VIDEO: Vivian Girls, "Tell the World"
“Maybe over there? Try over there . . . ” The muffled voice in the background sounds defeated.
I’m on speakerphone with the three ladies of Brooklyn’s Vivian Girls — it’s noon and the trio are driving around Charlottesville, Virginia, searching for one of drummer Ali Koehler’s shoes, which fell out of their gear-stuffed car the previous night after a show at the Outback. They’ve gotta be in Baltimore in a couple hours, but priorities are priorities.
“Ehh, we’re never gonna find it,” mutters singer/bassist Kickball Katy.
So it goes when you’re as fiercely DIY a band as Vivian Girls — no handlers to find shoes, and not a whole lot of money to buy new ones, particularly when your usual gig is a small (though typically packed) house show for six bucks a head. Still, you can’t buy the kind of buzz that’s surrounded the trio in recent months. Tastemaker blogs have been afire with praise for their homonymous album (recorded in two days for $900), which, after selling out its tiny first pressing on Mauled by Tigers Records shortly after its May release, is being reissued by garage-rock label In the Red Records this month.
And rightfully so. The Vivs play a gloriously grimy, careering style of surf punk — kissed by the collective influence of the Wipers, the Slits, the Muffs, and the Shangri-Las — that’s drenched in reverb and dappled with sweet melodies, ’60s girl-group harmonies, and the occasional burst of noise, kinda like a riot grrrl’s Raveonettes. Mixed in with all the house and basement shows has been an increasing number of club dates and festivals. And bigger, more established acts have been showing some love too — at both bands’ adamant behest, Vivian Girls recently shared stages with Sonic Youth and TV on the Radio. Not bad for three girls who weren’t even a band till May of last year.
“All we ever wanted when we first started was to play house parties and to play really fast,” says Katy.
“And to make a record,” singer/guitarist Cassie Ramone chimes in.
“Yeah, and go on tour,” resumes Katy. “That was a year ago, and we’ve done all that and more, and we’re psyched, and we’re just gonna, like, be surprised every day with what happens next.”
Along the way, support has come from a multitude of like-minded DIY bands and show promoters in Brooklyn. (All natives of New Jersey, where Cassie and Katy met in high school a few years ago, the trio have one by one migrated to Williamsburg.) Support also comes from their families, even if, as Katy laughs, the folks don’t always get it.
“Our parents are really supportive in general, but our moms in particular do not understand our music. They don’t understand the reverb. My mom’s like, ‘Katy, you have such a beautiful voice but I can’t understand a word that you’re saying!’ My mom likes lyrics and stuff, like ‘songwriter songs,’ so if she hears a song on the radio she likes, she’ll print out the lyrics for me, like, ‘Oh Katy, I think you’d really love this song!’ ”