4 To Watch: Vampire Weekend

Music Features Vampire Weekend

Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Members: Christopher Tomson (drums), Ezra Koenig (vocals/guitar), Chris Baio (bass), Rostam Batmanglij (keyboards, vocals)
Fun fact: Vampire Weekend was born in early 2006 out of dorm-room collaborations at Columbia University.
Why they’re worth watching: The band has shared marquees with Animal Collective and The Shins. A full-length debut is due in early 2008.
For fans of: Talking Heads, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Paul Simon

On the surface, Vampire Weekend has little in common with Vlad the Impaler, the legendary tyrant who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. For starters, Vampire Weekend is a topsider-clad 21st-century American band that has won favor among many with its brand of “polite punk,” while Vlad was a 15th century Romanian prince who won favor among very few by skewering his detractors and displaying the carnage in his front yard. Punk, maybe. But hardly polite.

“It’s a bit out of nowhere, but I think that’s better than something really literal, like The Martha’s Vineyards,” drummer Chris Tomson says of the contrast between his band’s sanguine name and its clean-cut, khaki-clad persona. “But I don’t think that anyone has shown up thinking that we’re a goth band.” Indeed, with breezy lyrical references to obscure punctuation, 17th-century French architecture and Ivy League co-eds, Vampire Weekend’s fusion of retro synth-pop, jangly guitar riffs and Afro-beat ?ourishes is as distant from gothic doom and gloom as Cape Cod is from Transylvania.

But like the Impaler himself, the band understands the benefits of a defined public image. Vlad solidified his own with the help of a few sharp sticks and some unwitting volunteers; Vampire Weekend has spilled no blood, but is no less deliberate. “In the ?rst couple rehearsals, we talked about a vibe that we wanted we have,” Tomson says of the upper-crust aesthetic that permeates the band’s lyrics, onstage dress and even its concert ?iers. “It’s kind of a joke, though I’ve read a couple things where people don’t get that we’re winking, so they’re just kind of upset, like, ‘You fuckin’ rich kids!’”

Lighten up—it’s not like they’ve killed anyone.

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