The Vaccines on the Rise of Mediocrity

You’ve all had trepidation of not being out there enough, that you’re really in the end just vanilla-flavoured mundanes. JUICE had it too, on occasions we’d push boundaries for the sake of being a button pusher. But then we spoke to Árni Hjörva, The Vaccines’ bassist, and discovered that mediocrity is nothing embarrassing at all, in fact, it should be celebrated! With single ‘Teenage Icons’ off upcoming sophomore release The Vaccines Come of Age blaring out the airwaves, imparting “I’m not magnetic or mythical, I’m suburban and typical,” to your consciousness, The Vaccines is indubitably the indie rock king of normalcy.

Image Jesse Jenkins

After the first album, what can you gather from what the people expect from The Vaccines this time ‘round?
I think it’s a very logical step forward. It’s not a complete sidestep from the previous record, but it’s a lot more dynamic – it’s a lot better. I hope that’s what people can expect that.

The new album’s got the band’s name in its title. Is that gonna be a recurring theme for The Vaccines?
I don’t really know what’s going to happen but I think so. I think it’s cool. I like the bubblegum pop nature of it that resembles the ‘60s. I like the sound of it.

The Vaccines Come of Age… at your age, shouldn’t you guys be over your Bildungsroman phase? What’s with the title?
It’s more of a joke than anything else. What we’re talking about is that we want society to see people at our age to have that feeling of fear of certainty. Everyone is moving at the same direction at exactly the same speed. Some of your friends are parents, some are living with their parents. Some of your friends got jobs in banking, some don’t even have a bank account. People are really detached completely, which is really difficult because you’re supposed to be somewhere, and most of us just conditioned to not want to be doing that. We just want to be carefree and youthful. It’s a wishful thinking really.

There’s a track called ‘I Wish I Was a Girl’ on the new album, and on The Vaccines latest video for ‘Teenage Icon’, the band alternates from boy to girl. The album’s cover also sees you guys being replaced by girls. We can’t help but wonder… does the band really have transgender aspirations? What’s the real meaning behind this?
I think everybody wishes they were a girl! (laughs) No, the tune for ‘I Wish I Was a Girl’ is not really in relation to the cover or the music video. I can see where you’re coming from though, not saying that you’re wrong. Subconsciously you’re probably right. The girl thing is just a representation of that sort of nostalgic fear of coming of age. It’s sort of a youthful representation of us. I have to be honest, girls are better looking than us anyways.

Who did you guys idolise as a teen?
Wow, everyone. I love The Strokes and Nirvana. I think everybody likes Nirvana.

We have to admit, we had to google Frankie Avalon. Quite an archaic reference. Are you guys big on olden pop culture?
Of course! In the ‘50s and ‘60s, pop culture was at its infancy and was it was so pure. It was rebellious, it was exciting and sort of dangerous. It was also because none of the rules had been written. Nobody knew what they were doing. They didn’t realise that they were associated with this revolution that was going to completely change the way that we live our lives. I was obsessed with that era.

Although The Vaccines sung that they’re no teenage icons, Justin said that he wants to mean something to someone. How does the band achieve cultural importance without trying to be icons?
I feel very comfortable that I’m representing our music and our band which is a lot bigger than any individual in the band. Like people don’t know me and people don’t know Justin but people know our songs. I love that. I think that’s how music should be perceived. It shouldn’t be this trade for celebrities. I should be music for music fans

The song went “I’m not magnetic or mythical/I’m suburban and typical,” have you guys ever thought that maybe The Vaccines are the icons of fellow typical suburbans?
Normality is not something to be ashamed of. If anyone asked, everyone thinks they’re better than normal. Actually that’s not true, everybody can’t be better than normal. Normality and mediocrity should be celebrated. People act like mediocrity is a bad word but in reality that’s who we all are – 80% of us are, at least – and hopefully [The Vaccines] can speak about that. There’s absolutely nothing shameful or bad about mediocrity.

Has a post-break up sex kind of situation happened with the new album? You perform a couple of songs from the last album and suddenly you just kinda wanna forget you ever recorded them and move on from the past record.
No, not yet… no, absolutely not. I’m very proud of that record and it’s genuinely the best record we could’ve done at the time. Looking back on it, there were things that we could’ve done differently but you have to remember that it was the best that we could do then.

What was it like recording a second album? Was there a fear of a second sophomore slump that a lot of bands faced?
It was surprisingly straight forward. It was really intense and a lot of hard work but we were always in control of it. Sometimes you’re not really thinking outside of the box, you’re thinking about what’s happening here. You’re sorta in the eye of the storm and you’re not really noticing what’s going on around you. And that’s the idea of a sophomore slump. There’s only so much you can control that it just becomes irrelevant to you. You can only control the quality of your output and you can’t control anything else. If you’re happy with it you can’t blame anyone else if anything goes wrong. I also think that this second album syndrome is a self-fulfilling prophecy; the more you talk about it, the more the media talks like it’s a real thing, the realer it becomes.

Is guitar music in danger? People seem to always say this but we personally think, sure, it’s not doing as well as Chris Brown, but it still has a sustainable audience.
The more you talk about guitar music not being relevant anymore the more people will stop thinking about it and it just becomes a problem but it isn’t. It really isn’t a problem. If you think about it, we just got of a tour with Red Hot Chilli Peppers and they’ve been playing guitar music for 13 years and still selling out stadiums around the world. Jack White’s huge too! So I don’t think guitar music is in danger at all as long as good music is alive.

A good friend of ours, DJ Bunga, asked us to tell you guys this; please come to Malaysia!
Yes, please. Hopefully as soon as possible. We’re looking at options. Let’s put it that way.

You just made a mediocre 30-something man very happy.

Distributed here under Sony Music Malaysia, The Vaccines Come of Age is out this 3 September 2012. Get more on the band by logging on to