Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig grew up in New Jersey, and for that reason alone, one would assume Bruce Springsteen has been a constant in his life ever since childhood. Yet, it wasn’t until Ezra got older that ‘The Boss’ became an immediate presence in his life after spending decades lurking on the periphery.
While they both were raised in the same region, Koenig was never a blue-collar worker like Bruce, and following his graduation from University, the singer spent time as a teacher before things started to kick off with the band. Then things started to elevate with Vampire Weekend when the group emerged in public consciousness back in 2008. After that record, he started to live permanently on the road, with New Jersey turning into a distant memory.
It didn’t take too long for the group to land themselves indie darling status and created an early online buzz, which eventually landed them a deal with British independent label XL Recordings. From there, they released their eponymous debut album in 2008, and when home got further out of reach, the more often Koenig found himself returning to Springsteen.
Despite their geographical proximity, Koenig never fell in love with ‘The Boss’ during his early formative years. Even though he knew Bruce’s biggest songs, he didn’t love them. His music was just a background figure, and it wasn’t until Ezra grew up when he gaged a deeper understanding from them and finally appreciated his genius.
Speaking to Pitchfork in 2010, Koenig revealed Born in the U.S.A. was the one record that soundtracked him being 25, which came around the time Vampire Weekend’s debut transformed his life.
“Born in the U.S.A. was an album my parents didn’t have; it came out too late. For a long time, I just couldn’t get down with that kind of 80s production. Especially when I was a teenager, it was hard for me to listen to the 80s work of some of the older masters,” he revealed.
“All the songs on Born in the U.S.A. are always floating around, but it wasn’t until I heard ‘My Hometown’ on the radio or something I got really psyched to get the album. I just listened to it constantly. Maybe it has something to do with starting to feel more nostalgic for growing up in New Jersey, which is also cheesy to say. Obviously, it’s more complicated, and everybody has their own relationship to where they grew up.”
Koenig then delved into his music taste as a kid, revealing he’d listen to Tribe Called Quest or Operation Ivy rather than Bruce, but, over time, that has shifted. He added, “I knew other kids at school who were totally going to Bruce Springsteen concerts with their parents and jamming ‘Rosalita’ in the car. I was not totally buying into that, but then in some ways I had nostalgia for that, too.”
The singer concluded, “I’ve gone through a lot of favourite songs from the album. For a while, ‘I’m Goin’ Down’ was my favourite, and I listened to that constantly. Partially, it may have been the headspace that I was in at the time. It had this happy feel, but somewhat depressing lyrics about going down.”
Music tastes are ever-changing and constantly evolving, just like we do as people. While Koenig didn’t have the appetite for Springsteen during his childhood, as his life developed, Born in the U.S.A. grew in importance and more significantly, relativity while offering a slice of home in his pocket.