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The Vaccines seek shot in the arm for rock music

HONG KONG (AFP) - Some say these are bad times to be in a rock band. Pressure for instant success has never been greater as illegal downloads hammer industry profits and manufactured pop talent shows reign supreme.

But after a furious rise to fame that has seen packed gigs, fainting girls and a debut album stuffed with three-minute bursts of Ramones-tinged rock that last year broke into Britain‘s top four, The Vaccines disagree.

“We’ve never played a concert that hasn‘t been sold out,” noted guitarist Freddie Cowan in an interview with AFP ahead of a string of Asia dates taking in Singapore and Taiwan before shows in Hong Kong on Saturday and Japan next week.

“The fact that music can be shared freely has done us a lot of good. We make fine money doing concerts and other things. I don’t feel cheated, or that we haven‘t got what we deserve. It’s just the way it is.”

The past decade has seen many acts enjoy a blaze of fast success before a second album sees sales decline, something recently experienced by the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs.

Cowan and the rest of The Vaccines -- vocalist Justin Young, Icelandic bassist Arni Hjorvar and drummer Pete Robertson -- were hailed as last year‘s breakthrough guitar act and will next month embark on a follow up album.

But whether or not the London-based band can attain longevity -- or even just keep it going for another album -- is “out of our control," said Cowan.

“All you have to do is look at your own iTunes library and the bands you liked six months ago, you probably don’t listen to any more,” he said.

“We just want to do it for as long as we can. If we‘re not good at it any more, we’ll just stop. I‘d be really happy if we could do this for five years. That would be a really major result.”

The Vaccines have been held aloft by a British music press desperate for a genuinely thrilling guitar band to match the arrival of The Strokes in 2001 and compensate for the underachievement of The Libertines a few years later.

Last year’s “What Did You Expect from The Vaccines?” -- a whirl of melodies evoking 1960s girl groups, The Beach Boys, 1970s punk and occasional wisps of The Jesus and Mary Chain -- hit number four in the U.K. albums chart.

It came after their first uploaded song “If You Wanna” set the blogosphere buzzing and a tour on which they played to sold-out halls, with hundreds of ticketless punters left stranded outside at one London concert.

Along with three nominations for “Best New Act” from the MTV, Mojo, and Q Awards, the platitudes have come thick and fast from the British media, in one instance hailing them as as “a band that will kickstart a new era” -- perhaps a little disproportionate for an act that had barely got started.

Whether that‘s really possible in today’s splintered, iTunes-driven market remains to be seen. Sessions for The Vaccines‘s second album begin in March with Ethan Johns, a producer who has worked with Rufus Wainwright and the Kings of Leon.

“As a band we know each other better, we can play better and I think we can write better now,” said Cowan, whose brother Tom is a member of British goth-rockers The Horrors.

“We did that first album so quickly, we were a very young band. Now we just want to play more and show a few other sides of what we can do. The first album was so one-track minded.”

Whether they can blossom under the weight of expectation that the UK music industry hype machine has placed on their shoulders is another issue.

“You shouldn’t worry about what you can‘t control,” said Cowan.

“We feel lucky to be in this position and strike a chord with people,” said Cowan. “I think part of it is that we have a very direct element to our music and songwriting.

”And I’m really happy the UK has an emphasis on new music, and if that means that the press can get carried away over a few bands then fine,“ he added.
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