|Chris Baio: From Vampire Weekend bassist to electronic/disco singer songwriter|
Baio @ School Night (Bardot Hollywood)
Baio is the artist name for the solo project of Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio. He has his first LP coming out on Glassnote later this year, and last night he made his first live appearance ever at School Night (at Bardot Hollywood.) This was not a DJ set- he sang and played keyboards in addition to running the electronic-y backing music tracks. The question I'm sure many Vampire Weekend fans will be asking themselves is, "Should I fuck with this?" My answer to those fans, as well as fans of the larger world of electronic pop is a clear, "Yes, you should fuck with it." You should give the LP a listen, you should go see him live given a reasonable opportunity, telling like-minded friends and acquaintances about the existence of this project is likely to provide an immediate social benefit.
One thing that should be clear is that Baio is not simply a knob twiddling DJ (although he can be a DJ if he feels like it.) Rather, he is a fully functional "one man band" of the type that is increasingly tolerated and even appreciated in the various precincts of the rock, pop and indie musical worlds. Baio as an act (vs. the Artist or the DJ performer) has a strong grasp of songwriting principles and an engagingly awkward and endearing stage presence that very much seems like that of someone who has observed Ezra and Rostam up close and has given a good deal of thought about how it will be for him when he performs.
The "one man band" aspect of his performance limits his movement- mostly swaying side to side, or moving back and forth, but expectations for electronically derived pop musicians in this department are so low that any kind of performance charisma is welcome. Significantly, he sings, and well. It's hard, I think, to really seriously consider Baio as an Act without thinking about Father John Misty. The two couldn't be more different stylistically: John Misty is a sparse, guitar and drums singer-songwriter who writes about fucked up men and women living in a drug induced haze. Baio is an electronic DJ/producer who has grafted a studied Indie/Brit Pop sensibility onto his largely uptempo "beats." Still, when you consider that Misty started as the drummer for Fleet Foxes, and Baio bassist Vampire Weekend.
The question, I suppose which must be asked is "Should Baio leave Vampire Weekend to pursue this act full time?" I think my answer would be a straightforward, "Go for it, because if you've gone this far with it already it means that being the bassist of Vampire Weekend does not exhaust what you have to say to the world artistically. I mean financially, it would be suicide, unless Vampire Weekend itself ceases to exist.
From the perspective of just looking out for oneself, history would teach that members of big time rock bands need to have a back-up plan handy, because inter-personal conflict almost always manifests itself once the initial breakthrough has been made and success is no longer a life or death issue. Having a back up plan is not something only handy in the entertainment world, it's a good idea just in life.
Will Vampire Weekend continue to exist? It doesn't have to. What has been accomplished already in terms of art and income is sufficient to allow the principals of the band the ability to coast for years. I remember reading an interview where one of the band members was talking about how when "it" happens you are basically gone for three straight years. In that time you go from playing small rclubs in the US to headlining major festivals. You play the UK and Europe multiple times and go to Australia and Asia at least once. You write, record and release 2 LPs. It is a process of becoming and it's only at the end that someone experiences that has time to reflect and ask themselves, "Is this what I want."
My sense is that for most people who owe "the man" money, the answer is, "No, but I have to." For those who have been successfully enough financially to be "free" the answer is invariably, "No." It is the rare, rare, rare individual who wants to be on the writing/recording/performing treadmill for any period of time, even people who are at the highest level. The need to continue at that pace either represents a personal kind of ambition or a failure to secure the ability to NOT do that for a year or more.
What I'm saying is only that Vampire Weekend is in that second category, and if they don't want to do another Vampire Weekend record, they don't have to. Baio is easily of capable of existing in a world where Vampire Weekend doesn't exist, but it's unclear that he wants that. Surely, being the bassist of Vampire Weekend is worth hanging onto. Just as a...job. And my sense is that he does contribute to the writing process, and that his drumming in that band is inventive and technically savvy.
|This is the cover art for Baio's LP, The Names, out this fall on Glassnote records.|
In conclusion, Baio live- was 1) different than a Baio DJ set 2) good. His upcoming LP The Names in September on Glassnote is worth checking out if you read this far in the review. The fact that it's on Glassnote is worth considering. Glassnote is a reputable, successful label with a great recent track record.