Chris Baio is a "Man of the World"

Chris Baio is a "Man of the World"

The London transplant is so much more than just Vampire Weekend's bassist.

The London transplant is so much more than just Vampire Weekend's bassist.

Text: E.R. PULGAR

It's odd to think that Chris Baio has been living in London for four years now. After touring the world for years as the bassist for Vampire Weekend, a band that has become irrevocably associated with New York City in the early 2000s, Baio moved across the pond. In those four years, Baio has experienced Brexit, the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, and recorded a new solo album appropriately entitled Man of the World. Stylized under his last name, Baio's sophomore effort is colored by his status as a transplanted Londoner.  "I think being an American living in London...all of a sudden there's this kind of distance, and this kind of tension in that you’re far away from your home country, but you become more and more aware of how you represent it," he muses. "You see how, in little things you may not even be perceptive of, you carry your country with you."

As he gears up for Man of the World to be released, he's been shooting videos for the singles, most notably last week's "PHILOSOPHY!" which sees him interacting with colored skeletons and disco balls in a kind of nu disco danse macabre. He jokingly calls the skeletons an evolution from the skulls he interacted with on his video for "The Names," the title track from his solo debut.

"I was watching a Depeche Mode documentary, and there's a point in it where Anton Corbijn is interviewed about the video for 'Enjoy The Silence.' Anton’s idea for the video was to dress up lead singer Dave Gahan as a king walking through the Swiss Alps with a deck chair." Baio admires the simplicity, even though it was nonsensical.  "When I'm making videos for my solo project, I'm basically a prop comic, but I do really like simple videos of people interacting with props. It's a simple idea, but the simple idea of someone interacting with a prop—I kind of like that. "

Baio made his name with Vampire Weekend contributing bass lines and arrangements, but was hungry to create his own musicthen came Sunburn. "The EP came from wanting to learn to be a producer, but I didn't know the first thing about production. I was very lucky to play in a band with an incredible producer and tour the world with great musicians for a couple years, but I didn't know the first thing about how to make a song on my own."Eventually, after years of trying, I came up with the names for the record that came out about two years ago now."

When he talks about Man of The World, he exudes a reluctant confidence. The new record is more in line with the indie rock one might expect from Vampire Weekend, but with Baio's unique, electronic-geared lens. A longtime DJ, he's been spinning everything from King Tubby to Alma Negra of Swedish house label Basic Fingers. "This record feels like a really natural progression. I sang way more than I ever have in my life and really wanted this record to be focused on the vocals and songwriting. This time I really wanted the record to be all songs instead of tracks, and still incorporate that electronic influence." He points to the sparse electronic beats on “I'm Not Curious”, the ninth track of the new record, a more downbeat track that Baio christened "electronic dub reggae." "I’ve been a frustrated producer, and then became a satisfied producer, or I guess more confident in my abilities."

Courtesy of Glassnote Music

In our increasingly imbalanced world, and coming from a band that has never shied away from the political, Baio made Man of the World far away from everything he knew, attempting to compartmentalize 2016 the only way he knew how. One of the songs, "Out of Tune", takes a direct jab at the vitriol that would come to define Trump's campaign and current administration. "I know I’ll look back on this record as something I absolutely had to do. I say that in the sense of I wasn't planning on making a second record so quickly. When I sat down and started writing, this whole thing came out of me and there was really no turning back."

All this said, what makes Man of the World, and Baio's post-national perspective as an American living in London, so compelling is it's ability to carve out a balance between heavy themes and a sound that feels hopeful, even triumphant. "I always think that any interpretation of what I'm putting out there is 100% valid, and whatever someone takes from a track I make or a lyric that I write is entirely theirs to keep."

When asked about the album as escapism from the muck of today's political landscape, Baio is keen to clarify that it was made, more than anything, as an expression of paranoia. "If other people hear the record and feel a little less alone in their paranoia and their fear, if they use it as pure escapism, I think that's a beautiful thing."

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