We already know [artist id="2584573"]Vampire Weekend[/artist] frontman Ezra Koenig is a gyro man , which is probably part of the reason why the cover of VW’s Contra (which hits stores Tuesday, January 12) looks so much like one of those Kronos gyro ads.
But to dismiss the image on the front of the album — a vacant-eyed blond girl in a Polo — as just a knock-off is to sell it short. Because ever since the band unveiled the art for Contra back in September, it’s been the source of near constant speculation. Fans wondered just who this girl was. Critics picked apart her vacant stare and preppy pastel shirt as symbolic, or political or both. And the guys in VW just sat back and laughed.
“We know where the image came from, but we’re not being very specific about her. We don’t know her or anything,” Koenig said. “The picture is from 1983, but the last album cover was from 2006, and they kind of look like they both inhabit the same world. When we saw this image, we just found it very striking. And part of it is the look on her face. It’s not about the color of her hair, or the fact that she’s wearing a Polo shirt. What makes it interesting is her face.
“To me, there’s just something infinitely fascinating about a nice portrait of somebody, especially when she’s got this ambiguous look, and people can read a lot into it,” he continued. “So we were immediately struck by it, and we all had our own interpretations of what her look was, but we just kind of felt like it fit the album and the theme of it. It made sense to me that the first album had an inanimate object on it, and this one has a person’s face on it.”
While Vampire Weekend won’t reveal the exact origins of their Contra cover, that doesn’t mean they’re not delighting in the discussion it’s caused. In a way, it’s a logical extension of the album’s central theme: conflict, both social and cultural.
“People have said it was ‘haunting,’ ” Koenig said of the cover. “I had one person tell me it was ‘porn-y.’ We’ve had a lot of people ask us if it was sponsored by Polo or something. It’s almost like a Rorschach test, because some people get very mad when they see a white blond girl in a Polo shirt. It makes you realize how much you can imagine about somebody when you know nothing about them, based on only a few signifiers.”