Chris Baio Guests on ‘Records In My Life’. Some of the albums he talked about include titles by Roxy Music, Peter Gabriel, and Junior Boys. His latest release The Names is now out on Glassnote Records.
It was years – not until 2009, in fact, by which time Chris Baio was 24, that he learned that the iconic American author Don DeLillo was also a resident of Bronxville. Struck by the proximity to a writer he greatly admired, by the simple knowledge that “there had been a great artist in my midst”, over the course of three months Baio set about reading all of DeLillo’s books — among them Libra, Underworld and The Names, his 1982 novel about an American living in Greece, to which Baio felt a particular connection. “And I just realized,” he says, “that if I were ever going to make a solo album I would want to call it The Names.”
Since 2006, Baio has been best known as the bass-player in Vampire Weekend, the New York-based rock band who last year won a Grammy for their third album, Modern Vampires of the City.
In his downtime between tours, however, Baio recognized in himself an increasing restlessness, a desire to explore his own individual voice away from the band.
He describes The Names as “a realization of my influences and things that I love” — a world quite distinct to that of Vampire Weekend. Those influences do of course emerge in bass-playing, and surfaced on an earlier EP, Sunburn (2012), but what is striking about Baio’s first solo collection is its marked difference to his work with the band.
Across its nine tracks, Baio wanted to return, in part, to the electronic music he had enjoyed while DJing at college, but also to investigate his own lyrical and vocal style to create something quite new and not easily categorized. “What I wanted to feel with this record was that it’s not a band record, it’s not a solo record and it’s not a producer record, but a combination of all three. I wanted to create a space where almost anything could happen,” he says.
In the making of The Names, Baio explored ideas of space — of belonging, identity and finding a place in the world. Some of this was occasioned by his own geographical shift — he and his wife relocated from New York to London in 2013, and he found himself struck by his new city’s expanse of sky, green space, globalness — elements that seem to infuse this record.
He began writing these songs at the tail end of that year, and in some ways they were a continuous point in a transient period of his life. “I would be home from the Vampire Weekend tour, I would make maybe two rough instrumentals and then I would take those instrumentals back with me on tour,” he recalls, “traveling around listening to them, trying to write melodies, trying to write lyrics.”
There are “straight-up love songs” here, as well as songs that nod to Dostoyevsky, Kurosawa, Iggy Pop, The Cars; there’s a track Baio describes as “a classic rock band arrangement, throwback pop song” and a “tribute to David Bowie and Bryan Ferry.”