Kickball Katy, the Vivian Girls' bassist, mentions a rumor she heard somewhere, that NOFX's contract contains a puppy clause. Apparently, there have to be puppies available at all venues where the band plays so they can get psyched up before their shows. Katy sounds impressed, which isn't surprising -- already on our little walk through Williamsburg, she and guitarist Cassie Ramone have stopped twice to lavish attention on worthy puppies. And what would a fantasy contract look like for the Girls? They give reasonable, considered answers: lots of good cheese and fresh flowers. Surely they can do better than that, though -- this is a list of dream demands. "Okay," Katy acquiesces. "A unicorn."
With the kind of year the Vivian Girls have been having, it doesn't seem out of the question that they might soon have enough clout to demand puppies, unicorns or anything else they want. The trio is comprised of Cassie and Katy, along with drummer Ali Koehler, who went to Rutgers with Katy and joined the band last summer to replace Frankie Rose (now of Crystal Stilts) on the drums.
After gaining momentum in the spring with the buzzed-about shows
around Brooklyn and a limited-edition, 500-copy release of their
self-titled debut album, they launched into underground sensation status
with a set opening for Sonic Youth at McCarren Park Pool as summer
wound down. "It was probably the best day of my life. It was definitely
the best day of my life," Cassie gushes of their McCarren set. "We
played, and it was awesome, and all our friends were really psyched, and
then we all got wasted, and then Sonic Youth played, and they were
amazing." She loves talking about the show, which she seems to remember
in exact detail. "One of my favorite moments was, Lee Ranaldo came up to
me right after they played and he was like, 'Hey, your band was really
good!' And I was like, 'Your band is really good!' And then we were just
chatting for a few minutes, and this photographer walks by, and he was
just like, 'Hey, man, take my picture with Cassie!' And I was just like,
'Ah... that's my name!'"
It's only gotten better from there -- a favorable Pitchfork review of the wider release of their album, plus three CMJ dates in October, all gave the girls a nice autumn as well. The album certainly warrants this kind of attention. It's a near perfect 22 minutes of the girls' sweet and distorted harmonic vocals. It sounds like what would've resulted if Phil Spector and Kevin Shields had ever hosted Making The Band together, and it's brilliant.
To Cassie's enthusiasm Katy responds with a wry, deadpan sensibility. When we sit down to order at a Chinese restaurant nearby, a Britney Spears song that none of us recognizes is playing. "It sounds kind of like B-sides," Cassie offers quickly, grinning. "That's what we're going for, actually. We're really into rare Britney Spears collectors' items, vinyl rarities." I joke that Britney went through a shoegaze period, and Katy counters, "Who didn't? The Rolling Stones did, Britney Spears, Usher. They all go through a shoegaze phase."
Eventually, the two decide to do a lo-fi Usher remix on GarageBand. The band is still young enough that something like this actually sounds plausible -- they're not stuck yet in any single direction. When we talk about our parents' musical sensibilities, for example, I mention my mother's affinity for zydeco. It's something with which Katy can identify: "My mom loves zydeco! That's so weird. My mom got me into playing Cajun accordion when I was, like, 10." Is there any chance she'll bring those skills to bear for the band? "Definitely," Cassie volunteers. "There's a huge chance. Like, the biggest chance. We'll have to change drastically soon." She's kidding, but I'm convinced at this point that the Vivian Girls could pull it off -- make effortless cool out of pretty much anything. Katy puts it most concisely, maybe, when we're talking about how the Girls' moms' complain that they can't understand the lyrics of any of their songs. "Parents do not like us," she says. "And we're cool with that."