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The Vampire Weekend song that samples Radiohead


Vampire Weekend made a name for themselves towards the tail end of the New York indie rock boom of the 2000s. While acts like The Strokes and Interpol were struggling to stay together towards the end of the decade, Ezra Koenig and his band of Ivy League scholars broke through with a potent mix of indie pop and alternative rock.

When the group welcomed the new decade with 2010’s Contra, it was mostly a continuation of the sound they had established with their debut LP Vampire Weekend. That meant a lot of African drums, a lot of breakneck tempos, and a lot of comparisons to Paul Simon. It also showed the band’s increased interest in electronica and technology, with tracks like ‘White Sky’ and ‘Giving Up the Gun’ showing off a pronounced synthetic sound.

“I got the idea for the song from a book my Dad gave me called Giving Up The Gun,” Koenig told NME about the latter track. “It’s a history book about the time when Japan expelled all the foreigners from the country, closed off all trade, and stopped using guns and reverted back to the sword. It seems unimaginable now that humanity could willingly go back to an older technology. It got me thinking about whether you could give up the things that you have and go back to a simpler way of life.”

‘Giving Up the Gun’ helped foreshadow the more experimental sounds that the band would embrace on their follow-up, 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City. It also has the distinction of being the rare song to feature a non-obvious sample from rock gods Radiohead.

At the very beginning of ‘Giving Up the Gun’, there is a blast of electronic noise and beeps that are paired with hand drums. That electronic sweep of noise is brief, but it makes for the perfect intro to a song that chooses to forgo most of the elements of a traditional rock arrangement. Who better to take inspiration from when it comes to deviating from the standard rock and roll norm than Radiohead?

Those bleeps and bloops actually aren’t very hard to find. They’re not from some unreleased bootleg or from a hidden B-side that only Radiohead devotees know of. The sample included in ‘Giving Up the Gun’ is actually present on one of Radiohead’s most famous albums, OK Computer. An album filled with anxiety about modern life also happens to have quite a few futuristic sounds, including a series of seemingly random synthesiser notes at the end of the track ‘Let Down’.

That synthesiser sequence at the end of ‘Let Down’ was later chopped up and reused by Vampire Weekend for the intro of ‘Giving Up the Gun’. It’s unclear whose idea exactly it was to sample Radiohead, but both Koenig and Rostam Batmanglij are credited on the record with programming. Batmanglij is specifically credited with sampler programming, so in all likelihood, he’s the one who brought in the brief bit of Radiohead to include in the song.

Check out both ‘Let Down’ and ‘Giving Up the Gun’ down below.