Vampire Weekend began in 2006 as a rap project between lead singer Ezra Koenig and drummer Chris Tomson. The members of the band met at Columbia University and shared a love of African and world music. The band played several shows at Columbia, including a battle of the bands that helped them gain more attention. The name Vampire Weekend came from the title of a short film Koenig had created for one of his classes.
Shortly after forming in 2006, Vampire Weekend landed a small tour supporting The Dirty Projectors. The band then self-produced their own album while simultaneously working full-time jobs. Lead singer Ezra Koenig was working as a middle school English teacher, while drummer Chris Tomson had a job as a music archivist.
Vampire Weekend has quickly become a critically acclaimed band. Rolling Stone
placed their song "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
" at #67 on their list of the Best 100 Songs of 2007, while "A-Punk
" came in at #4 on their list of the Best 100 Songs of 2008. In addition, Spin
magazine named them the Best New Band of the Year in 2008.
Vampire Weekend lead singer Ezra Koenig says he relates to clothing designers and how they are challenged to create art with limited means. In an interview with The Guardian, Koenig said, "I like how Ralph Lauren creates a mystical world through his clothing. A filmmaker has a camera, but a designer has to get you to buy into their world using just a pattern or a certain cut."
The band bucks indie rock trends by dressing very preppy, often donning button-down shirts and chinos.
The photo on the cover of Vampire Weekend's 2010 album Contra was taken in 1983 at a casting call for a TV commercial. It features a woman from New York City wearing a vintage polo shirt with uncombed hair. Lead singer Ezra Koenig liked the picture because it's hard to tell how old the woman is. He wouldn't reveal her identity, but that information emerged when she sued the band and the photographer.
Rostam Batmanglij found the shot on Flickr; the band paid the owner of the account, Tod Brody, $5,000 to use it, but when the model, Ann Kirsten Kennis, saw the photo being used to promote the album, she took legal action, claiming she never gave consent to use the photo. The case was later settled. She was 52 when the album was released.
Vampire Weekend lead singer Ezra Koenig says the title of 2010's Contra refers to several things, including the counter revolution in Nicaragua, a Marxist book, the contrabassoon instrument, and the Nintendo video game. Koenig's inspiration for the album came partially from coming-of-age '80s movies like Repo Man, starring Emilio Estevez.
Vampire Weekend drummer Chris Thompson says the weirdest show the band ever played was an all-ages gig at a nightclub in Denver, Colorado. Instead of using wristbands to identify the people old enough to go in the beer garden, the venue physically separated the older audience members from the younger ones using chicken wire.
Batmanglij's mother is the celebrated food writer Najmieh Batmanglij. "My mom had a huge influence over me," he told Q mag: "I learned to be able to identify any ingredient in anything that I ate. You can have the best ingredients in the world but if you don't cook them properly they can taste awful. I think it's the same when you write a song."
Ezra Koenig was too soft on his pupils during his time as a middle school English teacher. He recalled to Q Magazine: "When the kids would roast me, which was literally every day, I had a hard time not laughing. It didn't anger me, but I feel like I undermined my authority by not being able to muster a serious demeanor."
Vampire Weekend's name comes from Ezra Koenig's attempt to make a version of 1987 vampire film The Lost Boys, which he gave up after a weekend.