VAMPIRE WEEKEND at El Mocambo (464 Spadina), tonight (Thursday, December 13), 8 pm. $5. 416-777-1777. Rating: NNNNN
If there's any correlation in this world between Afropop rhythms, preppy collegiate rowing gear and short films about a mutant apocalypse, it's New York's fire-hot indie up-'n'-comers Vampire Weekend.
Not just another Brooklyn-born set of bohemians, Vampire Weekend are squeaky clean uptown chaps who came together in the Ivy League halls of Columbia University. Their misleading gothic-sounding moniker is derived from a short flick singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig made in his freshman year.
As for those polyrhythmic Ladysmith Black Mambazo beats, they're the most intriguing element of VW's charmed indie pop. Clipping ideas from Congolese sounds and fusing them with new wave 80s Britrock, they've caused NY media to drool and label suitors to march into battle mode.
"African music was just something we were listening to at that point," drummer Chris Tomson recalls of Vampire's formative stage. "I remember at one practice everyone - maybe not even verbally saying it - it just felt very interesting and a direction that could have some cool stuff if we investigated it."
The surging foursome, including keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij and bass player Chris Baio, rode a wave of positive Internet chatter this year, as well as gushing appraisal from the New York Times, over a virally circulated home-burned EP that included three of their most Afrocentric jams, including the undeniably appealing Paul Simon-esque Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.
The hype meters are red-lining; even to the degree that cool-maker website Pitchfork compared them, and expectations for their January-slated debut on XL, to that other group of once-likely lads from Manhattan .
"I don't feel like a Stroke," says Tomson from a pit stop in glamorous Winnemucca, Nevada. "I don't know how their first couple of tours went, but I feel like not that much has changed on mornings like this.
"We don't really think about [success] too much because there's so much stuff that we're doing" it's not like there's time to sit back with a Scotch and a cigar and say, "Oh, I'm so huge.' Our rider is a package of trail mix, raisins and fruit."
Besides, Tomson remains level-headed about the ephemeral world of Web hype, where Vampire Weekend have already risen to celebrated indie rock status, become too big and suffered the subsequent backlash scenario - all in the 18 months before releasing their debut.
"I didn't know that much about blogs before we started being in them," confesses Tomson.
"It's very funny to read them because they're very postmodern, meta discussions people are having with themselves. It's like someone will say there's a backlash but then someone else will declare it over. And then someone else says it didn't really happen. Plus, nobody remembers any of it. There'll be a post at 2 pm on Wednesday and nobody will remember by Monday."
As for their Lacoste-and-penny-loafer image, I expected Tomson to chastise me for having the boorish manners of a community college grad. But it turns out Vampire Weekend aren't exactly those upturned-nose guys with argyle sweaters draped over their shoulders.
"I think we have a conscious idea of how we present ourselves as a band, but it's not like if someone is wearing a shirt that isn't preppy we tell them to change it," says Tomson.
"We're kind of playing it up a bit because it's funny. But just because Columbia is Ivy League, it's not like what people think it is. I've seen way preppier schools. I think because it's in New York City it's really hard to take yourself that seriously. It's not like Dartmouth or something."
Additional Interview Audio Clips
Vampire's building fame
On writing Afrobeat-inspired songs
Your parents like Paul Simon, but will they like Vampire Weekend?