Friday May 25, Le Bain joins forces with hot label Greco-Roman to celebrate the release of Baio’s first solo record Sunburn. On top of being the bass player of one of America’s favorite bands, Vampire Weekend, Chris Baio has also been a DJ and radio host since his student years at Columbia University. Baio will DJ alongside his friends Autobot (of Flosstradamus) and Full Nelson (of Greco-Roman)! We sat down with Chris in his Brooklyn apartment for a sunny Standard Q&A.
The Standard: We just interviewed another bass player, Tyler Pope of LCD Soundsystem and Chk Chk Chk. He was telling us, “there is a word in German called absahnnen, which means taking the icing on the cake and I feel like it’s a good description for DJing.”
Baio: Cool about Tyler, I really enjoy his bass playing. That’s such a neat word, and I can understand how it applies to DJ’ing as opposed to making your own music. It’s much more difficult to make a song than it is to mix into a song. I don’t think you’ll find many people who feel that the opposite is true. That said, DJ’ing is obviously incredibly fun.
If you had to give your own definition of DJing using a metaphor, what would it be?
I’m a cat owner but I grew up with a dog. If you jump on top of a dog and aggressively pet it they tend to get into it. You do the same to a cat and it scares the shit out of them. You have to approach a cat with patience. My favorite DJ sets are ones that slowly unfold over the course of 90-plus minutes and eventually reach a big moment. Good DJ’ing is like chilling with a cat. Also: I’ve clearly been watching too much My Cat From Hell.
And how would you describe playing bass with a metaphor?
I tend to favor fast and melodic bass playing in the op ivy tradition. Maybe it’s like pouring Sriracha all over already really spicy buffalo wings. Or the sixth cup of coffee you have in a day.
Baio’s Tanto featuring Matias Agayo taken from the Sunburn EP.
You actually are not a bass player turned DJ, nor a DJ turned bass player, but rather have been doing both simultaneously for a long time. How would you describe the satisfaction you get from DJ’ing / from playing an instrument?
They both have their own energies. Performing music you’ve worked on for an audience is definitely more gratifying than playing others’ music. That said I really love sharing my taste in the form of a DJ set. DJ’ing is mostly solitary, so in a way the stakes can be a little higher than playing bass in a band is. If I fuck up a bass part, the other bros can cover for me. One time I had a DJ gig in Berlin. I was really nervous and I accidentally hit the eject button on the CDJs. 30 seconds of complete silence in the middle of a DJ set is a pretty bad fuck up. I make sure to always put ‘eject lock’ on when I start a DJ set now!
Who is the first DJ who impressed you?
Honestly tough to remember. I went to Rififi in the East Village when I was a freshman in college with a shitty fake Michigan ID and had a really nice time dancing to 80s stuff with friends. I remember they played Gigantic by The Pixies, which totally slayed on the dance floor that night. Reading Last Night a DJ Saved My Life and learning about the history of DJ culture definitely made a huge impression on me.
And the last DJ that impressed you?
The one that comes to mind is Moodymann, who I saw at Mister Sunday last summer.
Pixies Gigantic, one of Baio’s favorite dance tune.
You used to DJ and play in parties at Columbia where you formed Vampire Weekend. What memories do you keep of those years?
Too many! I guess reading Dostoevsky in the library until 1:30am and then heading over to the college radio station for my 2am show where I played The Fall to 7 listeners from a dank basement is a solid representation of my school experience.
It seems your career is a perfect New York story. Do you feel like a complete New Yorker?
I grew up in the burbs and moved to NYC in the fall of ‘03. Don’t feel like I can call myself a true New Yorker until I hit my ten year anniversary!
What is your definition of ‘making it’ in New York?
Being able to afford NY rent while doing what you want to do.
Who are your all time favorite New York heroes?
Vampire Weekend Cousins
You are just releasing your first solo record on Greco-Roman. How did you end up signing on a label based between Berlin and London?
Alex Waldron (aka Full Nelson) is one of the people who run the label. He also used to do some work for XL in Berlin and I met him on tour in London about three years ago now. We stayed in touch so when I started making tracks it made sense to send them his way.
The record is said to “mark your return to your college-era roots as DJ and radio host.” Do you have some nostalgia about that time?
I tend not to look back too much. I like being a musician more than I liked being a student. That said, most of my best friends I met in school so it’s still a very important time for me.
What do you think is so great about Greco-Roman?
Their taste! They’ve put out a lot of good shit. They’re also incredible at developing artists.
You invited Full Nelson and Autobot to play with you at Le Bain for the release party, what makes you love them?
They’re bros. If you’re ever looking for a guy to eat a sandwich with, Autobot is your man.
Who was your favorite super-hero as a kid?
I guess it’s boring to say now, but I did dig Spider Man. I had a crush on Mary Jane. Nowadays I feel like I relate more to Batman because bats scare me. When the sun goes down in Austin I try to keep a low profile.
If you had the power to travel in time and space, where would you go as a music lover?
Probably to the studio while Bowie’s Low was being made, but I’d want to be invisible as well.
Friday May 25, Le Bain presents Baio (of Vampire Weekend), Autobot (of Flosstradamus) and Full Nelson. We celebrate the release of the first-ever solo record of Baio Sunburn on Greco-Roman. Doors 11pm. The Standard, New York.