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The Vaccines: Navigating Loss and Embracing Life’s Journey

The Vaccines Navigate Change and Rediscover Their Roots on ‘Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations’. Since their platinum-selling debut album in 2011, The Vaccines have weathered significant changes, most recently dealing with the departure of founding member Freddie Cowan, who left to prioritize family life. However, this shift hasn’t dimmed singer Justin Young’s relentless enthusiasm, and on their sixth album, ‘Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations,’ the band returns to their rock ‘n’ roll roots, offering a vibrant antidote to the January blues. Recorded in Los Angeles with producer Andrew Wells, known for his work with pop stars like Ellie Goulding and Halsey, the euphoric LP sees Young rebounding from heartbreak.

Unlike previous records with major label support, ‘Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations’ was financed independently by The Vaccines. The stakes were high, but the band delivered, creating a compelling album.

Speaking over Zoom from his home in London, Young shared that the album’s genesis began precisely two years before our December conversation when he wrote ‘Love To Walk Away’ in 2021. Reflecting on his headspace at the time, Young explained, “I had phrases, lyrics, and thematic ideas, but no clear sonic direction. I didn’t have strong ideas.” However, the first session with Wells provided clarity, and ‘Love To Walk Away’ became the blueprint for the record. Young emphasized the importance of highlighting the personalities, humanity, and creativity of the new lineup, making the album more human than its predecessor.

Despite Cowan’s departure in 2022, The Vaccines remain a collaborative effort. Founding member Árni Árnason and Timothy Lanham, who joined live in 2017, stepped into Cowan’s role. The band deliberately moved away from technology, aiming for an imperfect, live, and human sound. Young explained, “I found myself drawn to things that sounded messy, live, human, and dirty. Your taste is always moving on, never staying in one place.”

During the album-making process, Young drew inspiration from a Spotify playlist featuring artists from the analog era, shaping the sound of ‘Pick-Up Full Of Pink Carnations.’ He noted how artists like The Waterboys, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, and others successfully transitioned from youthful to mature sounds without losing excitement.

The influence of Los Angeles, where the album was recorded, played a role in shaping the record. While initially nervous about recording without Cowan, Young found inspiration in the vibrant city. Despite the picturesque surroundings, the band quickly adapted to the changes, and Young reflected, “Loss inevitably leads to coping, growth, and discovery.”

Cowan’s decision to leave was anticipated, and Young acknowledged, “We knew for the last couple of years because it was clear that he wasn’t happy. It was almost a relief when it did happen.” Being in a band involves heavy commitments, impacting personal relationships. Young recognizes the challenges and emphasizes the need for certainty and commitment.

With a massive UK and Europe tour in 2024 and contentment in their non-mainstream position, Young appreciates the healthier place they’re in. He expressed a newfound comfort in a world where those who care about The Vaccines are the ones who genuinely like the band.

Now filled with contentment, Young, who lacked maturity during the band’s early years, looks forward to making more records and playing live. Cowan’s exit, though initially challenging, has aligned the band’s focus, united in the pursuit of enjoying the ride, wherever it leads. ‘Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations’ is set to release on January 12th through Thirty Tigers.

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