The Vaccines: ‘Connecting with people is inherent to what we do’

Indie rock band The Vaccines are back with a new album, Back in Love City. Ahead of their gig for Crash Records at The Wardrobe in Leeds, I spoke to singer and guitarist Justin Hayward-Young.

The Vaccines. Picture: Frank Fieber

Live music is back, and so are you. With a UK tour and new album Back In Love City, are you rearing to bring the love to the city or is there any lingering trepidation about the live music scene whilst we still navigate the last year?

We’re incredibly excited! I feel like I’ve been grieving for the last 18 months. Performing and connecting with people is so inherent to what we do and what we love. We’re obviously all at the mercy of the Covid, but I’m trying to remain optimistic, which is not always in my nature. 

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You’ve been a band for 11 years, and forming in 2010 came out towards the back end of the indie-rock boom of the 2000’s. What’s your secret to the continued success of the band given the fickle nature of the digital generation and the wealth of music at modern listeners disposal?

I wish I had the magic formula! I do think that we’re increasingly aware of how lucky we are to do this with our lives and so we’re incredibly focused on being the best we can be and having fun while we do it. Every time we’ve made a record we’ve got to the end of the cycle and believed we have better in us. I think that’s all you can do. The rest is kind of out of your hands. 

You’re coming back to Leeds as part of your tour, what memories have you of playing in Leeds and do you have a standout memory of a gig in the city?

We love coming to Leeds. Millennium Square in 2012 was one of my favourite gigs we’ve ever played. We played an insane show at the Brudenell too during the World Cup of 2018. It was so hot and sweaty in there that we ended up playing without our tops on which was a first and a last. We made our fourth album Combat Sports in Yorkshire, so it’s a part of the world we’re very familiar with and very fond of. 

Aside from the Covid restrictions causing touring delays, has Brexit caused you any European touring issues and what advice would you give to smaller bands or artists who are struggling with the sanctions such as VAT on merchandise that is hindering much needed funds to support a tour?

We haven’t been lucky enough to even try yet. I’m not sure I’m very well placed to give advice because I feel as lost, confused and as angry about it as everybody else. We’re all in the same boat, but I think it’s a pretty good example of how little the Tory government care about or understand the arts. 

You’re known for your riotous live shows, what can fans expect to see on this tour and given how long fans and yourselves have waited, will you be digging out some fan favourite deep album cuts as a celebration?

We always play the fan favourites! I think a live show is about trying to connect with each other and becoming one big congregation. Once people start dancing and singing along, you’re basically all performing together. That’s always an amazing and intense environment but given that we’ve all waited 18 months to be together I think it’s going to be extra special.  

Which is your favourite track from your new album and which do you feel will become a fan favourite in a live setting?

I have a new favourite every day. I can’t wait until everybody knows some of the heavier songs on the record. There is a song called Wanderlust that we’ve played a couple of times and its already been going off. Jump Off the Top is on the record too and that’s been a live favourite for a while now so I can’t wait until people can hear the recorded version. 

Most bands including your own, have created several vinyl/cassette/CD bundles for their new albums. Is it important to you that the fans get value for their commitment to you and how much input do you have in the creation of the artwork/vinyl colour etc?

A huge amount. The visuals are an extension of your art. A lot of time and care and thought goes into it. You’re trying to build an entire world. I always think ‘would I buy this? do I think this is cool?’. I hate the idea of ripping people off. We want people to buy merch and bundles that we can treasure forever. I know that’s what I do as a fan. 

Going forward, what plans do you have for the future of the band? Any unchecked career goals that you still wish to achieve?

We’re going to go back into the studio after the summer and work on an EP. I think as long as we can keep seeing new corners of the world and playing to new people we’ll be happy.

The Vaccines play at The Wardrobe, Leeds on September 10. thevaccines.com