Childhood & Early Life
Ezra Michael Koenig was born on April 8, 1984, in New York City, US, in a Jewish family to Robin Koenig and Bobby Bass. His father is a film and television production set dresser and his mother is a psychotherapist. His family had migrated to the US from Europe.
He was raised in Northern New Jersey and attended Glen Ridge High School. He has a younger sister named Emma who has authored the book, ‘FUCK! i'm in my twenties,’ and also wrote the ABC-TV comedy, ‘Manhattan Love Story.’
Koenig started penning down music when he was about ten years old; ‘Bad Birthday Party’ was his first song. He majored in English literature from the Columbia University. While attending school and college, he joined childhood friend Wes Miles (presently frontman of American indie rock band ‘Ra Ra Riot’) and worked on several musical projects. The two also founded the experimental band, ‘The Sophisticuffs.’
Following his graduation Koenig started teaching English at Junior High School 258 in Brooklyn, New York, through the non-profit organization ‘Teach For America’ (TFA). As his students recall, Koenig would bring his guitar to the class although he did not divulge anything on his music career. He bonded well with students but was looked upon as a somewhat "laid-back" teacher. His teaching career ended later during the fall of 2007 when he landed a deal with British independent record label, ‘XL Recordings.’
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In 2004, Koenig along with Chris Tomson and Andrew Kalaidjian came up with the rap band, L'Homme Run that spawned the noted comedic track, ‘Pizza Party,’ apart from ‘Bitches,’ ‘Giving Up Da Gun,’ and ‘Interracial Dating.’ Koenig also played saxophone and guitar and contributed backing vocals to the American indie rock band, ‘Dirty Projectors,’ from 2004 to 2005, and again in 2016. He also remained an intern of the American indie rock band, ‘The Walkmen.’
His big break came when he formed a rock band, ‘Vampire Weekend,’ in 2006 along with Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson and Chris Baio. The name of the band was chosen from the title of a short film project that Koenig had worked with his friends during summer vacation in college.
‘Vampire Weekend’ started playing shows around the Columbia University. Their first show was held at a ‘battle of the bands’ event held at the ‘Lerner Hall,’ the student centre of Columbia University, in 2006. The band started garnering rave reviews from sites like Pitchfork and Stereogum after its demos featured online. In no time the band was selling out shows and featuring on the cover of the American music magazine, ‘Spin.’
On January 29, 2008, ‘Vampire Weekend’ released their eponymous debut album through ‘XL Recordings.’ The chart bursting album peaked at #17 on the US Billboard 200 and garnered Platinum certification from the United Kingdom (BPI), and Gold from the United States (RIAA), Canada (Music Canada), and Australia (ARIA). ‘Time’ magazine ranked it as the 5th-best album of 2008. Rolling Stone also ranked the album at #24 on its list of 100 greatest debut albums of all time. The critically and commercially successful album not only bolstered Koenig’s music career but also garnered him considerable international recognition and fame.
Koenig earned more fame with the ‘Vampire Weekend’ that eventually released two more hit albums through ‘XL Recordings.’ The first one, ‘Contra,’ debuted at the top of the US Billboard 200 and peaked at #1 on several charts. The second one, ‘Modern Vampires of the City,’ released on May 14, 2013, emerged as second consecutive numero-uno album of the band in the US debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200. It won a Grammy in the category of ‘Best Alternative Music Album’ in 2014.
Basking with the success of the ‘Vampire Weekend,’ Koenig is presently working with the band members on their fourth studio album that is planned for a 2018 release.
Meanwhile, he created the fortnightly radio show, ‘Time Crisis with Ezra Koenig,’ which he hosts regularly. The show began airing from July 12, 2015, on Apple Music's 24/7 music radio station, ‘Beats 1,’ and has already aired over 80 episodes as of November 2018, and is presently airing its fourth season. He often hosts this show along with Jake Longstreth. Over the years several guest hosts like Jonah Hill, Jamie Foxx and Rashida Jones have also appeared on the show. Different topics like 1970s rock music, politics and corporate food history are covered in the show.
Koenig also created, wrote and executive produced the American-Japanese co-produced animated TV series, ‘Neo Yokio.’ The series, produced by Japanese anime studios Studio Deen and Production I.G., premiered on Netflix on September 22, 2017. Although presented in the style of a Japanese anime series, Koenig calls it as an "anime-inspired" show and not a traditional anime. The show received mixed reviews. It was announced on October 9, 2018, that a Christmas special would be released on December 7, 2018 titled ‘Neo Yokio Pink Christmas’.
Over the years, he has also collaborated with several artists. These endeavours include contributing vocals on the song ‘Carby’ from Discovery’s debut album, ‘LP,’ in 2009; providing vocals in the music video of ‘Barbra Streisand,’ and featuring in Major Lazer’s song, ‘Jessica,’ in 2013.
He lent his voice to the character, ‘Ryland on,’ in the American adult animated television series, ‘Major Lazer,’ and featured on the American HBO television series, ‘Girls.’
He also contributed as one of the writers and producers of the song ‘Hold Up’ by Beyoncé, which received a Grammy nomination in the ‘Best Pop Solo Performance’ category in 2017.