Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij and Ezra Koenig have experienced success through solo releases and production work in 2016 and now their bandmate, drummer Chris Tomson, will be releasing a solo album under the guise of Dams of the West. Youngish Americans, his first release, will be out this fall. The album was produced by Patrick Carney of the Black Keys with Tomson playing nearly all the instruments on the record.
Today, he shares the first song and video, with the spry, life-questioning "Death Wish." In the clip, directed by his wife Emily, Tomson goes about daily tasks like preparing a meal, folding all of his New Jersey Nets clothing, making the bed, and hitting rocks into the sea. It also serves as a lyric video, spotlighting the dry humor of the track with lines like, Think I'm ready to be a father now. But I want to get some pizza first.
The FADER also spoke with Tomson over email to get more info on the record, video, his New Jersey Nets fandom, and the current status of Vampire Weekend. Read the Q&A below (he's also answering questions from himself on Twitter today) and watch "Death Wish" above.
Tell me about the new album. When did you begin writing these songs?
CHRIS TOMSON: Arriving home from the last Vampire Weekend tour a few years ago, feeling extremely post-30 and with a completely empty calendar for the first time in my adult life, I was very existentially confused. Did I want to just wait around for VW to pick up again? Did I have it in me to try to write and, gulp, sing some of my own stuff? I then spent probably two months watching sports and then two months staring blankly at a piano in my basement before even getting close to making music. Once I found a way into the songwriting, a perspective and approach that felt authentic to me, I relaxed and tried to respect both the fear and confidence I was experiencing.
How did Patrick Carney get involved? What’d he bring to your music as a producer?
I was playing some demos to my good friend Chris Baio when he asked "Who do you want to produce it?" I admitted that I hadn't really thought about it yet and he responded with "Oh, you know who'd be cool? Patrick Carney!" I believe he actually snapped his fingers when the idea came to him.
As often happens, I agreed with Baio and reached out to Patrick to see if he was interested. Luckily he was! I don't think I could have asked for a better person to work with. Patrick felt out what vibes interested me and then continually improved upon them.
The tracks seem to have a lot of personal references in them, were you writing autobiographically? Wanting to be a father and also wanting pizza are very relatable feelings.
That wasn't a specific intention going in but thats definitely how it turned out. I've always been drawn to details and finding meaning in minutiae and that definitely carried into the lyrics. Also, I realized pretty early on that I'm not capable of out-universalizing a room of highly skilled Swedes and so had to find a different approach if anything was going to be worthwhile.
A lot of humor and sarcasm run through the songs, is that something you were focusing on during the writing?
Yes, actually. I've always found humor to be one of the best delivery systems for all kinds of emotional information. I don't think any of the songs are particularly slapstick though, maybe more Swingers than The Love Guru (hopefully). Although, if they turned out to simply be Ace Ventura I would be very happy with that.
Were certain artists influences in this album’s creation? Especially in the lyrics I get some Randy Newman and Zevon vibes.
None too specifically, although the more distance I get from from the making of the album the more I hear some of those similarities too. I hope it mainly ended up sounding like me though!
You are sporting a Richard Jefferson jersey in the video. Are you a fan of The Nets? Jefferson?
Yes, big time. Yes, especially early aughts era. And, RJ, if you're out there, congrats on the ring, man!
Is there any feeling of competition as your bandmates begin to release solo material?
I am my least favorite member of Vampire Weekend. The last 10 years in that band have been so fucking crazy, I don't think I've processed even 10% of it all. I think of the other three guys as my brothers. I will always root for them.
And I have to ask, what is the current status of Vampire Weekend?
Online but away from the computer.