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Vampire Weekend recall concerns of being a “one-hit wonder” with ‘A-Punk’: “There’s a novelty aspect to it”

Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig has recalled how he had real concerns of being a “one-hit wonder” during the early part of their career.

The band enjoyed huge success with their self-titled 2008 debut album after their second single ‘A-Punk’ went to Number 12 in the official UK singles chart.

That album, which also spawned the likes of ‘Mansard Roof’ and ‘Oxford Comma’, peaked at Number 15 in the UK album chart and Number 17 in the Billboard, earning them slots at major festivals including Glastonbury.

Despite enjoying their early success, Koenig told Rick Rubin on his podcast Tetragrammaton: “Going round the world obviously was pretty novel and then the shows getting bigger and bigger. If I really think back to that time, I think I was equally excited by our success and equally wounded by my first taste of criticism and becoming a public facing person.

“I didn’t really know how to roll with the punches so even if I didn’t sit in anger necessarily all the time, of course like anybody I’d read some review or some hate and be like, ‘They don’t know the first thing about me’. Once that would go away it would still linger as anxiety. I’d be like ‘What if these people are right? What if we are just a buzz band?’ We weren’t a one hit wonder in the sense of having a giant hit single but [I thought] ‘Could we be a one album wonder?’”

Looking back at how the band projected themselves during the early part of his career, Koenig admitted he also would have thought the same as critics back then.

He said: “Even as I listen back to ‘A-Punk’ and I think back to it, I can hear that music and I think ‘Oh that’s probably what I would have said too if I’d heard our first album’. Not that I don’t like it or I’m not proud of it but I could see that there’s a novelty aspect to it.”

Koenig said a lot of that novelty aspect was shaped by the band meeting in college.

He went on: “It’s part of the fun seeing where something can go and to say ‘Yeah so this is exciting right now, it’s connecting with people, the story of the album’ and a lot of that came from the band dressing crappy.

“We met at college and there was a collegiate atmosphere. Of course I thought I was having fun with it and having a satirical element but even so if something is rooted in youth, you can’t blame people for saying, ‘Ah I don’t really see this being a long term thing’. So I think that period was equally kind of fun and anxiety producing.”

Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend performs on the Shell Gentilly Stage at Fair Grounds Race Course on April 27, 2024 in New Orleans, Louisiana CREDIT: Douglas Mason/WireImage

As a result Koenig recalled that the band were to determined to release a second album quickly despite a heavy tour schedule, so that they could prove that they weren’t just a novelty act.

He added: “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get the second album out quickly. I think and everybody in the band wanted to say things artistically but also there’s a feeling of wanting to prove to people that there was more to the story.”

They eventually released their second album ‘Contra’ in January 2010 and they have since gone on to release three more albums.

In a four-star review of their latest album ‘Only God Was Above Us’, NME wrote: “It’s an ambitious concoction of sounds that don’t seem to exist in the same realm, yet intertwine naturally beneath [frontman Ezra] Koenig’s increasingly sullen vocals.”

Meanwhile, Vampire Weekend recently took requests at a show in Houston, leading to them attempting covers of Oasis and Phoenix.

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