By Mike Appelstein
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Internet buzz-band fame is arguably not far from reality-show fame. You get all of the annoying aspects of public recognition, few of the rewarding ones (like money), and there's no guarantee of a viable career past your second album. So Vivian Girls deserves serious respect for sheer tenacity. In 2008 the Brooklyn trio released a flawed but spirited debut LP. Literally within weeks, the three young women found themselves the subjects of frankly unrealistic expectations. They plowed through the chatter with a solid second album, Everything Goes Wrong, and spent most of 2010 with separate projects. Bassist Katy Goodman (a.k.a. Kickball Katy) played in All Saints Day and toured with La Sera, while guitarist/songwriter Cassie Ramone played solo shows and released an album with the Babies.
The time off seems to have done them good. The new Vivian Girls album, Share the Joy, is its most ambitious and rewarding to date. Without abandoning the punky crash-pop of the earlier material, Share the Joy starts with a six-minute song and incorporates such influences as Burt Bacharach, Phil Spector and '60s girl groups. Along with Fiona Campbell, the band's third drummer in as many albums, Cassie and Katy are now back in full Vivian Girls mode, and the band plays its long-awaited St. Louis debut on April 21. Cassie Ramone took time out at the tail end of a Spanish tour to answer some questions.
B-Sides: You and Katy have been very involved with your own solo projects lately. How do they dovetail with Vivian Girls?
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Cassie Ramone: Music is our lives, and we had a lot of downtime last year when we weren't touring or recording. We all have an understanding that Vivian Girls comes first, so planning out time with our other projects isn't so hard.
Your new album is your most ambitious. Was there a conscious process to get away from the shorter/faster material of the first two albums? What were some things you were listening to or thinking about when you wrote it?
We started writing songs that were a little more ambitious pretty much right after we recorded Everything Goes Wrong. I was reading a lot of books about Phil Spector, Pet Sounds, girl groups and Neil Young. Even though we're very proud of our first two records, I don't think any of us wanted to make the same record again. At the same time, we took the same process of working as we always have. It's a natural style, and we try not to overthink everything.
Love the way "The Other Girls" starts out fast for twenty seconds. Intentional fake-out?
Was "I Heard You Say" influenced by the Zombies?
Not exactly, but thanks for thinking that! I would definitely say it's influenced by late '60s pop psychedelia in general.
Tell me about the making of "Take It As It Comes" and its girl-group parody vibe.
"Take It As It Comes" is this song I wrote in my head while I was riding the subway. I rode it all the way to the end and back, and I was doing this drawing, and it just came to me. It kept me entertained the entire time. I got home and figured it out on guitar, but I wasn't sure if it was too goofy to record. But when I showed it to Katy and Fiona, it totally clicked, and we ended up making it happen.
As you're around longer on the music scene, are you finding more genuine fans and less fickle Internet people?
Absolutely. It's much more rewarding playing shows at this stage in the game than it was two years ago. You'd be pouring all of yourself into these performances, and people would be just there to judge you. I'm so not into that. At the end of the day I'm glad the hype cycle happened, because we might not have a career in music today if it never had. But at our core we are certainly not a band that panders to the media or cares about making a blog-worthy MP3.
As the recipient of said Internet buzz, what advice would you give to new bands?
Be yourself and don't over-calculate things. I cannot stress the importance of either of these things enough. Take every opportunity, except the ones you're ethically opposed to. Be proactive. Work very hard. Don't burn your bridges.
What else is on tap this year?
A lot more Vivian Girls touring and writing songs for — and thinking about — recording our fourth album.