“It’s wild to see the crowd resonate with your songs when you’re from the other side of the world”: Campbell Burns on Vacations at All Points East
Vacations are the Aussie indie-pop band – made up of Campbell Burns, Jake Johnson, Nate Delizzotti and Joseph Van Lier – taking their home country and beyond by storm. With albums Changes (2018) and Forever in Bloom (2020) already under their belt, there’s a new record brewing for early next year, from which singles Midwest, Next Exit and Terms & Conditions have landed. But it’s really on the live scene that they’ve truly thrived and garnered a dedicated fanbase, helped along by early track Young going viral on TikTok (400 million streams on Spotify and counting). Their “woozy guitar pop” takes in a wide range of influences from Mac DeMarco to Men I Trust.
This summer, they played support at All Points East for Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes. The Upcoming had a chat with lead singer Burns just as the group stepped off stage to hear his reflections on the gig, their success so far and what’s on the horizon for Vacations.
How was that for you? It looked pretty good from the audience!
It was really fun. I got food poisoning this morning, so I’m quite sick right now! But I really tried to put my all into that performance. It was really, really fun. That was our first UK festival. It’s just really wild to me to see the crowd resonate with those songs when you’re from the other side of the world, and especially when it’s not just your big hits – it’s the whole catalogue. Everyone’s singing the words and dancing… it just means a lot to me. So I’m hoping we can keep coming back here and keep playing. I just love it so much.
You hid it very well that you weren’t feeling great! The E3 seemed like a brilliant stage to play: the sound was amazing, and it felt very intimate, despite being at a festival.
Yeah, I was really happy with that stage. It was a fun performance; I just wish we could have played for longer, because 25 minutes is, like, really hard. We’re at a point now where we almost have too many songs to pick from. It’s difficult.
Everyone was spilling out the back – you’re going to need a bigger stage next time.
Yeah, a bigger stage next time! I wanted to try and dance around a bit more, but it was tricky.
In terms of what you decided to play: plenty of fan favourites, but also a sprinkling of new stuff?
Yeah, Next Exit and Midwest. I’ve been really enjoying that – there’s always a great reaction every time we played it so far, so I’m really keen to… like I keep saying, playing shows and just upping the production and the quality of the performance and doing everything we can.
Did you have a highlight? I’m going to assume it was the last track, Young, which you seemed to have everyone joining in on!
It was probably Midwest, just because, again, that’s the newest song; we’ve only played it live four times now. And just seeing everyone immediately start grooving, and having a dance or just enjoying themselves when the song drops, is really rewarding. So it’s a very satisfying feeling. Even though I love it when people sing back all the words, I’ve seen that before, and so to experience something new, I find value.
Speaking of that track, Young, tell me about this whole going viral on TikTok situation. How did that all kick off? Was it a bit of a whirlwind in terms of putting you in front of lots of people that you might not have the chance to reach?
Oh, yeah. So that went viral during the pandemic. Someone uploaded a compilation of Skins – the British TV show Skins – and, in a scene, one of the characters is going through a breakup, and they put Young over the top, and people really connected with it. And then it just spiralled from there, and it kept going viral in different ways. And what I’m really grateful for is the fact that it wasn’t a one-hit wonder, or overnight success story; it’s been a very gradual process, and it hasn’t waned in any sense – it only keeps growing and growing since that kicked off. So it’s been really beautiful to see that happen, and what it’s allowed us to achieve, whether that’s getting a record label, or getting the funding to go to the US to tour there, or, you know, be here again, playing festivals like All Points East. And the fact that it’s not only spread from Young, but also the rest of our discography: Telephones is not too far behind in terms of popularity. And then, again, everyone’s really resonating with the new songs. So it’s really beautiful. It’s very overwhelming, but that’s great.
Taking a step back, who or what do you cite as your influences? Your sound feels very at home here today, when you’ve got all these amazing indie bands on the lineup, like The Strokes.
Yeah. It’s really cool because they’re indie bands I grew up with, so it’s really wild to me to be playing the same festival as, say, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It’s because I used to listen to them so much; it’s kind of surreal in that sense. As far as influences go, I mainly cite my friends and family, which is a bit cheesy, but I draw a lot of influence from what I’m doing in my family life, rather than other bands.
I love that you have as your bio on Instagram “Australia’s best boy band”.
Well, it’s true, because when we started touring the US for the first time, it wasn’t as if it was the entire spotlight purely on myself – it was evenly across everyone in the band. Everyone got their own moment to shine and all the fans will call out to us when we take stage or they ask us questions; they want to engage with each member of the band, which is really fun because I don’t really enjoy bands when it’s clearly just the frontman or the frontwoman or front person. It’s just a bit boring. I like that, usually, everyone will have a microphone on stage and everyone gets a talk amongst themselves and to everyone else in the audience. And it sort of breaks down that barrier of “we’re the artist, we’re on a pedestal, and you’re a fan”. I don’t like that, I like to have common ground.
And in terms of your discography, you’ve had Changes, Forever in Bloom, and then you’ve got this other album coming early next year. How do you think your sound has evolved? And what can people look forward to with the new album?
I think our live sound has evolved immensely, since we’ve been touring so much. And, through trial and error, we know what we like, we know we don’t like now. So I feel like our last show was only becoming more and more refined, which is just so helpful. And the sound has progressed in such a way where it feels like a balance between the first two albums in terms of… There’s the production and clarity of Forever in Bloom, but it has the DIY feeling of Changes because we did it ourselves and we did it with our best friends and in in-home studios, or wherever we could across the world, and think that really translated. So I think that’s why the new songs are doing so well too, because you can hear that vulnerability and transparency; people know that it’s authentic, which is important.
Every year people seem to be pronouncing the death of indie or guitar bands but, if anything, the genre is stronger than ever right now.
Yeah, I think that’s a very boring take. I feel like if you’re perceiving the music scene in that way, then you’re not listening to the right bands. You’re out of touch. I would probably go to a local show or something and support your local artists and your DIY scene – it’s more important than ever.
Are there other contemporary artists or bands playing today you’re really into?
I think I’m missing the Walkmen set at the moment, I really wanted to go see them. I’d love to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I’d love to see the Strokes. Amyl and the Sniffers are playing – they’re Aussies, which would be fun. I haven’t seen any of those bands before.
What was behind the name Vacations?
So that was actually, without even really realising it, from a game that me and Jake would play when we first became friends. And we were starting to form this band together and we needed a name, and so we would always hang out and just throw band names back and forth. But we got offered to play a house show and they were like, “You need a name for the poster”, so we just landed on Vacations, and it stuck ever since. But I’m really glad because it’s a very clean name. Surprisingly, no one’s taken it, which blows my mind!
Final question, what’s on your bucket list of things you’d love to do with the band? A festival or venue you’d love to play here or in Australia? Glastonbury perhaps?
I’d love to play Glastonbury or Reading Festival. There’s a whole bunch of festivals I’d love to play in the UK, so hopefully we can make it back!
Photo: Charlie Hardy
Watch the video for the single Young here: