Friday, December 10, 2010

Who Gives a F*ck about a Legal Contract?...Because This Post is About Vampire Weekend. See What I Did There?

So you've probably heard something about this by now,but in case you haven't I'll fill you in.

This year, Vampire Weekend released Contra. Seeing as how their sophomore album was kind of a big deal for 2010, they decided to go hard with the promotion. Starting long before the drop, this snapshot of a pretty, if dazed, young woman began showing up in music site ad space:  

With no copy to go on, nobody knew what exactly this blank sorority girl was schilling. Most people assumed it was Ralph Lauren and got on with hunting for online porn. But after a short tease, the photo began linking to where people were rewarded for their curiosity with...a larger version of the exact same photograph. And to make sure the image was really burned into everyone's brains, the photo was even plastered on lamposts and mailboxes in some neighborhoods. Eventually the guerrilla made its intentions clear: it was a marketing campaign for Vampire Weekend's next album. And that photo--the one no one could escape--would become the new album cover.

Okay, you probably could've pictured it without the visual.
Not bad, Vampire Weekend. You got our attention. Fair point to you. Now we'll all just go buy the thing we are inevitably drawn to and never think about it again, right?

Except not really.  Because "Kirsten" is a real person. And as it turns out she didn't take kindly to her face being plastered fucking everywhere without her permission. Like, everywhere. And she was going to sue Vampire Weekend for smearing her likeness all over Brooklyn. 

I, like most cynics snarking behind the internet, immediately assumed financial motive. Perhaps she had agreed without realising just how profitable Contra's hitting number one would be. But actually, she had even better motive--being one hundred percent blindsided. Not only had she never agreed to it, but she had no clue how the band even got the photo. 

As it turns out, this photo of Kirsten Ann Kennis was taken in 1983, around the time that she was a professional model (excerpts of her portfolio are hereLove the internet today).  She denies it was professionally taken and maintains that she only knew of its use when her teenage daughter came home one day and informed her she was on a widely distributed album cover.

Same thing happened to this guy.
For his part, Tod Brody, the photographer who sold it to the band, claims that he professionally took the photo in 1983, and has produced a signed release to prove his right to license it.

Obviously someone is lying, and you gotta go with Brody as a suspect. Firstly, the "signed" release spells her name wrongAlso he has disappeared. That's the latest. Since Vampire Weekend was led to believe that they were legally licensing the photo from Brody, both they and Kennis want an explanation. But when they attempted to serve him with a subpoena to move the conversation along he decided to simply never, ever be home. The courts, upon determining that this was an assy, childish move, approved "alternate" means of serving him papers--via ridiculously simple e-mail. And any refusal to cooperate on his part will result in "default judgement" by early 2011. In essence, the courts are saying that "lalalalala I can't hear you" is not valid legal defense and if he doesn't come up with a better one, Brody's in trouble. 

And what did he go to all this trouble for? Apparently, a mere $5,000 from the band. In the meantime, Vampire Weekend are still on the hook to Kennis for $2m. Total cost for the album photo? $2,005,000. Extra publicity and your first big-time lawsuit? Priceless.

Now when an origins-unknown photo of me appears, there's usually a good deal of facebook untagging/explaining to the police to done. But for Ms. Kennis, this could actually be the best thing to ever come out of her modelling career.

And, if we're honest? This story is the only really interesting thing to come out of Contra. Full stop.

Critics be damned--I'm giving you something from a time when Vampire Weekend still knew the difference between a song and a single:


  1. "I'm giving you something from a time when Vampire Weekend still knew the difference between a song and a single"

    C'mon. As far as singles go, "Cousins" is pretty sweet.

    Great update!

  2. *Long pause*
    I will give you "Cousins".

  3. Luls at "This story is the only really interesting thing to come out of Contra." Way to destroy all the credibility of this blog post with an unnecessary indicator of your status as a generic internet 'first album lover'. Is there anything more boring?

  4. Not done with the band at all. On the contrary---I just have even higher hopes for the third album.

    Sophomore albums are notoriously tricky. And this one just didn't ring with me.


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