New Jersey/Brooklyn-based Vivian Girls, their name derived from outsider artists Henry Darger’s epic written work “The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion,” have been hitting the punk scene with a veritable rowdy edge. Forget the large Jersey hair, these girls just want to focus on the music, making crowds jump and dance while prophesying their love for Morrissey.
After their self-titled debut sold out in ten days, a coincidentally the same amount of songs on the album, the girls still don’t have hardcore expectations about their follow-up. All these girls have sought out is to rock out and kick some ass. The gods smiled upon me and I was lucky enough to wrangle up an interview with Katy Goodman, bassist extraordinaire, as she drove around New Jersey, sharing ideas and stories of the band’s core audience and their acceptance into the punk/rock scene.
Alma Verdejo: How was it playing 18 shows at SXSW, all on one day?
Katy: Actually it was 17 and it was very tiring. I would not recommend it for everyone and we basically got so many because we said yes to everything. We didn’t really have a lot of time to see shows but we enjoyed seeing The Black Lips, The Intelligence.
I know you guys have never hit Houston before, anything you might expect from us? Any preconceived notions?
I don’t know, to tell the truth. We’ve only been to Dallas (and Austin) and I think it might be like Dallas.
By the way, we hate Dallas. It’s like gang warfare when it comes to cities comparing each other in Texas.
That’s good to know. (laughs)
I know you guys have a new album coming out this year. Is it different from last year’s self-titled album?
This one is mostly about heartbreak and it’s longer, at 37 minutes long as opposed to the last album that was 22 minutes.
How does the songwriting process work out? Do you guys all come up with lyrics?
Actually, Cassie will do the lyrics and it’s mostly about things that happen to her, real things. We also might do songs about things that happen to other people but Cassie will sing them as if they’re about her ’cause it’s really one or two and I don’t think any of them made it onto the album that we just finished recording.
Are there longer songs on the album? I know that the songs on “Vivian Girls” were pretty short and concise.
There are 13 songs on this album, so yeah, it’s longer. Some of the songs are four and a half minutes long. Also, this album is more evolved as our music progressed.
One of my favorite songs is “No” from “Vivian Girls.” Are there songs like this, with one lyric on the album?
No, there aren’t. Not that “No” isn’t a great song, it’s just that there are songs with more than one lyric in them. I feel that “No” is a great song, though.
It’s a great aggressive song that I think taps into girls a lot. Like, girls are seen as just meek things and this song makes it okay to be aggressive and strong. Your songs have also been described as ‘60s songs as opposed to punk songs. How do you react to that?
Well, I think the Ramones are influenced by the ‘60s, so, so are we. I think people are scared of punk bands but that’s what we are. We consider ourselves to be that, our attitude is to play songs and do it fast and do our own thing.
(At shows) if people happen to stand around, then that’s fine, though we definitely play better with people dancing. We have a tight-knit group of friends and if one of them dances, it makes a whole dance party. It only takes on person to make a dance party.
How do people react when they see three aggressive punk girls in a punk band, especially when people want girls to be meek and look cute? This also comes to the media, especially, because of the way that the media portrays female bands, focusing on their looks and not their sound.
We don’t encounter it that much (touring or at shows). People don’t act like they’re shocked by us and sometimes, us being a girl band, is why girls come to the shows. We just might be inspiring to them, this girl band.
What do you like about your crowds or what has been the craziest thing that’s happened in a show?
Well, we don’t have crazy crazy things happen at our shows but I do love that they’re all totally different from each other. Like, at SXSW, we played a lot of showcases. On Tuesday, we played a night house party and it was insane. Kids were crowd surfing. Then on Wednesday, at 1pm, we played a showcase for adults that were drinking coffee, completely different than all these kids. Then, that night, we played a lounge for people drinking martinis; it’s definitely different than the last show.
We also opened up for Sonic Youth once and that was pretty crazy.
Okay, last question: Describe a Vivian Girls show.
Totally. Unique. Experience.
Check out the the Vivian Girls with Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffitti on April 9th at Walter’s on Washington.
Tix are $8 presale and $10 at the door.
Filed under: Music Interviews, Archives, Music, Rock, Vivian Girls