Having opened their account in 2011 by asking What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? with the title of their debut (498,708 sales to date - Official Charts Company), six albums in The Vaccines are still defying presumptions. While some of their 2010s contemporaries have fallen away, the London four-piece have retained their initial following while also adding younger audiences to their fanbase.
New record, Pick-Up Full Of Pink Carnations (Super Easy) released today (January 12), is a case in point as it has simultaneously mixed vinyl, CD and cassette pre-orders with an increased social following and DSP support.
The build-up to this record saw the amicable departure of founding guitarist Freddie Cowan and a label move to work with Thirty Tigers. This has inspired the group’s team to embrace change too as they’ve found new ways to deliver The Vaccines’ full dose.
Managed at Red Light by a team consisting of Cerne Canning, Lisa Ward, Laura Taylor and managing partner James Sandom, the latter explained to Music Week why with this album The Vaccines are blooming...
What’s it like releasing an album right at the start of the year?
“Right across the board you feel that positive energy. We feel the reasons why we wanted it to come right at the top of the year are paying off. With a lot of our targets, we would usually be up against four similar records, but we’ve been able to get ahead of the pack. For example, we've got a New York Times Square and Holland Park outdoor with YouTube, plus a Leicester Square outdoor with Spotify. Partner-related things are usually highly competitive, so to grab that level of real estate in New York and London for The Vaccines 13 years in feels amazing. We’re reaching new eyeballs and a new audience, as we’ve really found some of our key partners incredibly supportive with their ambition and warmth towards the band.
"The band have punched pretty heavyweight for quite a long time. They’ve had five Top 5 albums in a row and all sorts of other accolades under their wings so we’ve been galvanising that, bringing it together to reach our audience and evolve that audience. For the first time, the band has been on the playlist at Radio 2 and Album of The Week which is really helpful. Internationally, partnering with Thirty Tigers we’ve had many different suitors doing things. I was so impressed with David Macias, the president and founder, and the Thirty Tigers team. They have been outstanding in helping us deliver these great looks while offering significant detail through their back end with The Orchard, who are a distribution and marketing force in their own right.”
What made The Vaccines sign with Thirty Tigers?
"We’re not the first alternative artist signed to a British UK major who has found the constant shifting sands of their partner US major quite frustrating, because a lot of the people who cared about one album have gone by the next. That happened a few times. I have full respect for the current era of Columbia Records in America, but it's largely a data-driven business and we're an alternative artist from Britain so we’re unlikely to affect their share price. Thirty Tigers are collaborators and they really add value to delivering a campaign across the world. They’re very communicative and I like their forward-thinking philosophy for our socials, our messaging and with our communication to our audience.
"In the modern day, how do you deliver a successful campaign? If you're an established act, you start by galvanising your island – your community and your fans. Step one is to make the most of your community, and it's been good working with Thirty Tigers who clearly understand how to get that right. Then Step two, obviously, is to look at your potential audience and how you can use both traditional media and new forms of 'broadcast to reach them. Some of it is trying out innovative approaches, like expanding the band's footprint within TikTok, some of that is traditional – [promotions executive] James Bass has helped us deliver in a great UK radio campaign.
"So it's a combined effort. We have multiple singles from the album out at this point and when you look at the metric data they are all in the band's top seven performing songs, which feels like a real testament to a well-thought-out campaign that's been strategically well executed. Lisa Ward and [head of creative] Laura Taylor on the Red Light team have really driven this, helping the wheels turn in partnership with Thirty Tigers. I feel like we're launching the record with the best visibility we could have hoped for.”
Freddie Cowan left the band, amicably, before this LP, what is a manager’s role in that situation?
“It depends whether any line-up change is destabilising to the existing band members. For Freddie it was a change in life circumstances. He had just become a father and he didn't want to be on the road all the time, so it was a natural progression. It wasn't destabilising in any sense. There are only difficulties if you have to deal with contractual situations and, in this case, it was very harmonious.”
It would be fantastic if The Vaccines could continue their trend of every record going Top 5 with this album
It appears that, unlike a lot of bands of their era, The Vaccines continue to pick up younger fans...
“It certainly feels that way. If you go into any Vaccines show and look at the first 10 rows, well, they definitely weren't around when the debut record came out because they were probably 10! The scale of the audience is good, it’s consistent.”
How have you found the DSPs this time round?
“For every track, the streaming partner support has been really fantastic. Ceri Dixon at Red Light, who runs our streaming partner relations in the UK, and Thirty Tigers and The Orchard team have really delivered. Every track has been broadly supported right across Spotify, Amazon, Apple and Deezer. You've really felt the footprint. Honestly, in my recent experience, it’s one of the strongest editorial supports for an artist who is not necessarily an A-list shoe-in.”
Does that support, plus the band’s social growth, suggest the younger end of the fanbase will grow?
“It really would. One thing that really stands out is our own social engagement. We've seen an astonishing 394% growth in The Vaccines’ reach on Instagram since announcing the album. TikTok is growing month-by-month at 60%, YouTube subscribers are massively up. Getting that level of support on channels which we have only actively focused on since the end of the last album and into this one is great. But it’s alongside staples in the band's career continuing to support them. Heartbreak Kid from the album was nominated for Record Of The Year on Radio X and we’re incredibly grateful for their support. So we're trying to galvanise all of these elements while looking at other ways to reach new audiences. For example, Justin [Young, frontman] has done the Man United programme and Spurs are featuring how Ãrni [Ãrnason, bass] started supporting them while living in Iceland. So we’re trying to stretch beyond music media. We've really enjoyed working with Rachel Hendry as a publicist. She thinks in broader terms and has really turned up for the band in this chapter.”
Does this positivity apply to America?
“We’re pleased to have a plan straightaway to get back out to America, which the band hasn't done in a while. Last time around we got a bit banjaxed by the pandemic, so it's great we've got a package tour with The Kooks in the spring. It’s sold really well. It's an interesting time, packaging with another act can be a lot stronger than 1+1=2 in terms of ticket value. Looking at economic conditions around, there’s less surplus income out there so we’re trying to create good value by putting kindred spirits together. We’ve [Red Light] done a few packaged tours that have performed way beyond just putting two artists together, delivering a better end result for everyone.”
Do you have a chart expectation or hope for this record?
“I never like to say those things because, as a manager, objectives are achieved when the artist is happy, both creatively and in terms of the way the music is perceived. Of course, there's not an artist out there who doesn't want the music to be reached by millions of people and ultimately get some kind of chart placement in the markets where that's possible, but I wouldn’t put a hard number on it. It would be fantastic if The Vaccines could continue their trend of every record going Top 5 with this album. Most important, though, is that the record is delivered to the market so that’s not only about how it launches this week or the first month. The approach behind the scenes by ourselves, Thirty Tigers, The Orchard and BlackStar – who are our partners with all of our digital audience management – is to lay foundations to solidify the future for the band. So the real focus is to get the new music bedded in amongst the band’s best performing songs but, obviously, we will play to the strengths of the UK Official Chart and try to drive a healthy chart position.”
Finally, what role has Shaun The Sheep played in The Vaccines’ career? They did a track, Lazy, with Kylie for the film Farmageddon. Could that explain the younger interest?
[Laughs] “That’s an interesting one. I don’t have a definitive answer, but in my career as a manager sometimes the unexpected can be the moment that really delivers. Unanticipated things quite often draw new eyes to an artist. Lazy and its placement in the film drew new ears to the band. I would be lying if I gave you any data-based answer to its influence, but no question it had an impact. It’s interesting because when I look at The Vaccines' career and the tour they did in Eastern Europe with Imagine Dragons, which really grew their footprint there, you can connect it all to those shows. And the film is no different. It’s another route to market, to connect with your audience you wouldn’t do normally. So I’m always grateful for the unexpected.”
WORDS: PAUL STOKES PHOTO: WRENNE EVANS