The Vivian Girls have a too-cool-for-school look, but the band really just wants to be friends. The group’s third album, “Share the Joy,” was released last week and expands on its science project-style mixture of sun-dripped girl groups of old and grungy low-fidelity instrumentation.
The Temple News talked with front woman Cassie Ramone about Beat Happening, Nirvana’s astrological signs and the joy of side projects.
The Temple News: In a lot of interviews and blog posts, the Vivian Girls are often compared to the Shaggs, who were known for an ineptitude for playing instruments, while you three are completely proficient. Although comparisons are mostly useless, who would you compare yourselves to for someone who has never heard your music?
Cassie Ramone: Over the years, the band we keep finding ourselves coming back to is Nirvana. In our opinion we both have a distinct, intense sound with a lot of range within it. It makes the most sense astrologically: Kurt Cobain and I are both Pisces, Katy is a Virgo and Krist Novoselic is a Taurus, and both bands have had Aquarius, Capricorn [and] Leo drummers.
TTN: At times, your voice brings to mind Heather Lewis of Beat Happening, yet the group harmonies bring to mind other favorite girl groups, including the Raindrops and the Crystals. Do you identify more with the ‘60s type of pop or the ‘70s or ‘80s abrasive side of music?
CR: I love Beat Happening, but I don’t relate too many of the bands that sound like them anymore. Sixties pop is absolutely one of my favorite genres. I listen to a lot of those songs, and they blow my mind apart. Not just girl group stuff, either. Burt Bacharach and the Beatles are both so inspirational.
TTN: What is it like playing with the different variety of bands you‘ve shared bills with? You’ve opened first for M. Ward and then the Black Lips, and you’ve played with Sonic Youth in the past. Do you think those different crowds all get the same show?
CR: We’re always working on improving our live show, so not exactly, because all those shows were at such different places in time. Every show is totally different. The energy in the room is a huge factor for us, but regardless, we always give the crowd the best we can.
TTN: Can you tell me a bit about your new album “Share The Joy”?
CR: It’s a little cleaner than our previous albums, and in general, I think it’s a little more crafted. It has more ebbs and flows, whereas our first two albums were kind of straight shots all the way through.
TTN:Where does the nickname “Kickball Katy” come from?
CR: Katy went to school at [Rochester Institute of Technology] for about a month before dropping out. While she was there, she was a member of a “super secret kickball society,” and they gave her the nickname. That is all we’re allowed to tell you.
TTN: Between the three of you, there are four side projects (Coasting, the Babies, All Saint’s Day and La Sera) also going on. Where do you find the time and do you give them all equal attention to the Vivian Girls?
CR: No, Vivian Girls comes first. Basically, music is our lives, and whenever we have downtime from touring or recording, we like to keep busy making music any way. We’re not the kind of personalities that like to do nothing but relax for months on end. It makes us bored and depressed.
TTN: Last month, you went on something dubbed the “Bruise Cruise” with tour mates Black Lips, Surfer Blood and a couple of other bands. What was that experience like?
CR: When the boat set sail, I got so seasick that I felt like I was having bad psychedelic experiences. But as soon as I calmed down, it was awesome. It was a lot more relaxed than the photos make it out to be. I’m sure the photographers were just trying to capture the craziest moments possible, but I mostly just hung out at the pool and talked to friends.
The media also made it out to be a bunch of wild garage rockers f-ing up regular cruisers’ lives, but we all co-existed very peacefully. A-plus for sure.
Kevin Stairiker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.