Interview: Freddie Cowan from The Vaccines on the Power of Authenticity

Monday, January 7, 2019

With their appearance at Falls Festival fast approaching, we had the chance to talk to Freddie Cowan from West London rock band The Vaccines about authenticity, the importance of downtime and Combat Sports.

Congrats on your latest single 'All My Friends Are Falling In Love'.


Do you just love having it out in the world?

Yeah, we recorded it not that long ago and it’s definitely much more exciting for us to be making more new music as we go. I mean. usually, you have to record something and your sitting on it for like six months and it’s just really exciting for that pace to be just a bit quicker.

Now the single isn't part of your latest album Combat Sports, but have you guys decided if it's potentially going to have some friends and be part of another upcoming project or is it going to just be a stand-alone?

We don't know yet, I mean, I think it will be quiet easy for us to go into the studio soon and make another record of ‘All My Friends’ type of tracks, but I'm not sure we think that’s the best thing for us. It’s so fun to record it, it's really fun to record it, it’s really fun to play it, but I just think it’s a very different commitment putting out an album. You’re kind of dealing with your legacy and your future. There was a moment when I thought it would be so much fun to throw ourselves into a new record, do it quickly and get it out there, but I’m starting to think it may require a bit more time.

The new album sees you go back to your roots, how did you guys rediscover who you were?

Because we weren’t very good at being anyone else. You can try and kid yourself, and think we’re kind of doing this and we sound a bit like these people, and it works for us, but after a while, I think the biggest gift you can give yourselves as an artist is honesty. We were just trying all these different things, and it just didn't feel good. It didn't feel right and we just committed to keep making music and keep writing 'till it felt right and I think eventually we just sat down and had a bit of a talk and said, well you're particularly good at doing this and I'm particularly good at doing that and we should be doing what we're good at. I think that’s what resonates with people and with us, and I see it as a compliment. I think it’s difficult to maintain that artistic level, you really have to work twice as hard to make it as good as when you were really fresh and young and starving.

It has been about three years since your last album, what are some of the thing that you guys do to refresh yourselves in-between albums and keep making it fun?

Our touring is pretty intense, so when we have down time I try and do as little as possible. I quite like being at home in England, in the countryside. I love the very opposite to the tour life. I love going to the little town, going to the butcher and getting a pie or something.

Just some real chilled out time.

Yeah exactly. But then Justin is on a motorcycle trip around America at the moment, Arni is in Iceland, Jim has gone back to Australia, he is always desperate to get back and just not wear shoes for like three weeks. We kind of all go our separate ways and do what we have to do. I think I'm quite an introvert, so for me after spending so much time with so many people I just want to get on the top of a mountain on my own

Combat Sports seems like the perfect live album, how much thought went into how it would transition from recording to a live show?

It was a very conscious decision. I remember in the past, if we had a song that we played live before we recorded, it generally sounded much better, we found out what works about the song. Some people can just write a song and record it in the studio and it’s all it needs to be. But for us, to get the blood and sweat into the song it's very good for us to play the song live. That’s where we figure out the dynamic and what works, or if it works at all. So it’s very much a decision that if it doesn’t work live, it won’t work at all. It’s just that type of record, it’s a rock and roll record – you can’t write it and record it in front of a computer, it needs to have its own life.

So do you guys test out all of your songs live before officially releasing them?

We try to do as many as we can. Also, we are on tour so much, we can just rehearse it in the sound check, just play it live, keeping it fresh and exciting. There are certain elements you need for a band, they need to have certain things, and for us to find that balance, everyone is there and everyone is playing. Having one or two people in a studio doesn’t work as well for us.

And what is your favourite song off the new album to play live?

‘I Can’t Quite’ is my favourite song to play live.

How come?

Well, we had the song for a while, and I didn’t really like it. But once we started making the record, had the right elements and applied that to the song, it just worked. It actually took two days in the studio to get the right guitar sound for the chorus, and then when we got it, it all seemed to make sense. That song is the worst song to rehearse, it’s just so boring, coz it’s just two chords, but when you play it live and you have everything going on behind you and lots of people watching it’s really euphoric in its simplicity. It’s kind of one of those magic things, you play that song on an acoustic guitar and it wouldn’t work. Writing a song is kind of like using a metal detector, when you get it right, it’s electrifying. And it’s just so much fun to play it.

Yeah, it does sound like such a fun song!

Yeah, it’s so simple and then it’s like a rocket launcher when the chorus comes in, yeah, it's brilliant.

Now you're spending New Year’s Eve at the Falls Festival, which is pretty exciting, is there anyone on the lineup that you're particularly excited to see?

Interpol are playing aren’t they? We actually share a tour manager with Interpol and I keep missing them actually. I have seen them live once in Mexico, but not really, so I am intrigued.

Freddie, thanks so much for taking the time to chat to me today!

Of course, my pleasure.

Written by Emily O'Brien

You can catch The Vaccines at Fall Festival 2018/19 as well as the below sideshows:
3rd January - Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne
4th January - Metro Theatre, Sydney
More information is available here