Gossip Girls Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen enjoy the finer things in life. Shopping? Bergdorf. Dancing? Socialista. Music? The Virgins.
The New York rockers found themselves thrust into the mainstream last year when the producers of “Gossip Girl” used their EP as the soundtrack for an episode of the show.
“I think it made a big difference for people knowing about us,” lead singer Donald Cumming told MTV News, with some understatement. “[When the producers approached us,] I kept thinking ’Gilmore Girls’ … and I was like, ’I don’t know if that sounds right!’ ”
Cumming was relieved, however, when he learned the band’s music would actually appear in “Gossip Girl,” which is a much better fit. “I was like, ’Oh, perfect, good.’ And then we watched it and it was excellent — those girls are very, very entertaining!”
The feeling is mutual. “They have a great sound,” Jessica Szohr, who plays Vanessa on the show, gushed at a recent Virgins gig. “They’re such great guys.”
But despite the approval from the younger members of the cast, this probably isn’t a band that Blair or Serena’s mom would approve of. (In fact, who is the queen bee of “Gossip Girl”? Tell us your opinion!)
Cumming met future bandmate Wade Oates at a nude photo shoot in Mexico that was organized by friend and famed photographer Ryan McGinley. “We got there and they were like,
’Everybody strip! You’re going to be naked for 10 days!’ Cumming recalled. “[One day] soldiers pulled up to the beaches with M16’s, and we’re all completely naked, just eating fish. We were like, ’Hi guys!’ But they were sweet and liked that the girls were naked, so they hung out for the rest of the day.”
When they weren’t “working,” Cumming and Oates passed the time by playing acoustic guitars and talking about music. “That trip hit a reset button,” Cumming recalled. “Like, even the songs I’ve always loved, there was something really exciting about hearing them again. We just knew we wanted to play music together.”
When the two returned to New York a friend of Cumming’s introduced him to bassist Nick Zarin-Ackerman, a more experienced musician. “I know how to jam in a room of stoned people, but I don’t know how to arrange instruments for a live show,” Cumming said. “When we played with Nick I was like, ’Maybe there is [our] chance — I just have to make sure this guy is in it.’ ” The three wrote and recorded for a year before adding drummer Erik Ratensperger to the lineup.
The band spread the word by handing out their demo to local DJs. “We used to make the songs in my room and take them straight to a party and be like, ’Hey! Play this!’ ” Cumming said. “The goal was to make music that we could listen to that night.” Their third gig — opening for Patti Smith and Sonic Youth at Paris fashion week — didn’t hurt either: The band was invited by friend/designer Agnes B. “We said yes because we’re all pretty stupid,” Cumming joked.
Evidently not: Before long, the band was selling out local shows and had caught the ears of “Gossip Girl” producers.
But despite being signed to a major (Cumming said he used his impressive connections to “weasel” his way into a deal with Atlantic in 2006, before the band was even really a band), the guys don’t seem too worried about album sales. Cumming claimed he doesn’t even know what SoundScan is.
“We don’t stress how seriously we’re taken,” he said.
“We wanted to build it more naturally and be more successful because of the number of fans we have,” Zarin-Ackerman added. “We don’t want to be some candy bar the record company throws at your head. Let’s try to make this thing live on the shoulders of people who actually like the music.”