both organs and piano the way Dylan did. That really reminded me of a specific moment in time, which by coincidence is around the time that cover image was taken.”

 

 

 

PLASTIC ONO BAND: John Lennon’s 1970 classic helped inspire MVOTC’s churchy vibe. “I’d just discovered that album when I wrote the song ‘Obvious Bicycle.’ There are certain religious elements of it that wove themselves into the DNA of this record early on.”

 

 

 

OLD-SCHOOL HIP-HOP

The album’s chopped-up beats are a shout-out to the genre, and the song “Step” cribs the lyric “you always step to my girl” from ’90s New Jersey rapper YZ (also sampled by hip-hop group Souls of Mischief for their 1992 demo “Step to My Girl”).

 

 

 

JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT
“I’d had doubts about doing harpsicords and classical stuff again. Then I saw this Basquiat retrospective, and I realized he had clear ideas he wasn’t afraid to explore. There’s nothing wrong with going deeper into something you genuinely love.”

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