Rostam Leaves Vampire Weekend: What Does It Mean for the Band's Future?

Vampire Weekend
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for A+E Networks

Vampire Weekend perform onstage at the 2014 A+E Networks Upfront on May 8, 2014 in New York City.  

Vampire Weekend was not particularly interested in being associated with bands anyway.”

Ezra Koenig, frontman of the -- shall we say -- collective, said this last year, guesting on the podcast of Tanlines member Jesse Cohen.

Rostam Batmanglij Leaves Vampire Weekend, But Hints Band Isn't Over

On Tuesday (Jan. 26), Rostam Batmanglij announced he is no longer in Vampire Weekend. Batmanglij (who goes by Rostam for his new solo endeavor) was a founding member of the group, who co-wrote all of its music and produced its first two albums in full, only ceding some production input to Ariel Rechtshaid on their third and most recent album, 2013’s Modern Vampires of the City. But their casket hasn’t been lowered. Vampire Weekend will indeed continue and Rostam’s goodbye note is just about the most open-ended goodbye possible. It has everything to do with his and Ezra’s subversion of the band archetype.

“For now in the Vampire Weekend universe, it's all about recording the next album,” Koenig assured today over Instagram. He’s excited to hear Rostam’s future work, eager to keep playing with bassist Chris Baio and drummer Chris Tomson, and expects “a lot of familiar faces in the studio but also some fresh, new ones.”

Koenig knows Vampire Weekend’s living, breathing existence was never contingent on him and Rostam standing on the same stage. Justin Timberlake has his Timbaland and Drake has his Noah "40" Shebib; in many ways, Rostam was always the production mastermind, just one who broke the mold by actually being in the band. Speaking with Cohen, Koenig admitted he never truly lived for touring and playing live. Vampire Weekend toured frequently behind its three records, but its members never seemed like road warriors. The Rostam-Koenig brain trust was most at home in the studio, free to indulge in genre-blending alchemy that didn’t quite translate to playing guitar, bass, keyboards and drums before an audience. 

“I always thought of [Rostam] not so much as a rock guy, but somebody who liked to make music in his dorm room,” Ezra said, thinking back to Vampire Weekend’s Columbia residence hall origin. “Someone who was interested in production as a general concept.”

Could Vampire Weekend evolve into a studio-centric entity, releasing music with a revolving door of collaborators and leaving time for few, if any, live shows? Koenig has hinted at new music this year, though a full-fledged album cycle could take some time. Vampire Weekend's members, past and present, appear enveloped in other creative projects. 

Earlier this month, Rostam released a solo song called “EOS” via XL Recordings, opening the door to a potential solo career on Vampire Weekend’s label. In recent years, he has produced tracks for the tastemaker-friendly likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, Charli XCX, Santigold and Ra Ra Riot

Koenig’s career is full of one-off collaborations that leave you wanting more: performing with Karen O at the 2014 Oscars, dropping bars on SBTRKT’s “New Dorp. New York” and many appearances alongside his bros in Chromeo. His ambitions have even led him outside of music. He currently hosts the Beats 1 radio show Time Crisis and could be taking his talents to television. In a December episode of the podcast A Waste of Time, a friend of Koenig’s, comedian the Kid Mero, said FX commissioned the two of them to write a potential pilot for a new show. 

Hear Chris Baio Talk Solo Album on the Alt In Our Stars Podcast

Bassist Chris Baio has been dipping his toe into the waters of solo work too. Indie powerhouse Glassnote Records released his solo LP The Names in September, and its winsome single “Sister of Pearl” has had legs at alternative radio. In three of the past four weeks, it’s attained New & Active status, a designation for new singles bubbling just below the Alternative Songs chart’s 1-20 tally, while managing to increase their play count. 

Drummer Chris Tomson is the band’s lone member without a publicized side hustle, though having spent his formative years collaborating in such company, it’s likely he has his own prospects.

For the past decade, the members of Vampire Weekend have been categorized as a rock band, whether they liked it or not. They have witnessed the title’s collective perks, along with the personal obstacles that come with being known as So-and-So From Vampire Weekend. Rostam is the first member to take the plunge. He is no longer a member of the band, but, as Koenig puts it, he appears to remain a member of the squad: