Mauled by success!

Pub date November 19, 2008
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

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There’ve been happy coincidences aplenty for the Vivian Girls this year. Two examples: they’ve recorded and played shows with Fucked Up, which wrote a song with the same name as their band before they ever assembled ("Vivian Girls" appeared on 2006’s Hidden World (Jade Tree), and the Vivian Girls began early last year), and, at one of those shows, bass player Kickball Katy found out she wears the same kicks as Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend. "We both have the Sperry boat shoes," she explained, claiming Koenig was more weirded out than she was at this discovery.

At the time of our phone conversation, being in those shoes sounded a bit wearying. It was rainy and cold in the group’s Brooklyn home base, and October had been a busy month for the trio, which includes guitarist Cassie Ramone and drummer Ali. CMJ burned them out on what was supposed to be an October at-home break. As Katy put it, "It was kind like being on tour while being at home." Twelve hometown shows in a month does sound like a bit much, especially alongside several other one-off jaunts along the Eastern seaboard.

I guess these things happen when you set blogger hearts aflutter with a great record. Since their self-titled debut sold out its original 500-copy run on Mauled by Tigers in just 10 days earlier this year — it has since been reissued by In the Red — the attention has snowballed around their rather meek undertaking to, as Katy said, "sound like the Wipers." In truth, they do sorta sound like the Wipers, but this is where another of those coincidences comes in. Without really meaning to, their reverb-heavy pop turned out to have aesthetic forebears in older English bands like Dolly Mixture and Talulah Gosh.

Vivian Girls, “Tell the World”

Little realizing Vivian Girls would earn a place alongside such distinguished bedfellows, Ramone started the group in March 2007 with former drummer Frankie Rose, who left the outfit earlier this year and now drums for kindred Brooklyn group Crystal Stilts. Katy, who knew Ramone from high school, joined in on bass guitar shortly thereafter. Ali took over on drums early this summer, and they’ve since plowed ahead promoting their record and three singles. The entire threesome sings, and their sound is one you’d hardly hear elsewhere, delivered in earnest, these days: informally sweet vocal harmonies, jangled and thrashy guitars, and a hurried rhythmic sense that makes their album’s 21 minutes feel even shorter than they actually are.

Hurried Vivian Girls may sound, but they’re clearly not harried, even with their heavy touring schedule. "We do Vivian Girls everyday," Katy said, "whether it’s touring or other things. There’s a lot to do." The latest to-do is especially impressive. They’re silk-screening 7-inch sleeves because they’ve started their own label, Wild World, and the inaugural release will be a fan club-esque package deal: a 7-inch including new songs "Surfin Away" and "Second Date," a cover of the Beach Boys’ "Girl Don’t Tell Me," along with a T-shirt, button, and postcard. A thousand copies will be up for pre-order soon. Of course they’ll sell out. But as Katy points out, when you make something yourselves, "a thousand of anything is a lot."

Lots of other plans are slated, too. The band is set to tour England shortly after its present West Coast excursion and will be recording a second album with Steve McDonald from Redd Kross in January. It’s all very exciting, and thanks to the lyrics of standout single "Tell the World," it’s easy to succinctly explain the thrill of hearing this trio beat their hearts out and succeed: "Keep it to myself? No way!"


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