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Bitten By the Vampire Buzz: America’s Love/Hate Relationship with Vampire Weekend

March 19th, 2008 1:42pm EDT
Vampire WeekendDo you hate Vampire Weekend yet? Join the club. The "indie" band is selling out shows, garnering rave reviews, playing on "Saturday Night Live," and spinning every hour on rock radio, all while sporting spiffy cardigans and speaking like Scrabble champs. They're even featured in an ad on MTV defining an Oxford comma. Who are these guys? Where did they come from?

To the casual fan, the band appears to be an overnight success, which is far from the case. It all started back in October 2006 when Matt Yanchyshyn casually mentioned the fledgling New York group Vampire Weekend in an article for the music blog Benn Loxo Taccu. This initial post began a modest yet accelerating buzz train.

The band began popping up on other blogs, and one year later,when David Byrne saw them open for Animal Collective and compared their sound to the Talking Heads, hype around VW reached a boil. Keep in mind that they were still working on their debut album, which wouldn't be released until three months later.

As had happened to most hyped records of the digital age, the album leaked on the internet, allowing many to hear what the buzz was about, creating an avid following before the album hit stores. On the night of the official release, the band sold out the Bowery Ballroom in New York. It seemed as though the blog/hype machine had sealed the band's success. Or had it?

The band, or any type of fad that grows too quickly, reaches a tipping point when over saturation incites backlash. Too much positive hype breeds negative responses.

Here's an example. There's a new pizza place in town that everybody's talking about. I have never had a slice. Everyone tells me, "You need to have this pizza! Best pizza I've ever had! I love that pizza more than my husband!" and so on. So when I finally sit down for my first bite, my judgment has being clouded by the hype, whether I'm aware of it or not. I could love the pizza. It could ease past my lips and envelope my mouth, making my taste buds pirouette with glee, or, since I'm so annoyed with everyone badgering me about eating this stupid pizza, I could just as easily denounce their glowing opinions and find the slice merely so-so. Either way, my decision was determined by my reaction to the hype.

The goal is to approach the pizza and Vampire Weekend's album with a clear mind. VW's debut album may not change the face of indie rock, but it's still a carefully crafted, creative, fun record. However, if I catch my grandmother humming "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" I reserve the right to change my mind.

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Story by Patrick Gaughan
Starpulse contributing writer


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