The Rise and Rise of Vivian Girls
Published Aug 22, 2009We live in an age where the internet promotes a tragically misleading sort of hype — just long enough to get a band signed to a decent label, but over by the time their debut album drops. When Brooklyn's Vivian Girls appeared on the blogosphere, they seemed destined for that fate.
Friends since high school, New Jersey natives Kickball Katy and Cassie Ramone started the band in early 2007. From the beginning, the band based their sound on the messy garage-pop of Gun Club and the Wipers alongside the multi-part harmonies of vintage girl groups. Eventually, original drummer Frankie Rose severed all ties from the band to join Dum Dum Girls, while the Vivian Girls enlisted their long-time friend Ali Koehler to play drums.
After entering the studio to record and mix both a self-titled album and a seven-inch in just three days, the all-girl trio released their Wild Eyes single and subsequent self-titled album on miniscule record labels Plays With Dolls and Mauled By Tigers. Their full-length led to a frenzy of attention across the web. The nerdiest of record collectors embraced their sound, which touched on the obscure twee-pop of NME's seminal C86 compilation, particularly late '80s Scottish act the Shop Assistants.
As a result, the full-length sold out within weeks, and was soon going for upwards of $100 on eBay, a fact that only strengthened the media blitz. The band were even written up in The New York Times, a fact that lead singer Cassie Ramone sees as a career high. "That was the turning point for our parents — when they finally began to support our dreams of being in the band full-time wholeheartedly," she explains.
While the surge in popularity could have been counterproductive, the Girls' sophomore album outshines their debut in every way. Titled Everything Goes Wrong, the record showcases the band's same love of messy garage songs and heartbreak. Benefiting from eight days in the studio, the album boasts slightly clearer production without sacrificing the band's signature gritty charm.
The songwriting has also improved, which is a direct result of the band's change in approach. "With the first album, it would be the three of us in the practice space trying to write songs, and so often we'd come to a roadblock because we were trying to write too much at once," Ramone recalls. "One of the most important things I learned in art school was how to not overwork a piece; knowing when to stop before it gets too busy…We found that it was way more efficient for me and Katy to write one-on-one on acoustic guitars, which was really convenient for us because we lived together at the time, and then finish working on the song with Ali."
Following the typical blog-band trajectory, Vivian Girls should be facing a world of scrutiny by now. For the most part, it doesn't seem to be happening. "The cool kids are cool for a reason," Ramone suggests. "We're still friends with all our friends from the punk scene and for the most part we haven't had any bad vibes from them."
It's true that a sea of unexpected hype gave the band an eponymous rise, but with songs these good, it's unlikely that we'll see them fall any time soon.