When Rostam announced that he was leaving Vampire Weekend to focus on his solo career, fans couldn’t help but wonder what that might mean for Vampire Weeeknd LP4. Rostam and Ezra Koenig have both repeatedly reassured everyone that Rostam would still be involved, and in an interview with Entertainment Weekly about the new album, the latter says that the former will be featured on a few tracks. “We’re working on some songs in the exact same way we’ve always worked,” Koenig explains. “We have some stuff that we started a pretty long time ago.” But mostly, the band worked on the new LP with Haim producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who also contributed to 2013’s Modern Vampires Of The City. And instead of a new sound, the main focus on Mitsubishi Macchiato (working title) will be exploring a new approach to storytelling. “Songwriting as a concept is the single most important thing on this record,” according to Koenig.”To me that’s the untapped frontier for Vampire Weekend; nobody wants to hear the Vampire Weekend trap album.”
Part of that new approach was inspired by country star Kacey Musgraves, apparently. “I went with Ariel to see Kacey Musgraves at the Greek Theater in LA [in September 2016],” he says. “The thing I loved about it was it wasn’t too loud — I’m definitely becoming a cranky old man — so I could really hear every word. The music was really clear and her voice was really clear. I’m the type of person who has spent hours poring over the avant-garde poetic lyrics of certain songwriters, and there was something that felt so good [about how] from the first verse, you knew who was singing, who they were singing to, what kind of situation they were in. After the show I realized there’s not a ton of Vampire Weekend songs where you could listen to the first verse and immediately answer the question of who’s singing and who are they singing to.”
That experience had a profound impact on the way Koenig conceived of the new album. “The thing that got me excited about this album was zooming in on simpler, but arguably more complex ideas: What are these songs about? Who are they for? What are they doing?” he asks. “I realized, on a really simple level, I haven’t written a lot of songs that have that type of elegance. There’s a lot of Vampire Weekend songs that have elegance in terms of baroque chords, arrangement, and interesting turns of phrase – but we’ve never had a song as elegant as some of that good country-folk songwriting. One of the things that I’ve always been hard on myself about is not having enough songs that you could play for somebody and they’d immediately know what the song is about. It’s like the elevator-pitch version of the song. I felt like that was an interesting challenge. I cannot say every song rose to that challenge.”
This article originally appeared in Stereogum.