Arts » Pop Music & Jazz

Vaccines come of age

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Just a few years ago, Justin Young had been treading artistic water on London’s bustling neo-folk scene as Jay Jay Pistolet until he met edgy, and equally frustrated, guitarist Freddie Cowan.

“I was going nowhere fast without him, and vice versa,” he says of the man with whom he formed The Vaccines, who appear in The City on Monday.

The quartet’s 2011 debut, “What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?,” was a blast of proto-punk energy, while its 2012 follow-up, “Come of Age,” proved more eclectic.

The new California-tracked EP “Melody Calling” is a study in muted restraint on jangly ballads such as “Do You Want A Man,” “Everybody’s Gonna Let You Down” and the title cut.

Young has gotten so good at songwriting that his phone is ringing off the hook with co-writing requests, including some so top-secret he can’t legally discuss them yet.

“I’ve learned not to say too much, too soon,” says the singer. “But I’ve written with lots of people, in the same way that musicians wouldn’t think twice about playing guitar with another artist. So if someone has wanted to write a song with me, I’ve never once said no.”

The offers have come from unexpected directions — One Direction, for instance, the teen phenomenon whose members visited The Vaccines backstage at a Tokyo concert.

“I’m a massive fan of pop music,” Young admits. “And when it was suggested to me, ‘Do you want to work with the biggest pop band on the planet?,’ of course I did! I don’t practice guitar four hours a day. I think in terms of lyrics and anything I can do to become a better songwriter, from the head or the heart. So I just jumped at the One Direction opportunity.”

He laid down some ground rules. While collaborating on two sugary numbers, he insisted the One Direction members pen their own lyrics: “Because I’m 26 now, and singing about school is just weird,” he says with a chuckle. “I always found it weird when pop-punk bands continued to sing about being in college, and I didn’t want to be ‘that guy.’ You want to age gracefully, you know?”

Young feels that “Melody Calling” is a transitional record. So he’s curious to see which path his songwriting takes from his new apartment in New York City’s colorful Chinatown. “We’ve been touring nonstop for the last three years,” he says. “So I’m looking forward to just being somewhere for eight or nine months, and just ... just being.”

IF YOU GO

The Vaccines

Where: Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Monday

Tickets: $25 to $27

Contact: (415) 673-5716, www.axs.com