Q&A: Chris Baio talks solo project, touring, life in London

Megan Hix

Chris Baio is making the most of his SXSW. The Vampire Weekend bassist’s solo act, Baio, has a total of eight shows booked throughout the week. Baio took the time to talk to The Daily Texan about his album, his signature dance moves and making the video for “The Names.”

The Daily Texan: You’ve already played this week. How was it?
Chris Baio: It was fun. I guess because we’ve been on tour, we’ve been playing some shows that were more high-pressure, a little bit busier. This was just a chill room, so I enjoyed it. Then I DJed at the Tumblr party afterward at Mohawk, and I hadn't been to Mohawk in maybe eight years. The last time I was there was before the first Vampire Weekend record came out, and it’s very, very different.

DT: How is touring “The Names” different than touring with Vampire Weekend?
CB: The performance side is cool. I love playing music in any form. If that means playing bass, I always get really excited, and then if it's singing, it’s kind of the same thing but holding a microphone instead of a bass. Definitely the difference is that with the band it’s a huge operation, and with me, it’s just me and George, who plays guitar. We didn’t have a tour manager or anything up until SXSW started, so it was literally two guys in a van driving around Europe. But I loved it. It was really fun and it’s so, so different. Also, George doesn't drive, so I’ve been doing all the drives. It’s been a long time since I drove for six hours and then played a show that night, so I end up feeling a maybe bit sleepier at the end than I do on a Vampire Weekend tour, but it’s fun.

DT: You’re pretty well known for your dance moves while playing bass. Does that carry over into this tour?
CB: Yeah, it’s different. I get a lot less sweaty because I’m not holding a heavy bass on my back. It took me a while to figure out why I wasn’t getting sweaty. Basses are fucking heavy and you forget that when you play bass every day. I still dance like an idiot, that’s not going anywhere.

DT: How do you think moving to London influenced the record?
CB: My relationship to America as an American living in another country is something that I’ve thought about and I think is reflected on a lot of the lyrics of the record… And then just being in a new city and being energized by that and inspired by that is a big part. I’d say that London, in its own way, is a character on the record.

DT: In your music video for “The Names,” what’s the story with the skull?
CB: I was just sort of thinking about striking imagery. My favorite films, like “Persona,” are a lot about how it looks, how it’s stylized, how the frame is set up. I was thinking a little bit about “Hamlet.” Obviously that’s pretty iconic, him talking to the skull… I like the idea that it’s open to interpretation, just thinking of interesting setups for a guy to be walking around with a skull. There’s something weird, funny and maybe a little dark about that.

DT: How was your experience directing and editing the video?
CB: I’d always wanted to edit it. I’ve been interested in what it’s like to be a film editor and the amount of control and power, how you can shape how something runs. Luckily, editing on a computer, if you know how to do electronic music, it’s sort of the same form; you’re just adding visuals instead of sound.


DT: How would you describe your relationship with fans on Twitter?
CB: I think, like anything, you can kind of create your own world. Making a record is the same principle. You create your own world when you make a record or your Twitter feed. I will say my Twitter game has dropped off as I’ve been on touring this record but I do want to get back into trying my best to be funny on Twitter.

DT: How does it feel when other people remix your music?
CB: I love it a lot. It’s exciting when you get that first email and the person sends it over. It’s just a new perspective on something that you’ve made. I love it, I really do. I guess because I like remixing a lot and hearing what other people do. There have been some really great ones. I view that as one of the great joys of having put out this record.