I’m not sure what exactly it was that I expected from Chris Baio’s solo debut EP, Sunburn. Well, ok, I do: something that, at the very least, gave a nod to his job of six years as bassist for Vampire Weekend. The notion that I might have been able to go into listening free of any expectations that his side project may be a continuation of (or at least bear a familiarity to the) blissed-out indie rock we’ve come to expect from VW since their 2008 eponymously titled debut is, frankly, bullshit. But, you know what they say about assumptions and arses and oh me of little imagination, what a silly fool I am; how far he transcends that.
After two Vampire Weekend albums and subsequent years of touring and DJing, Baio has spent the last year holed up in his New York home working on his side project, in what he describes as an “agonizing but ultimately rewarding” process.
“I was a little bit apprehensive about putting out my own tracks… When you realize how fleeting a negative reaction is and how long-term a positive reaction is, there’s really no reason not to put yourself out there.”
The result may come as somewhat of a head scratcher to some of his current fan base, but is more than likely to find him a whole new one. He tips a hat to his past with the West-African influences of Contra, but the combination of tribal beats, steel drums and only the briefest of vocal interludes provided by Matias Aguayo, make for a tantalizingly short, three song EP that would be best put to use as the soundtrack to a drug-fuelled afternoon dancing on an Ibizan beach and gives a closer approximation of what Baio solo has got in him. “It’s fun to be a debut artist again at 27.”
He works with ease between the two incarnations (you’ll hear the new Vampire Weekend album before a full length Baio record) but needless to say, the two projects are best judged as separate entities. When I ask if, had it been possible, he would have preferred to put out the EP without the VW connotations, he answers: “This EP definitely ties in with the DJing I’ve done while on tour with the band, and touring and playing in VW has had a tremendous influence on me one way or another. Mentioning it here and there makes sense but I do want this project to stand on its own.” Which it more than does.
If anything, two years after their last record and with the success of the side project, the bar is only raised for VW’s next album. In the meantime, I’m more excited to see what Baio’s (solo) next move is.