If you go

What: Dams of the West, opening for Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

When: 9 p.m. Thursday, April 13

Where: Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder

Cost: $18-$20

More info: foxtheatre.com

Vampire Weekend's drummer, Chris Tomson, has stepped out of his comfort zone and into the spotlight.

Turns out, it's not that bad.

After the Grammy Award-winning rock band took a much-needed break from the "Modern Vampires of the City" tour in 2014, Tomson took a few steps away from the drum set to hit center stage as frontman of his solo project, Dams of the West.

The simple difference between the two may sound a little hokey, he said, but it's true.

"Honestly, the weirdest thing is standing up," Tomson said, laughing. "When I'm singing, I usually stay in place, but then there's those moments when I'm not singing and I'm stumbling around in the moment. The whole performance stuff is what I'm still figuring out."

Sitting behind Vampire frontman Ezra Koenig for a decade can do that to a drummer. (The funny thing is, Tomson was originally slated to be the guitarist, alongside Koenig.)

Tomson's Dams of the West will open for Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears at 9 p.m., Thursday, April 13 at the Fox Theatre in support of his debut solo album, "Youngish American," released in February.

Chris Tomson of Vampire Weekend, at right, will bring his solo project, Dams of the West, to the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Thursday, April 13. Also
Chris Tomson of Vampire Weekend, at right, will bring his solo project, Dams of the West, to the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Thursday, April 13. Also pictured left to right is Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij and Ezra Koenig. (Alex John Beck / Courtesy photo)

Tomson, as the music press has incessantly disclosed, is the last member of Vampire Weekend to embark on a solo project. But no matter how long it took, Tomson now has a shiny new solo album that sings with a lighthearted approach to the anxieties of aging, adulthood, married life and self-worth.

"I think any pressure that I had to produce an album was definitely self-imposed," Tomson said. "I don't think the marketplace was necessarily clamoring and saying, 'What is this other Vampire Weekend guy going to do?'"

Tomson said he approached this album not so much as an album, per se, but as a life objective. He wanted to see if he was capable of writing interesting and worthwhile songs. If he was, should he release them to the world?

What transpired is an album of conversational prose balanced with his brand of indie rock. The brand sounds quite familiar. Although Vampire Weekend's complex and purist approach (the members met at Columbia University, if that offers any insight) is a bit distant from the raw garage whimsy of Dams of the West.

Nonetheless, he's definitely from Vampire Weekend.

"Any time you are known for one role in particular, it's hard to break out of that or to create a new role for yourself," he said. "It took me a while, but I feel like I got there and the album was the result."

He said most of Vampire Weekend's writing was crafted by Koenig or the band's former multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij. However, there is that one fantastic anthem in that one famous song about that one familiar girl, Johanna, that Tomson wrote.

"Most of my stuff for Vampire Weekend has been fairly rhythmic. There are a few specific cases, the most notable of which being the 'hey, hey, heys' in 'A-Punk.' That was all me," Tomson said, laughing.

Vampire Weekend has been a sonic and work-ethic influence for Tomson in creating Dams of the West.

"I learned a lot from those guys," said Tomson. "By seeing the choices they make and ultimately holding dear to their underlying philosophy of: Don't phone anything in. Don't phone a lyric line in, don't phone an instrumental part in. Everything should be beautiful. I think that's why a lot of people have responded well to Vampire Weekend. That's not just a good driving principle in music, but in life, too."

Chris Tomson, drummer for Vampire Weekend, will bring his side project Dams of the West to the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Thursday.
Chris Tomson, drummer for Vampire Weekend, will bring his side project Dams of the West to the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Thursday. (Emily Tomson / Courtesy photo)

Played every instrument on album

"Youngish American" was produced by Patrick Carney, drummer of the Black Keys, and Tomson said he brought an overall calming presence to the creation of the album. Plus, Carney's general attitude of "Lived it" didn't hurt either, Tomson said.

"My thought mode is to overthink," said Tomson. "Sometimes I'll be left with paralysis for no particularly good reason, other than overthinking. Pat, to his eternal credit, at a number of points would say, 'Let's just do it.' He'd just make things happen."

Tomson said the fact that they were both drummers in big bands put the pair at a commonality, creating cohesiveness from the start.

Other than a few orchestral string instruments, Tomson said he played every instrument on "Youngish American." He knows his way around a rock band. Drums, though, are probably his favorite, he said.

"There's something just really super fun about playing the drums," Tomson said. "Just the act of hitting and smashing and stuff."

Although Vampire Weekend has yet to play in Boulder (hint, hint), Tomson said he was in town not too long ago for a wedding.

"I did sign up for a one-day membership of your bike system. Which was delightful," he said of exploring the town via B-cycle.

Tomson said Dams of the West's bassist, Karen Kanan CorrĂȘa (of Futurebrite) grew up outside of Denver, so she's very excited to come back to play the Fox Theatre.

Tomson's future with Vampire Weekend is "not a dead end with me by any stretch," but if song inspiration strikes again, he'd love to pursue Dams of the West on the side.

"I'm very proud of the album I made and I'm finding it very exciting to tour and create videos," he said. His wife Emily Tomson directed a couple videos. "The only reason I wouldn't continue with the project is if I felt like I couldn't write any more good songs. But the album's theme and the idea of aging is really a wealthy topic. Aging never gets old."

Figuratively.

"I don't know if anyone ever actually feels grown up, you know?" Tomson said. "There's always some part of you that feels like a kid, even if it's at eternally different ages."

And on his somewhat waggish approach to dealing with being 30-something on "Youngish American," he said: "I hope it comes across more like 'The Big Lebowski' and less like slapstick comedy."

Meaning behind Dams of the West

Vampire Weekend's drummer Chris Tomson talked about why he chose Dams of the West as the name for his solo project:

"My legal name, Chris Tomson, is a fine name, but it wasn't really evocative of anything," Tomson said. "There's a few layers behind the name, but the main one, the inception being, I read a debate about actual dams in the Western United States. Some people thought dams had outlived their usefulness and should be torn down to let the rivers run free. And some were saying that the dams just needed a little work to fulfill the role that they were built for."

He added: "As a straight, white man writing, generally speaking, rock'n'roll songs," he felt a certain camaraderie with the concept. "It's this infrastructure from the middle of the country that's kind of crumbling, but also still worth it at some levels."

Christy Fantz: 303-473-1107, fantz@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/fantzypants