Everything about Strike Gently, New York City indie rockers the Virgins’ second album, has been an exercise in independence. Since releasing their self-titled full-length debut in 2008, frontman Donald Cumming has assembled a new lineup, parted ways with the group’s previous label, Atlantic, and proceeded to make the record he wanted to make, an album he alludes is a departure from the dance-rock sounds of the Virgin’s breakthrough. Eventually he signed a deal with the Strokes' frontman Julian Casablancas, and their new 10-track set, Strike Gently, is due out March 12 on Cult Records. Speaking shortly before playing a concert on a rainy day in Bogotá, Cumming recently explained to us how it all came together.
How have you changed as a band since the last album?
I’ve definitely grown more confident as a songwriter. The approach to this record was very different from anything I’ve done before. We just worked really quickly and wrote the songs. We were recording them pretty much all in one room. It was really natural. It felt really effortless.
How would you describe the sound of the new album?
It’s definitely a rock-and-roll record. It’s a record I’m really proud of and have been wanting to do for a long time. It’s cool. There’s not a lot of fancy … I don’t know. It’s just very straightforward.
Earlier this year, you released a single called “Venus in Chains.” How does Strike Gently compare to that?
I don’t necessarily want to compare them. We did “Venus in Chains” because we hadn’t put out anything in a while and we did it as a one-off, not knowing when our next opportunity would be. It’s just kind of a logical extension from there. We’ve written songs since then and they ended up being on the record. Julian didn’t want to include anything on the record that had already been released, so we just let it be its own single.
Stream "Venus in Chains" below:
Did any life experiences shape the songwriting?
I feel like I’ve had a chance to reflect on my experiences, realize what I do care about, what I don’t care about. Basically growing up. When we started out, I was basically just writing songs and they just kind of wrote themselves. Once we started, and we made the [2007 self-titled] EP, we kind of got painted into a corner with this dance-rock thing. There was a bunch of different factors, but basically we tried to make the best pop-rock-dance album that we could make, not really necessarily that would be the music I would listen to personally.
It was a unique experience with this record, to just do it exactly how I want to do it in a different place in my life, my relationship to songwriting is much, much different. I didn’t really used to know what I was doing, and that didn’t put me in a good position to defend what I wanted to do. So now it’s a different thing.
What brought you to Julian Casablancas’ label, Cult Records?
We were pretty far along in the record, and through some mutual friend we ended up meeting with Julian and playing him some music. The vibe was pretty cool. It was just effortless. He has cool ideas for what he would want to do as a label. It was a completely different vibe.
How was working with Julian different from your previous labels?
From my limited experience, he’s [more] concerned with the quality of the material, with the quality of the art, with the quality of the songs. He just cares about the things that I care about. Things that you would want someone to care about that you’re going to work with. Music at its best is something that really means a lot to the person who’s making it. And it can be a really painful experience when you start to get all these wires and signals crossed in the process. It’s just super-refreshing that he cares about all the same things I care about. That just makes it feel really comfortable. I feel like we could put our faith and trust into the situation. It just felt right.
Strike Gently is out March 12 on Cult Records.