"I'm like, 'Does he really want me to play him the album or is he just being nice to me, like some son-in-law type thing?”: Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig on having Quincy Jones as a father-in-law

Vampire Weekend in 2013
(Image credit: Photo by David Corio/Redferns)

No matter how successful your band is, there must always be a whiff of awkwardness about playing your music to your father-in-law, leaving yourself open to vaguely cold inquiries such as “is that the chorus?”, “not my sort of thing but not bad” and “and this is your full-time job, this ‘band’?”. Now imagine being Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, whose father-in-law is none other than mega-successful super-producer and songwriter Quincy Jones. Gulp!

Speaking to this writer back in 2019, ahead of the release of Vampire Weekend’s fourth album Father Of The Bride, Koenig said he hadn’t yet plucked up the courage to have a listen-along with the dad of his wife, the actress Rashida Jones. “I saw him last week and he was like, ‘When are you gonna come play me stuff?” Koenig said. “I really should cos I’d like to… he’s such a sweet guy and it’s so amazing to spend time with him, but it’s also one of those things where I say to Rashida, “Does he really want me to come play him the album or is he just being nice to me, like some son-in-law type thing?” She’s like, “No, you should!” and I’m always like ‘…Alright’. It’s that funny mix of fear and whatever.”

Quincy is always talking about music, Koenig said. “Rashida made this documentary about him so just being around that whole process, I learnt stuff that even as a huge music nerd I didn’t know about his life,” Koenig explained. “He’s got an interesting philosophy, he’s not just a musician and producer, he also used to be an A&R man. He’s always had interesting things to say about the importance of the song, that’s one of his things… he always says, “the best singer in the world can’t make a dud song great, but a bad singer with a good song, you can do something with that.” And that’s more or less how I feel. It’s interesting to see this guy who’s done so much music and is such a high-brow musician, a true old school orchestrator, familiar with every style of music. He still sits and writes music without an instrument, he’s from that different era. But then the fact he’s had mainstream success as a producer, artist and A&R guy is partly because he doesn’t let the high-brow stuff get in the way of the belief that it’s either a good song or it isn’t.”

It's been almost five years since the last Vampire Weekend record, so there should be another one along shortly. Will Ezra have played this one to his father-in-law? We’ll do our best to find out…

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.