Webcuts first caught up with the vivacious Vivian Girls in London on Valentine’s Day earlier this year to talk about their debut album just as they were getting eager to head back to the States to begin work on the follow-up. Now they’ve returned in record time with their completed sophomore album Everything Goes Wrong which we reviewed last week saying “Perhaps finally the hype that was lauded on the first record is actually justified here” .
Full of tender moments and lovesick pining, Everything Goes Wrong took Vivian Girls down the dark end of the street, which has now taken them all the way down under. In Australia for a very brief tour, Chris Berkley of Static caught up with the girls as they were shaking off jetlag and preparing to indulge in some Australian cuisine (Ed note: the in-depth discussion on the merits and taste of Vegemite were left on the cutting floor) for a chat.
You’re feeling alright? Long travel from Japan overnight. Ali, you were saying, that it wasn’t much fun?
Ali: It’s ok. I’m just tired.
Katy: We’re all a little sleepy.
Is that part of being in a touring band? You’re almost eternally jetlagged half the time?
All: Pretty much, yeah.
Does it get any easier?
Katy: No, but it’s really fun. Fun jetlag.
I’m pleased that you’re all here and that you’re allowed to trade as Vivian Girls in Australia. Have you covered this?
Katy: Oh, the other band?
Has anyone from Australia asked you about that yet?
Katy: No, but one time in New York City about two years ago we played with the band Ninetynine who has a member, if I’m correct, of the old Vivian Girls and Cassie (to Cassie) did they just say like ‘good show’?
Cassie: Yeah. That’s pretty much it.
Katy: There was no conversation about it, and no weirdness, so I think it’s all ok. We got the go ahead.
So they weren’t just speaking to you through their lawyers or anything?
Katy: (laughs) No.
For people who don’t know there was a Melbourne band around briefly who obviously had a much less stellar career than you guys, but was that kind of a bummer to find that out?
Katy: Actually, we knew about it, but we didn’t think it would ever matter because we weren’t ever expecting to get publicly known.
Cassie: Yeah, we only envisaged ourselves as a local band when we started out. We never thought anyone would ever hear about us besides our friends, so we didn’t think it mattered at all.
So, how serious were your intentions when you formed Vivian Girls? Was it done in fun?
Katy: It was definitely done in fun, but we take fun very seriously.
Did things snowball, then? Were you guys the most surprised of anybody when things happened, Ali?
Ali: Well, I joined the band when the snowball was mounting, so I don’t know (laughs). I wasn’t there for the onset of snowball. I was there when it was already rolling.
How were you with it, Katy? What did it feel like?
Katy: It felt weird. Just because we’ve all been in bands before and we were expecting the same sort of band careers that we’ve had before, which is fun, playing in basements, hanging out with your friends, which is best parts of being in bands. We just never expected it to go any further, and so we were all kind of shocked.
Even if you follow the Vivian Girls release schedule, it looks like you’re going ‘oh, looks like we’ll do another seven inch on someone else’s label’. Is that what it was like? People offering to put your records out?
All. Yeah, pretty much.
And before you knew it there were enough songs to put on an album.
Cassie: Putting out an LP was something that we all wanted to do. I wanted to have an LP of a band that I was in ever since I started playing music and Vivian Girls self-titled is the first album that has happened like that, and it was really exciting. Definitely felt grown up then.
Were you guys ready as well for the public’s reactions and critic’s reactions and all that kinda thing, or was that something that was hard to wear as the band had to grow up pretty quickly?
Katy: It was a little hard getting used to it. The positive feedback has always been fantastic to listen to. Negative feedback was something that none of us were accustomed to. Just because when you’re playing in bands with your friends nobody is critiquing you harshly.
Cassie: If you’re just playing for your friends, they might not be the biggest fan of your music, but at least they have this attitude of ‘oh they’re just doing their thing, it’s cool’. We weren’t prepared for the negative feedback at all, and it was pretty hard to deal with.Is that because a lot of people wanted to take Vivian Girls more seriously than you did? It seems like you almost became unwilling whipping girls for any DIY haters. Was it hard having that stuff levelled at you?
Katy: Definitely. It was definitely hard but we’re also having a lot of fun, so it evens out.
It also seems that you guys don’t have much artifice about you. It wasn’t like you were pretending to be something you weren’t.
Katy: Exactly. People put a lot of labels on us that we never asked for. I think that’s all part of it.
What was the weirdest one, or one that grated on you the most?
Ali: I don’t know. Any time someone says something that’s sexist is always kind of difficult to deal with.
Katy: Yeah, nobody would care about this band if they were boys.
The phrase that I always find amazing to read is ‘all-girl band’ because they never write ‘all-boy band’.
Ali: Well, unless you’re a boy band.
Cassie: Unless you’re ‘N Sync.
Katy: That’s an on-going joke with our friends Male Bonding, a band from London. We always joke with them, ‘Male Bonding, what’s it like to be an all-boy band in London?’.
As well as putting up with that stuff, you’ve had to put with people who were annoyed that you weren’t proficient or something. I read that stuff and went ‘isn’t everybody in music always learning?’ Didn’t you feel like you had to learn in public in Vivian Girls?
Ali: Vivian Girls started getting popular while it was still getting its legs in the music world. So people are judging the band on the same plane as a band that’s been around for years, whereas Vivian Girls is still a very young band.
But I guess if you had to start it all over, or would you want to do it the same way or would you spend a year honing your craft and your outfits before you launched yourself on the world?
Cassie: Well, really, I don’t think we asked for this much attention. It just kind of happened to us, so I don’t know what we could’ve done differently to stop it. We just wanted to play music, go on tour, make albums, have a good time and then the attention started coming at us. So I don’t really know what we could’ve done differently.
Well there’s no looking back now, for album number two you’ve completely sold out. For Everything Goes Wrong, you spent eight days recording that record.
Katy: (laughs) Yeah, we really laboured intensely over it.
Did it feel like you were sitting in the lap of luxury then? You went to Costa Mesa or somewhere to do it?
Katy: We did kind of sit in the lap of luxury in the great OC.
How come you went to California to make the record? It still doesn’t sound like a Fleetwood Mac record just yet, but how come you took Vivian Girls out of New York to do the new album?
Ali: That studio in Costa Mesa, a lot of bands on In The Red (Vivian Girls’ record label) record there and we like the way the albums that were done there sound, so figured it would be a good match for us.
Is it that kind of thing where if you had 16 days, you’d spend 16 days making a record or would you still do it quickly?
Katy: I think that for both our records we used the exact right amount of time. For the third record I think we’re going to actually be playing in something slightly differently. I feel like it was the good amount of time for those records to be recorded.
I guess you haven’t had the experience of doing it the other way, so you don’t know what it’s like to take an Axl Rose amount of time in the studio.
Cassie: I don’t think it would’ve worked for the first two albums at all, because there’s a real sense of urgency I think that comes from having to rush a little bit that is important for those albums.
You’ve also stretched your wings song-wise, on Everything Goes Wrong. There’s a track like “Tension” that’s Phil Spector drum-beat about it, and that lilting ballad on “Before I Start To Cry”. Were you conscious of wanting to throw some different things onto this second record?
Ali: With “Tension” I knew I wanted to do that drum-beat because it’s such a great, classic drum-beat, so I knew it had to go somewhere.
Cassie: I think we’re always trying to expand our mindset as a band and expand everything that we’re all about. We’re still growing, we’ve grown a lot from the first album and we’re still growing now. So I think the second album is a good indication of that growth, and there’s still more yet to come.
Well it sounds like you’re already thinking about album number 3 then, are you?
So is it going to be an album a year from here on in?
Cassie: Maybe a little bit longer.
Katy: Depends on how long it takes to record it.
Ali: Definitely not four years or anything.
When you’re spending that time making the 15th album, I’m going to come to you and go ‘remember when you said you could do an album quickly?’ and you’re like ‘no, I just need another 6 months’.
First broadcast on Static on 24/09/09. Static can be heard on Sydney’s 2SER (107.3 FM) and via the Internet (www.2ser.com) every Thursday evening (AEST).