Vampire Weekend - Unbelievers at Reading 2014
—NEW DORP. NEW YORK. (Live on BBCR1)
NEW DORP. NEW YORK. (Live) - SBTRKT feat. Ezra Koenig (BBC Radio 1, Reading and Leeds Maida Vale Special)
Everybody’s experience of New York is an amalgamation of the eras of New York that they loved the most, whether they were there or not, and usually when they were not there. Whether I’m writing music on the West Coast or writing it here, I’ve got New York in my blood. It’s in my DNA now.
—Rostam Batmanglij (x)
This Is Our Youth, Kenneth Lonergan’s seminal play, opens in previews this week on Broadway amid a buzz rare for the revival of a play in the middle of August, traditionally a dead time for theatrical premieres. About a trio of fraught and directionless post-adolescents in 1982 Manhattan’s Upper West Side, much of the anticipation is due to its marquee cast, with Rookie magazine maven Tavi Gevinson in her first stage role, and Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin rounding out the ensemble. But hiding (or rather, playing) in plain sight is the work of Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, who scored original music for the production; like anything inspired by nineteen-year-olds, it could’ve veered angsty and piercing, but in Batmanglij’s capable hands, it becomes delicate and truly evocative of young adulthood.
When considering the era and music—the dawn of Ronald Reagan, post-disco, post-punk—you could argue it was a moment between moments, which makes the musical process somewhat of a challenge. He name-checks Arthur Russell as an influence, but Batmanglij confesses he relied on personal feelings more than anything referential. “I thought about when I was that age (nineteen, twenty-one),” he says. “I was also living in Morningside Heights, going to college, studying music. So I have all these really specific associations with that.”
Batmanglij conceived much of the music from his new home in Los Angeles where he has lived since the end of last year, after twelve fruitful years in New York. This is his first time back for any extended period, and truth be told, more than any other influence, you hear New York in every note. “Everybody’s experience of New York is an amalgamation of the eras of New York that they loved the most, whether they were there or not, and usually when they were not there,” he says. “Whether I’m writing music on the West Coast or writing it here, I’ve got New York in my blood. It’s in my DNA now.”