I remember the first time I met Rostam Batmanglij backstage at Vampire Weekend’s Chicago concert in 2010. They were touring with Beach House as indie music was taking a victory lap. At the time, I was an elusive blogger who had emailed with Rostam, who was the front-facing public figure of the band.
As I interpreted them over the years, he was the bandmember who was interested enough in other people to consistently ‘hang’ / think there is something worth talking to into the afterhours of subcultural nightlife. Unfortunately for bands, every one that meets up with them on tour thinks that they are going to ‘party so effing hard’ the night they meet them when they are just trying to maintain their health. They really only play music, sleep in a bus and scavenge for nutrient rich food. It’s also important to note that Chris Tomson, who is the most ‘secretly-insane’ member of the group was reading Gravity’s Rainbow.
I was helping myself to some hummus provided by the Lincoln Hall venue staff and commented, “This is pretty good.”
Rostam replied disapprovingly, “You think so?” He was smirking.
When a relevant buzzband member who has traveled the world and has a prominent Iranian-American chef for a mother questions your palate’s in hummus, you could let your insecurities run wild. Perhaps you could defend the hummus, or say that it is at least better than a Costco tub-o-hummus. Instead, you have to value his opinion and his life experience, and use it to understand that there’s more hummuses out there. Meeting Vampire Weekend backstage at a concert does not need to escalate the quality of the hummus, nor should the takeaway even be that the hummus was bad.
When you are fortunate enough to aggregate life or work experiences (even beyond hummus tasting), the value comes in understanding that you had options. You’ve had had positive and negative experiences, but the decision to value yourself is in the choice to act upon your free will.
I wasn’t surprised to read that Rostam Batmanglij was amicably leaving the band, and that every member had vocalized public support to ensure a smooth transition into the future of Vampire Weekend. Every one was supportive, and it felt like they had already established a ‘corporate culture’ within their band that a startup company would love to implement. Four emotionally sane band members, in touch with their feelings and artistic aspirations just talking it out. One who hates the indie era or ‘the neutered music that college-educated Millennials listen to’ could argue that ‘this is not very rock’n’roll.’
All we can be is a reflection of our times. The idea of a band creating the Harvard Business Case moment for corporate culture makes sense because companies are basically trying to convince their employees that they are all friends who have the opportunity to do something cool that matters to people. I guess that’s what a band inherently is.
We work hard to create a conversational talking point in our own identities, but few people take the time to get in touch with what actually motivates them. Rostam seems to have identified that creative collaboration is what keeps him interested in not just projects, but also what fuels him to want to seek more life experiences. I supposed the job title is ‘producing’ for artists. But if you don’t want to tour, don’t want to be involved in all of the other tiny decisions behind a touring, album-promoting band, then why should you? If conflict is ever brewing in direction or identity, the best way to free yourself from conflict is to kill your inner-conflict. Every member of Vampire has the opportunity to explore their own avenues to keep them independently motivated in their group. It sounds so healthy and reasonable.
A personal favorite is the BAIO’s personal brand direction and sound in 2015—in particular, "The Names."
You don’t have to do the same thing forever. The same thing is usually there waiting for you if you wanted to come back anyways. As some one who lets internal angst build until a massive breakdown in work, life, or relationships happen, it’s important for ‘cool people who we respect as humans’ to know that there are creative people who aren’t afraid to put their own bookends on an era. You allow other people to move on, too. You don’t spend time spreading gasoline on everything that you’ve built, and then decide that you are so much of a part of what you built that you may as well set yourself on fire.
These days, I don’t really eat much hummus. It’s no longer in my momentarily-biased food pyramid as a ‘smart snack,’ nor am I looking for much dippability in my own life. I’ve learned how to appreciate vegetables without much else to mask what I’m running from in my own life. I’d much rather eat some garbanzos, but maybe that’s because I am finally free from the unattainable myth of perfect hummus.