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Chris Baio of Vampire Weekend

Can you Kwassa Kwassa?

After two U.S. tours, sold out shows overseas and national media coverage, including write-ups in The New York Times and Rolling Stone, Vampire Weekend are final ready to release their self-titled debut album on January 29th. The Brooklyn-based indie quartet returns to San Francisco with its ďUpper West Side SowetoĒ -- a style that has earned comparisons to Paul Simonís album Graceland and other 80s rock-afropop fusions -- for a show at Popscene on January 31st. Bassist Cris Baio spoke with SF Station during a phone interview from Brooklyn.

SF Station (SFS): Vampire Weekend started when most of the band was in college at Columbia. Are you excited about the fact that you might not ever have to work a 9-to-5 job?

Chris Baio (CB): Three of us actually worked day jobs. It worked out better for me because I graduated in May 2007 and this is basically the first thing that Iím doing out of college. Itís pretty awesome and Iím very lucky that I get to do music full-time right out of college. I know itís not normal.

SFS: What is a Kwassa Kwassa?

CB: Itís a type of music and a dance from the Congo. I think it comes from the French term for ďwhatís that?Ē

SFS: Do you know the dance to go along with your song ďCape Cod Kwassa KwassaĒ?

CB: I donít, but maybe Iíll learn it.

SFS: Are you worried about constant Paul Simon references after your album is released later this month?

CB: Actually, I think our album has a wider breadth of sound, and I would hope people would listen to all 11 tracks and have more references than Graceland when talking about our music.

I think it gets overplayed. When you look at our album compared to that one, I think it would be hard to find two tracks that even sound alike. There are plenty of songs on the album that are pretty devoid of any African influences.

SFS: Do you think that African influence will disappear on future recordings, or will it remain a core part of your music?

CB: It is kind of hard to say right now. We have a song that is going to be on our second album that has a pretty pronounced African influence. Beyond that, I donít know. We have been talking a lot about what we want the next album to sound like, but we havenít sat down and started putting songs together because we have been busy on tour.

SFS: Does the whole band share an affinity for African music?

CB: Yes, definitely -- some more than others. Before the band, I had listened to some Fela and a couple other African things. Playing with the other three guys, Iíve been listening to way more and Iíve gotten into more afropop. Itís definitely something that we all had listened to before the band and itís something we all enjoy.

SFS: You were in San Francisco about a month ago. Did you hang out in the city at all?

CB: We have been pretty lucky. That was our second U.S. tour and both times we had a solid day of down time in San Francisco. We have had more down time there than any other place. Itís an awesome city.

SFS: What did you do for fun?

CB: Both times I was there I went to Aquarius Records, which was pretty exciting. I had been doing their mail order for a couple of years and I had never been to the store. Just walking around The Mission was very nice too.

Vampire Weekend perform at Popscene on January 31st. Tickets are $12 for +21 and $13 for +18. Doors are at 10pm.