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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Why Burt Bacharach makes Vivian Girls 'wanna scream'

click to enlarge Photo by Terry Woelfer
  • Photo by Terry Woelfer

Brooklyn trio Vivian Girls craft a ghostly, melancholy pop sound that feels at home amid the current crop of younger acts taking cues from the noisier no wave of 1970s New York. Rather than sulking in the scrape and fuzz of peer acts, like Blank Dogs and No Age, Cassie Ramone (guitar/vocals), Kickball Katy (bass/vocals) and Ali Koehler (drums and vocals) work up a concoction of shoegazer punk and twee sounds bound by primitivism.

The ethereal fidelity of their self-titled debut, recently reissued by In the Red, wraps Phil Spector's wall of sound around angelic girl-group coos that sound both familiar and far away. Songs such as "All the Time," "Where Do You Run To" and "Never See Me Again" resonate with simple and addictive melodies that are both innocent and easy on the ears.

Alternating threads of gloom and elation come together throughout their songs and culminate in a wash of fleeting emotions that guide each number through a loosely conceptual album. "The songs were arranged in such a way that the first half of the album is about falling in love and the second half is about falling out of it," frontwoman Ramone explains.

When speaking about her musical influences, she's not concerned with dropping the names of artsy punk bands. Instead, she pines over Burt Bacharach of all people. "He is so brilliant it makes me wanna scream."

She's not kidding either. As she delves into what draws her to Bacharach's songwriting, the unlikely influence becomes clear; as though she's describing her own band's sound to a fine point. "I like his songs because they are both really catchy and somewhat depressing and they evoke an instant sense of nostalgia, even if you've never heard the song before. He also does interesting things with phrasing and chord progressions," she says. "That is what I aim for whenever I write a song."

Vivian Girls with Rizzudo and Tyvek. $8. Sun., Sept. 28. 8 p.m. The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Road. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com.

Click below to read a short Q&A with Cassie Ramone and Kickball Katie.

A lot of the press you receive dwells on your influences. What I find interesting is that even though you see a lot of esoteric names being dropped in reference to Vivian Girls’ sound (Black Tambourine, Talulah Gosh et. al.), your songs are easy on the ears, the rhythms and melodies are bound by a sense of simplicity which makes them quite addictive. Tell me about your songwriting philosophies.

Cassie: Thanks so much! Well, Burt Bacharach is a huge influence on me. He is so brilliant it makes me wanna scream. I like his songs because they are both really catchy and somewhat depressing and they evoke an instant sense of nostalgia, even if you've never heard the song before. He also does very interesting things with phrasing and chord progressions. That is what I aim for whenever I write a song.

Is your self-titled album on In the Red your first full-length, and is this the same record that was released by Mauled By Tigers? Has it been altered in anyway? Remastered, or bonus tracks added?

Cassie: Yes, same exact album. I think In The Red may have made different plates for it, but that's the only difference. I think bonus tracks are dumb so that's why there aren't any.

The album is economical in that every song fits together as part of conceptual idea. Was it difficult to go from releasing two and three song 7-inches, to putting together a whole album?

Cassie: Putting together the album was a blast. The editing process was almost non-existent, since the songs we recorded for the album were the only songs we had written - we only had to decide which of our songs to put as the "Wild Eyes" b-side. The album actually is a loose concept album. The songs were arranged in such a way that the first half of the album is about falling in love and the second half is about falling out of it.

Do you have a favorite song on the record? What makes it stand out over the others?

Katy: My favorite song on the record is “Never See Me Again,” because it was one of the first songs that we wrote, and I think it came out well in the recording.

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