By: Samantha Eddy
English indie rock group The Vaccines – made up by bassist Arni Arnason, drummer Yoann Intonti, guitarist Freddie Cowan, keyboardist Tim Lanham, and singer/lead guitarist Justin Young – are back after quite a few years without any new releases. The band was formed in West London in 2010 and has since then released many albums and singles – leading them to a significantly large fanbase.
As a taster for their upcoming fifth album, The Vaccines have released an incredible single titled ‘Headphones Baby’. Justin Young, front man of the group, states in an interview with NME, “I didn’t know what or who ‘headphones baby’ was, if it was a person or an idea. Before the song was written, I imagined it to be like ‘Plug In Baby’ [Muse], but now it’s more like a concept or a feeling.” Young explains how the song gets in touch with people’s feelings and how loud this song is in terms of meaning, energy, and power. “It’s about cocooning yourself from the outside world, which is a topic I’ve always been mildly obsessed and, I suppose more broadly speaking, is probably a topic that a lot of musicians and artists are also quite obsessed with,” Young details. Listen to ‘Headphones Baby’ below.
“The tone shifts from A to Z quite a lot in the song, but I think there is still this overarching theme of pure escapism and red button-ism, like ‘F*ck it’. [It’s more about] the idea of mortality – less the act of dying, but more what would come with an icon dying in a big ball of flames,” explains Young on the intended meaning of the song. Young continues with, “It’s like Roxy Music’s ‘Love Is The Drug’ and this idea that you can plug into a feeling and therefore plug out and just become overwhelmed with emotion at a time or in a place where you thought you were devoid of all that. It’s essentially about wanting to feel alive.” ‘Headphones Baby’ is clearly a perfect hit for anyone who enjoys music that makes them feel good and feel happy.
As NME puts it, the song (and forthcoming album) “were inspired by the idea of dystopian or ‘sin cities’, and the notion of emotion as a finite resource that might one day leave us feeling empty and numb.” Young digs deeper into this with, “One thing I’ve really struggled with in consuming new music during this time is so much of our relationship with music we fall in love with is experiential. The music that’s really thrived this last year has been the more insular, inward-thinking stuff like the Phoebe Bridgers of the world, because it makes sense in this cocooned environment. ‘Headphones Baby’ is about wanting to feel those things [we felt before] and that’s why I think it’s so bombastic – because we want it to feel like a road trip or an acid trip, or an explosion of colour.”
Going into the forthcoming fifth album, Young informs us that “the album has quite a lot of breadth and depth. But on the other hand, it is the Vaccines to our core but it shows a sense of refinement and it at least hints at the M.O. for this record.” Recorded at Sonic Ranch studios in El Paso, Texas in early 2020, the fifth album is brought up from an exciting adventure. “It wasn’t just the best experience we’ve had as a band, but I think as individuals it was one of the best months of all of our lives. It was such an inspiring and exciting environment to make music, but also because everyone was so excited about being there. It was like pure living the dream – jumping on the back of a pickup truck every morning to go and eat tacos for breakfast these amazing Mexican women had cooked for us and then back to the studio for a 15-hour day in the middle of a pecan farm on the border with Mexico,” reminisces Young.
The band has made claims that this is their heaviest produced album and that more work has been put into it than any other. In an interview with Konstantinos Pappis of Our Culture Magazine, Young is asked “What is it that this album has that the previous ones didn’t?” “I think the lyrics are stronger, I think the musicianship is stronger, I think the production’s really strong. And I think…the sort of concept was maybe stronger than a lot of the songs, and I feel all the stars aligned for us creatively this time. I just feel everyone was at our best, everyone really brought their A-game. I don’t think we could have made a better record – I probably say that after every record, but I truly feel it at the moment,” answers Young.
Pappis brought up another intriguing question that fans are probably wondering too: “Is there more of a running theme this time around in terms of the lyrics and the concept as a whole?” Young informs us that while this album is not a concept record, he believes it is “loosely conceptual and it does sort of take place in this fictitious city. And I think there is a sort of dystopian feel to it all…there are definitely universal themes running throughout.” So, while there isn’t a specific concept to this album, fans can take a good guess based on the dystopian, escapism, and sin city feel and meaning of ‘Headphones Baby’. Though the group has not provided an official release date for the currently untitled album, fans can expect its release within the next month or two.
Looking back on previous successes, Young is reminded of how much of a milestone their album What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? was, and believes that this new album will surpass that. “I genuinely do [think we’ve beaten What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? with this album]. But that’s not really for me to decide – I suppose you have to give it to the hearts and minds of the people that care and hope enough of them agree.”