music: interview: Vivian Girls
Vivian Girls are pretty hot right now and have been since
2008. Harmonies and Punk? Yes, and more! Vivian Girls are Cassie Ramone,
Kickball Katy, and Ali Koehler. Here we talk to Cassie. And we have a
Mstation: The story is that when you were putting yourselves together as the Vivian Girls you thought you'd be a fast Punk band. There are still elements of that but how did the other changes come about?
Cassie: We started using reverb because our friends Mike and Craig who recorded our first demo used reverb on the backing vocals; we liked how it sounded so shortly afterwards we started using it more heavily. We also decided to incorporate girl group elements because we realized that if you're in a band with three women who sing, why not incorporate lots of harmonies? All the other changes came about as more of a natural evolution.
You list The Wipers as your number one influence, which we guess, most people would think of as Greg Sage. He and they haven't had too much press lately - how did you get on to him/them?
I found out about the Wipers senior year of high school via word-of- mouth and listened to "Mystery" on repeat the summer before college. A year or two later I got Is This Real on vinyl and became obsessed. Katy found out about the Wipers through Bratmobile - they had a lyric that goes "I don't wanna sit around and talk about the Wipers."
You were first together in 2007 and then things rolled really quickly for you in 2008. There was talk of blog hype getting it going but you were playing an awful lot as well. Do you think one was more important than the other? That one could have happened without the other?
I think both were important and one could not have happened without the other. From the beginning of the band we were serious about touring and playing locally, and if we hadn't done that I don't think people would have ever thought to write about us.
In 2008 you supported Sonic Youth on one gig. What was that like?
It was incredible! Amazing band and they're all really nice. It was fun watching them from the side of the stage.
Somewhere around then you did some recording in Costa Mesa in O.C. with Mike at the Distillery. Apparently his setup is fairly non-standard. Did this mean you had to talk a lot about what you wanted?
Not really, he listened to our first album to get the drift of what we were going for and then we discussed minor things to change.
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There seems to be a bit of L.A. in your sound. What do you think?
Thanks! I think LA has had some of the best music ever - from 60's rock to 70's punk and all the Smell bands.
In late '08 you went on a big tour that took you as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and Japan. How did that go? Any special memories?
We actually didn't make it to New Zealand this time around! Hopefully we'll get to go next time. A lot of special things happened. We took photos in a photobooth the size of a large closet, and then they came out and each individual picture was smaller than a dime. We did karaoke in Tasmania and got drunk off of free watermelon vodkas. Also in Tasmania we went to a wildlife sanctuary and got to feed kangaroos. We drank coffee from vending machines on the street in Japan.
Did you use the same set the whole tour or did you change around a fair bit?
I'd say about half our set is comprised of songs we play every night and the other half we rotate. It also depended on the show, though. At the few house shows we played we mostly played the first album, and at acoustic shows we mostly do requests. At most of the other shows we focus mostly on the second album.
Just last month you put out a new LP called Everything Goes Wrong (on In The Red). Was this done in Costa Mesa as well, or was that the one?
Everything Goes Wrong was the only record we made at the Distillery. The first album was done in Brooklyn at the Civil Defense.
Apparently you've changed your songwriting technique between the first and second albums. Would you tell us about that?
We've gotten more comfortable writing songs together than we used to be. We also figured out that it was more effective for us to work on arrangements with acoustic guitars first and then add drums last. Before it was kind of a big mess - all of us making noise in the practice space and rarely coming out of it with something we liked.
You're now in Williamsburg in Brooklyn which is a popular place for bands to live and hangout. Which NY borough comes second?!
Queens is cool as hell! It has PS1 and the Court Square Diner and a lot of neat hidden spots.
You've got lots of gigs coming up. Any plans for Europe? Any special events?
Yes, we are going to England in January and the rest of Europe at some point over the summer. In a week we are going to be Fucked Up's backup singers when they do The Chemistry of Common Life show - we're excited about that.
Thanks a lot.
photo credit: Olly Hearsey
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