Of choirs and air-raid sirens
Angels, but scrappy: It’s hard to ignore the hype around the Vivian Girls, but if the buzz leads you to their show at Luigi’s Fun Garden on Friday or their album, then hype did its job. The Vivian Girls eponymous full-length (first issued on tiny punk label Mauled by Tigers; recently reissued by In the Red Records) has been getting major play at my house. I hear reverb and Girl Group and little hints of Tiger Trap—and I’m in love. Singer and guitarist Cassie Ramone answered some questions via e-mail—even though she probably has been asked these questions a million times lately:
What was your first show like?
It was in the living room of a punk house in Brooklyn. I remember being really nervous and excited because we were opening for Tobi Vail’s band, the Old Haunts. We played six songs really fast and that was about it.
Where were you most psyched to visit on tour, and did it live up to your expectations?
I was really excited for Missoula [Mont.] and Boise [Idaho], but both of those shows were kinda bad. I was also psyched to play the Southwest, and that totally ruled. I love that part of the country so much.
Is it crazy to come from a sort of punk, scrappy background, and then play a show opening up for Sonic Youth?
They’re so nice, and we had fun hanging out with them backstage after the show. Lee Ranaldo: coolest guy ever! We were talking and this photographer walked by and Lee was like, “Hey, take my picture with Cassie!” As for the first question, it’s definitely strange, but it’s not like we’re playing a show with Britney Spears. Sonic Youth probably came from a similar background as us.
You draw the album art. What are your inspirations? Did you go to art school or are you self-taught?
I did go to art school; I went to Pratt [Institute] for illustration. I draw inspiration from a lot of different sources. The main thing I’m influenced by is certain aspects of culture, like cheesy postcards—especially the ones of girls in bikinis—Times Square, dumb magazines, vacation pamphlets, weird storefronts, etc. I especially love ’80s design.
You guys harmonize together so well. Were you surprised when you first tried singing together?
Well, the way we think of it is, if you’re in a band with three girls who can sing, they all should sing, ’cause not many bands have the advantage of a choir-of-angels-like sound. (Becky Grunewald)
Mr. Tee: You know what I’ve learned about Sacramento hip-hop emcees? They sound best when they do everything themselves. For example, take Torrey-Tee, who just dropped Follow the Leader (mixed by DJ Oasis). The 23-track CD is good, but it really excels on songs where Torrey both raps and produces. The track “Imma Boss” benefits from Torrey’s laid-back but energetic flow, but really shines under his excellent production—a nice piano loop interacts with the drums to create a song with suspense and energy. Torrey utilizes a half-thug, half-backpack rap style that Sacramento is becoming known for, most evident on “Northern California Music”—a worthy anthem that was made for cars with loud systems. Torrey’s production on “Anybody Out There” (featuring Bosse of State Cap. and Sirron) isn’t just good, it’s excitingly weird. His choice of melody and instrumentation (is that a pan flute?) is interesting, and Bosse’s verse adds a different flow that contrasts Torrey’s but works. With enough braggadocio to fill a swimming pool with testosterone, enough lyrics to create a set of urban encyclopedias and enough great production to construct a sweatshop in Mexico, Torrey-Tee has a solid effort in Follow the Leader. The only thing: Hey, DJ Oasis, can you please stop using that air-raid siren effect? It’s really unpleasant. (Josh Fernandez)