In a truly cosmic moment of serendipity I caught Vivian Girls in March at a SXSW showcase they were not even officially billed for. I watched the beginning of their set from the side of the venue, and was subconsciously carried to the center of the stage and into a full dance mode by the end of the set. Their ghostly noisy punk is everything the Pandoras should’ve been, and there are only three of em! (Interview by Vanessa Gonzalez)
So what has Vivian Girls been up to?
Katy (bass/vocals): Well, we’ve been playing a lot of shows, recording an acoustic video for ifyoumakeit.com, mailing out our new records, and silk-screening shirts for tour.
Cassie (guitar/vocals): Katy and I are also both about to graduate from college, so the past few months have been both really fun and stressful.
K: And we’re about to play a bunch of awesome shows before we leave on tour, two of which are with Abe Vigoda, so that should be awesome. I accidentally booked our tour starting a day too early, because it turns out all of my finals are on the 13th, but on the 13th we’re going to be in Asheville playing with the Bananas.
Yay! The Bananas!
C: The Bananas have been one of my favorite bands since I was 16. Playing a show with them has been a dream of mine since I started playing music. I can’t wait.
K: Yeah I’m excited, too. We’re also playing with them in Richmond. We’re also going on another tour in august. We’re going to go to Chicago and back with Crystal Stilts.
And Frankie, you recently joined Crystal Stilts?
Frankie (drums/vocals): Yup, I’m drumming for them now so its double duty these couple weeks before tour.
Do you feel like you come out of a scene of sorts in Brooklyn?
F: In a way it’s a “scene” because we enjoy playing shows with our friends and we do it as much as possible. There may be similarities in sound. It’s kind of like when multiple visual artists share a common space. Inspiration and ideas can’t help but be thrown around—in turn, affecting each other’s work.
K: Well, the bands we play with—like Crystal Stilts and caUSE co-MOTION!—they’re friends first, and then bands-we-know second. For example, Cassie and I have known the guitar player of caUSE co-MOTION! since before we even had our bands, and I think we all just happen to have similar taste and that comes out in our music.
C: I think the main thing that unites us all in the Brooklyn scene is that we all appreciate each other, and try to make interesting music, of any genre, that we’re proud of and happy to share with our friends.
On your myspace there is a picture entitled “we live here” and a commenter refers to it as the “stuffed animal house.” What’s the story behind that place?
F: Oh! We don’t really live there. Cassie and I live in Brooklyn and Katy lives in New Jersey. That’s just a wacky spot we found in Detroit on tour.
C: It’s a large-scale street-long art project called the Heidelberg Project and it took years and years to make. In Detroit, there are blocks and blocks of abandoned houses, and someone just used it to make these huge sculptures. He painted faces on every house, or covered it with stuffed animals or other objects. There were also all these abandoned fields next to the houses in which he made sculptures of taxis and totem poles of junk. He did this to an ENTIRE STREET in Detroit.
I heard you have a good Pensacola story.
F: We do? Oh yeah! How I got a new wardrobe! It’s creepy, really. An old lady passed away, and the family didn’t have money to clean out the house. So the kids in Pensacola have slowly been picking apart this woman’s house, which was left totally intact. There was an entire living room filled—about six feet high over your head—with amazing vintage clothes. They were all a little moldy, but… you know! I think we have a picture somewhere. You can’t really find me in the chaos—it’s like Where’s Waldo!
K: I actually had to kick the door open! It was the first time I’d ever done that…I felt like John McClane.
Have you kicked down any doors since?
K: Well, once you start…
What releases will Vivian Girls have with you on tour?
F: Our LP that is coming out on Mauled by Tigers and the Plays With Dolls seven inch that just came out. But the one I’m most excited about is our 3-song self-recorded 7″ in on Woodsist. Hopefully we’ll have some copies of that with us, as well. They’re on the album too, but they’re recorded in a different way. I really love the way the recordings we did ourselves came out, so I’m pretty excited about that 7″.
C: They’re definitely a lot more lo-fi.
F: Originally we recorded them as a reference. They were not intended to be a recording we were going to release or anything. We recorded everything through my little practice amp, in my old house, and we didn’t have a kick drum. It’s funny because I play bass on one of the songs that I don’t even play bass on anymore. Katy plays bass on it now, and I play drums. It sounds a lot more garage-y than the album, which I like. It’s a little bit dirtier, and little sadder, I think. It’s also wonkier. But I like that. Quite honestly, I love playing drums the most—I love it so much. But I like a little variety. For kicks, we’ve been switching it up a lot more these days, which is nice for me.
Is self-recording something you’ll do more of in the future?
F: I hope so. I think in the future we’ll try and reach more of a middle ground. I think we want to record ourselves, but do a slightly better job of it. And have more mics—all we used was the built-in computer mic—and take more time with it. That’s what’s nice about recording yourself; you have all the time in the world. I guess we’d like to find a balance between recording in a studio, and singing into the tiny mic on an iBook. I just think it’s really nice to have total control over the way your songs are going to sound.
So when you were doing the house recording, you didn’t anticipate it being released?
F: Nah. It was just for us. I think we put it up on our website, and people really liked it, and then our friend Jeremy asked if he could put it out. I’m really happy that they are going to be out there. They became practically different songs than the versions on the LP, which I’m fine with. I think I hold the home recordings a bit closer to my heart. I also feel like sometimes things can be lost in re-recording. For example, you can record something and maybe you don’t mean it to be released at any point, but it’s a new song and it’s fresh, and it captures something at the time. And sometimes I think those things can be lost when you take it into a studio.
C: Our studio experience was amazing, though. Jeremy Scott, our recording engineer, is a great guy and our recording session was totally relaxed and fun. He did a great job. We are all really happy with our album and can’t wait for its release!
THE VIVIAN GIRLS WITH POCAHAUNTED, BLACK BLACK, WHITE AND THE WRITING AND ZOMBELLE ON FRI., MAY 22, AT THE SMELL, 247 S. MAIN ST., LOS ANGELES. 9 PM / $5 / $5 HAIRCUTS AND VEGAN FOOD BY CROPS AND RAWBERS / ALL AGES. THESMELL.ORG.