Saturday, April 11, 2009

Vivian Girls

As most of you know, we typically don't post things on weekends, but we were fortunate enough to get a brief email interview with Vivian Girls, and since they just responded to it a couple hours ago, we figured it would be a good idea to post it before their show this evening with Ariel Pink and Fight Bite at Hailey's.  

As we noted in the Weekender yesterday, Vivian Girls have certainly received a lot of critical acclaim and a tremendous amount of hip buzz over the past year, but unlike a lot of similarly positioned groups, their work truly stands out and lives up to the hype as much as any group can be expected to these days.  We wanted a chance to talk with them about their newfound success, their musical influences, and a variety of other things.  Here is our brief discussion: 

Can you start off by telling our readers who you are and where you're from and something interesting about each of you personally?

We are Cassie, Katy, and Ali. Katy and I are from Ridgewood, NJ, and Ali is from Toms River, NJ, but we call Brooklyn our home base now. Katy used to steal forks from every diner she ate at. Ali is fluent in German and lived in Germany for 6 months. I chip my front tooth all the time.

When you first got together and started rehearsing as Vivian Girls, what kind of music did you start making, and how did it evolve into what you currently sound like? Were you aware that you all had decent singing voices that sounded good together? Did you intend to use this asset or was it discovered by happy accident?

Our first songs were "All The Time," "No" and "Never See Me Again." We wanted to make music in that vein - short, fast, melodic punk songs. It still sounds kind of like that but I think our songwriting is a little more diverse now, that was a natural evolution. We intended to have harmonies from the beginning. We could all "sing" and thought it would be a waste to be in a band with three girl singers and not utilize that.

People obviously talk a lot about 60s girl group pop and C86 and stuff like that when they talk about your influences, but I always read you guys citing the Wipers and Nirvana and various garage influences and stuff like that. What do you find yourselves listening to as individuals, and what were some of the important bands you guys shared in common starting out?

When we started playing music we were inspired by riot grrrl, unsurprisingly. When we started playing music in Vivian Girls we were mainly inspired by the Wipers, also by Dead Moon and 80's hardcore. However, as individuals, we have pretty wack tastes in music. I really like soft rock from the 70's and 80's. Katy only listens to modern Top 40 radio. Ali is really into pop punk and emo.

So obviously you guys have gone through some pretty big changes as a band since the band started in early 2007... what are some of the best things about your success, and what are some of the worst?

The best things are meeting rad people and getting to travel everywhere. The worst part is seeing sexism in action. I don't think we thought much about it until we started reading things like "One of them is hot, the other two are ugly" and "Why do girls think that just because they're pretty they can pick up instruments and be in a band?"

Do you still get to play house shows and DIY venues much anymore? Is that something you enjoy? I remember last time you came through town you played at Exploding House in Ft. Worth, and now of course you're playing at one of the larger "indie" venues in North Texas. It's not Carnegie Hall, but its certainly a change in scenery for you.

We like playing shows in all different kinds of venues. House shows are some of the funnest shows we play and we still play them every so often, and I think we will continue doing that no matter what.

I was doing some research and I caught the series of "uncensored interviews" you guys did last year. Obviously you caused some online blog comment controversy over your statements regarding "normal people" hanging out at TGI Friday's and stuff. People responded with a lot of hate and this kind of uniquely American "populist" rhetoric about how snobby you were, etc. Why do you think this made people so angry, and why did you feel the need to apologize for contrasting a particular subculture with mainstream culture? And whats up with all these self identified "normal" people getting pissed off? I bet people didn't get mad at Mike Judge for making basically the same critique in Office Space.

I think that with that interview, instead of thinking "They're making a joke that we can laugh at together" (which is what we actually were doing) people thought "They're attacking me." The way the blogs made it seem was that we hate anyone with a job, which is not the way we feel at all.

Tell us about some of the things you guys are interested in outside of the band and music.

Katy's into Hulu-ing, video games, and the internet. I like doing art when I'm not busy with music or the band, I also like cooking and collecting junk. Ali's interested in comedy and hanging out with her parents.

I know you live in Brooklyn. How long have you lived there? Does it still seem to have the vibrant underground culture it once did? As an occasional visitor over the years, I have seen Williamsburg change quite a bit, and there seem to be a lot more idiots walking the streets than there used to be. Is Brooklyn's "counter culture epicenter" status annoying? Is it taking something away from the place itself? I asked Japanther this question once and I think they got mad at me.

That's because Japanther are huge jerks. But to answer the question, I have lived in Brooklyn for almost 5 years. There have been a lot of changes, but the scene is so strong right now that it doesn't really matter. The culture is just as vibrant, now it's just in different zip codes and not as close to the main strip. Which is fine.

How has your tour with Ariel Pink been so far? Do you think his music was an important catalyst for this kind of revived "lo fi" aesthetic that has become so popular over the past year or two?

I'm sure it was. I've been a huge Ariel Pink fan for years, so this tour is basically a dream come true. It's a lot like summer camp. We get along with the guys in Haunted Graffiti really well and it's gonna be really sad when the time comes that we don't hang out every night.

Do you find it strange that the kind of music you make has come to be so in vogue lately, basically replacing blog house and nu rave and music that has nothing to do with what you do as the "next big thing" or whatever you want to call it amongst culture and music media types? Seems like the music press has really done a 180 in that respect.

Yeah, I do find it strange. Then again, popular music always goes in waves (pardon the pun) between being super-produced and not-as-produced. Maybe 2008 was just one of those years that people tired of slick production.

Any good tour stories?

In New Orleans we all went to a strip club with Haunted Graffiti and one member of the party was really, really into getting lap dances!

How was SXSW for you this year? Do you generally enjoy playing in Texas? You can say no if you want to.

We love Austin, but SXSW was a little too much this year. We played 18 shows, which was something like 10 shows too many. Some of the shows were great though, we played a house party for my birthday party and people were crowd surfing and I chipped my tooth on the mic!

Finally, what are your plans for releasing a second full length? Do you guys have anything else exciting coming up in the next few months either with Vivian Girls or another project?

We recorded our second album, Everything Goes Wrong, last month. It's gonna come out in September and we're all really excited about it. I think we're gonna have a few 7"s come out in the next few months too.



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