The first refrain a listener will hear on the Vaccines sophomore album is Justin Young, singing in a snotty punk voice, “I don’t really care about anybody else when I haven’t got my own life figured out.” This admission seems curious for a band who seem to have found their footing and are arguably living up to their latest album’s title, “The Vaccines Come of Age.” But Young says coming of age is not without its growing pains, and the lyrics really ring true for him.
“It’s just about being in your 20s, and it’s a very weird time because you’re expected to know who you are and where you want to go and how you want to get there, and I guess not everybody really does,” he says. “It’s weird, because I have friends who are the same age and some of them are parents, while some of them still live with their parents. And this is the first time in your life where you realize that you and your friends are at different points on the path.”
The path has been a scenic one for the past few years for Young and his cohorts, guitarist Freddie Cowan, bassist Árni Arnason and drummer Pete Robertson, if not a bit of a blur. A great debut in 2011 (“What Did You Expect from The Vaccines”) led to opening slots for big bands, which turned into festival dates, which turned into international headlining shows. Also in there were a handful of high profile collaborations (including ones with members of Franz Ferdinand and the Strokes), a series of show-postponing throat surgeries for Young (he had a polyp on his vocal cords) and a No. 1 album in their home country of England when “Come of Age” came out this fall.
“For us, it felt like a more accomplished record,” says Young, “as it perhaps should and would a year-and-a-half later of having been playing together every night.”
But even with the band chemistry continuing to ferment, there is still an agitation to these songs that give the album life.
“When you’re a kid and you see these people in these bands, you think they’re these perfect beings beamed down from space,” says Young. “I definitely don’t feel like a different person, but perhaps I’m expected to be. I really didn’t want to make a record about being in a band and being a musician. I think that really disconnects you from your audience, because how can anyone relate to being in a band? So I wanted to talk about it from a human perspective, rather than a musician’s perspective. I think when you get into your mid 20s, you realize how big and bad the world is and no matter how much you cry over spilled milk, no one is gonna mop it up for you. The world is a cruel place and it’s like realizing that.”
But Young insist these are no spoiled rock star blues he’s experiencing. He says it’s almost the opposite: “We’re incredibly lucky and we’re doing everything we’ve ever wanted to do and we’re happy, but it’s like it doesn’t matter what position you’re put in, it still doesn’t change you as a person. You can only ever find happiness within yourself.”
Vaccines getting vaccines?
With the flu epidemic raging in American and the band about to begin their tour here, the question must be asked: Have The Vaccines been vaccinated?
“Well, I mean, no,” says Young. “We’re in Japan right now and flu is everywhere. Pete, our drummer, is ill in bed right now with flu. And the U.K. has the worst flu at the moment. I think it’s something like one million people have the flu now. So we might not be vaccinated but we’re prepared.”