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'Dripping with je ne sais quoi'

Posted on 15/03/2011

Justin Hayward-Young

Justin Hayward-Young, King’s alumnus and lead singer of hotly-tipped band The Vaccines talked exclusively to Comment and Roar before their recent gig at Tutu’s.

Justin graduated from the College in the summer of 2010, after studying History for three years, and since then has been working on his material to break into the music industry.

During his time at the College, he was performing indie folk under the stage name of Jay Jay Pistolet, but his work since then has gradually developed as he met other musicians, who are now his fellow bandmates.

When asked about The Vaccines’ sound, Justin said: ‘I think we’re kind of straight up; a mix of rock and roll and pop music. They’re pop songs played on the guitar, with good energy and excitement; they’re as direct as possible. I think everyday life inspires us, as it does every band. But musically, each of us likes different things. I think we write good songs, and hopefully they connect with people.

‘At the moment there are a lot of good indie bands with interesting stuff, but there aren’t really any guitar bands playing pop music. I moved on from Jay Jay Pistolet because I kind of hit a brick wall, creatively, but I wanted to keep writing songs that interested me. It was quite a natural change for me.’

The band released a demo of their song, ‘If You Wanna’, last summer and began to attract attention from notable music institutions. They began to play more gigs and toured the UK towards the end of last year and, consequently, their popularity continued to grow. Their performance at The Flowerpot in Camden in October 2010 was packed out and 200 people had to be turned away at the doors.

On 29 November 2010, The Vaccines released ‘Wreckin’ Bar’ as their debut single and performed on Later... With Jools Holland.

Since the start of 2011, the band’s reputation has continued to develop and they have been nominated for prestigious awards. The BBC showed its recognition of the band’s potential by awarding them third place in its ‘Sound of 2011’. The Vaccines have also been nominated for MTV’s award for ‘Best New Band of 2011’.

Justin remarked: ‘It’s amazing that we’ve been given this opportunity to prove ourselves, but we have to be careful because there is pressure to live up to others’ expectations. I think it’s best to live up to your own expectations, and we are.’

The band’s second single, ‘Post Break-Up Sex’, was released in January. Their debut album is due to be released on 21 March under the title, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? The Vaccines are also due to perform as a support act for world-famous band Arcade Fire in Hyde Park this summer.

Justin commented on the band’s upcoming album and performances, saying: ‘I’m really happy with the way it has turned out; we’re very excited about our debut album. I think that ‘Wreckin’ Bar’ is our best song, which is why we chose it as our first single because it’s short and direct.

‘Not all of our songs are fast and energetic, but we thought it was a good structure for the band. If you like that then you’ll probably like the rest of the album.’

The Vaccines had just come back from a short tour of America where they played gigs in prestigious venues in New York and Los Angeles, before coming back to King’s to play in Tutu’s, the KCLSU music venue. Justin said in an interview before the band’s King’s performance: ‘I genuinely am excited to be back here and playing at King’s. I was once a student and now I’m here to entertain. Tonight we just want to give people a good show!’

Justin finished by giving some advice to aspiring future musicians: ‘If you’re at King’s, you’re in one of the greatest cities in the world. I came to King’s, not knowing anyone and now I’m in a band.

‘I think you just have to go play as many shows as you can, which is quite easy to be honest.’

Tom Mendelson, reviewing the KCLSU gig in The Independent, wrote: ‘The Vaccines are dripping with the je ne sais quoi that makes bands big. The secret to their success is that shared by every good band: simple, effective melodies.

‘Frontman Justin Young has a lovely voice, with none of the rasp that normally accompanies ramshackle indie punk, and it’s layered with reverb, another little trick that raises them above the chasing pack.’

Rick Pearson, writing for the Evening Standard, gave the band four stars for their performance at Tutu’s and said: ‘Racing out of the blocks with Wreckin’ Bar, a blur of punkish guitars and pounding beats, they immediately sounded like a band with something to prove.’

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