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May 10/2016
INTERVIEW Lynda Vang PHOTOGRAPHY Brendan Meadows

“I’ve had an itch to make a record for a really long time. You get to create your own world when you make a record. It was really fun.” As Chris Baio talks about his recently released solo debut, The Names (Glassnote Records), there is a hint of excitement in his voice. Better known as the bassist of Vampire Weekend, Chris steps into the spotlight as BAIO – the electropop music producer with art rock sensibilities and meticulous production.

“Once I started to write songs I knew I couldn’t look back,” explains Chris. “I knew I was good enough and that I wanted to put it out there into the world.” Although his own musical universe started to come into fruition, Chris sat on the project for a while until this past fall when The Names was released. “Making the album and then sitting on it was a different kind of crazy because I felt like I had made the exact record I wanted to – a record where I wouldn’t change a single thing, but no one else in the world had heard it. It was a bit excruciating, but when it finally came out I got to start playing shows and playing music for people. It made me really happy because this world that I created, this thing in my head, suddenly became a real thing that other people could experience.”

Currently on tour in Europe, Chris continues to carve a name for himself as a solo artist, something that is admittedly challenging after finding such success with Vampire Weekend. “It’s thrilling to have something that’s entirely my own. I think there have been a few challenges along the way but I’ve been enjoying myself so far.” As for the differences between playing bass on the side and stepping out centre stage, Chris remains ever the consummate performer: “I always have so much fun playing live no matter what. Playing bass on stage is a pretty wonderful feeling and getting to sing a song in front of an audience of people that are really enthusiastic is a wonderful feeling, too. I’ve been waiting to get out and perform consistently, and now that I’m doing it I’m a very happy person.”

The Names is a thrilling electropop record with art rock influences that take the listener on a musical journey from short, punchy electropop songs to sprawling instrumentation and experimentation – all within a concise 40 minutes. “I love records like that,” explains Chris. “I love art rock records where it’s not particularly long but there’s tons of experimentation. That was where I was coming from with my record.” The title of the record, The Names, is a direct reference to Don DeLillo’s 1982 novel of the same title. “The novel is about an American living in Greece and his experience in Athens. Many of the themes involve paranoia and the idea of how you carry your country in your identity when you live abroad. For me this really came together when I moved from New York to London about two and a half years ago. It was the first time in my life where I was regularly reminded of my “American-ness.”

From growing up in Bronxville (coincidentally, also the home of DeLillo) to Vampire Weekend and its strong ties to New York, to his current project BAIO (where he’s an American expat in London), a strong sense of place has been inextricably tied to his musical journey. “I think I carry a little bit of these places with me as I get older. My time growing up in Bronxville – a suburban New York town – will always be etched in me. There will always be a bit of New York in my identity and now I feel that there is a bit of a London imprint on me as well. Things constantly change and mutate every day. That’s the nice thing about being alive – there’s so much to draw inspiration from and get excited by.”



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