The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Cover Story - By Bob Mehr

IN THE IN­SU­LAR WORLD of rock writ­ers, mu­sic blog­gers and record-store clerks, The Vi­vian Girls are what you might call overnight stars.

“We al­ways made jokes about what would hap­pen if we got fa­mous, just be­ing funny about it,” says the group’s Cassie Ra­mone. “We never ac­tu­ally took our­selves that se­ri­ously. We just wanted to make mu­sic that we liked and that peo­ple could dance to.”

While they may not quite be “fa­mous” in the larger sense just yet, the Brook­lyn fuzz-pop trio — fea­tur­ing rock-monikered gui­tarist/vo­cal­ist Ra­mone, bassist/vo­cal­ist Kick­ball Katy and drum­mer/vo­cal­ist Ali Koehler — is, for bet­ter or worse, the sea­son’s most buzzed about new band.

The Vi­vian Girls’ self-ti­tled de­but — which sold out its lim­ited ini­tial press­ing ear­lier this year — will be reis­sued by Los An­ge­les-based garage rock la­bel In the Red on Oct. 7. In the mean­time, the group will ap­pear at Mem­phis’ Hi-Tone Cafe tonight, play­ing a much-an­tic­i­pated set as part of the an­nual Gon­er­fest con­cert ex­trav­a­ganza. (Full sched­ule on next page.)

For an out­fit that only be­gan play­ing in May 2007, things have moved aw­fully fast. Launched as a “punk, house party band” the Vi­vian Girls have re­cently been shar­ing stages with alt-rock icons like Sonic Youth and been tapped to play a hand­ful of pres­tige fes­ti­vals.

Still, they haven’t strayed too far from their roots. Call­ing from a stretch of high­way in Ohio, Ra­mone re­ports that they played for a group of en­thu­si­as­tic fans at a col­lege house party the night be­fore. “One of my fa­vorite things about where we are right now is that we can play both huge shows and re­ally small shows,” she says.

The group be­gan tour­ing within weeks of form­ing. “It was pretty ridicu­lous; we were re­ally bad then,” ad­mits Ra­mone, not­ing that the band’s mu­si­cal and ca­reer de­vel­op­ment came quickly but steadily. “There was never re­ally one time when it got crazy all of a sud­den. The pace sped up grad­u­ally over the course of the last year and a half, and we got bet­ter in that time too.”

While the band grew ex­po­nen­tially as a unit, so did its au­di­ence, at­tracted by the mu­sic — an in­spired merger of melodic ’60s girl-group pop and ghostly ’80s lo-fi rock, mar­shalling the best el­e­ments of Phil Spec­tor’s Wall of Sound (al­beit a scale model) as well as Bri­tain’s C86 in­die move­ment.

“When we got to­gether, we had very loose as­pi­ra­tions of how we wanted to sound. From the beginning, we all re­ally liked girl groups and the Wipers, we all re­ally liked Dead Moon — that was com­mon ground,” says Ra­mone. “Then we added re­verb to our vo­cals and started adding more har­monies to the songs. It was kind of a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion to get to where we are now.”

Af­ter cut­ting a four-song demo and a cou­ple of sin­gles, the band recorded its full-length al­bum in Jan­uary, which was picked up for release by the small Mauled by Tigers la­bel. Within days of its release in July, the al­bum had sold out and was soon fetch­ing ex­or­bi­tant prices on eBay.

“I hon­estly have no idea how that hap­pened,” says Ra­mone. “It’s kind of per­plex­ing. At first we were go­ing to print 300 copies, and then we thought maybe we should do 500. We were just hop­ing peo­ple were gonna buy that many.

“It al­most makes no sense. I guess it just has to be from play­ing shows and word of mouth.” (It was enough for Larry Hardy, the owner of In the Red, to quickly sign the band and reis­sue the record).

The group’s fol­low-up 7-inch release “I Can’t Stay” has been a sim­i­lar suc­cess, sell­ing out press­ings in both the U.S. and the U.K. The de­mand has forced the group to con­tinue writ­ing new songs at a fast pace in an­tic­i­pa­tion of record­ing a sec­ond al­bum — some­thing made eas­ier by the fact that mu­sic has es­sen­tially be­come a full-time job for all three band mem­bers. “Me and Katy don’t have jobs any­more,” says Ra­mone, “and Ali works at an ice-skat­ing rink that lets her take off time when­ever she needs to tour.”

In Jan­uary, the Vi­vian Girls will head to L.A. to be­gin record­ing their sec­ond al­bum. Steve MacDon­ald, of Redd Kross fame, is slated to pro­duce the project .

In the mean­time, the band is in the midst of a long tour that will carry them across the U.S. and into Europe through the end of the year.

With the buzz un­likely to abate, and so much hype pre­ced­ing them wher­ever they go, does the band ever feel any pres­sure to live up to ex­pec­ta­tions. “I don’t think so,” says Ra­mone. “We al­ways want to put on a good show, but we also don’t want it to seem forced. It’s not like we’re go­ing to put on crazy out­fits or any­thing. We just kind of do what we do, and peo­ple seem to like it so far.”

— Bob Mehr: 529-2517

The Vi­vian Girls, (from left) Cassie Ra­mone, Ali Koehler and Kick­ball Katy.

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