Big Ears 2010: With legions of fans, Vampire Weekend sells out

Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend

  • With: Abe Vigoda
  • Where: Tennessee Theatre
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 27
  • Tickets: Sold out
  • Info: www.bigearsfestival.com.

— Vampire Weekend drummer Chris Tomson had a good feeling when he got together with some buddies at New York's Columbia University to form a band.

"I had known the other guys for some time, but I just remember very specifically, the first we sat down together in a room as capital V, capital W, Vampire Weekend and rehearsed 'Oxford Comma' feeling very confident," says Tomson. "The skills that I saw everyone else had - I thought they were all great and I could be a part of it. I remember talking to my mom that weekend saying, 'We started this band and I kind of think it could go somewhere.' I had no idea what that meant. I didn't know I would be in Salt Lake City on St. Patrick's Day 2010."

In a call from Salt Lake City on St. Patrick's Day, Tomson sounds happy with the band's success. Vampire Weekend's self-titled debut album was released in 2008 to rapturous reviews. The disc was filled with catchy, distinctive songs that owed a debt to African pop. The disc ended up on best-of-the-year lists in both the United States and Europe. During the past two years the group has gone from performing for four people in a tiny New York club to 40,000 at England's Glastonbury festival and at Bonnaroo.

Tomson says he had only played around a little on drums in high school when he began playing with Vampire Weekend.

"I think that's why the way I play is kind of odd, because I never really took lessons. I just did an interview with a drum magazine and they put a song I play in drum tab, in notation, and I had no idea what it meant."

In fact, all the members of Vampire Weekend play instruments that are not the instruments they were playing before starting the band.

"At this point I think we're all competent," says Tomson, "but Ezra (Koenig) was better at keyboard, but he played guitar. Rostam (Batmanglij) was better at guitar, but he played keyboards. (Chris Baio) had never played bass before and I had never played drums. Maybe it helped us. Sometimes you can study and be good and sometimes you can just figure it out."

Tomson says his idea for playing drums was to play a melodic line in the arrangement "like the guitar part or a the keyboard part."

All the group members knew they wanted something different from what they were hearing around them.

"When we first started, the bands that we would hear in New York all had a similar aesthetic and style and that was something we weren't particularly interested in," says Tomson. "Right from the start, part of our goal in Vampire Weekend was to be as inclusive as possible. Since we came of age with Napster and the Internet, we had a lot of music at our fingertips. It wasn't just the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin. Our goal was to make music that we liked that wasn't really one genre. ... On a basic level, though, we were all very interested in pop music. So making catchy but interesting songs, that was general concept."

The group's new album, "Contra," still has the catchiness of the band's debut, but expands concept a little further. Tomson says the band's seat-of-the-pants attitude continues to be an asset.

"Sometimes the mistakes are ultimately more interesting. I know there are some parts on 'Contra' where Rostom improvised a part. He could've messed with it and got it perfect, but it was maybe more exciting and interesting when he just threw it out there."

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