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At Work: Dams of the West

Matt Inman | January 12, 2017

When Vampire Weekend returned home from their most recent tour in 2014 and settled into their current, unofficial hiatus period, drummer Chris Tomson got to work on a new project. But the wheels took some time to start turning.

“Knowing I had some time off, I was not exactly sure what I was going to do with my life,” Tomson says a few years later. “I had my childhood piano from New Jersey moved to my place in the city and sat at it for a number of months before anything happened. And then, finally, some songs started to emerge and they felt worth pursuing.”

Those songs eventually turned into Tomson’s debut solo album, Youngish American, under the moniker Dams of the West, which finds the multi-instrumentalist crafting thoughtful and personal lyrics about, as he puts it, “a lot of early-thirties bullshit.” The tracks are solid, as can be expected from a member of the band responsible for 2013’s near-perfect Modern Vampires of the City. But while he had plenty of ideas, Tomson says he needed some help transitioning from demos to studio cuts.

“I felt like I had cool parts, and I recorded them, but they sounded like poop,” he says matter-of-factly. Cue producer-to-the-rescue Patrick Carney— best known as the percussive half of The Black Keys—who helped Tomson with the physical recording process. “He felt like a veteran, in a way, while I felt very new to it,” says Tomson, who got the idea to contact Carney from Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio, who was in the process of supporting his own side project. “I couldn’t have asked for a better person and partner to work with.”

Vampire Weekend doesn’t yet have a timeline as to when they will release more music, but Tomson confirms that “work has been done” and says that side projects are a positive thing for a band that’s been around a while.

“Having other things outside of Vampire Weekend is healthy for us, personally, as we get a little older,” says Tomson, who shares his excitement over touring around the new solo record. “I can say it’s very different being in a band when you’re 22, as opposed to 32.

“Whenever Vampire Weekend finally does come back, everyone will be recharged,” he continues. “If we did nothing else and just did half-ass Vampire Weekend shit, then that would be a bummer for ourselves and our fans.”