The indie-pop sensation Vampire Weekend was created by four Ivy League students in 2006—Ezra Koenig, Chris Tomson, Chris Baio, and producer Rostam Batmanglij—who met while they were attending Columbia University in New York City. Following graduation, the band continued to work together on self-producing their eponymous debut, Vampire Weekend (2008), while simultaneously working full-time jobs.
The album was released by the British indie label XL Recordings in January 2008 and sold more than 27,000 copies in its first week, debuting at No. 17 on the Billboard 200. The album also sold more than half-a-million copies as of 2010 and has been certified Gold by the RIAA.
Vampire Weekend’s debut album received critical acclaim for its eclectic use of world instrumentation and has been credited with creating a “new wave” of independent music in the late-2000’s.
Emblazoned on the cover is an actual Polaroid picture taken during one of the group’s early college performances. The album opens with the lead single, “Mansard Roof,” which garnered a lot of attention as the band’s first real exposure at mixing indie-pop with west-African rhythm.
The band debuted their second single, “A-Punk,” with a performance on the Late Show with David Letterman in 2008. Praised for its energetic sound and creative lyrics, the single was an instant hit, climbing to No. 25 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. Although it wouldn’t land them on the Billboard Hot 100, it was later certified Gold by the RIAA in 2013.
In an interview with Vanity Fair in 2008, lead singer Ezra Koenig explained the thought process behind the band’s third single, “Oxford Comma,” which was based around a Facebook group created by Columbia students called, “Students for the Preservation of the Oxford Comma.”
“I have a complicated relationship with grammar,” Koenig said, adding how he had “spent a year teaching eighth-grade English in Brooklyn and when you spend so much time trying to get kids to write in Standard American English, you’re bound to start questioning the importance.”
In the eight years since the interview, Koenig has gone on to work with Beyoncé, Major Lazer, Karen O. of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Chromeo, Duck Sauce, SBTRKT, and Discovery featuring Ra Ra Riot vocalist Wes Miles. He also hosts his own program on Beats Radio 1 and is the creator of the Netflix original animated series, Neo Yokio, starring Jaden Smith and Jude Law.
Although the single did not chart in the U.S., it is the group’s highest-charting single in the U.K. to date. The music video, directed by British comedian Richard Ayoade, was shot in one long take, drawing heavily on the style of filmmaker Wes Anderson.
“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” was actually written and recorded prior to the album, and got so much attention that it even managed to be rated 67th on Rolling Stone’s “Best Songs of 2007” list. The song was very experimental at the time, combining “kwassa kwassa,” a dance rhythm from Congo, with more hipster rock overtones. The song also makes several references to English singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel, who is known for being a major influencer of world music and his many humanitarian efforts.
In addition to introducing the world to Vampire Weekend, their debut album featured some noteworthy tunes such as “Campus,” a surprisingly upbeat break-up song; “One (Blake’s Got a New Face),” which contains samples of Slinger Francisco; and “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance.”