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Brooklyn trio The Vivian Girls gets over the hype and to the business of dark, drenching distortion


Chris Parker March 11th, 2010

Vivian Girls with Abe Vigoda, Male Bonding and more8 p.m. MondayOpolis113 N. Crawford, Normanwww.opolis.org447-3417$10 Advance, $12 door$12 Advance, $14 door under 21Our lives have gotten faster and f...

Viviangirlscredit-olly-Hearsey
Vivian Girls with Abe Vigoda, Male Bonding and more
8 p.m. Monday
Opolis
113 N. Crawford, Norman
www.opolis.org
447-3417
$10 Advance, $12 door
$12 Advance, $14 door under 21

Our lives have gotten faster and faster, and the Internet has only amplified the pace. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the life of musicians. The transition from an unknown act to critical darling now happens nearly overnight thanks to Pitchfork and like-minded sites that delight in discovering bands as quickly as they exit the womb.

Indeed, the entire Brooklyn lo-fi scene seemed to blow up before any of the Vivian Girls had even left the city, let alone trekked across the country. But that doesn't necessarily mean the three are unworthy.

Assembled by Cassie Ramone and former Crystal Stilts drummer Frankie Rose, Vivian Girls joined a growing cadre of bands drenching buoyant, indie-pop hooks in waves of distortion and reverb. Reminiscent of shoegazers Jesus and Mary Chain as well as '90s lofi, twee-pop progenitors, the Brooklyn trio soon found themselves in the middle of a noise-pop renaissance led by acts like Cause Co-Motion!, Wavves, Times New Viking and Titus Andronicus. The hype was a tad overwhelming for such a new group.

"Even though it helps a band in a lot of ways, it can also hurt a band to have a lot of attention," Ramone said. "We were such a new band when we got all the hype, like we hadn't really figured out our live show that much. We were just kind of starting out. We'd only been a band for like a year and half at that point, and we really didn't have it as together as all these other bands that are on Pitchfork. I'm relieved it's over and at least we have a fan base now so we can keep doing stuff."

Ramone's love affair with music began when she was 8, picking up steam when she discovered emo as a teen and graduated to the genre's punk antecedents. Women-led bands like No Doubt, Hole and Garbage gave Ramone confidence and encouraged her to pick up a guitar. Music also afforded her an identity and a place to be herself.

"None of us really fit in when we were in school, so it was great to have this outlet of punk," she said. "It was nice to know that there were other people out there that also didn't fit in or conform to normal society, and I think that really helped all of us get through really tough times growing up."

Although she'd been in a number of bands by the time she met Rose, Ramone said she "never thought I'd be in a band that people would know about besides my friends." Ramone recruited high school friend "Kickball" Katy to join them on bass.

Within a year of forming, Vivian Girls recorded its first single, "Wild Eyes." Ramone's reverb-drenched voice rises from beneath a jangly wash of distortion joined by the supporting harmonies of her mates as the song rushes to its conclusion in under two minutes, like it's late for its bus.

The song did well on college radio, and the group's debut full-length, released two months later in May 2008, sold out of its initial pressing within two weeks. Rose left a few months later, replaced by Ali Koehler, and the band gathered more steam when In the Red Records re-released the album, which earned an 8.5 rating from Pitchfork. In September 2009, Vivian Girls released a follow-up, "Everything Goes Wrong."

It's an emotionally darker album, from the moody, lingering throb of "Tension" to the bouncy, raucous rumble of "When I'm Gone" and the jagged blasts of "The End," where Ramone threatens to disappear without a sound.

"Going back to the whole hype thing, in general, the time between the first album and 'Everything Goes Wrong' was kind of a tumultuous time for all of us," she said. "It was a really, really crazy time in our lives, and not only was that happening, but a lot of my personal relationships during that year were just going crazy."

Things are better now, and Ramone's excited to return to the studio. She's been reading biographies of Phil Spector and Neil Young, and anticipates following their lead in recording live, rather than multi-tracking the album. The Girls also have been getting even more into group vocals, which they hone in their tour van by singing along to the stereo. This practice led them to cover The Chantels' "He's Gone," which backs their recent single "My Love Will Follow Me." As evidenced on this single, Ramone said listeners can expect the band's vocals to climb out of the fuzz on future albums, and to be louder and more central to the mix.

"I was always embarrassed about my voice, because I don't think I have a traditionally beautiful female voice. I've gotten more confident in my voice over the last year maybe, and I feel like I shouldn't have to hide it anymore," she said. "We're not going to become some kind of clean band; I guess we just want to change how the noise is placed within the recording." "Chris Parker| photo Olly Hearsay

 
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