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Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013

The Vaccines Discover Their Identity

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“When you’re 24 and young and bored and don't know who you are no more, there’s no hope, and it’s time to come of age.”

These words, which appear in English rock band The Vaccines’ song “No Hope,” offer a candid look at a common struggle many face in their teens and early 20s: discovering their own identities. As its title makes clear, the band’s 2012 sophomore album, Come of Age, is dominated by this theme.

“Aside from the title sounding good, it summed up the record immensely and emotionally and is speaking about someone or people who come to terms with who they are in their early 20s and how big and bad the real world is,” says singer Justin Young, who is joined in the band by Freddie Cowan, Árni Hjörvar and Pete Robertson.

While Young was quick to point out that he’s singing “of coming of age, not in terms of the band, but in terms of the individual,” the album did provide an opportunity for the group to find its own unique sonic identity with the help of producer Ethan Johns. Although the band found wide appeal through their debut, What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?, it was frequently compared to groups like The Strokes, and a number of people wrote it off. But with Come of Age, Young feels that the band, which formed in 2010, is on its way to its own identity.

“All four of us listen to a lot of music that’s quite ranging,” he says. “We love rock ‘n’ roll but also love pop music as well. On Come of Age, one of our aims while making it was to carve our own identity for ourselves. The first album was pretty referential to our influences.

“I think I’ve become more in tune with my creativity and what makes a good song. I think it’s a natural progression really,” he continues. “We’ve all been playing for two years and we’re slightly better musicians, so there’s a deeper connection and greater understanding of the way the songs move and groove. I’m growing.”

As The Vaccines begin their first headlining tour in the U.S., Young doesn’t feel the pressure that came with the first album.

“I really feel that we rode that storm and am happy that we became bigger than many people expected us to be,” says Young. “No matter how many people are writing about you in magazines that are on board, it doesn’t really count for anything until people take your music into their hearts. Every night people come to the shows and sing back all the words. They wear our T-shirts and really care about us. I think we rode that storm, so people either celebrate or ignore us now.”

The band spent the earlier part of 2012 in Australia writing Come of Age. Once things fell into place in March with Johns as producer, they started recording in Belgium. Johns and the members of The Vaccines immediately bonded through mutual admiration for each other’s work.

“We wanted to make a record with a little more personality and a few more intricacies and a bit more warmth,” Young says. “It was a great, natural process [making] the record. We made the record completely live, including vocals. He instilled a lot of confidence in us. It was a very good and enriching process making the record with him. He’s old-fashioned—he really gets great sounds and great takes. He’s a vibes guy.”

This isn’t the band members’ first brush with people they admire. Two of their videos were produced by Douglas Hart of The Jesus and Mary Chain, and they also had a song produced by Albert Hammond, Jr. of The Strokes.

“I find it really fun working with other musicians,” Young says. “They temporarily become members of your band and you get interesting insight to how people work. It’s really affirming when you get on stage with someone you look up to. When you invite someone in, it gives you perspective.”

The Vaccines play the Turner Hall Ballroom on Friday, Feb. 8 with openers San Cisco. Doors open at 7 p.m.