The Vaccines

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The Vaccines are a platinum selling English indie rock band, formed in West London in 2010 by Justin Hayward-Young (lead vocals, guitar), Freddie Cowan (lead guitar, vocals), Árni Árnason (bass, vocals) and Pete Robertson (drums, vocals). The band have released two studio albums, What Did You Expect from The Vaccines? (2011) and Come of Age (2012), which charted at #1 in the UK upon its release. Their third album English Graffiti is scheduled to be released on 25th May 2015.

The band have toured extensively, playing with and opening up for acts such as The Rolling Stones, Arcade Fire, The Stone Roses, Arctic Monkeys, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Muse amongst others. The band’s debut album was the best-selling debut album of 2011, drawing comparisons to The Ramones and The Jesus and Mary Chain. The band themselves have said that their influences range from “’50s rock ‘n’ roll through to ’80s American hardcore, and a lot of good pop music”.


2010: Formation and early career

Composed of Justin Hayward-Young (known professionally as Justin Young, also known as Jay Jay Pistolet), Arni Arnason (bass), Pete Robertson (drums) and Freddie Cowan (guitar and younger brother of Tom Cowan from The Horrors), the band was initially formed by Young and Cowan in the summer of 2009. After months of attempting to perfect its sound, the band uploaded the demo “If You Wanna” to YouTube in August 2010 and the song immediately received praise from people such as Zane Lowe, who named it the ‘Hottest Record in the World’ on 18 August 2010. After the band’s first-ever London show, a Clash magazine article predicted that the band could help usher in a new era for guitar music.

During The Vaccines debut UK tour between September and November 2010, interest in the band led to a debut London performance at a friend’s pub, The Flowerpot, Kentish Town. The show sold out and audience members included Alex Kapranos and Marcus Mumford—200 people were turned away. The performance was awarded a “4/5” rating by The Guardian and was described by Clash magazine as “fantastic, exhilarating and exciting”. During this time, the band performed live on Later with Jools Holland—the occasion marked the first time that a band has ever appeared on the programme prior to releasing a single.

On 29 November 2010, the band released its debut double A-side single “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)”/”Blow It Up” in the UK; the single was limited to 1000 copies and was released on the Marshall Teller Records label. Both of the music videos for each of the double A-side songs were directed by Doug Hart, former bass player with The Jesus and Mary Chain. “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)”, one minute and 24 seconds in duration, was named “Track of the Day” by Q magazine and was critically well received. The band recorded its first ever radio session for Marc Riley’s BBC 6 Music show in December 2010. Following the release of its debut double A-side single, the band continued to tour the UK in the latter part of 2010, while concurrently recording its debut album—the band was followed by documentary makers from Vice Magazine during this tour.

2011: What Did You Expect from The Vaccines?

On 5 January 2011, the band was placed third in the BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll and, in the same week, appeared on the cover of NME for the first time. Following the confirmation of its contract with Columbia Records, the band released its second single “Post Break-Up Sex” on 24 January 2011, and it debuted at No. 32 in the UK. It was during this period that the band was nominated for an MTV Award—’Best New Band of 2011’—and a Critics’ Choice Brit Award. Following the band’s inaugural NME cover, the Vaccines then participated in the 2011 NME Awards Tour, supporting Crystal Castles. The band also travelled to America for the first time, where Debbie Harry was part of the audience for the band’s New York show.

Following a trip to the SXSW arts conference, the band then released its debut album What Did You Expect from The Vaccines? on 14 March 2011 through Columbia Records, to generally positive reviews.

In Autumn 2011, the band was forced to postpone tours of Japan and the US, in addition to shows across Europe, after Young suffered from a recurring vocal issue that had led to three operations within a nine-month period. Despite Young’s medical problem, the band still played more than 150 shows in 2011, culminating in two nights at London’s O2 Brixton Academy.

On 10 June 2011, The Vaccines performed as a support act for the Arctic Monkeys in a 10,000-capacity tent venue at Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield, UK. The Sheffield performance followed a joint trip that the two bands had made to America, during which time the Vaccines made their network television debut, performing “If You Wanna” on the Late Show with David Letterman. After the Don Valley gig, the band performed at numerous festivals throughout the world during that year’s summer season (at the time, the band claimed that it had played around 45 festival shows). The Vaccines ended the summer at the Reading and Leeds Festivals, where the band was joined on stage by members of The Horrors; In turn, The Vaccines appeared on stage with The Horrors later in the day. The band was named by NME Magazine as the best band of the weekend. The Vaccines has frequently collaborated on stage, including guest spots with Lyle Preslar of Minor Threat, Ryan Jarman of The Cribs, members of Savages and Paul Thomson of Franz Ferdinand. In August 2013 they performed in Florida as John Fogerty’s backing band.

In August 2011, The Vaccines debuted a new song “Tiger Blood” that was produced by Albert Hammond, Jr. of The Strokes in his New York studio.

On Christmas Day of 2011, The Vaccines appeared on Top of the Pops for the first time, before welcoming in the New Year on Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny.

2012: Come of Age

The Vaccines recorded their second LP in March 2012 with producer Ethan Johns. Young provided the public with an update: “It’s mostly written and we’re going into the studio in Belgium in March to start recording so it’ll definitely be out this year, without a doubt. We’ve definitely got six songs written that we all want to be on the record, but there’s tonnes of other new songs and we’re actually going into the studio out in Australia to work on ideas. I think we’re in a good place with it and it’s quite exciting.”

On 1 April 2012, The Quietus reported that The Vaccines would be releasing a split 7″ single with R. Stevie Moore through O Genesis Records in aid of Record Store Day, with The Vaccines covering Moore’s “Why Should I Love You?” and Moore tackling “Post Break-Up Sex”.

In July 2012, during another summer of playing festivals, the band released two free EPs—one is a live EP recorded in Brighton, UK, while the other is a collection of acoustic cover versions, entitled Please, Please Do Not Disturb. The cover version EP features renditions of ABBA, Wire, Nick Lowe and Jonathan Richman songs. Later that month, Cowan spoke about the band’s plans to release a series of four singles with each band member writing and recording a B-side song. Cowan will collaborate with his brother, Furse, for his contribution to the project.

The Vaccines’ second album, called Come of Age was released on 3 September 2012 in the UK. It reached no. 1 in the album chart, and was certified gold in the UK. The album was released in the US on 4 October 2012 The release was marked by the band’s biggest tour to date, including a sold out show at London’s 10,000 capacity Alexandra Palace.

2013: Melody Calling EP

In January 2013, The Vaccines were nominated for a Brit Award for Best Live Act, alongside The Rolling Stones, Muse, Mumford & Sons and Coldplay. They were also nominated for 2 NME awards; Best British Band and Best Album.

On 29 January 2013, The Vaccines began its first headliner tour of the US with a show at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, Massachusetts, supported by Australian band San Cisco. This was followed by a support show with Muse at a War Child charity gig at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 18 February 2013. Other shows in 2013 included London’s O2 Arena on 2 May (the band’s biggest non-festival show to date), Hyde Park on 6 July (supporting The Rolling Stones), and Glastonbury Festival on 28 June 2013.

The Vaccines featured on the cover of the 30 April 2013 issue of NME magazine, in which they revealed that they were working on some new material which may either be part of an EP or part of a third album. On 24 June 2013, The Vaccines revealed a brand new track titled “Melody Calling” that premiered on Radio 1. As a result, Zane Lowe named the song ‘the Hottest Record in the World’. The song also featured on the NME website and on SoundCloud. Melody Calling EP, recorded in Los Angeles by Rich Costey and John Hill, was released on 12 August 2013 with work on the new album scheduled to start in spring 2014.

On 29 October 2013, the short film I Don’t Even Know You, detailing the band’s tour through 2012 to 2013 was premiered on The Guardian website. The film was produced by PulseFilms.

After taking time off from touring at the end of Summer 2013, members of the band were involved in various different projects, with Cowan travelling to Senegal to play alongside Baaba Maal and The Very Best and Young performing in the US with members of JEFF The Brotherhood and Mumford & Sons.

2015: English Graffiti

In August 2014, The Vaccines confirmed that they would complete their third album by the end of the year. The producer Dave Fridmann, who has worked on records for artists including Flaming Lips, MGMT and Tame Impala told NME that The Vaccines want to create a similar sound to Sleater-Kinney’s The Woods.

In November 2014, The Vaccines played their first few gigs after a break of over the year in India, Vietnam and Hong Kong. The band played new songs from their upcoming third album entitled: “Handsome”, “Want You So Bad” and “Dream Lover”. The band stated in an interview that they would like to put out a single in January 2015 with touring starting in March and an album coming in May. Also in the interview, lead singer Justin Young also said that they will be supported by a touring member during their upcoming performances.

On 19 January 2015, “Handsome”, the first song to be revealed from the new album, was played on BBC Radio 1 by Zane Lowe. When speaking to Lowe about the track, Young announced the forthcoming album would be titled English Graffiti.

The Vaccines have claimed their new album ‘English Graffiti’ to be “genre defining”.


Studio albums
  • What Did You Expect from The Vaccines? (2011)
  • Come of Age (2012)
  • English Graffiti (2015)

Awards and nominations

Year Organisation Nominated work Award Result
2011 BBC Sound of 2011 The Vaccines Sound of 2011 Third
MTV Awards Brand New for 2011 Nominated
Quintessentially Awards Best Emerging Talent Winners
MOJO Awards Best New Act Nominated
Q Awards Best New Band Nominated
BRIT Awards Critics’ Choice Runners Up
2012 NME Awards Best New Band Winners
What Did You Expect from The Vaccines? Best Album Nominated
XFM The Vaccines New Music Award Winners
BRIT Awards Best New Artist Nominated
2013 NME Awards Best British Band Nominated
Come of Age Best Album Nominated
BRIT Awards The Vaccines Best Live Act Nominated