Web extra interview: Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij

Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend. CBS News

(CBS News) Raised in Washington, D.C., by parents who fled the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Rostam Batmanglij began his musical education at a young age, as a performer and a mixer of sounds -- gifts which have now flourished in the success of his band, Vampire Weekend.

In this web-exclusive interview, Batmanglij tells correspondent Anthony Mason about his measure of what makes a good song, and why he's glad his music is NOT played on pop radio.


Anthony Mason: "You started playing music pretty early."

Rostam Batmanglij: "Yeah."

Mason: "How many different instruments do you play?"

Batmanglij: "I can usually make some sound come out of something (laughs), if I spend enough time with it. I guess my first instrument was the recorder when I was about five or six. But I really wanted to learn the flute and that's what I started learning, when I was seven."

Mason: "Wow."

Batmanglij: "And then I stuck with that for about seven years and I got very burned out, honestly, by the time I was about 14. I didn't want to ever have to play it again."

Mason: "Do you ever pick it up anymore?"

Batmanglij: "Yes, from time to time. But I think I was more interested in harmony, which you can't really do on the flute, as a 14-year-old. It was drawing me towards the guitar and the piano because, you know, they were instruments where you could play more than one note at the same time."

Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend performs at Roseland Ballroom on April 28, 2013 in New York City.
Donald Bowers/Getty Images for American Express

Mason: "How did you pick the flute in the beginning?"

Batmanglij: "I don't know exactly. It might have been because my older brother was learning the clarinet and I wanted to be a little bit like him. (laughs)"

Mason: "But not exactly the same."

Batmanglij: "Yeah."

Mason: "That's funny. So when did this interest in sort of mixing in music and creating things start?"

Batmanglij: "I started playing guitar when I was 14. My guitar teacher, he was one of those great people who wanted to teach you anything you want to learn. And at the same time, he would push me. So he could play any kind of guitar -- rock guitar, classical guitar, jazz. And the first day, I just wanted to learn, you know, whatever was on alternative radio.

"So I was like, 'How do you play this Radiohead song? How do you play Counting Crows?' That's what I was listening to at that age. And then, after I got through those, he would say, 'Okay, now it's time for you to learn a Jimmi Hendrix song.' And then he would say, 'Now, it's time for you to learn, 'The Girl From Ipanema'. (laughs)

"And then I think slowly I just became more interested in, how were these songs being put together? I remember, it was a big deal when I got my first four-track, which let you record four different tracks on top of each other."

Mason: "Right."

Batmanglij: "And I started sort of laying guitar parts. That was kind of the beginning of being interested in recording. And then, from there I convinced my parents to let me have a drum set in my bedroom."

"I dunno why they agreed to do it. Might have made their lives kind of tough for a while. (laughs) But once I started to have these instruments in my room, I was kind of teaching myself how to put recordings together and teaching myself how to play and teaching myself how everything fit together."

Mason: "You were a one-man band."

Batmanglij: "Yeah. What's interesting about Vampire Weekend, everyone in the band, except for me, had a band in high school in which they were the lead singers. And I'm the one who never had that experience. I was more interested in recording music. Having a band didn't interest me in the same way."

Mason: "It sounds like you didn't need a band. You were doing it all yourself, anyway. (laughs)"

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter