Paul Simon, circa Graceland, usually doesn´t register on the list of indie-cool influences.
But New York´s Vampire Weekend, a quartet that spins its unique pop with traces of Afro-beat influences, can´t go anywhere without someone making the Simon comparisons. That´s OK with drummer Christopher Tomson.
´I think we´ve talked about it a little bit,´ Tomson says. ´This was the sound coming out. If you´re someone who makes relatively Western pop music and uses these influences, it´s sort of inevitable, because that´s (Graceland) the touchstone in so many peoples´ minds.
´It´s sort of inevitable it´s going to come up. We certainly like Graceland, though I wish Rhythm of the Saints got mentioned more often.´
Simon helped validate world music as its own genre with those albums, borrowing across continents to popularize the music of South Africa (on Graceland) and Brazil (on Saints).
Vampire Weekend´s ambitions have been a little less grand - before this tour the group played just four times outside New York City - but perhaps just as intriguing. Even with just a three-song EP officially available, the four Columbia University graduates provide a sound that serves as a gateway to globe-trotting influences.
´We like Paul Simon and we like those records,´ Tomson says. ´But it´s certainly not a conscious thing, like, ´Oh, dude, we´re gonna do Graceland.´ It´s a fine comparison, if not entirely accurate.´
With reasonable buzz building, Vampire Weekend is on its first tour - the guys even bought a minivan for the occasion. The three-song self-titled EP, an introduction of sorts, is the product of an unfinished 10-song CD-R the band sold at shows.
The plan is to record/polish the rest of the tracks for an album early next year.
´We´ve met with a lot of labels, some that are very interesting,´ Tomson says. ´We´re a young band just starting out and going through the whole self-release process with first EP and sort of seeing how that goes. Once we go through this EP experience, I think we´ll have a better idea if we want to go to a label or do it ourselves.´
Any label that takes on Vampire Weekend would have interesting marketing choices to make. Already, critics are grasping at straws to describe the style: the Strokes meet Paul Simon or maybe it´s an homage to first-wave ska. For what it´s worth, the EP shows up as ´world´ in the genre ID in iTunes.
Some have labeled the group ´Ivy League pop,´ if only because of the guys´ Columbia backgrounds.
´I don´t think we really heard that until someone wrote that about us,´ Tomson says. ´I guess the idea of is because we all went to Columbia. That´s probably second thing to Paul Simon mention. And the lyrics have maybe more of a literal bent. . . . I think it´s an OK word. I don´t mind it so much.´