There’s a difference between having fun and being happy, says Justin Young. And in the space between fun and happiness lies the sixth Vaccines album, Pick-Up Full of Pink Carnations. It’s a record that drips with fun – 10 songs in just over half an hour, packed with hooks and melodies and pop smarts – but which explores the way real life lets us down, no matter what we tell the world on our Instagram stories.
This is the first Vaccines album since the departure of Freddie Cowan – touring member Timothy Lanham has stepped up to full Vaccine status as lead guitarist – and it felt like a fresh start. Cowan was missed on a personal level, but as a father to a young family, he no longer wanted to uproot himself to record or go on long tours. It was an easy decision for both him and the band, and they remain friends. But the group was reinvigorated by change.
At this point in their career, there’s a pretty clear sense of who The Vaccines are and what they do: this is 60s-inspired classicist guitar pop, filtered through new wave, given a modernist sheen in the production.
'I think we’re euphoric and melancholic in equal measure' says Young. 'I think we’re very direct, and I think this record sounds quite classic and simple, but hopefully of its time as well.'
One of the most startling things about The Vaccines in 2023 is how young their audience remains. Many guitar bands find their audience ages with them, but The Vaccines’ keeps replenishing. There’s something in that euphoria and melancholy that speaks to younger crowds, and this record’s themes will resonate strongly.
“It really excites me that we have so many young fans.' Young says. 'I honestly look at people, and think, ‘You were four when Wreckin’ Bar came out!’ We’re not just trying to keep the people who were already there, we’re trying to engage new fans. I love reading comments on TikTok: I’d never heard of you till today, but you’re my new favourite band.'