Baio is the stage name of musician Chris Baio, who released his debut solo album The Names in 2015 as the follow-up to his 2012 EP, Sunburn. Baio is also a founder and bassist of the band Vampire Weekend, who released their breakout self-titled debut in 2008, and followed with Contra (2010) and Modern Vampires of the City (2013).
Chris Baio barely graduated from Columbia before his band’s exceptional 2008 debut, eponymously titled Vampire Weekend, took hold and galvanized fans worldwide. He’s been bassist with Vampire Weekend since, releasing the acclaimed Contra and Modern Vampires of the City. All the while, Baio has been producing music as a DJ and solo musician, and finally released his debut album The Names just last year.
Baio and a friend perform acoustic versions of his tracks “Endless Rhythm” and “Sister of Pearl” outside the Issue office in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. This staircase is particularly famous for its role in the iconic 1932 slapstick The Music Box, which depicts Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel attempting (and continuously failing) to move a piano up the steep hillside staircase.
When did you start making music?
I wrote my first song when I was 13 years old. It was a funk song called “Fatboy Craving” and it was not very good. I would hope that in the 18 years since I’ve gotten a bit better!
Who did you listen to growing up and who is your music influenced by today?
It really depends! There were a lot of years listening to music. A record like Illmatic by Nas is something I loved as a teenager and love today. In terms of my record, The Names, I was trying to channel my love of ’70s art rock like David Bowie & Roxy Music mixed with a love of ’80s electronic pop like Depeche Mode. I also have a deep love for Kompakt records, which comes through the instrumentals on the record. I just did a remix swap with a Kompakt artist, so I’m pretty psyched for that to come out!
How would you describe your musical genre or style?
Techno and pop, but not techno-pop.
How and when did you decide that this is what you were going to do?
I knew for a long time that I needed to make this record. It was really only moving to London in 2013 when it seemed like a reality.
How does it feel to have finished your debut solo album? What was the process like?
It was a long process—a track like “The Names” went through versions for about five years before I felt like I got it right. It was also a very solitary process—I have a home studio where I did the majority of the work. I guess it’s what I’d imagine writing a novel to be like.
What are your favorite cities and venues? Which are you most excited for during your upcoming tour?
I have always loved DJing in Chicago, so I’m thrilled to be playing my first show on the record there. Bowery Ballroom is a site of many fond memories for me, so I can’t wait to be in New York. I have a pretty deep love for Scandinavia, so I’m psyched to be playing a festival in Oslo. More than anything else, I’m just looking forward to getting out there and playing every night.
What’s your favorite album right now?
Half Free by U.S. Girls.
What are your interests and passions outside of music?
Photography, design, modern art, Russian history and running!
How do you feel about the rising creative scene in LA?
LA feels very liveable to me whenever I’m there. I definitely get jealous of the amount of space. It seems like a great place to make music, so I’m into it!
I just finished directing my first-ever music video for the track “The Names.” I’m psyched to get it out there and then tour as much as possible in the new year.