Growing up in suburban New York in the early 90s, MTV was strictly verboten in my household. Still, from time to time when my parents were otherwise occupied I’d sneak a peak at the forbidden fruit. One day after school I saw a scene from a movie: four knuckleheads in a car singing along to a piece of otherworldly operatic rock music. The movie was Wayne’s World and the song was ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen. I knew immediately I had to have the CD this incredible song came from: I needed to sing along just like these knuckleheads.
I was nine years old at the time and I would’ve had some money saved up from birthday presents. My parents took me to Tower Records on Central Avenue in Yonkers (R.I.P.) and I bought Queen‘s Greatest Hits. I spent much of 1994 singing along to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and even to this day it is a go-to karaoke song for me – which is not to say I can sing it well! It’s really challenging! As corny as it sounds, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ truly feels like a musical journey, something that can be difficult to get from a single piece of music. It means as much to me at twenty-nine as it did when I was nine.”
It’s really interesting listening to Baio talk; he’s an incredibly articulate and thoughtful speaker who is humble but still intensely realistic about his career and the music industry in general.
“If you’re in a band,” he says, “there’s a really fierce social construct where you’re going to play certain songs, and the audience know what they’ll get, but with a DJ they can play anything. It’s not as clean cut there. Sometimes you’ll have to deal with very drunk people who come up and tell you they hate everything you’re playing and in a way I think it’s a good thing, because it made me feel a little less complacent and more comfortable about making my own tracks and putting them out to the world.”
They used to air the famous ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ scene from Wayne’s World on MTV in the early-’90s. I think it still holds up. I got pretty obsessed with it and begged my parents to take my to Tower Records to buy Queen’s Greatest Hits. To this day ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is one of my favourite songs of all time.
First Album Handed Down To You: Bad Religion – Stranger than Fiction
I didn’t have an older sibling so most music was passed down to me by my parents. One day when I was nine or 10 my dad brought this record home and I found myself listening to it all the time—I really loved how fast the lyrics were. I started taking the CD over to sleepovers. It probably wasn’t handed down to me so much as stolen by me.
First Breakup Album: Beck – Sea Change
I’ve only gone through one breakup in my life and this album definitely held my hand through the process. Also had some good semi-ironic drunken singalongs to Billy Ray Cyrus’ ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ with bros in high school. Definitely recommend both if you’re going through a tough breakup!
Guilty Pleasure Album: Baio – Sunburn EP
I find this question tricky as I don’t believe in guilty pleasures! Really, in any circumstance. That said, my wife gives me shit anytime I’ve listened to my own stuff after it’s finished, and probably rightfully so.
Favourite Australian Album: The Dirty Three – Horse Stories
This record was a big one for me when I was in college. I’d definitely play it on my radio show a lot. Somehow a downer and uplifting at the same time. It’s a musical speedball.
Album You Once Loved: The-Dream – Love King (Deluxe Edition)
One of my happiest days over the last few years is being in Stockholm right when this record came out. Something about the crisp Scandinavian air and hearing an incredible album for the first time had me high on life. In a way I felt like I was in love. Also, the deluxe edition is definitely worth buying; the bonus tracks are just as good as the rest of the album.
Last Album You Bought: Romare – Meditations on Afrocentrism EP
Just bought this and have it heavily on repeat. It’s seriously dope.
The Album You Wish You’d Made: Can – Future Days
There’s so much to love about this album. It feels sprawling yet concise. It’s experimental without being alienating. Each track brings a unique-yet-heavy vibe. It does so much that I admire and strive for whenever I make tracks. Also: it sounds incredible at 2am. [via]
Yen: What would be your dream gig location to play (real or imagined)?
Baio: I’ve really loved every time I’ve DJ’d in Mexico and I’ve really loved every time I’ve DJ’d on a beach but I’ve never DJ’d on a beach in Mexico so this is my current dream.
Yen: If there were no limits, what would you have for sale in the Baio merchandise tent?
Baio: Baio hot sauce!
Yen: What’s your favourite pre-gig meal and drink? And worst pre-gig meal and drink?
Baio: I’ve learned that the closer I eat to a gig the worse I play – I also stopped drinking before Vampire Weekend gigs about four years ago. So I guess just some granny smith apples and water are my best pre-gig meal, which I know is boring. I guess the worst thing I could eat is a bacon cheeseburger five minutes before I get on stage. After a show I’m a sucker for sushi and some red wine on ice. I don’t know why but it’s what my body tells me it wants!
Baio: I found a sample off an old Spanish record of a dude saying “mira” and liked how percussive it sounded. In general, two syllable words are my favorite words musically. Mira means “to look” in Spanish and I like the idea of a track telling you to pay attention, listen up, check it out. Obviously music is an auditory form but I’m aiming to create a sensory experience – I want people to visualise things when they hear these tracks.
Yen: What were your influences and inspirations (both music and non-music) while making Mira?
Baio: I made these songs at the end of last year when I had a break from Vampire Weekend stuff. After putting out my first EP, Sunburn, I wanted to make something that banged harder and was more abrasive. I had some health issues last year and had to have emergency surgery – that definitely influenced the track ‘Welterweight’. ‘Banj’ was an attempt to make a digital sounding house track that takes place in the dessert – like watching a Malick film on your phone. ‘Zona’ was inspired a bit by Tarkovsky’s Stalker and the Geoff Dyer book about Stalker called Zona. I think there’s often something aspirational about a night out dancing in a way that reminds me of how the characters in Stalker hope to have their wishes come true in “the room.”
Yen: Have the other Vampire Weekend guys heard Mira yet? What do they think?
Baio: Yes, they were among the first people I sent the EP when it got mastered back in August. They wrote me some nice, supportive things!
2013 sees a return from Baio with the ‘Mira’ EP, which expands on an already vast and abstract sound whilst maintaining an irresistible, sun-drenched vibe.
'Banj' is a perfect example of Mira’s expanded sound. In it, Baio demonstrates his ability to produce mind-bending electronic music via doses of layered percussion, luscious, deep-down bass and pitched vocal edits. [LISTEN]
Title track ‘Mira' will be sure to make dancefloors move effortlessly with its euphoric, house-inspired synth stabs and throbbing bass progressions. [LISTEN]
Last year’s impressive debut is set to be eclipsed by the forthcoming ‘Mira’ EP and ‘Welterweight' is one reason why. Boldly contagious, 'Welterweight's' undeniable bounce is brought to life via sinister bass and humanized by the yearning vocals of Baio, before the chorus makes for an all round hands in the air moment as an array of blissful synths and warped melodies take over. [LISTEN (Baio on vocals, #bless)]
“When I was a little kid, I was in some musicals and some plays but I cut that off when I started playing guitar at 13,” says Baio on his brief stint in theatre. Unsurprisingly, he’s related to Scott Baio (of Happy Days and Arrested Development fame), but also shares his family tree with Boardwalk Empire’s Steve Buscemi. You’d think he was born to act, but as Baio explains, pedigree isn’t everything. “My father was a child actor until he was 18 and he was on an episode of The Monkees… He wasn’t the best actor,” he laughs. “I think I’d be even worse than my dad.”
“One of my biggest regrets in life is that I was a kid who played guitar, so there were songs I wrote when I was 16 years old but I never learnt how to record them,” says Baio. This unfamiliarity with recording lead to his fascination with production, not to mention his hobby of DJing in college. “I didn’t know how to mix when I was in college and I’d play a bunch of rap songs I found fun, but it takes a lot of time to learn how to sample a record and put songs together,” he says.
The interest was certainly there but it didn’t mean working solo was an easy move for Baio. “I guess there was insecurity there and I had the choice to not put myself out there and not try and make my own stuff,” he recalls, “but I got too into it and loved making my own stuff.” While Mira EP is decidedly different from any of Vampire Weekend’s releases, the real distinction Baio wants to make is between himself and other DJs. “There are people who DJ that just get drunk and play a bunch of hits, and that’s all fun, but I’m really into the whole craft of DJing.”
But being unexpected and pushing through insecurity is just Baio’s way. “I do like the idea of getting outside of my comfort zone and [boxing] was one example, just like producing tracks or, in the case of the EP, putting out a track with my vocals on it,” he says. “There was a similar inclination to get outside my shell a little bit.” [via pagesdigital]
They formed Vampire Weekend in 2006 while attending Columbia University. In 2007 the band signed to XL Recordings. Their self-titled debut album was released on January 29th, 2008. "Contra", the band's second album, was released on January 12th, 2010.
Their third album "Modern Vampires of the City" was released on May 14, 2013.