I really enjoyed this interview with Vampire Weekend from NPR’s All Songs Considered. There are a lot of interesting bits on their creative process, their approach to their new album, Modern Vampires of the City that releases this month and some stories behind the songs.
My favorite story is the genesis to a song called “Step” that turns out to be a response to one of their favorite songs, Souls of Mischief’s “Step to my Girl”:
Souls Of Mischief I’ve always loved. I kind of associate them with the first time that I really started become a music fan as a young teenager. This song apparently was recorded around the time of their first album, which was called 93 ‘til Infinity, but it never made the record and it floated around as a bootleg for awhile. I only discovered it five or six years ago but it always really stuck with me, especially the chorus. I didn’t know where it came from but they’re kind of like scratching somebody saying, “Every time I see you in the world, you always step to my girl.” Slowly as I listened to this song, I found myself kind of writing this alternate song based on that phrase. Later we found out that that in of itself is a sample from a rapper called YZ. We didn’t know that at the time. This was kind of the inspiration to write this other song that became “Step.”
Not only did it serve as inspiration, the band decided to research where Souls of Mischief gathered the samples for their song and layered those same samples into their own song, making for a kind of musical history hidden in the music:
You can also hear how the vocal melody of our chorus kind of riffs on that saxophone sample that you hear on the Souls of Mischief song. We had to go clear the samples, and we had to find out where Souls of Mischief gathered all their pieces from. Like I said, that line, “every time I see you in the world, you always step to my girl,” comes from this rapper YZ. But that saxophone melody is actually a cover by Grover Washington Jr. of a song by Bread called “Aubrey,” which I had never heard before. So in the end, if you compare “Step” to “Aubrey,” you can see the connection. They’re pretty different, but you can see how the melody kind of changed and morphed through these different versions.