Rostam Batmanglij is producer and instrumentalist for the rock band Vampire Weekend. He chatted Nunn on One about the tour and trip back to Chicago.
Windy City Times: Hi, Rostam. Thanks for taking my call. I heard you are waiting for the cable guy.
Rostam Batmanglij: [ Laughs ] I just moved in last week.
WCT: You guys formed the band Vampire Weekend in college, correct?
Rostam Batmanglij: Yes, the four of us all went to Columbia. We were friends before the band. We worked together in different ways and then the band happened at the end of college.
WCT: Were you all studying other things?
Rostam Batmanglij: I was studying music. The drummer majored in music and economics, our bass player [ studied ] math/Russian and Ezra majored in English.
WCT: Interesting. The band has been around for a few years now.
Rostam Batmanglij: Well, it has been more than four years now.
WCT: I saw you perform in Chicago this last time. I went both nights, actually.
Rostam Batmanglij: Oh, wow. Thank you.
WCT: It was sold out both nights. The band is currently being sued for use of the cover model. You could have painted one instead since you are an artist.
Rostam Batmanglij: [ Laughs ] As a kid I was really into art. I spent a lot of high school in the art room, drawing and painting. I did it every chance that I got. I guess at some point I was more drawn to music. Music was something I had to work for a little more, where art came pretty easily. I don't know what that says about me.
WCT: Well, music is more a math thing so that side of the brain. Tell me about your group, Discovery.
Rostam Batmanglij: Discovery started the summer of 2005. Wes Miles from Ra Ra Riot called me and that was how it started. From there we became really committed. We had time when we were both back from touring so over the course of four years when we were both in town we would get together and work on songs. Pretty soon we had a manifesto of what we wanted for the record. A lot of vocal harmonies, hand claps, fuzzy synths and we also wanted to mess with pop music, fuck with it a little bit.
WCT: I can tell. You wrote a song on the album LP called "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend."
Rostam Batmanglij: Because the song writing on that one was so fractured it was like putting it down and taking it back up again. That one had a hook and I had my friend Angel Deradoorian sing on it. I sang the verses of the song, which doesn't make too much sense.
WCT: You have all these other projects, like Converse.
Rostam Batmanglij: Well, Converse is a one-time thing.
WCT: And Boys Like Us?
Rostam Batmanglij: Boys Like Us will basically be anything that I just do myself. Vampire Weekend and Discovery is never just one person's creative output. It is a collaboration. Boys Like Us might be more than just music. I don't have it under my name so I can have a little detachment from it. Do you know what I mean?
WCT: I do. I write under different names sometimes. How was your family with you being gay?
Rostam Batmanglij: Coming out is a process. Someone once said, "We are always coming out." I think if you expect to be like ripping a Band-Aid off your skin then you are in for a surprise, because it doesn't work out that wayat least for me; maybe for other people it does. When coming out, it was important just to talk about things. Some things that are obvious to you or me might not be to people from a different generation, like our parents. In the case of my parents, they had very hybridized upbringing.
My dad went to boarding school in England, my mom grew up in Iran and they both went to college in America; afterwards they came back to Iran. Their values are the product of those upbringings. I just found it was important to communicate with them and talk about myself. Which is sometimes not an easy thing to do.
WCT: Well, sure. Was it hard coming out gay publicly?
Rostam Batmanglij: It was something that I knew I always wanted to do. I never thought to myself that I would never come out. I think that anyone should be able to do whatever they want in terms of coming out in their careers. I think people should do what feels natural to them. It felt natural for me to come out in the point in my career that I did.
WCT: My take on it is that I like Vampire Weekend's music first and foremost. To find out that there was a gay member made it even better because I can relate to that being gay myself.
Rostam Batmanglij: I know what you mean, sure. I am always up for doing gay press. I think it is good to do it.
WCT: Great; that's why I am here. Is this upcoming show the same as the last one I saw?
Rostam Batmanglij: We played most of the songs from the second album but one song that we didn't is "I Think Ur a Contra." It is one of my favorites on the record, so I am looking forward to it. It doesn't really have a beat until the end. The beat is gentle and intricate. It is one the songs that I am most proud of on the record.
WCT: Well, I look forward to hearing it live this time out.
Rostam Batmanglij: We will see you then. The cable guy is heregotta go!
Vampire Weekend will be at the Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, Sunday Sept. 5. The show starts at 7 p.m. Visit www.ticketmaster.com or www.jamusa.com for details.