Catching up with a shape-shifting Viva Viva

Band on the run
By NOLAN GAWRON  |  November 9, 2011

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VIVA EVOLUTION “Whoever is around, we will make it work,” says Viva Viva’s Chris Warren (second from left, with Dave Vicini third from left). “Are you going to cancel Christmas because your brother can’t make it?”

With creative assists from Bud, Jack, and Marlboro Reds — call it a musician's late-night BLT — Viva Viva's Chris Warren grabs his acoustic guitar and launches into an impromptu "Sweet Jane." From there it's an intimate rendition of Tom Waits's "I Don't Want To Grow Up," and an unreleased song of his own which fits seamlessly into the quiet kitchen concert. "As far as songwriting," Warren offers, "I don't know where it comes from and where it goes, but I'm glad people enjoy it. Ultimately I'm doing it for me, which is frustrating because I'm never satisfied."

Despite the struggle, Warren's soulful cigarette-scarred snarl exists in eerie harmony with Dave Vicini's junk-punk delivery in Boston garage rock juggernaut Viva Viva. Their name derived from Walt Whitman ("Viva to those who failed"), they quickly became our city's newest super-group a few years ago, after the demise of their previous bands, Officer May and the Lot Six, respectively, in the 2000s.

Bolstered by the haunting keyboards of Fumika Yamazaki-Burdett, the deathmarch drums of Dominic Mariano, and the doomsday bass of Dan Burke, Viva Viva purvey a gritty, boot-stomping blues. Their songs are sinister — a carpe diem for those who walk the crooked path, a battle cry for the wounded and scorned, a soundtrack for a city of dead dreams.

Following the band's DIY full-length debut, Art, Sex, Death, and Time, and their growing reputation for decadent live shows, Viva Viva eventually caught the eyes and ears of Fort Point records, which signed the band and released their homonymous record earlier this year. A follow-up EP, What's the Kim Deal? is due out January 24. "Dave came up with the title," says Chris Warren at his Union Square apartment. "I think Kim Deal is an underdog badass, and we think we fit into the 'underdog badass' category."

The six songs on the EP are well-known among the band's fans from live shows. Straying slightly from their usual blatant expressions of excess, they focus more on the universal struggle, paranoia, and loss of innocence.

"It's been a long, slow process, so I don't even notice," says Warren. "It's like when you look in the mirror every day, you don't see the change because it's so subtle. If some of our newer songs sound more positive and optimistic, it's because I'm trying to fool myself into a more positive outlook. I was born a pessimist, but that doesn't mean hope and love shouldn't be part of my future. When I was younger it was, 'We're all gonna die!' Now it's, 'Okay, we're going to DIE!' "

The most significant change for Viva Viva, however, is not in the songs, but the absence of Vicini. Although he will still tour and record with the band, the commanding frontman recently relocated to Lexington, Kentucky.

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