Your Music Adventure

Vampire Weekend--a mere 17 months after forming--embark on their first tour

When the reporter calls to interview you, you're sitting in your Honda Odyssey tour van, on your way from your home in New York City to Washington, D.C., for the first gig of your band Vampire Weekend's first tour.

You've played countless shows in your hometown over the last year and a half--today is actually the 17-month anniversary of Vampire Weekend's first practice--and four shows close to home, in places like Syracuse, N.Y. But over the next five weeks, you and your bandmates--Ezra Koenig on guitar and vocals, Rostam Batmanglij on vocals and keys, and Chris Baio on bass--will perform in places you've never even visited, such as Arizona and Oregon.

You are 23-year-old Chris Tomson, and you play the drums.

You started Vampire Weekend in your last semester of school at Columbia University, which is where you met your friends and future bandmates. You had already played with some of them in a rap group, and a couple of them also had a folk-rock band. But nothing has compared to the amount of attention sparked by Vampire Weekend.

The whole thing started after Ezra returned from a trip to India. He talked about how preppy culture was still alive and well there as a remnant of British colonialism, and how it got him thinking about the relationships between seemingly unrelated traditions.

At the same time, you and your friends were delving into the world of African music, picking up compilation albums that never seemed to let you down. And, of course, via your parents, you had grown up listening to Paul Simon's Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints, which appropriated and westernized African music.

After Vampire Weekend wrote its first few songs, which were pretty straightforward rock, Ezra came in with a new one called "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa." In the span of 3 1/2 minutes, the song integrated an African guitar part and rhythms, a modern indie sensibility, a title that addressed those ideas about the clashing of cultures, and lyrics that only an Ivy League English grad could write, complete with a winking reference to another proponent of African music, Peter Gabriel.

You and your friends knew immediately that you were on to something.

You tell the reporter: "We, I guess, made a conscious decision to put something different out there. So, mainly it just seemed pretty organic. I know that Graceland gets mentioned a lot; it's not like we were listening to Graceland, being like, 'Dude, this is our ticket,' but I think it just ended up coming out, what we were listening to at the time and definitely since then."

You were working as an archivist at Sony/BMG, which you describe thusly to the reporter: "There's a fair amount of data entry, like librarian stuff, where you could just be organizing anything. But, the fact that you're organizing, like, Sly Stone's master tapes or whatever is pretty cool." Over the next five months or so, you and the rest of your band sporadically recorded 10 songs, just to get them down, whenever you had some free time and a place to record (e.g., your house, your friend's basement). Eventually, you put a few of them up on your MySpace page; CD-Rs of all 10 songs made their way into important hands; things really started happening.

Your shows in the city kept getting bigger; record labels started taking you out for fancy dinners; you got a visit from one of the most prestigious boutique booking agencies out there; you got written up in places like Rolling Stone and The New York Times. You and your friends decided to seize the moment by self-releasing three songs as an EP and quitting your day jobs in order to see what happens when you hit the road.

And there you are, on your way to the first gig of the tour, anxious to find out how you'll go over with people outside of the city, and excited to see places you've only seen in photographs.

You may not realize it yet, but it's very likely that someday, you'll look back and remember these as some of the best days of your life.

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