By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
When Vivian Girls rolls into town this week, the band will be fighting an uphill battle.
Sure, many bands that gain instant notoriety in the blogosphere come and go quicker than you can type GorillavsBear. But Brooklyn natives Cassie Ramone, Kickball Katy and Ali Koehler, who come off respectively as sleepy-headed, silly and shy, have already seen more success than anyone expected—even themselves.
"We never thought we'd tour outside the U.S. or this extensively," Ramone says from the Australian leg of her band's tour.
But success is a relative term in this case. In any other era of pop music, two years of playing make-shift, low-capacity venues would make you want to return to your day job. For Vivian Girls, though, it's a job well done. Turns out the band has found a way to use the pressure from all the hype in their favor.
"We don't want to box ourselves into any expectations people might have of us," Ramone offers, "and we're always trying to improve on everything we do. If anything, the onslaught of press is a motivator."
The question, though, is whether the band will still be standing when the wave of Internet buzz picks up the next flavor of the week. Certainly, at the very least, Vivian Girls' tenacity on the road (the band has performed more than 250 shows in the past year) has given it a chance, and after only two records, it's clear that a music evolution is taking place at the same time. The band's 2008, self-titled debut is an album of lo-fi surf-punk songs with droned-out guitars and a fast, sloppy rhythm section. Sleepy and breezy vocals skim over a wall of sound that rarely passes the two-minute mark. If The Ramones and Beach Boys made a record together, it would probably be on par with Vivian Girls' product. Meanwhile, the production quality of the group's September-released second effort, Everything Goes Wrong, doesn't stray far from its previous lo-fi recordings, even after the band tripled its time in the studio to a not-so-whopping nine days. But, on the new release, the arrangements and lyrical content have become denser, with a darkened mood and only one song dropping below two minutes. Even so, the real evolution takes place in the songwriting, which, along with the addition of new drummer Ali Koehler, brings a new energy to the band.
So, yeah, it's obvious that Vivian Girls wants to progress its sound.
"Our third album will be heavily inspired by the '60s," Ramone says. "I've been reading a lot about recording in that era. We're also planning on expanding our songwriting and trying a lot of things we've never done before. It's an exciting prospect."
It sure appears as if Vivian Girls is trying to make the biggest ripple in the shortest amount of time. But, though its productions are flourishing as a result, all the time spent on the road might add up to a big burnout.
Even so, the band has no desire to progress when it comes to music venues—not for the time being at least.
"We'd rather stick to the small-capacity venues," Ramone says. "They're more fun and intimate environments than big arenas—not to mention I don't see us ever being accessible enough to fill an arena."
Nor do any of us. But it still probably makes sense to catch the band when it plays The Cavern next week. Y'know, while you still can.