Though they were pretty busy touring at the time, we managed to get a quick Q&A with Vivian Girls guitarist and lead singer Cassie Ramone a couple of months ago. The all-girl, indie-punk trio, who shot to indie-fame with their 2008 self-titled debut, had lost original founding member Frankie Rose (who went on to enjoy a brief stint with fellow Brooklyn rockers Crystal Stilts and is now working on her own project Frankie Rose & The Outs) and were enjoying the fresh input of current drummer Ali Koehler. Having just released their anticipated second album, Everything Goes Wrong, Cassie filled us in a little on navigating the line-up changes, what life is like as a Vivian Girl on the road, and the inspirations behind the new album. As their year-end poll position attests, it turned out to be one of 2009′s most loved releases.
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Where did the title for your new album Everything Goes Wrong come from? Is it as pessimistic as it sounds?
It comes from a lyric from the song ‘When I’m Gone’. We thought it was a good name because, in our opinion, the album’s a huge bummer.
Have bridges been built with Frankie yet?
Has the addition of new member Ali changed the band dynamics, and if so, how?
Yes, it has. Ali’s really fun and easy to work with. She also brings a lot of good ideas to the table. It’s been wonderful!
All three of you have fringes. Is this a pre-requisite for being a Vivian Girl, kind of like The Ramones with their leather jackets?
Not at all. We all just happen to prefer the way our hair looks when we have bangs.
Your show at The Lexington in London earlier this year saw a playfully shambolic exit song involving much instrument swapping and stage crashing. Are you as anarchic off the stage too?
Not quite as much! But almost.
You have quite a collection of tattoos between you. What was the inspiration behind hamburgers, milkshakes, feathers and globes?
Katy and I got the milkshake and burger on the same day, to commemorate all the time we’d spent in New Jersey diners together. The three of us got the feather tattoos in London because we heard our friends’ friend would do it in his house for only 10 pounds a person and we liked the design a lot. Katy got the globe because her favourite Ramones song is ‘Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World’.
There seems to be an unspoken, wink-wink rumour that you girls are very partial to herbal supplements. Is this true?
It takes one to know one, man…
Tell us about Wild World.
Wild World is a record label that Katy and I originally started just to put out the ‘Surf’s Up’ 7″, but then we decided to do other records too.
We’ve heard that you’re also a talented illustrator, having done 7” artwork and some t-shirt designs. Is this true?
Thank you! It’s true, I do all the band’s artwork.
The band name is an ode to Henry Darger’s heroines in the graphic novel Realms Of The Unreal. Are you graphic novel fans, and if so, who are you favourite authors/artists/titles?
Ali’s the most into graphic novels and comic books out of the three of us. Her favourite authors/artists are Ivan Brunetti and Paul Hornschemeier.
Songwriters often find inspiration for their second album a little harder to come by, having sunk a lot of their life experiences into their debut. What kind of issues and events did you draw on for Everything Goes Wrong?
A few different ones. A lot of the album is about the weird relationships I was involved in 2008 (and some before 2008) – not necessarily romantic ones either. It was a really strange time. I actually don’t think all that much of my life experience went into the debut. I could write multiple albums’ worth of songs about things that happened before the band even formed, and I still write about those experiences to this day.
It seems a little moodier and more expansive then the first album. Would you say this is a fair assessment of the record’s overall atmosphere?
I totally agree!
The album was wrapped up in six days, with some songs being recorded in single takes. Does this speedy, one-take ethic reflect your songwriting process, and is that normally a group effort, or do you pen most of it?
The album was actually wrapped up in eight days – I think it was supposed to be six, but we took two days longer than we thought we would. Our songwriting process is definitely not something I consider a one-take effort. It varies from song to song, but in general I write the guitar parts and lyrics and vocal melody by myself and then show it to the other girls to see if they like it. Then we all work together arranging the song, and Katy and Ali write their own bass and drum parts and harmonies. But we all give feedback for every step. It’s definitely a collaborative effort and we work hard on each song to make sure it’s what we think is really good.
You’re all comparatively young considering the speed of the band’s pinball-shot success. Is music something you’d like to be a life-long career, or are there other fields you’d like to try too?
For me, playing music and writing songs is definitely something I’ll be pursuing my entire life, along with art. I think Katy will probably end up in the music industry. I also know Ali once said that she wants to keep playing in bands after we break up.
What are your key survival essentials when on tour?
Headphones and coffee.
Do you have groupies?
What’s been your most memorable show to date?
When we opened for Sonic Youth. Even though that was over a year ago and a lot has happened in that year, that was definitely our most memorable show to date, and such an amazing opportunity.
Do you have a favourite song off this album for playing live, and if so, why does it stand out for you?
I like playing ‘Walking Alone At Night’ because it’s aggressive and short.
Finally, what are the best and worst things about being a Vivian Girl?
The best thing is getting to tour the world and meet fans and know that the music you’re making resonates with other people. That’s a really magical feeling. The worst thing, obviously, is getting torn apart by haters. But then again, knowing that so many people get mad by the very existence of our band is a powerful thing. I’d rather have that than have nobody care.
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Charlotte Richardson Andrews