The latest, third punk-pop recording from The Vaccines might be titled “English Graffiti.” But his native Britain was the last thing on bandleader Justin Young’s mind when he composed it, living in self-imposed exile in a tiny flat in New York’s Chinatown. He recorded at Dave Fridmann’s secluded studio in the forests of upstate New York, and took a surreal songwriting trip to Nashville, where he formed a spontaneous alt-country side project called Salvador Dali Parton.
“But I didn’t name us – that wasn’t my idea,” says Young, who appears with the Vaccines in The City this week.
For a handful of Music Row concerts in October 2013, Young formed a supergroup with Winston Marshall from Mumford & Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Gil Landry, Apache Relay’s Mike Harris, and Jeff The Brotherhood’s Jake Orrall.
“We wrote our whole set in one day, then we rehearsed it the next day, and then we went and played five shows that night,” says the singer. “It was on Halloween, and we all dressed up. And honestly, I’d been taking playing music and writing music so seriously, it was so therapeutic and fun to play and write with zero pressure, and zero consequence.”
Young’s stateside experiment pushed him, stylistically. He arrived at the breezy new ballads “Want You So Bad” and “(All Afternoon) In Love.”
But much of “English Graffiti” – like “Handsome,” “20/20” and “Radio Bikini” – adheres to the kinetic Vaccines sound, as perfected on its 2011 debut “What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?”.
Young started out in Chinatown with the most sober intentions. He set up a separate writing room, and punched in every day for a business-like eight hours. Band guitarist Freddie Cowan even flew over to join him, but nothing happened. Young scrapped his whole routine, started going out more and seeing his pals. Six months later, he was writing meaningful material again.
At Fridmann’s place, near the Canadian border, he drank moonshine-strength Fireball with town locals, and wore bright colors outdoors since it was hunting season. When Cowan went jogging, Fridmann gave him a wooden club, for the area’s wild dogs. “Freddie said, ‘Is this stick to throw for them?’ and Dave said, ‘No, it’s for you to hit the dogs so they don’t bite. Or when they’re biting you,’” he says.
Young now is back home in London, but crashing on friends’ floors. “I have no fixed abode at the moment, which I think is nice,” he says. “But this record is definitely about a sense of longing to belong, and I guess not having a house contributes to that!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 5
Tickets: $23 to $26
Contact: (415) 522-0333; www.slimspresents.comDave FridmannEnglish GraffitiFreddie CowanJustin YoungSalvador Dali PartonVaccines