Big Thief Respond to Entitled Fans Criticizing "Vampire Empire" Studio Recording

"We weren't gonna go into the studio and try to replicate what we played on 'Colbert'… plus there's no way it would've been the same"

Photo: Noah Lenker

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jul 24, 2023

Last week, Big Thief released a studio version of "Vampire Empire" — a song that has been a staple in their live sets for most of this year, and made its television debut on Colbert in March. While many were simply excited to have this rip-roaring new release to steal away into the night, some of the band's fans weren't too happy with the changes the song went through in its evolution from live debut to official recording.

Much of the criticism seems to have brewed up in "Vampire Empire" response videos over on TikTok, where a quick search for content related to Big Thief turns up plenty of clips of people either defending the studio version, aghast at why people don't like it, or claiming the old version of the song was better. That discourse is all fine and healthy, but some took the entitlement of what artists supposedly owe their fans to rather extreme degrees.

"Artists need to start understanding their music isn't for them," the onscreen text reads in a post from TikTok user @bubbledbongwater. "We pay for presales, we pay for tickets, we pay for your merch. You write for us to make money."


♬ Vampire Empire - Big Thief

Big Thief were obviously privy to the spread of this toxicity online and felt they needed to address the issue.

"For those who prefer the 'live' version, you can always go listen to the 'live' version," the band wrote in a comment on the Instagram post announcing the song's digital release and the forthcoming 7-inch single due in October. "Recordings are records of us playing live, so you can look at it like this: the live version you may prefer exists and now another version exists. Every time we play it, it is a different version. We weren't gonna go into the studio and try to replicate what we played on Colbert… plus there's no way it would've been the same, because songs are vessels for the expressions of our present selves, and not highly manicured concoctions polished to be consumed based on demand."

They added, "That being said though, you can still listen to that version anytime you want, because it was recorded and exists on the internet. Now this exists too! The only difference is that the Colbert version isn't available through every single streaming service."

The major changes cited between the live version and studio release mostly come down to lyrical choices (although many are also lamenting the loss of the flute featured in the Colbert performance), including the removal of "in a row" from the line "I walked into your dagger for the last time in a row / It's like trying to start a fire with matches in the snow," killing the rhyme. Further, the studio version also omits a TikTok audio fave line, "I'm the fish and she's my gills." (They really love songs about fish on the clock app, don't they?)

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