Friday, August 28, 2009

Interview: Vivian Girls

Inspired by a photo from Ignacio Genzon

This weekend the Vivian Girls are returning to Chicago, as they begin their new “Nightmare of Sound” tour promoting the release of their second album, Everything Goes Wrong. I first learned of the all girl trio while researching the artist, Henry Darger, whose manuscript is the source of the band’s namesake. I was immediately drawn to the omnipresent resonance of angst and chaotic beauty that has become a signature in the lo-fi band’s style. Their self-titled debut album was a self-released hit becoming unavailable from popularity until their signing with In The Red boasted the necessary album re release. In the year since, the girls somehow found time to put aside 8 days to record a second LP while continuing on their never ending trek globally. You have two opportunities to catch them this Sunday, August 30. Permanent Records, will host an acoustic performance at 6p with Black Moth. That evening at 9p, Vivian Girls will be at the Empty Bottle with their tour mates The Beets and Daylight Robbery. Earlier this summer I had an opportunity to interview the trio via email, Cassie Ramone was kind enough to uncover some of the hidden secrets of the Vivian Girls while not budging on why in fact Kickball Katy has her nickname.

Drawing From Music: So I have to admit, I was actually looking up some information on Darger for my thesis when I stumbled upon your Myspace page. Who is the fan and was the entire manuscript read? What was it that stuck out or that you guys related to enough to take on the name Vivian Girls?

Vivian Girls: Our original drummer Frankie came up with the name. It was the only name we could think of that wasn't totally dumb. We thought the idea was cool because the Vivian Girls are both feminine and masculine, and they battle evil. We definitely haven't read the manuscript. It's 15,000 pages long!

DFM: It seems everywhere I read you guys are constantly touring, talk about hard working. Is touring something that plays a large role with the band’s creative processes. Are most of your songs written on the road? Can you explain the process a little?

VG: We practice and flesh out new songs on the road sometimes, but generally our songs are written at home. Usually I write the songs but sometimes songs come from a part that Katy or Ali writes that we jam on.

DFM: If you were to tell a story, or paint a picture that would best describe your music to someone who has never heard it, how would it be?

VG: It's the story of a bored seventeen-year-old girl from 1962 who drops out of high school and moves to a New York City of 1982 to try to make it on her own. She gets into heavy drinking and dates all the wrong men and she's surprised that guys don't want to marry her because all her classmates were engaged by the time of the Homecoming Dance. After years of sleeping around and drug use she tires of the scene and takes a yacht out to an obscure Caribbean island, where she builds a tent on the beach and spends the day watching the sun set.

DFM: What are your roots as musicians? How did it come to be that Vivian Girls exists (including the switch out of Frankie Rose for Ali)? Who were some of the childhood musical influences that aided in the molding of the musicians you are today?

VG: We all started playing music in our school bands, Katy and I on saxophone and Ali on drums. When it came to starting bands we were influenced by Olympia bands like Bikini Kill and Beat Happening, because they did it themselves and showed us that we could do it too.

DFM: So what are some of the differences we can see in this new album in comparison to your first album? After being signed now is the process much easier, or have you guys tried to keep the DIY aspect that has aided your success?

VG: The second album is darker and longer. It's still pretty raw and definitely meant to be played loud. We've definitely kept a DIY mentality when recording and mixing the second album; we were very involved in the whole process.

DFM: What would you say is the constant idea or themes you try to address in your music? Would you describe your music as more abstract or literal?

VG: It's both abstract and literal. The songs are all about real-life experiences that happened to me that are written about in a universal manner.

DFM: I know it is probably out there somewhere, and I haven’t looked enough but where did the “kickball” nickname come from?

VG: Katy was in a super secret kickball society in college. She's not really allowed to talk about it, though.

DFM: It’s funny because a lot of times when listening to your music I kind of forget that your girls (I really hope there is no political incorrectness in this question. If comes off this way please forgive me not my intention…haha) Anyway, when I hear live shows and see posted pics get that high school pitter patter that a guy gets when he has a school crush. What sort of girly Tiger Beat things do you guys do that most people don’t know about?

VG: Swoon over Evan Dando and collect Lisa Frank stickers. We talk about boys and crushes a lot.

DFM: Are there any new bands or music that you’re listening to? Any bands you are dying to see this summer?

VG: Yeah we're into The Beets and Real Estate. Also just saw the Fresh and Onlys and they were awesome. I'm dying to see Yellow Fever - they're from Austin and one of the best bands around today but we don't get to see them very often!! And I think they're playing New York when we're home, so we're very psyched.

DFM: If there were any character in history from any media (TV, literature, comics, etal.) that you would best liken yourselves (all 3 of y’all) to who would it be? Why?

VG: Rachel, Monica and Phoebe from Friends, because we all have alternating hair colors and we are all friends.

DFM: Do you let current news related issues affect your creative/writing processes with your music?

VG: No, not really. We pay attention to the news but it doesn't have anything to do with how we write music.

DFM: Was music something you grew up with and studied, was it always a career goal or a distant fantasy? What are your future hopes for Vivian Girls, how do you guys see yourselves remembered in the far-off future?

VG: I think it was always more of a distant fantasy for us. We were all in bands for fun but none of us ever saw music as something that could be a career. I hope that we'll be remembered as something more than just another lo-fi band of 2008.

DFM: Ali. What was your musical history prior to joining Vivian Girls?

VG: She played drums in her school band since she was 10 but she didn't get serious until she was in her first band when she was 16. She's been in bands ever since.

DFM: Katy and Cassie, is there an embarrassingly hilarious childhood story you could share about an experience that ultimately brought you guys closer?

VG: One time we heard that Matt Sharp (of the Rentals and Weezer) was playing a solo show at a tiny venue in Midtown and we were so afraid it would sell out that we got there at 9 AM. Of course, we got there way too early and no one was there. We had donuts and then Matt Sharp and his tour manager showed up and we all ate donuts together and listened to the Cure. It was super nerdy and we were very star struck but it definitely brought us closer together.

DFM: And finally, aside from music, what would you say are some of your personal outlets?

VG: Drawing, sleeping, hanging out with friends, watching TV, yoga, video games, etc. That's all of ours mixed together.

Vivian Girls

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