Two of a kind

The Beat Awfuls and Viva Viva do it their way
By WILL SPITZ  |  February 13, 2007

TO THE CORE: Vicini and his pals take a DIY approach, but they also want “to get rich or die trying.”

Beat Awfuls founder Dave Vicini, who also co-leads Viva Viva, has a penchant for contradiction. One of the best Beat Awfuls songs, “DIY Die,” is a hilarious sacred-cow slayfest that calls out indie-rock paragons like Drag City (“kind of shitty”), K Records (“a bunch of nerds”), Fugazi (“a bunch of Nazis”). Yet that’s how the Awfuls themselves operate: recording is done at home or on the cheap; album art and packaging are made by hand; CDs are distributed at shows or through the mail. It’s DIY to the core.

But for Vicini and his mates — bassist Dan Burke, drummer John Allen, guitarists Tommy Allen and Sarah Cronin in the Beat Awfuls; Burke, the Allen brothers, singer/guitarist Chris Warren, and keys dude Julian Cassanetti in Viva Viva — it’s an æsthetic preference, not a political decision. “We’re gonna try and get famous,” Warren says, sounding like the anti–Ian MacKaye, when I catch him at work at the Other Side Café. “That’s our plan.”

Vicini conveys similarly anti-indie ideas over beers at P.A.’s Lounge after one of the Awfuls’ recent residency shows at the Somerville club: “Get rich or die trying. Money is freedom to do shit.” And he’s not talking about the freedom to, say, buy a Bentley. “I would love to be like, ‘McDonald’s, you want to take a song and give me a million bucks? Cool, I’m gonna take this million bucks and put out my friend’s record or open up an art gallery.’ ”

McDonald’s hasn’t called, but Vicini and Warren have learned from previous experiences. Vicini sang in Boxer, the first band signed by Vagrant, and later the Lot Six; Warren fronted Officer May (who later became Dirty Holiday). They’re determined to approach their careers differently now. Warren: “Lot Six and Officer May went through the channels: the press and the shrinkwrap and all that. And you see this little wave of momentum, a blip. It’s like throwing a stone in the ocean, and you feel cool for a minute. Your ego is soothed. You can send your mom your clippings. But that’s really not what it’s about at all. . . . You don’t have to do anything a certain way. It’s way more exciting to hang out and write songs than it is to play in the middle of nowhere.”

The Lot Six’s biggest “break” was an invitation to tour with the Distillers. Vicini: “It made no difference. Those kids hated it. And we only got paid $100 a night.” With Viva Viva, Warren and Vicini have vowed to be selective about booking shows. Since their inception about a year ago, they’ve played just three, all of which sold out.

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