David Byrne Reviews Vampire Weekend, Animal Collective (Plus Avey Et Al Bring Conan Some Jam)

Since nailing down Band To Watch status around here earlier this year, the Ivy League Afro-beat/new wave/indie pop kids of VMPRWKND have seen their name written (usually with vowels) in the NMEs and the SPINs the Rolling Stones of the music mag world, have secured a shit-that-was-quick deal with XL, and contributed a well reviewed track to our Radiohead tribute OKX. But you have to imagine VW found it particularly sweet to hear that David Byrne blogged about their set opening for Animal Collective at Webster recently, given their tunes owe such debt to Talking Heads. In the past we said late Heads, while Byrne went with “early”; yeah — we defer.

David wrote on his blog:

Went to see Animal Collective and Vampire Weekend at Webster Hall last night. VW was really good ? poppy, but fairly skewed too, with bits of soukous guitar thrown in from time to time, as if it was just a way of playing lilting guitar and not a specific African style. They?re not a ?world music? act by any stretch; these various styles of playing are all just out there now, to be used when appropriate. I wondered if they sounded a little like early Talking Heads, a little bit, maybe, which of course wouldn?t bother me. They got the crowd moving, which is pretty impressive for an opening act. Catchy tunes too. I?d heard some on an EP or demo CD. They said they?re working on an album now.

Thanks to BV for the tip. David went on to discuss Avey, Panda Bear, and the Geologist’s set at Webster (the second of two nights, the first having been a soundboard debacle):

In the past, Animal Collective were very briefly lumped in with the freak folk crowd, but they couldn?t be further from that now. Very few acoustic instruments remain ? a cymbal got hit and a guitar appeared briefly, but the rest was all pre-recorded tracks, loops and samples. Their instruments were an array of tiny mixing boards and electronics that played Mini Discs or samples. ?Playing? mainly consisted of pushing faders up and down. To be fair, two of the three guys took turns singing, though I couldn?t make out any of the words; so yes, there was more to focus on than just faders moving. Musically, it was an enjoyable sonic collage that never stopped, rather it ebbed and flowed, building up to big washes of sound with echoey singing and then sinking back to a single shimmering loop before building up into a new song.

It was a funny mixture ? they arrayed themselves on stage as if they were a traditional rock band. They?re more akin to laptop DJs than a band, though a band can be anything these days, I guess. The singing and dancing about are not usually part of the laptop scene, so that part energized the show in a good way.

And during that time in NYC, AC hit NBC for a taping of Conan, where they showed the Late Night audience their “#1,” (with excessive amounts of Avey vocal distortion, what better way to impress a crowd on your national television debut?). Also worth noting: Deakin’s there! He’s been missing all tour. Damned if he’d miss this though, eh?

Finally, for those wondering why the Collective called this year’s release Strawberry Jam, Noah explains to Rolling Stone:

I was sitting on a plane and I got a tray of food with a packet of strawberry jam. It looked really futuristic, like an alien landscape made from strawberries. I wanted to get the recordings to sound like that stuff looked.

There’s something to chew on next time you enjoy your toast.