Arni Arnason, (seen here on the left), bass player with English indie rock band, The Vaccines, chats with Kevin Cooper about Freddie Cowan leaving the band, their first ever live show at The Rescue Rooms Nottingham, the release of their latest album in 2024 Pick-Up Full Of Pink Carnations, and next year’s tour of the UK.

Arni Arnason is a bass player with English indie rock band The Vaccines who were formed in London in 2010.

Whilst studying at college he was a very busy bassist playing with Judy and Bailey Tzuke on tour and the Sony signed band The New Devices. From his presence in the vibrant live music scene of Camden and Shoreditch, he very quickly established himself as a very talented bass player.

Since forming The Vaccines, they have toured extensively with acts such as The Rolling Stones, Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, Phoenix, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Imagine Dragons and Muse.

They have released five studio albums, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? in 2011, Come Of Age in 2012, English Graffiti in 2015 and their fourth album Combat Sports released in 2018 charted at number four in the UK charts and culminated with a show at London’s 10,200 capacity venue Alexandria Palace. Their fifth studio album Back In Love City was released in 2021 to critical acclaim.

In 2011 they won the NME Awards Best New Band and the following year the XFM’s New Music Award.

The Vaccines will be releasing their sixth studio album Pick-Up Full Of Pink Carnations in 2024 and to coincide with its release the band have announced a UK and EU headline tour and a US tour with The Kooks.

While spending time with his family in Iceland, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Arni good afternoon, how are you today?

I’m not too bad actually Kevin, how are you feeling?

I’m doing very well, thank you, and before we move on let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Don’t worry, it’s my pleasure.

And I have to ask, just how is life treating you at this moment it time?

Yes, life is not bad; I’m currently at home with the family over here in Iceland where people are already boarding up ready for the winter.

Is Iceland currently as cold as it is here in the UK?

(Laughter) I’m actually not that sure as to what the temperature is over there in the UK but over here, I have to say that it really is not too bad at all. You will never walk into a building that is cold over here because we have dual central heating, so you never really have to think about being cold indoors even when it is very cold outside.

As you know, over here in the UK, as soon as we see the first fluttering of snow, the whole country comes to a total standstill (laughter).

(Laughter) as you know I actually lived over there in the UK for about thirteen years, so I actually got used to that (laughter). I have to say that it is a lot different over here.

I have to tell you that you have made me feel old today.

(Laughter) really, why is that?

I was just checking to see when the first time that I reviewed and photographed the band and it was back in November 2015 on your English Graffiti Tour, when you played the Motorpoint Arena here in Nottingham.

Wow, that’s quite a while ago now. I actually remember that it really was a good show.

Yes, it really was but coming right up to date we really should talk about your latest album, Pick-Up Full Of Pink Carnations.

Okay if we really must (laughter).

Firstly, I have to ask, where did the title come from?

(Laughter) it’s just a line from a lyric from one of our older songs which I can’t for the life of me remember which one. We have done this a couple of times before; we have just grabbed a lyrical phrase and used that. In fact, English Graffiti was also a similar thing, but the song never found its way onto the album. So, we found ourselves using the title of a song that we didn’t release. It’s just a fun phrase from a song (laughter).

From writing to recording, how long did it take you to put the album together?

Justin (James Hayward-Young) started the writing process probably in late 2021 early 2022 and we started envisaging just how we wanted the album to sound in or around March 2022. I have to be totally honest with you and say that we actually had most of the album finished and ready to go when we went into the studio in September 2023. We played a run of festivals back in 2022 during which we were grabbing any available opportunity to get our heads into record mode.

I have to say that I have been playing the album for a couple of weeks now and I think that it is a great piece of work.

Thank you very much, that is very kind.

As Sir Elton John said way back in 1973 Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player but listening to the album I felt that there was a bit of Coldplay together with a bit of Kasabian in there.

Oh wow, okay. I personally hadn’t as yet picked up on that, but I have to say that’s not bad company I don’t think.

No, not at all, although I suppose that you could always put a question mark at the side of Coldplay (laughter).

I’ve got nothing against them; they are a giant stadium rock band (laughter).

I have to say that yes, they write good music for BMW sales advertisements on the television (laughter).

Yes, they do, exactly (hysterical laughter).

Are you and the boys happy with the album?

Yes, we are, we most definitely are. Considering that it was our first attempt at doing something whilst we were missing Freddie (Cowan). It really was a bit like jumping in at the deep end and we weren’t too sure whether it was all going to work out or not so we just kind of did it in two sessions. We found ourselves working on half of the album in order to take stock and see just how we felt about it. I have to say that we came away from that session feeling like it was the most fun and fruitful session that we had ever had really. So, we were super pumped to get the album finished. So I think that overall, it was a massive success for our moral together with the wellbeing of the band so I would say that at this moment in time we are in really good shape.

You have briefly mentioned Freddie, was it a blow when he left the band?

I have to be totally honest with you and say that I don’t know really. Freddie had been with us for a long time, and it is very noticeable when your paths start to veer away from one another. It wasn’t a blow as such; I think that we all kind of expected Freddie to take a step back at some point. It soon becomes obvious that you are missing a limb a little bit, and that you are taking a chance that you can grow another one (laughter). I love Freddie very dearly. He is still today my favourite guitarist, and there was absolutely no grudge within that decision. I think that it is important for people to be true to themselves, do what they need to do, and if that is what Freddie needed to do then we all supported him on his decision.

Going back to the album, you know better than I that these things change like the weather but at the moment I have got four go to tracks. They are Lunar Escape, Sunkissed, Another Nightmare and Love To Walk Away. I personally feel that those four tracks are absolutely fantastic.

Thank you and I have to totally agree with you, I like those tracks as well.

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

I think that my favourite track at the moment is Sometimes I Swear which I feel is really big and anthemic, and I feel like we really needed a track like that, and that was the song that really wrapped it all up for me.

A lot of the fans are saying that it is your best work to date, would you agree with that?

(Laughter) yes, of course. Of course, I would agree with that, who would I be if I didn’t (laughter). I definitely think that the music feels the most united that we have ever felt and sounded on any of our previous albums. I feel that this is the nucleus of the band, and we are really on display with the new album. This is probably all related to my experience recording the album, which was one of pure harmony and togetherness, which I feel comes through on this album. So, all in all I would have to say yes, this is most definitely our strongest and best album to date.

Putting you on the spot, six albums in, where would you place this one?

I can’t quite form my personal opinion on the album until it has been released, and it is finally out there, and we have played it live. But I would personally say my favourite Vaccines work is the older stuff that we have done. If I listen to The Vaccines stuff it will either be English Graffiti or the Melody Calling EP. They are more disjointed and on the more hyper-pop side of what it is that we do, and the new album isn’t. As such, I think that it takes its seat next to our first couple of albums, or even Combat Sports which has that rowdy rock energy which normally translates much better when played live which means that I have high hopes because this music is music that is written to be played live.

You have a release date for the album of 12th January 2024. Would you say that the current period of time that we find ourselves in is the calm before the storm?

(Laughter) yes, I would most definitely, one hundred percent (laughter). As you know I am currently in Iceland, but I won’t be here for very long. In fact, I don’t think that I will see Iceland for the first seven months of next year. So yes, you are one hundred percent correct when you say that. I am just enjoying some kind of normality at the moment, and soon I will be enjoying road madness (laughter).

You mention road madness, are you looking forward to being back out on the road?

Yes, I am, I am really looking forward to being back out on the road. As I said earlier, we have been doing a couple of summer’s of festival runs, which I have to say whilst they are incredibly fun to do there is nothing quite like going out on a proper tour. It has been a while since we have done that, in fact, we haven’t done that to any real extent since pre-Covid. So, there are places around the world that I am looking forward to going back to, and there are places around the world that I am looking forward to visiting for the very first time. For me, it is the touring that is the best part of being in a band.

Without giving too much away, how many of the new songs will make it onto the set list for the forthcoming tour?

That is a very good question at the moment. We always try to play a fan friendly set, so we will always play a bunch of songs that the audience know the words to (laughter). But, at this moment in time I feel that we will have at least half of the new album on the go, so fifty percent of the songs will be in the set at some point on the tour.

On Wednesday 7th February you will be playing here in Nottingham at Rock City. I am told that you have an amusing story regarding Rock City and The Vaccines. Would you like to share it with me?

(Laughter) just who have you been speaking to? (laughter). We have an interesting relationship with Rock City. I believe that it was our very first ever show and we were due to play next door to the main hall in The Rescue Rooms. We were playing there under a different name because at that time we cycled through quite a lot of names for one reason or another. We were sat outside The Rescue Rooms in our van, all ready to play our very first show. There were hundreds of people queuing around the block; we were so excited, and we simply couldn’t believe the excitement for a band who didn’t have a name at the time. As we got inside The Rescue Rooms, we realised that it was as though we were about to play in someone’s front room (laughter). It then hit us that the people who had been queuing up were waiting to get into Rock City (laughter).

We played to nobody except the poor lady who was working behind the bar. We actually performed the gig in front of our manager, and his wife, who had driven up from London to see the gig and the lady who was working behind the bar; that was the sum total of our audience (laughter). We had all gone vintage shopping in Nottingham a little earlier during the day and I had bought myself a jumper which I wore for the gig and as I came off stage the only comment that our manager made to me was, “that is a really ugly jumper” (laughter). So, as you can see, we have a long-standing relationship with that part of Nottingham (laughter). We actually got to play the main hall in Rock City back in 2011 and as you know, we have played it a few times since. I have to say that Nottingham is one of my favourite places in the whole of the UK and Rock City is one of my favourite venues.

The band was formed back in 2010. At this current moment in time is the band in a place where you would have wanted to be, or have you surpassed all expectations?

We have gone way beyond that, I don’t know if any of us expected this. If we had got to play the Bar Fly back in the day, we would have been happy so, I really don’t think that any of us had any expectations to be doing this some thirteen years later.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

Wow, I have to say that over the years there have been a few. There are few Glastonbury experiences that have been unbelievable, but I would have to say that playing Alexandra Palace is always a gigantic highlight but as I say, it has now been quite a while and there really are so many (laughter). Let’s say that we don’t know as the best is yet to come (laughter).

Who has influenced you personally?

Back in the day, I was very much into Washington D.C. hardcore which was the hardcore punk scene coming out of Washington, D.C. and all that kind of stuff. I took a lot of inspiration from that sort of 80s hard core punk kind of things. I feel like just doing what we do is quite an inspiring experience. You can often get very inspired and influenced by the people who you are on tour with, and we have been lucky enough to tour with some of the greatest bands in rock history basically, and I have to say that a lot of those people have left a big mark. I have to tell you that I was never a Flea fan as a kid; I just didn’t get it (laughter).

Whenever I think of bass players, I immediately think of James Jamerson of The Funk Brothers and Motown fame.

Yes, of course, that was who you looked up to when you were studying as a kid; basically it was all that you did. I would sit for hours studying the notation of James Jamerson bass lines, and I have to thank the person who could be arsed to transcribe all of those things (laughter). There really was some wild stuff. That is how I basically learnt to play the bass, looking back at old James Jamerson bass lines.

Now I am going to test your memory if I may.

Good luck with that, I don’t think that you will get very far but let’s see (laughter).

What was the first record that you bought?

The first record that I have any memory of buying, because I am sure that I had some earlier ones, was Dookie by Green Day. And that is most probably a far cooler answer than the reality because the reality is most probably something else (laughter). I have a vivid memory of actually going into the record store and buying that record because of its wild cover. At that time, I had absolutely no idea what the record was, but I loved the cover. Back then the music that I was really into as a teenager was 90s hip-hop, stuff like Wu-Tang Clan, Tu Pack, and all sorts of things so it will be somewhere around there.

Who did you first see performing live?

I obviously grew up in Iceland and there really weren’t a great deal of international acts coming through, but the first one that I did see was most probably The Prodigy. It really was, for me, a life altering experience.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

I have to be totally honest with you and tell you that it is a frequent occurrence for me so it wouldn’t have been a long time ago now (laughter). So, the record that I am obsessing over at the moment and the one that has bought me to tears, not necessarily because of the emotional content of it but because of just how incredible I think that it is, is a 2017 album by Fiest called Pleasure. That really is my favourite album these days.

What is currently on your live tour rider?

To be honest with you the band are pretty conservative and considerate; there is not that much madness going on there. Freddie had all of these health shop products that we got rid of when he stopped, and replaced it with a local treat, which is probably the most adventurous that we go nowadays (laughter). We ask for some sort of a local treat wherever we go. What will be the local treat when we get up there to Nottingham?

That could be anything from a pork pie to a sausage roll to a pint of locally brewed beer (laughter).

(Laughter) well I have to say that any one of those would be perfectly fine. I would be totally happy with any one of those.

On that note Arni let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today it’s been delightful. Good luck with the tour and I will hopefully see you here in Nottingham.

Thank you very much Kevin, I have thoroughly enjoyed that. Take care and we will see you in Nottingham.