What's the secret to the appeal of the
"I would say it's that we're really, really good musicians," the Girls' Cassie Ramone said, adding, "we're like geniuses of sound." "Kind of like, you know, virtuosos?" Kickball Katy concurred. "We all went to music college."
Uh, they kid. They may not have a Juilliard or Berklee diploma among them, but the Vivian Girls — whose ranks are rounded out by drummer Ali Koehler — have certainly got a sound. If you haven't had the pleasure of hearing them yet, think '60s girl group the Shangri-Las (God knows enough critics have) meets the reverb-loving indie pop of the short-lived Black Tambourine — though the VGs themselves cite
All good news for L.A.-based label In the Red, which re-released the Vivian Girls' album last month, to the tune of another 4,000 copies sold since. Need any more indication that the Vivians are catching fire? Try the list of indie names they have shared the bill with in 2008: Jay Reatard, King Khan,
That resounding reverb really happened by accident, when the girls were recording their first demo back in 2007. "It was our friend Craig from the band
That includes one fan at a recent show — apparently uninitiated to the Girls' love of feedback, reverb and vocals buried in the middle that are often indecipherable, he decided to weigh in. "Your sound guy sucks!" he yelled. "Oh really?" replied Katy. "I don't think so. He rules. I think it's maybe you that sucks." Enough said.
The Vivian Girls' path to this point was, in their own words, a "musically incestuous" one that began in 2002 and traversed New Jersey — from high school in Ridgewood, where Cassie fronted a lo-fi/novelty band called Upholstery; down to New Brunswick, where Katy and Ali formed the "surf/ riot grrl" band Four Way Milkshake, and later, a poppier duo, the Pot and the Kettle; to Brooklyn, where, as a student at Pratt Institute, Cassie joined the punk trio Bossy. "The best band in the world," Ali said. She moved to Germany for school just before Katy, Cassie and original drummer Frankie Rose formed the Vivian Girls, who made their live debut in May of 2007.
"Beef" is something you generally encounter in hip-hop circles, or metal, maybe, but not with fledgling indie pop-punk bands. Yet the VG's did have a slice of beef this summer, when Frankie — who came up with the band's name (after Henry Darger's hermaphroditic warrior princesses, of course) and appears in credits and photos on the album — abruptly left the band just as Vivians buzz was reaching a fever pitch. The girls firmly decline to talk about the split — "Can we just move on? Next question!" — but it apparently had to do with Frankie doing double-duty with the Vivians and another of Brooklyn's finest new bands,
If there was a turbulent patch, it is decidedly in the Vivian Girls' rear-view mirror, as they spend a huge amount of time on the road. They're already looking forward to the May 2009 release of their second full-length album, about half of which they estimate is already written. "We listen to Cassie's demos on an iPod in the car," Ali explained, "then make up harmonies and stuff." Or, if they have a day off, "We go to the music-equipment store in town and 'practice' there. Everyone gets really mad, but we don't care," Ali added. Before 2008 is out, the girls will play a UK tour, and, to wind up this most momentous of years, a New Year's Eve show in Jersey with
The Vivian Girls' debut album is out now. To hear more from the band, including a live performance at Market Hotel in Brooklyn, go to rhapsody.com.