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Vivian Girls are playing a house show in Silver Spring tonight. Because indie is as indie does. Rick interviewed them on the eve of the release of their new album a couple of months a go, and we’re rerunning it because a. we can and b. it is a pretty great read and some of you may have missed it.

A lot has happened to the three fun-lovin’ gals in the Vivian Girls since the band released its critically acclaimed self-titled debut album last year. The noise pop-friendly garage band has been on the road almost constantly, and yet, still found time to record and release lots of music in between albums, make videos, form side projects, etc.

The feverish pace of activity has been accompanied by the band’s intense media attention, and the gals know first-hand that hype doesn’t come without its downsides (the blogosphere has been rife with all sorts of anti-Vivian Girls tirades, including an uncomfortable number of sexist statements arguing that girls have no place in indie rock).

All the blathering in the Vivian Girls’ direction, however, has helped propel their popularity to places a DIY garage band could rarely dream. Case in point: In one of the most unlikely of pairings, the Vivian Girls did a mini-tour with M. Ward earlier this year, with one show taking place at the famed Apollo theatre in New York.

Thankfully, these girls are way too focused on making music to let such successes go to their heads. Here we are, a little less than a year after their debut got a wide release via the In the Red label, and the band is back with a darker, more fully realized second album, “Everything Goes Wrong.” The album just came out TODAY (ON In The Red Records) and I whole heartedly recommend checking it out! To mark the occasion of the new album’s release, BYT recently spoke with lead singer and guitarist Cassie Ramone. Read on!


BYT: How does it feel to be on the verge of releasing “Everything Goes Wrong”––are you excited? Nervous?

Cassie: A little bit of both. The record leaked a few days ago. It’s out there. So I guess people have started to listen to it. So now it’s kind of like…I don’t know. I really want the album to be out officially. The album itself comes with this really nice booklet. I think it accompanies the music very well. I can’t wait for people to hear it on vinyl too, you know?

BYT: Absolutely. I’m big on vinyl over here.

Cassie: Oh great. So are all three of us.

BYT: I wanted to ask you: Now that the album is finished, how closely does it resemble what the band had in its collective head when you set out to record it?

Cassie: Um…very closely. And actually I think it sounds better than what we had in our heads. The guy who recorded it was on the same page as us. He had a lot of great ideas to bring to the table.

BYT: Is that Steve McDonald from the band Red Kross you’re referring to?

Cassie: Oh no. He was going to produce it but then his wife (ed: Anna Waronker of That Dog fame) got pregnant and it was going to interfere with her pregnancy. So we worked with this guy Mike McHugh who records at this place called The Distillery in Costa Mesa, Calif. That place is awesome. It’s all analog and Mike is one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met.

BYT: Had you heard any recordings that he had done before you went into the studio with him?

Cassie: Yeah, he did The Black Lips “Let It Bloom” album which is one of the big reasons we were excited about recording with him. We love that album and we love the way it sounds.

BYT: One of the things that struck me about the sound of the new album is there’s a really nice balance between capturing the band’s raw punk performance with an undeniable clarity. It’s still very much a lo-fi recording but at the same time you can hear everything that’s going on quite clearly.

Cassie: A lot of that is the genius of Mike McHugh. He specializes in lo-fi recordings. Because he’s been working with garage bands for so long, he’s been able to really perfect his art.

BYT: There seems to be a bit more angst and a darker tone on the new album. I was wondering what inspired that?

Cassie: It was a very tough transitional year. And I think that came through in the music.

BYT: From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like the world of the Vivian Girls is a hectic one. You’ve got this relentless touring schedule and at the same time, keep recording and putting out new music. Since your debut album came out last fall, you put out three 7” singles (all featuring non-album songs), plus you recorded “Lake House” for one of the World’s Lousy With Ideas compilations, shot a video for “Moped Girls,” played several festivals, and now you’re here a little less than a year later with album #2.

Cassie: Yeah. We’re definitely a very hard-working band. We are very busy.

BYT: I didn’t know if the angst was coming out of what seems like a very stressful schedule and all this pressure?

Cassie: Um…that’s not really what it came out of. It’s more about things that happened in our personal lives that I don’t really want to get into.

BYT: No worries, we won’t go there.

Cassie: Our personal lives were a total mess last year. So I guess that’s really what the album is about.

BYT: Hence the title.

Cassie: Yeah (laugh).

BYT: Have you given much thought about what songs you want to release as singles? Perhaps “Can’t Get Over You,” “The End” or “When I’m Gone?”

Cassie: I think all three of those are going to be singles. We’re actually planning on doing music videos for all three.

BYT: Well, I’m personally lobbying for a return appearance from Reggie the Cat. He kind of stole the show in the “Moped Girls” video.

Cassie: Oh, he’ll definitely be back. And the guy who directed “Moped Girls,” Brady Hall, is going to do one for “When I’m Gone.”

BYT: Oh cool.

Cassie: We’ll definitely ask him to give Reggie a starring role.

BYT: Excellent. I can’t wait to see it. So what’s your take on all the hype, hoopla and in other quarters, vitriol that’s being directed at the Vivian Girls on the internet? Have you gotten pretty good at just ignoring everything that’s being said about you at this point?

Cassie: I’ve definitely been trying to ignore it. I’m definitely sick of the word “hype.” I don’t know. I just wish that people could hear our music for what it is and ignore all the other things that come along with our presence as a band.

BYT: My take on the negative stuff: I understand it to a certain degree because so much of what’s considered “indie” these days is very commercial and safe sounding. You have a lot of music fans today who probably only think of indie in terms of MGMT, Feist and The Killers. So when someone who really only listens to the more commercial stuff reads good reviews of the Vivian Girls and hears them for the first time, they’re obviously not going to get it. I don’t know, maybe it’s like going from spending all your time in a hot tub to suddenly jumping into a swimming pool where the difference in temperature is initially off-putting…

Cassie: Yeah, I think that makes sense.

BYT: But I think if they put the time in and really listened, got used to the rawness of it, a lot of them might really like the music. Because then they’d hear the songs and I think that’s really where your strengths are––in the songwriting department. You guys write really good songs.

Cassie: Thank you.

BYT: And speaking of the media, were you aware that the Vivian Girls were recently turned into a Jeopardy question?

Cassie: I was! When that happened, we were on tour in Austin, Texas and we all got a barrage of text-messages about that. And we were like,” What?!!! No way!!!” It was completely surprising and bizarre. We have no idea how it happened.

BYT: I also wanted to ask about the band’s DIY ethos. You guys do so much of everything, from designing and silk-screening the band’s t-shirts to running your own label, Wild World, and handling mail orders. BYT would like to know: Are the Vivian Girls control freaks? (laugh)

Cassie: In a way, yeah. We want to have a hands-on approach to everything, from our aesthetic to the way we do business. It’s something that we’re all firm believers in.

BYT: Speaking of the DIY ethos, it seems like there has been this surge in really interesting DIY bands and labels in the states in recent years. You’ve got these smaller labels like Captured Tracks, Woodsist, Almost Ready and Make A Mess putting great stuff out right alongside Slumberland, What’s Your Rupture? and In the Red. You guys have put stuff out on some of those labels. Any thoughts on why there’s been so much DIY activity recently?

Cassie: I guess there are a lot of people out there right now that share a similar mindset. DIY has always been happening. Now it’s getting recognition from Pitchfork, Stereogum and other forms of media. I think it’s awesome. I love and respect all those labels. I think it’s really great that so many people are doing things like that.

BYT: Me too. I also wanted to ask about the band’s live shows and touring schedule. I’ve seen two Vivian Girls shows and both of them left a big impression on me.

Cassie: Really? Which two shows?

BYT: One was at somebody’s house in Baltimore last summer. Crystal Stilts also played and there was a skate ramp in the backyard.

Cassie: Oh yeah! I remember that.

BYT: The other time was when you played with M. Ward at the Historic Synagogue in DC.

Cassie: I remember that show!

BYT: I got a kick out of looking at the reactions of all the people in the audience. There were a lot of M. Ward fans there.

Cassie: They probably hated it.

BYT: I wouldn’t say that. But there were quite a few that were no doubt…surprised at your sound (laugh). We actually did a review of that show for BYT. I was really struck by how far you guys had come since I first saw you in Baltimore. You guys were great back then, but when I saw you with M. Ward, you were tighter and there was a newfound professionalism. You could tell the band had been playing a lot of shows. Anyway, I wanted to ask you about what it’s like playing with someone like M. Ward where you don’t have that much in common musically?

Cassie: Um…I’m not going to lie. That was kind of awkward. We do like some of M. Ward’s stuff. But right from the first show, which was at the Apollo, it was kind of obvious that we were not playing to the right crowd and most of the people there wouldn’t understand what we were going for. So it’s kind of rough playing with artists like that for that reason. But…I don’t know. It’s like us and M. Ward are at such different ends of the music spectrum.

BYT: And yet, both bands are considered “indie.” It goes back to what we were talking about earlier where indie means different things to different people. You’ve got a whole bunch of music fans out there whose idea of indie––whether they’re consciously aware of it or not––it’s the safe, sort of all ages appropriate, highly accommodating stuff like M. Ward or Wilco. Nothing wrong with those bands, it’s quality music, but I hear that kind of stuff in shopping malls. Whereas I don’t think I’ll ever hear the Vivian Girls in a shopping mall.

Cassie: But it would be cool if you did.

BYT: That would have to be one cool shopping mall (laugh). Anyway, back to your live shows––you’ve got this big tour happening. You’re heading to Sweden, Finland, Japan, and Hawaii. What are you looking forward to the most?

Cassie: Looking forward to Hawaii a whole lot.

BYT: Have you been there before?

Cassie: I’ve wanted to go ever since I was a little kid. I’m super excited. We’re going to have some time off there so I’m just going to relax on the beach. It’s going to be great. I’m going to work on my tan.

BYT: I was there not too long ago.

Cassie: Really? Cool.

BYT: Yeah, it was awesome. I would recommend hitting the north shore of Oahu to do some snorkeling.

Cassie: Yeah, I think we are going to try and go snorkeling. Our publicist went snorkeling there too and told us about it and said it was beautiful.

BYT: But you have to promise that the Vivian Girls will be back to play in DC.

Cassie: Oh we definitely will! I will make a solemn oath that we will be back in DC.

BYT: Awesome. It’s been great talking with you––thanks for the interview!

Cassie: Thank you!


Want more:
the Vivian Girls will be stopping by DC on October 29th and for some awesome previous coverage of them on BYT check out:
this rad tour diary they did for us
this (amazingly charming) live show review Peter wrote
-and this review from Rick himself when they played the Synagogue