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Tonight we are in Manchester to see the Vivian Girls show at The Ruby Lounge and interview Cassie Ramone. The name Vivian Girls emanates from the characters in Henry Dargers fantasy manuscript called The Story of the Vivian Girls, and the band hail from across the pond in Brooklyn, L.A. The super cool Vivian Girls have been around since 2008, they are an all girl band, playing lo-fi, gritty tunes, along similar veins to the Dum Dum Girls, with much emphasis on guitars, mixed with a sixties flavour. Lets introduce the band on vocals we have Cassie Ramone, Katy Goodman [bass] and Fiona Campbell [drums]. They are in the UK to promote their new album which is their third, and saw its released in April 2011 ‘Share The Joy’, they are currently on a big road trip, an around the world tour.

Fresh in from their mega trip to Japan, onto Brighton and finally landing in Manchester after a four hour trip at around 7pm, we finally meet the girls, after a late soundcheck. Eagerly we await the nod that Cassie is ready for the interview in the dressing room, knock, knock on the dressing room door and we are in. The Girls are all sat around, surprisingly hooked up with a laptop each. Cassie had told us prior to this that she generally does the interviews [which made it easier for us to transcribe later]. She grabs a beer from the fridge and we crack on. With the sounds of DirtBlond playing in the club Phil begins the assault on how the band formed and away we go.

PHIL: We've got some did the Vivian Girls form?

CASSIE: Well, we formed in March of 2007. I was living in Brooklyn, and a lot of my friends had this one house, together, it was a kind of like a punk house. I was over there a lot, and our old drummer, Frankie Rose lived at the house. So I was spending a lot of time around her I guess. Then one day we were all out at breakfast together and she asked me if I wanted to start a band, out of the blue and I figured why not, 'cause my other band had just broken up.

So, we started playing stuff together, it was really fun. Then after we had practised maybe three times, just the two of us, we decided to get a bass player and that's when I asked Katie.

PHIL: That was the band then, so is there any specific thing that made you want a career in music any Lp?

CASSIE: Nothing tangable, nothing that I can like recall. I've always wanted to do music since I was a little kid. I had a guitar from when I was like seven years old. I remember always being attracted to being a musician, and to making music. I never had this one eureka moment when I thought...this is what I should be doing, it was just always something which interested me.

PHIL: Was it punk music or any music?

CASSIE: That inspired me? No, no the first kind of music I really liked was soft rock. Like Billy Joel and Madonna, Elton John and stuff like that. That was the first kind of music that I fell in love with, when I was eight years old. I've really got a really eclectic taste in music, I mean punk has always appealed to me as I really like the DIY attitude and the community aspects of punk, where its not the only type of music that I like.

PHIL: Is there still a local scene in New York….like you had with Sonic Youth and other groups of that time?

CASSIE: We came way after Sonic Youth. [laughs]

PHIL: You’re friends with Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon?

CASSIE: Yea, we are friends with Sonic Youth, we met them after we started the band, we met through playing shows with them.

PHIL: Did it always have to be an all girl band?

CASSIE: No, it was a co-incidence.

PHIL: You’ve had three drummers in the band so far and each one has been a female. Was that a conscious decision or did you audition men as well?

CASSIE:Both time that we were looking for a drummer, we considered men that we knew but it just so happened that the woman that we ended up playing with were amazing drummers, both Ali and Fiona were amazing drummers. It also helps like having a third female voice, for our sound, but we were also considering men to be drummers.

PHIL: Are there any disadvantages in being an all female band?

CASSIE: I think that sometimes people categorise you as being in a female genre, which is kind of irritating. People really like to classify all female bands in the same categories in a way that they don't normally do with male bands.

PHIL: One of the reasons I asked that question is that I saw the Dum Dum Girls a bit back at the Deaf Institute and the audience were entirely male and every one of those men had a camera. Is that a kind of objective occasion of a band just because it is a female band?

CASSIE: Oh yea! I think it exists sometimes that female bands are objectified, but we are trying not to be. I mean that is another whole issue, that’s just the whole gender thing.

PHIL: Has Fiona, the new drummer, changed the dynamic of the band?

CASSIE: It's hard to say no, because we are a three piece and obviously like if your just hanging out with a group of  three people and one person leaves and one person comes in the dynamics will change. So its natural that the dynamic will change a little bit, but in general the band has always worked pretty much worked the same way.

PHIL: Ali Koehler [former drummer] is now with Best Coast, was that amicable?

CASSIE: Very amicable, we are still really good friends with her.

PHIL: I used to enjoy the thing you did where you all swapped instruments, do you still do that?

CASSIE: Yea, that was fun! No, we don’t do that anymore. We figured that it kind of played itself out. Although it was fun for the time being.

PHIL: Are all the side-projects, still ongoing, or are they finished now?

CASSIE:Yea, they are still ongoing, La Sera, and The Babies, Coasting, are all still active…. [shouts to Katie with headphone on, playing on her laptop] Katie are All Saints Day still active? I think All Saints Day was a one off thing. I’m speaking for Katie though. [she can’t hear].

PHIL: How’s the tour going?

CASSIE: It’s going really great; we are actually doing this for the first time, we are flying all around the world. Me and Fiona flew from New York to L.A, then to Japan and then to Honk Kong, then to Bangkok, and now we are here and then we are gonna fly back home.

PHIL: Has it been good where you’ve been?

CASSIE: It’s been amazing, we’ve never played in Honk Kong or Bangkok before and both of those shows they were absolutely incredible, and we’ve played in Japan once before but I think this time the shows were so amazing because we were with our friends The Black Lips and they always put on a such a good show. They have always been a really inspiring band for us.

PHIL: Are they bigger shows?

CASSIE: Actually, surprisingly no. We play the same size venues that we played the last time. Even though we weren’t headlining.

PHIL: Is this your last UK show then?

CASSIE: No, this is only our second show, out of six maybe?

PHIL: Are you playing Leeds then?

CASSIE: We are playing Leeds.

PHIL: I read somewhere that this was your only North West show you were doing?

CASSIE: Oooh that was smart advertising [laughs]

PHIL: How’s the new LP  [‘Share The Joy’] been received so far?

CASSIE: I think its been received really well, I haven’t read that many reviews of it. I stopped reading the reviews in general but I think a lot of people really like it. So, that always feels good.

PHIL: Do reviews really matter to you, like Pitchfork for example or Brooklyn Vegan?

CASSIE: I think Pitchfork doesn’t matter to us any more. I think the whole thing is a sham and its really political and I think that. I know some people who know some things and I don’t think that Pitchfork matters. I think Brooklyn Vegan is fine, the comments are really the worst, if your just reading them to get news, but if you read those web sites for other reasons it is what it is [laughs].

PHIL: Who writes the songs or is it collaboration and what kind of things inspire you to put down lyrics?

CASSIE: I mainly write the songs but usually what happens is that I’ll come in with a skeleton or like a half song. I know a lot of bands who demo the entire song then show it to the band members and then the band members just basically play what that one person demoed. It doesn’t work like that in the Vivian Girls. I’ll write something on guitar and then I’ll show Katie, then usually Katie will write a bass line, then together we will come up with the general arrangement and song structure. Then we will show it to the drummer.

PHIL: What inspires your lyrics?

CASSIE: I guess I just… things in my life that make me uneasy or uncomfortable or like pain, the difficult things in my world. [as a rock star] laughs….Yes, I guess I find song writing a form of cathartic, its really [sorry I’m really spaced out right now, from too much caffeine]. I think its kind of like crying to me, does that make any sense, I know its sounds kind of really cheesy, but I use it as a way to release negative emotions.

MEL: It’s just like writing a diary?

CASSIE: Exactly yes.

PHIL: What are your favourite songs to play, I like ‘The Other Girls’?

CASSIE:Yea, I really like playing The Other Girls, I really like playing Sixteen Ways, I really like playing I Heard You Say. Those are probably my three favourite ones to play live from the new LP.

MEL: And do you perform any cover songs?

CASSIE: Sixteen Ways is actually a cover, but its an interpretation, its only a cover lyrically.

PHIL: There is a big back catalogue of girl bands throughout music history, do you, have a favourite girl band? …The Slits??

CASSIE: Favourite girl band?? Wow, let me think. The Slits yea, but they are not my favourite, no offense to them, they are amazing but…wait I think The Shangri-La’s are probably my favourite girl band.

MEL: Do you like The Dum Dum Girls?

CASSIE: No comment!

PHIL: So you think there is a rift between the East and West Coast?

CASSIE: No! Absolutely not. Katy lives in L.A. The thing is that a lot of people try to put competition between bands but basically everybody is friends with each other. The thing is, if your in a band that tours a lot and if your in a band that is a band for a living, you will have camaraderie with almost everybody else ‘cos everybody is in the same boat.

PHIL: I went to Hop Farm last week to see Lou Reed and Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and you think what great heritage New York has. Do you feel part of that heritage? You’ve named yourself after one of New York’s greatest bands.

CASSIE: Yes, I think that Ramone is a good last name for me, because it is the surname of a few people that are important to me musically. The Ramones obviously, Paul McCartney and then the producer Phil Ramone who produced a lot of Burt Baccarach albums.

PHIL: Do you see yourself in that lineage, from New York?

CASSIE: I think so definitely, New York is important to me. Actually I read Patti Smiths book pretty recently and the place she lived in with Robert Mapplethorpe was literally around the corner from my old apartment. She lived there in ‘67when she was 21 and I lived in my apartment in 2007 when I was 21 and that’s where I was living when Vivian Girls started and that’s where she was  living. Its just a cool parallel, its literally on the same block. Pretty amazing!

PHIL: How do the Vivian Girls gauge success, what is success for the Vivian Girls?

CASSIE: I think success is touching people and making people feel like your music is there own.

PHIL: Would you like to have a hit record?

CASSIE: If it happens it’d be great but I’m not gonna count on it. I think it would be really great to have a song in a karaoke machine someday, that’s one of my weird life goals, but if it doesn’t happen then I won’t be upset.

PHIL: Is there a point the Vivian Girls won’t cross to get success i.e. change your image?

CASSIE:No, we won’t change our image. I mean we definitely have a lot of ethics and morals but I mean if we had a hit song we’d probably be really happy. But we are just gonna take it as it comes and see what happens in our careers rather than try and force anything upon our selves.

PHIL: Finally what’s your view of Manchester?

CASSIE: It’s very cold right now. It should be July but its like November; maybe we just picked the wrong week to come here. I love Manchester we have always had such great shows here and the people here are really nice.

PHIL: We’ve just had the Manchester International Festival here, with Bjork and Snoop Dog.

CASSIE: Oh I love Snoop Dog, that’s great, and a lot of great bands come from Manchester, like The Smiths and Joy Division.

Interview questions by Phil & Mel 17/07/11 [intro and transcribing by Mel]
Photos by Mel

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