Annette Brown, Lifetime The story of June Carter Cash comes to life in the…
- Posted on Mar 9th 2010 12:00PM by David Chiu
"The closest that I ever came up to having a rap name was Ezra Factory," he said. "I thought you could look at it in a few different ways: A factory that produces Ezra because my s--- is so hot. And I liked the reference to Factory Records, which is, of course, a very cool [former] record label in the history of rock." He later said, "I still to this day get the most inspiration from rap lyrics."
Koenig recalled that experience and other aspects of his musical and personal life in a conversation with author John Wray at the Library's Young Lions event. During the talk, which was sprinkled with humor, Koenig spoke about writing songs and offered anecdotes on some of Vampire Weekend's songs.
Earlier in the conversation, Wray mentioned the fact that Koenig took a creative writing class as a student at Columbia University, where the band members went to school. "We took some of the stories and picked them apart to create some of the lyrics, especially for the first album [and] even a little bit on the second album," Koenig revealed. "It was kind of good to use the stories as a way to lay down all of these words."
An item that was brought up during the discussion was that because someone writes about a particular experience doesn't necessarily mean it's about how that person's lives. For example, Koenig brought up Cape Cod, which is mentioned on Vampire Weekend's self-titled first album, and said that he had visited the peninsula with his family minus his dad. He remembered it as a very different place compared to his upbringing in New Jersey.
"Before the first album came out," he said, "I played it for my parents. My mom thought it was funny and goofy because there are all these songs about Cape Cod. And my dad literally said to my mom, 'What's he going on about Cape Cod all the time?'"
Later during the discussion, an audience member asked about 'The Kids Don't Stand a Chance,' which is also from the first Vampire Weekend album. Koenig responded that the song was born from him figuring out what he was going to do after graduation while his other friends were going to work in finance.
"Part of me wanted to look down on that, like 'That's total bulls---.' But I had to be honest with myself that there was a part of me that was also jealous of the idea that somebody would be making real money out of college. I was questioning myself about 'How do I judge these people?' Ultimately what I came up with is that it was hard for me to judge them."
On the topic of songwriting, Koenig said that some people's ideal lyrics, such as love or death, told in general, poetic ways seem to him to be about nothing. It is why he is a huge fan of rap. "That's what it means to be a good rapper, is to be specific ... and to be topical," he said, "as opposed to this other weird idea that I don't think anybody actually likes, which is to be abstract and deep."
Continuing on the rap discussion, he brought up a song from the Sugarhill Gang. "You can talk about some weird '60s Bob Dylan -- 'what's it all about?'" Koenig said. "To me, a more interesting question is 'What is 'Rapper's Delight' all about?' It's something that I thought about since I was 12. It's about sex in one verse, and there's also the verse about 'Did you ever go to a friend's house to eat, and the food just ain't no good.' To me that's a fundamentally different way of thinking about lyrics than what came before."