What Is Vampire Weekend?

by Emma Rensch
Vampire Weekend performing live in concert.

Vampire Weekend performing live in concert.

Karl Walter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Vampire Weekend is an American indie rock band. The group formed in New York City in 2006 and is still active as of publication. Vampire Weekend consists of Ezra Koenig as lead vocalist and guitarist, Rostam Batmanglij on keyboards, Christopher Tomson on drums and Chris Baio on bass. Critics from Beggars Group, a collective of four prominent independent record labels, cite Vampire Weekend as a growing influence within the indie pop-rock scene.

Beginnings

Vampire Weekend began when Koenig and Tomson met at Columbia University. The two musicians decided to form a band together based on a mutual taste for punk and music from Africa. The band got its name from a film project of Koenig's. Vampire Weekend played its earliest shows on Columbia's campus and continued playing in the New York area after the members graduated. Its earliest EPs were recorded in locations such as dorm rooms and barns.

Sound

Vampire Weekend is described by Allmusic biographer Heather Phares as a mix of "preppy, well-read indie rock with joyful, Afro-pop-inspired melodies and rhythms." Online radio station 100XR has described Vampire Weekend's music as "sweetly dense and warmly infected pop songs, rife with unrequited love affairs and bookish musings." Beggars Group cites Vampire Weekend's influences as stemming from ska to reggae to Bollywood soundtracks and surf rock.

Debut and Sophomore Albums

Vampire Weekend produced and released its first album with the independent record label XL Records. The self-titled album, issued in early 2008, debuted in the top 20 of the American and British album charts. "Contra," the band's sophomore album, was released in 2010, also on XL Records. According to Beggars Group, Tomson said Vampire Weekend was more developed as a band at the time of the release of "Contra": "I think we sound more like Vampire Weekend than we did on the first record." Koenig claimed a greater emotional depth in the sophomore album: "It's sadder than the first one, a bit more sentimental."

Commercial Success

Vampire Weekend has seen considerable commercial success for an indie band. Its single "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" ranked 67th in "Rolling Stone" magazine's "100 Best Songs of the Year" in 2007. The self-titled album debuted at number 17 on the Billboard Hot 200. By the end of the summer of 2009, the band's debut album had sold more than 450,000 copies. "Time" magazine called it the fifth best album of 2008, and "Rolling Stone" named it 56th Best Album of the Decade.

Resources

  • "Vampire Weekend: Piano/Vocals/Chords"; Vampire Weekend; 2008

Photo Credits

  • Karl Walter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images