When we made contact with Vivian Girls, they were en route to play a couple of festivals in Scandinavia. Tough life. Cassie Ramone took some time to answer our interview questions via email, as phone contact was unlikely. Vivian Girls play the Warhol next Thursday, August 27.
How/when did you meet/start playing music together?
Katy and I met in high school at a Weezer concert. I met [original drummer Frankie Rose] at a Dynamite Arrows show in Brooklyn in 2006; Dynamite Arrows was our friends' pop-punk band. We then formed the band in 2007. When we needed a new drummer, Ali was the obvious choice. She and Katy met in college at Rutgers and had been in several bands together before Vivian Girls.
It's been a whirlwind year for Vivian Girls -- where were you a year ago in comparison with today?
A year ago, Ali had just been in the band for a month. We were finishing up our tour with Crystal Stilts and played this super fun show at a punk frat in Philly. We were gearing up for our show with Sonic Youth, which will probably always be one of the best shows we've ever been a part of.
Does the increased attention from the rock press make it easier or harder to accomplish what you want to do with the band? (I guess as a corollary -- what do you want to accomplish with the band? What's your goal, if you have one?)
I do think that the increased attention has harmed the band in some ways, because it was never intended to be this controversial thing. In my mind we're like a weird fucked up version of a 60's pop band that people should discover through mix tapes and word of mouth, not because blogs are shoving us down peoples' throats. But at the same time we're able to make a living doing what we love, so there's really no use complaining. All we really want to accomplish at this point is to keep touring, and to keep putting out records we're proud of and keep evolving as a band.
Where do you situate the band in relation to Riot Grrrl? Do any/all of you feel a connection to those bands, or do you relate more closely to the garage rock and '60s bands you're more frequently compared to? Or is that question a false dichotomy -- is there another genre or community you identify with or draw inspiration from?
We've all grown up listening to and being inspired by Bikini Kill, so we're indirectly influenced by the movement, but we're definitely not a Riot Grrrl band because our songs have almost nothing to do with the political aspect of being a woman in a band. In fact, despite being all women and having the word "Girls" in our band name, we try to be as gender neutral as possible. What we relate the most to is 60's girl groups, the Wipers, and the modern-day Brooklyn community.
In a lot of the press about your music, terms like "angelic," "sweet" and "innocent" come up -- how do you feel about that sort of characterization? (It seems that there's something of a disconnect there, between those descriptions and a band whose LP contains songs that, even with smooth and simple delivery, are largely nihilistic and/or existentialist in nature . . .)
I agree. I think that people who describe us using sweet terms without acknowledging the darker side of our music aren't listening closely enough.
Is there an intentional aspect to having all women in the band? I realize, of course, I wouldn't be asking the same question of an all-male band, but I'm curious as to your feeling as to feminism in rock, and the interest some people have in increasing gender equity in a male-dominated community. Is that something you put a lot of thought toward?
Having the band be all women was not intentional, it just so happened that the way it worked out was all girls. What's funny to me is how even though we never intended for it to be a big deal that we're all girls, even saying that is somewhat of a statement. It's sad but seems like there's no way around people making it an issue. It really shouldn't be.
You've got a new record coming out next month on In the Red -- what's next? More touring? Christmas album? Buying a yacht and chillin'?
Yes, more touring. We're doing a "world tour" - going to Hawaii, Australia, Japan, and Puetro Rico, as well as a full US tour. Then we're going to start working on our third album in the late fall and winter, with which we're going to take some new approaches with the writing and recording. We're really excited! After that, definitely gonna buy a yacht and chill.
You're playing in Pittsburgh at the Andy Warhol Musuem, where, perhaps fittingly, they featured a Henry Darger exhibit a couple years back.. How cool would it have been if Vivian Girls were playing in the same building with the original Vivian Girls?
So cool! Andy Warhol is also one of my favorite artists, so it's double exciting to me.