Band To Watch: Vagabon – Stereogum


“In my country, and in a lot of countries, people still go to the well to get their water,” Vagabon’s Laetitia Tamko explains to me as she begins to disclose the metaphorical crux of considered one of her new songs. Tamko grew up in Cameroon earlier than shifting to New York within the early 2000s, and she or he instinctually refers again to her private historical past to make this central level. Choosing her phrases additional-rigorously, Tamko describes the ritual of going to a nicely intimately: “You walk it back to your house, you use the water or put it in a container, and then you do the same trip back,” she continues. “People don’t always check to see if there’s any more left after they’ve taken what they need. No one looks down a well.” Tamko proceeds cautiously earlier than reaching an abrupt conclusion: “I guess, in the case of that song…I am the well.”

That’s simply considered one of many metaphors Tamko makes use of to explain the contents of her debut album, Infinite Worlds. All of the eight songs she selected to incorporate are outpourings of emotion illustrated in sensible methods, moments and reminiscences that she’s collected over the previous few years. Tamko likens her songwriting course of to collage, and her fixed state of transience informs each monitor on Infinite Worlds. Imagine every lyric as a line on a postcard, written from totally different locations within the universe or emotional states of thoughts. Together, they type a patchwork of various narratives interconnected by the identical seamstress; a smattering of worlds Tamko enters and can simply as quickly depart behind.

Tamko started Vagabon in 2014 whereas learning engineering on the City University Of New York (CUNY). Music had been Tamko’s aspect curiosity up till then, and she or he solely actively began pursuing it a couple of months into enjoying exhibits across the metropolis. Tamko taught herself guitar in highschool and put it down for all of school, satisfied that she wanted to take engineering critically and get a “real job” as soon as she was out. For some time, she did precisely that. Tamko was a programmer and labored for a dev group, specializing in circuitry. Eventually, although, music turned her major factor.

Vagabon’s debut EP, Persian Garden, was launched a number of months after Tamko began enjoying exhibits. It’s a set of six songs that she considers to be half-rendered, virtually demos. “To me, it was never intended to be listened to. I just told myself I had to get it out, and then I will record a real album, and all of those songs can still be on it, but I had to go through that initial sharing process.” Miscreant Records put out Tamko’s tape, which, regardless of her expectations, did get listened to. Tamko began enjoying extra exhibits, oftentimes performing with a full band. She opened for Waxahatchee at a Planned Parenthood profit earlier this yr, and subsequent week she’ll embark on a nationwide tour with Unhappy13.

I first heard Persian Garden someday final yr, and its closing monitor, “Sharks,” shortly turned considered one of my favourite songs to observe Vagabon carry out reside. Tamko re-recorded it in upstate New York for Infinite Worlds, which she made in a few week’s time, preserving the lyrics the identical and adjusting the manufacturing and title. “The Embers” now opens the album, and although it’s nonetheless very a lot a ragged rock track, it serves as an applicable bridge between Persian Gardens’ slipshod manufacturing and Infinite Worlds’ adventurous experimentation.

“The Embers” is instantly adopted by “Fear & Force,” the album’s debut single, which you’ll be able to take heed to above. It’s an applicable segue. Upon first pay attention, “Fear & Force” has a lot echoing area in it that you simply’ll really feel prefer it’s enjoying in encompass sound. Tamko begins it very similar to she did earlier songs — her voice carries confidence, however she delivers her lyrics from a spot of utmost shelter. “I’ve been hiding in the smallest place,” Tamko sings. “I am dying to go this is not my home.” Then, the guitar falls away and all the timidity and worry goes with it. That preliminary beat, accompanied by the refrain’ harmonies, pushes the track in and out one other path. Freddie come again, I do know you’re keen on Vermont however I feel I’ve modified my thoughts. It’s a easy sentiment that sounds revelatory when you think about its backstory: Tamko wrote the track about somebody she liked at a sure time limit who needed her to maneuver to Vermont with them. “I wasn’t down,” Tamko says. “I wasn’t done with my life here, and so it became this dilemma of like: Do you move where your partner is with the fear that you won’t find yourself where they find themselves?”

Much of Infinite Worlds is about precisely that: discovering house in unfamiliar locations. Tamko has traveled lengthy distances all through her life, and at 24, she’s simply beginning to regulate to that transience. Tamko embraces all the traditions she comes from on Infinite Worlds. One of its standout tracks, “Mal á L’aise,” is a dream-pop music sung virtually solely in French. “I don’t need Infinite Worlds to be an album that you simply play by means of and thru and really feel like I’m all the time the identical individual,” Tamko explains. “I kind of wanted to throw things in there that can give the listener a break, or entice them with something new.”

She seemed to quite a lot of inspirations whereas producing the album. She aligns the Cameroonian, West, and East African music of her childhood with producers and multi-instrumentalists like XXYXX, Sampha, Erykah Badu, and ’90s R&B acts like 3LW. Though Tamko got here up in Brooklyn’s ever-altering DIY indie scene, she’s already beginning to push the boundaries of what that scene ought to look and sound like. “I want to reach people [in the DIY community] who need to see this as much as I needed to see this,” she says towards the top of our dialog. “Black girls need to listen to me. Black girls need to see me. There aren’t enough of us, and in order for me to reach them, I need to spread wide.”

Maybe each album is in some methods an exploration of id, however Infinite Worlds is much less a press release of function than it’s an affirmation that you would be able to all the time be every part directly. On “Cleaning House,” Tamko opens with a query: “What about them scares you so much? My standing there threatens your standing too.” Initially, it seems like a confrontation with an ex-lover or good friend, however in actuality it facilities on larger societal points that plagued 2016. “We’re at a time where a lot of black people are dying. All of these people who are harming us are saying [stuff like], ‘Oh we were scared,’ or, ‘That’s a thug,’” Tamko says. From there, the track delineates right into a dialog she as soon as had together with her mother and father, grabbing direct quotes and rearranging them to go well with a melody. But regardless of how private “Cleaning House” is, like all the songs on Infinite Worlds, it’s not a singular imaginative and prescient. Tamko’s energy as an artist and producer rests on her means to explain small conditions that convey a better fact. They’re meditations on what it actually feels wish to be an individual on the prowl for one thing greater than what you’ve been given, denying what the guts needs for what the soul wants. In brief: It’s about her — and our — ongoing wrestle for self-preservation.


Infinite Worlds tracklist:
01 “The Embers”
02 “Fear & Force”
03 “Minneapolis”
04 “Mal á L’aise”
05 “100 Years”
06 “Cleaning House”
07 “Cold Apartment”
08 “Alive And A Well”

Infinite Worlds is out 2/24 by way of Father/Daughter Records.

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