Vivian Girls are one of the success stories of the Brooklyn music scene. They’ve been around for a few years now, their debut met wide acclaim and they are amping up for a big fall tour in support of their sophomore album, Everything Goes Wrong, out on Sept. 8. Cassie, Katy and Ali play guitar, bass and drums and sing and found some time to discuss pizza, dealing with online “haters,” recording at Fort Tilden and their latent desire to relocate to California. (This is becoming a common refrain.)
The band plays tomorrow at Death by Audio.
When you first formed, what did you expect?
Cassie: We wanted to write short and fast but melodic songs, go on tour, and put out an LP. We expected to tour basement shows and dive bars a few times a year.
Katy: I really wanted for us to be interviewed in Maximum Rock and Roll, which happened last year!
You’ve been featured in many magazines and blogs. How does it feel?
Cassie: Kind of strange but it’s also fun to gather a collection of magazines with your picture in it. Kind of annoying though when a blog will post about you every other week just to rile up the haters.
Ali: It’s surreal and like Cassie said a ton of fun to collect the magazines you’re in. I’m not really all that phased by the haters anymore. If they have enough time and negative energy to go out of their way to bring you down on a public forum they aren’t worth a reaction.
Katy: It is pretty awesome to get a reaction from people for your music, positive or negative. We all made music for a long time before Vivian Girls which got no attention at all, so it’s a big change that feels nice.
What are your favorite bands and what are you listening to these days?
Cassie: The Wipers, the Bananas, Neil Young, and Sonic Youth are some of my all time favorite bands. These days I’m listening to a lot of Lou Christie, the Beach Boys and the Adolescents.
Ali: Serious Lou Barlow and Courtney Love infatuation going on with me. I listen to every Hole album all day every day. I like how they can take me from being super pissed with Pretty on the Inside to dancing around to Celebrity Skin.
Katy: Right now I’m listening to a lot of Yellow Fever. We are currently working on putting out a record for them. They are one of the best bands around these days. Some of my favorite bands of all time are Nirvana, The Smiths, The Pixies, the Modern Lovers, Minor Threat, and the B-52s.
Pizza or chinese? What kind?
Cassie: Pizza’s more reliable, so I’ll go with that. I really like getting pizza from Domino’s.
Ali: I’m gonna go with pizza. Real pizza though, from a pizzeria.
Katy: Definitely pizza, from anywhere.
How did you find each other and form the band?
Cassie: Katy and I met in high school at a Weezer concert. I met Frankie at a Dynamite Arrows show in Brooklyn in 2006; Dynamite Arrows was our friends’ pop-punk band. We then formed the band in 2007. When we needed a new drummer, Ali was the obvious choice. She and Katy met in college at Rutgers and had been in several bands together before Vivian Girls.
How do you write songs?
Cassie: For the most part, I write the guitar parts, lyrics and melody and then show it to the girls and then they write harmonies and bass and drum parts. It’s a very collaborative method, though. It takes us a while to write and arrange each song.
What inspires you to make music?
Cassie: Listening to music and living life.
Katy: Hanging out and having fun.
Ali: Because it’s not enough for me to sit back and watch other people have all the fun making music.
What’s the best show you’ve played?
Cassie: Maybe my birthday party/show in Austin this year. It was at a house party and the sound was terrible but everyone was moshing and singing all the words. I chipped my tooth that night too!
Ali: There was this one show in Boise, ID that nobody was at but I think it was the best we played all tour, which was funny.
Katy: I think our show in London at the Lexington in June. I was really really sick with strep throat, so I was on tons of drugs so I could sing. It ended up being a really fun, crazy mess of a show where all of our friends came on stage and tackled us a lot.
What’s the best thing about being in a band?
Cassie: Getting to make music with your friends.
Ali: Watching people in the crowd connect with the sounds you’re making.
Katy: Getting to travel and meet lots of people all over the world.
Are you glad you’re a part of the Brooklyn scene? Why? Did that fact help you achieve success?
Cassie: Yes, but I’m not glad we’re in it because it might have helped us achieve success. I’m glad we’re in it because we love our friends.
What do you think about the trend towards lo-fi and buzzy pop that’s been going down (in large part thanks to you)?
Cassie: I think it’s great. A lot of interesting music is coming out these days, especially in that scene.
Ali: Fortunately the majority of the people involved in this scene are amazing people and I’m grateful they are my friends and peers.
There are a lot of California (southern mostly) bands that are doing a lot of similar things as the V.G.’s. Do you feel like you could ever move to a sunnier, beachier place?
Cassie: Yeah, moving to LA is something we daydream about often.
Ali: Yes, it’s funny. I always thought I was a devoted east coast girl until I went to L.A. It really is beautiful there.
Fort Tilden isn’t good enough?
Cassie: Fort Tilden is the best beach! It has these cool old army batteries in the tall grass a little bit off the coast. They’re really creepy and have the most amazing reverb. Me and my friend Melissa talk of getting a crew of kids to go down there with instruments and a tape recorder and recording fucked up songs in the old forts.
Who are your heroes?
Cassie: Neil Young and Greg Sage (the Wipers).
What do you do with your free time?
Cassie: Hang out with our boyfriends. I like to write songs and go to the beach and go to a lot of shows.
Do you ever play acoustic shows? (I’m thinking of the They Shoot Videos segments, they were great)
Cassie: Thanks! We’ve played a few acoustic shows, in-stores and such. We do a large amount of our songwriting acoustically so playing acoustic shows is a special treat for us – it brings us back to the base.
For Cassie: Side projects usually stay side projects, do you see the Babies becoming more than that? Since you’re not the primary songwriter, how do you describe your role in the band? How is it different being in a band with men instead of women? Power dynamics? How many songs are you recording or have you recorded?
At this point, the Babies is just a fun side project. Kevin and I are both really busy in our other bands and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. My role in the band is to help out with songwriting and sing backup vocals and play either guitar leads or rhythm guitar, depending on the song. Being in this band is definitely different than being in Vivian Girls but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily because it’s with men instead of women. It’s a whole different cast of personalities, you know? Both bands are fun to be in. We’ve recorded 4 songs so far but we have written a lot more.
Vivian Girls: When I’m Gone (newer song)
Vivian Girls: Where Do You Run To (older song)