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Fever rising for The Vaccines
7:00am Saturday 17th November 2012 in NewsXtra
The Vaccines begin their UK tour on November 14. Frontman Justin Young talks to Andy Welch about the band's huge rise, their second album Come Of Age and their plans for 2013.
"Look at me, so ordinary, no mystery with no great capability."
So sings The Vaccines frontman Justin Young on their recent single Teenage Icon, a song written about the fact he's just another average Joe.
The Vaccines - the group Young founded after he decided a solo career as Jay Jay Pistolet wasn't working out for him - have gone from strength to strength since getting together in 2010.
Their recent second album, Come Of Age, narrowly beat fellow Brit guitar band Two Door Cinema Club to the No 1 spot on the album chart, while the gigs they have booked in for the next six months would embarrass many more established artists. Ordinary Young is not.
"OK, OK," he concedes, "but the song is about the situation we now find ourselves in - I still go to bed and get up in the morning the same person I always was.
"What happens between those two things might not be as ordinary as it once was, but I'm still the same. And what is normal anyway? It's all relative I suppose," says the 25-year-old, shuffling around.
"It's weird, I mean, I guess some things we do in the band are extraordinary, but other times I feel like it's a job. Every day is different."
The band will tour France before beginning their UK tour on November 15, while the rest of the year sees them travel all over mainland Europe for shows, on to Australia and then the United States in the New Year. They'll return in May just in time for another UK tour.
Young doesn't mind the constant travelling, insisting it's one of the best things about being in a band.
"I love going to new places and meeting new people," he says. "I find it all so exciting. Sometimes we get a bit of time in new places. I've spent four or five days at a time in Tokyo, LA and Sao Paolo, but there are other places where you just roll in and roll out, and that's frustrating.
"Another thing - and I don't want this to be misconstrued as a moan - is that touring involves a lot of sacrifice. You never see friends, so even when you're free people stop phoning you on a Friday night."
So, the travelling is enjoyable - how about the actual performances? Fortunately Young loves those too, although that hasn't always been the case...
"I used to be so uncomfortable on stage," he says. "To counter it I just took myself out of the situation. I felt insecure and uptight, but then I thought that if I had been watching someone play to that many people, I wouldn't have enjoyed it if the frontman was uptight. Plus, I wouldn't have been stood there judging it on what the frontman was doing. I'd just be trying to have a good time, and hoping the band were too.
"It's not making being on stage look natural to everyone else that matters, but it feeling natural to yourself. I felt uncomfortable pretending to be happy on stage, but ironically it was when I learned that I didn't have to that I started feeling comfortable."
Once he made that realisation, Young says he's enjoyed each show more that the last, particularly gigs in New York, Paris, Tokyo and Stockholm. "Saying that, crowds in Scotland and the north of England are especially hard to beat. They're amazing."
This tour will see the band playing songs from their chart-topping second album Come Of Age. Now it's been released, Young's not that interested in it any more, saying that though he's "proud of it", he's moved on.
"We spent so much time on it," he explains. "It consumed us. We spent so much time writing and recording and arranging it, and now talking about it, it feels really nice that it's out there for people to love and hate as they wish.
"That said, now it's out, it feels a bit like I've washed my hands of it. I've done as much as I can for the album. A record's a snapshot of a moment, and now that moment has already gone. We're already a better band."
Of course, The Vaccines can only move on as far as their six months of touring will allow them - they still have to play the songs from their two albums each night, although Young argues by the end of the tour their music will sound far, far removed from the recorded versions.
"You breathe new life into a song each time you play it," he says. "When I hear a song from our first album on the radio now, it's like it's a different band, or like our demos. You make so many decisions after recording a song, about how you play it live and so on. It can end up sounding totally different."
The Vaccines are refreshingly ambitious with their approach to music, with dreams of selling out stadiums and being played on radio stations around the world.
Young says reaching No 1 in the album chart was a big deal for the band, although he's fully aware that the charts aren't the be-all-and-end-all they once were.
"It's just as important to stay in people's hearts and minds as it is to do well in the charts, no one wants to just come and go. And look at a band like Arcade Fire, who have never had a Top 40 single in the UK, but they can shift 80,000 tickets to sell out Hyde Park.
"There's a lot made about what's pop, and what's rock or indie, and I think we are all three, really - indie in the decisions we make and how we present ourselves, rock in the music, but ultimately we write pop songs. So much great rock 'n' roll is pop music and vice versa, so the two things aren't mutually exclusive.
"Ultimately, I want the band to become as big as possible, providing that we get better as we get bigger. I wouldn't want to be big and bad, or water anything down.
"With Come Of Age, I think we're on our way to achieving that."
Extra time - The Vaccines
:: The Vaccines are Justin Young, Freddie Cowan, Arni Hjorvar and Pete Robertson.
:: Freddie's elder brother Tom is a member of The Horrors.
:: Justin Young had vocal problems during 2011, undergoing three operations in nine months. Since then, he has had no trouble with his voice.
:: The band's music has drawn comparison to The Jesus And Mary Chain. Incidentally, Mary Chain's Doug Hart directed videos for the band's debut single, which was a double A-side consisting of Wrecking Ball (Ra Ra Ra) and Blow It Up.
:: The Vaccines are signed to Columbia Records.
:: The Vaccines begin their UK tour in Plymouth on November 15. Their second album Come Of Age is out now
15 - Plymouth Pavilions
16 - Cardiff University
17 - London Alexandra Palace
19 - Leicester De Montfort Hall
21 - Manchester Apollo
22 - Liverpool SU Mountford Hall
23 - Doncaster Dome
25 - Glasgow O2 Academy
26 - Glasgow O2 Academy
27 - Newcastle O2 Academy
29 - Birmingham O2 Academy
30 - Bournemouth O2 Academy
1 - Margate Winter Gardens
2 - London O2 Arena
4 - Carlisle Sands Centre
5 - Leeds Millennium Square
6 - Llandudno Cymru Arena