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Interview - The Vaccines at Jack Daniels Birthday 2012

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With Jack Daniels celebrating its birthday with a monumental party at a cave in the heart of Yorkshire's rolling hills. I caught up with The Vaccines before they played their headline set. We talk festivals, X Factor and finding peace on stage.

CW: How was your summer chaps?

V: Really good, we saw a lot of the world we never expected to see which was amazing. We played in countries we never expected to play in. We discovered we had fans in places we didn't know we had fans. We got an amazing reception in South Korea, the Ukraine and Latvia. We've had the time of our lives.

CW: What was your stand out festival?

V: Reading festival would probably stand out, we toured with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers over Eastern Europe and we played with the Stone Roses too which was awesome. Reading & Leeds were great, both times we've done it, they have been defining gigs for us. Japan was amazing. We played to a baseball stadium full of amazing Japanese fan which was surreal but fantastic.

CW: You've only been around since 2010. That's 2 years and you're absolutely smashing it.

V: I've been around since 1988 people always say 2 years as though that's how long we've been around on the Earth. We started late 2009 but we were all touring musicians for years.

CW: So it was like you'd done all the groundwork and then came together

V: There's always luck of the draw. A lot of bands, probably because of the speed they get picked up now are not ready and they fall at the first hurdle. We were lucky but also prepared that we'd done so much groundwork that when it came to it, like doing Jools Holland for our first single, we never really felt out of our depth. So it's been a very efficient two years.

CW: How important do you think it is for an artist to have learnt the ropes before they take off?

V: Very, I think it's essential. There are a couple of different worlds out there that people often get confused with. People often refer to an overnight success and the X Factor and that applies across the board but there's no longevity, I mean it's a cliché but it's true, it takes a lot more. Many years I worked at it and I think some bands make all their mistakes. They are a group of musicians who met each other very early on and they make all their mistakes together and then make some music that is valid and meaningful to a lot of people and they get well known for that. There are also a lot of bands, us included, where you make your mistakes and you know you learn a lot with lots of different people and lots of different bands and you propel towards each other in that respect. Not to point the finger and say everyone has to do this for so many years, if someone could just wake up tomorrow, pick up a guitar and be amazing, then great but a lot of X Factor artists are so painful to watch. I'm not saying people have to do this, I just think that's what makes you who you are, the struggle.

CW: I always feel sorry for a lot of contestants that leave the X Factor as they are left high and dry. Most of them aren't musicians and they're just singers.

V: It's amazing how famous those people get so quickly and it's so amazing how quickly they're forgotten too. I mean, Chico's probably one of those famous people in the country, I'm serious, and now he probably hates that, it's probably the bane of his existence that people know who he is. Horrible.

CW: Because also, once you get to that stage, he's probably not making any money.

V: Imagine going to a club or having to get a job or something, after that it's a very destructive system, I think. Unless you're One Direction because they've made more money than God.

CW: And they're still really young.

V: They've made something like £20,000,000 each in the last year, it's ridiculous. £100,000,000 between them last year, alone. Unbelievable.

CW: What do you think it is that's made a band like them blow up?

V: If you have marketing power, like real power, then it's very easy. Genius marketers. Their marketers are the same people trying to market all the other X Factor contestants. They choose a band they're going to get behind and then they just get behind it. When it starts to work, it works. There's a really powerful system in place. Obviously the product has to be good though. It's like if Coca Cola launched a new drink tomorrow, everybody would know about it. If it didn't taste nice, it wouldn't do very well, but if it tasted alright, it would do alright.

CW: So as a band, what's been the hardest thing for you guys? The toughest times?

V: I guess it's all the girls. Love is very close to hate and hate is so close to love that relationships in between are so intense. I used to miss home.

CW: Did you guys see yourself doing this? Like when you first got into music, did you see yourself getting this far and taking it all the way?

V: We haven't got all the way yet.

CW: Okay as far as you've got to now...

V: It's hard to imagine this, you can have an idea, but you can't imagine spending 600 days with a band on tour. It's also hard at this point to look back objectively at what you thought. You sort of get these pinch yourself moments every so often where you wake up and think "shit, if somebody had told me I'd be here 2 years ago..." but you get asked that a lot and you go "yeah, yeah it's amazing, I get to play guitar every day" but we spend so much time moving forward, trying to plan the next tour, write better songs, play better gigs and do better recordings that it is so hard to maintain that perspective to say "two years ago, I wanted this". You can imagine what it's like being in a band, all the fans, going to parties and stuff, it's such a small part of what you do, it doesn't even register in your head. It's so strange when people want an autograph as it's so not anything to do with your life at all. You spend your life on tour buses and aeroplanes, playing shows and writing music. Even Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers, when we saw him wandering round Estonia and people asking for his autograph, he was like "I can't believe people want to talk to me, I'm Flea". It's such a small part of what you do.

CW: How have the circles of people around you changed?

V: It hasn't changed; I'm more into family, I don't even have that many friends, I have a few close friends but I'm one of 7 kids. I'm really close to my Mum and Dad. My friends at home are still very much my friends. They're amazing and they're obviously very supportive of what I do, and I spend half my time feeling like the worst friend in the world because I can't go to see them. I don't really know what's going on back home, but every time I do go back, we hang out. I've picked up so many new friends along the way.

CW: In regards to the album, which track on there are you most excited about playing?

V: 'Bad Mood'. I like playing that a lot, it's a lot of fun to play. It depends on the night for me, we're gradually putting more songs in, and we get more excited as we're about to play the one we've just added to the set. Because there are some songs which we've been playing for the last 2 and a bit years and there are some songs which we've played 4 or 5 times and they always break the set up a bit. 'Bad Mood' is good and 'Ghost Town', and 'I Always Knew' is what we've just added, it's got a different tilt to what we usually do, I really like that one.

CW: Do you guys have a cue? Like if a tracks going really well, do you have a cue where you look at each other and go "yeah!"?

V: Yeah, every so often, we do. I put my leg on the drum stand, the guitar behind my head and I do hip thrusts at people. Isn't this amazing, look at us go.

C: Do you have a cue if someone's fucking something up and you look round and go "what are you doing mate?"

V: I think Justin's got a look, like a killer rhinoceros. So I don't know, it depends on who it is.
I get in trouble sometimes. That's what happens actually, when we're having a really good time, you'll chuck in something you've never played before and then to cut me down, the guys are like "what the fuck was that?" and I'll be like "oh, funs over."

CW: Do you ever stand on stage when it is absolute chaos and go "Oh my god, this is my life." Is there a moment when you're looking out and there's people upon people, and you're like "is this really happening?"

V: I've never fully succumbed to it yet because every so often, I'll find myself open my eyes as wide and go "holy shit" and there have been so many times when I've come close to losing it, losing my grip, losing my place, losing my groove, losing my feel, just because you start thinking about it all. Thinking is fucking dangerous. It is a very dangerous thing to do when you perform. I think it's an emotional thing and it's not something you analyse much and you go with it and it's almost like your head/heart can't keep up with the rest of you, so it's best to just be in the moment, whatever will happen, will happen.

CW: It's funny, a lot of people say that when you're on stage and when you're performing, it's a bit like meditating because you can't think of anything else.

V: Yeah, people give football the stick but I admire footballers so much, the stuff they have to do under that pressure, people shouting stuff, throwing things, I really admire them. What we do, is a fraction of that. It's crazy. I'm a firm believer, like I find being on stage a very tranquil thing, no-one can touch it. You're in the eye of the storm, there's all this crazy stuff going on around you but you're always at the peaceful centre.

CW: That was a line, that was a lyric right there. That was beautiful.