Rostam Batmanglij beyond Vampire Weekend
Adam Ramos | Tuesday, February 2, 2016
After the release of Vampire Weekend’s 2013 Grammy Award-winning record “Modern Vampires of the City,” the New York City indie quartet called it the final component to an album trilogy. While many predicted a musical change of direction, the preppy Africana-beatsters may have been foreshadowing a culmination. Rostam Batmanglij, the mastermind and producer behind the group’s eclectic pop-rock sound, recently announced his departure from Vampire Weekend, marking an official end to one of music’s freshest collaborations. While lead singer and lyricist Ezra Koenig has insisted the group will continue to make music, it’s hard to envision Vampire Weekend without Batmanglij’s extensive influence.
The news hit me hard — Vampire Weekend has always had a special place in my heart. I was a naive thirteen-year-old when “Giving up the Gun,” a track off of Vampire Weekend’s second record “Contra” somehow found its way to my iPod nano. The dancing bongo beat, the harpsichord melody and the soft-spoken, quirky lyrics all presented something completely new to me. Until that point, my music collection was mostly hand-me-downs, but this song was novel in every sense. Though so different, the band was very approachable. From that point on music became more than a passive activity for me — it became a passion. Even today, that passion continues to drive my search for new music. While my tastes have warped and grown, Vampire Weekend has remained a pillar in my music library.
While the news of Rostam’s departure was a tad shocking, all is certainly not lost. Though Rostam may no longer be producing music under Vampire Weekend, we can still expect to hear from him. In fact, Rostam has already released two solo tracks. The first “EOS” was released shortly before the announcement, while “Wood” was delivered shortly after. Both songs are tremendously expansive productions, shedding the more simplistic structures of past Vampire Weekend tracks. Slow, minimal and pensive, “EOS” flows like a hazy dream as Rostam laments, “Everyone of us has felt the lights go down.” “Wood” begins with a sitar progression that coalesces into a bouncing traditional Middle Eastern melody. Rostam’s relaxed vocals reveal his Vampire Weekend roots, as a catchy hook follows with a swinging chant. Both songs emphasize a new direction for Rostam and the potential for his newfound independence.
Beyond solo work, Rostam has announced his plans to release a full-length record with The Walkmen’s frontman, Hamilton Leithauser. Speculating that the forthcoming collaboration album “might be one of the best records I make in my whole life,” Rostam has already begun to set his sights high.
Remaining Vampire Weekend members have also been making some waves, playing along side Bernie Sanders at his recent Iowa Rally, and announcing work on their upcoming album currently titled “Mitsubishi Macchiato.” In terms of future Vampire Weekend music, Rostam has stated he intends to contribute, at least a little bit.
Rostam told Pitchfork in a recent interview, “It’s hard for people to see you as a producer with a musical identity when you’re contextualized in a band that performs on a stage” – and he’s right. I have always recognized Rostam’s novel approach in the context of Vampire Weekend. If isolation is what he needs in order to achieve more, as hard as it is to admit, I really do support him.