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Q&A With Vivian Girls


Vivian Girls might just be the hardest-working women at this year’s SXSW (apologies to Juliette Lewis). Over the course of four days, the Brooklyn-based sha-la-la girl punk trio will play a whopping 18 shows here in Austin. Doubtful if Amy Winehouse has made it through that many in her entire career. But you’ve got to strike while the proverbial iron is hot, and with a 2008 Best New Music nod from the self-appointed gatekeepers of indie rock cred under their belts and a much-anticipated sophomore album scheduled to drop this summer, Vivian Girls know that now is the time to make themselves a household name—at least in households where the fair-trade coffee beans are plentiful and fixed gears are the transportation mode of choice. The band formed two years ago when then kickball teammates Cassie Ramone (guitar/vocals), Frankie Rose (drums/bass/vocals), and Katy Goodman (bass/drums/vocals) discovered a shared knack for churning out lo-fi Phil Spector garage punk sounds with big harmonies and lots of reverb. The ten tracks on their self-titled debut LP, the initial pressing of which sold out in just as many days, were split evenly among the time-worn girl group motifs of love and heartbreak. For their as-yet-to-be-titled second album, the girls, who upon Rose’s departure last summer welcomed drummer Ali Koehler into the fold, are aiming for a moodier, darker sound, drawing inspiration from artists as varied as Neil Young, Gun Club, and No Doubt. Having wrapped up the recording last week, they’re embarking on a “never ending” tour that will include a stop in the desert at Coachella next month. We managed to catch up with them before their set at Gorilla vs. Bear’s Gorilla vs. Booze event on Thursday (the third of their seven shows that day) to talk musical influences, groupies, and fast food-themed tattoos.

So, you live in Brooklyn, play kickball, and are in an all-girl lo-fi punk
band. Do you ever get fed up with the whole “hipster” label?

Cassie: We don’t think about it very much.

Allie: We’re all pretty scrappy. We don’t think we look very cool or anything. Like I’m wearing sunglasses over my glasses.

Katie: Yeah, my dress is from Target.

Cassie: I’m wearing a Target terry-cloth dress and shitty old Vans.

Allie: And my outfit is pretty much all Target as well.

Don’t forget the tattoos. Is that a hamburger on your arm?

Cassie: Yeah. The band that I played in in high school, Upholstery, had a song called “New Burgers.” Also, me and Katie used to go to diners all the time. We went up to Boston one weekend and she was getting her milk shake tattoo, ’cause she was once in a band called Four-Way Milk Shake, and I just figured I’d get one of a hamburger. It was kind of like a friendship tattoo-slash-band tattoo.

Allie: We all have feather tattoos, too.

Katie: We all got them in England on our last tour.

What’s the symbolism of the feather?

Katie: Honestly, it was just the quickest tattoo that the guy could give us because we had to be out of there in an hour to do a show.

Any tattoos that you regret getting?

Cassie: No.

Katie: Nope.

Allie: Well, there is one that I want to cover up. I’m from Toms River, New Jersey, and so I got the initials TR and a heart on the back of my leg. It turned out so ugly. It just looks like a big weird black blob.

You guys have such a unique sound. Who are some of your influences?

Cassie: Bands like the Wipers and Nirvana influence us a lot. So does a lot of sixties music like the Shangri-Las, the Beach Boys, the Ronettes, and Burt Bacharach. Hopefully, we sound like a combination of those two genres.

Any obsessed fans yet?

Katie: No groupies yet. But a lot of people seem to want to take their picture with us these days, which is pretty cool. It must be our awesome clothes.

Photo: David Bartholow