ALEATORY #11: The Vivian Girls

You can learn a lot about a band by their name. Xiu Xiu takes theirs from a depressing Chinese film about a sad girl and the eunuch who loves her. Menomena is named after a popular skit on the Muppet Show, later picked up by Dr. Pepper. Robert Allen Zimmerman, known for his poetic folk songs -- and better known as Bob Dylan -- took his stage name from Dylan Thomas. There are bands named after songs (Pretty Girls Make Graves, Radiohead), after art (Modest Mouse comes from a Virgina Woolf story; Steely Dan is the name of a sex toy in William S. Burrough's Naked Lunch), and medieval torture devices (Iron Maiden?).

The Vivian Girls take their name from outsider artist Henry Darger's 15,000-page fantasy novel (single spaced, and not including the hundreds of drawings and watercolors illustrating the text) entitled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. Famous in underground art circles, The Realms of the Unreal follows the seven Vivian Girls as they suffer under the evil Glandelinians as martyrs. It is unknown which chapter is devoted to them learning to combine the fuzzy haze of shoegaze, punk's lo-fi aesthetics and the harmonies of girl groups like the Shangri-Las, but with 15,000 pages to wade through, it's got to be in there somewhere.


3. Favorite key to write in?

Almost every Vivian Girls song is in the key of C or G. I like those keys on the guitar cause there's a lot of cool stuff you can do with open chords.

9. Favorite song to start/end a mixtape with?

I have problems finishing mixtapes. I usually just do a little more than half of it and give up. The last mixtape I made started out with "I've Had It" by Catatonic Youth.. sooo good.

17. Favorite plant?

Palm trees, cacti, really anything that reminds me of the desert or the beach.

22. Favorite vice?

Smoking cigarettes.

28. What instrument would you most like to learn to play?

I think it would be really cool to be a good drummer. That's one of my lifetime goals, to learn drums. It's gonna take a while.

39. What's something you could probably beat anyone you know at?

Having a VHS collection of bad high school movies from the 80's and 90's.

41. If you could go anywhere in the universe, where would it be?

I used to think that I'd go on a commercial flight to the moon someday but that seems really scary to me now. I'd probably go to Alaska and then Hawaii if I could go anywhere, cause those are the only 2 US states I still haven't been to.

48. Biggest moment of triumph?

One night I was out at a bar and playing darts with my friend Tim. Neither of us are particularly good at darts or knew how to score a game of darts so after a few weird rounds Tim said, "Okay, next person to get a bulls eye, the other person has to buy them a drink." I agreed, and then threw the dart at the board and it landed in the center! Tim was dumbfounded and then I threw the next dart and it landed in the center AGAIN! So needless to say, he bought me a drink that night.

49. Has your writing changed ever since you realized that you know that an larger audience will get to hear what you've made? What's changed/what's stayed the same?

I don't think so. My personal writing style and Vivian Girls' style as a whole have both changed a little as we've grown older / been in our band longer. But it's not even that much of a difference, just little things like paying more attention to certain details. I don't think we even care about the whole larger audience aspect. We just wanna make music that we like.

50. What's your religious tradition or background?

I was raised Catholic until I was in 4th grade, when my mom started taking me to the Unitarian Church. Then I stopped going cause I didn't really care. Most of my family is still Catholic, though. My uncle is like the most zealous bible thumper. It's insane.

55. You're curating a festival. If you could choose any two bands to open for you, who would they be?

Umm, I don't know if they'd be opening for us. I would like to open for the Wipers and Billy Joel. Is that crazy? I don't care. That would rule!

60. What's the worst show you've ever played? What would you have done different?

It was in July 2007 at Mauled By Tigers Fest. EVERYTHING went wrong. I was drunk and in a bad mood to begin with, and the basement was SO SWEATY AND HOT. Katy dropped her pick during our set and as she picked it up she hit her head really hard on this low pipe. Then the pipe started leaking all over us. The PA kept turning on and off, and so did our amps. It was a wreck all around. Also it was only the 10th show we ever played or something.

64. Weirdest promotion you've been a part of?

I don't think any?? Mountain Dew offered us some money to be on some weird compilation CD but we didn't do it?

70. What is a personal belief you hold that you would fight for to the death?

All of us really hate drugs. Like a lot. They're scary and they ruin a lot of peoples' lives.

71. How well do you feel your music lends itself to remixing or being covered?

Ninja Sonic, this rap group from Brooklyn, did a remix of "Tell The World" which actually sounded really good last time I heard it. I've never thought about what someone covering our songs would be like but I'm sure it would be interesting.

75. Very first song that you ever wrote?

The first song I wrote on guitar was called "Julian," it was about my 8th grade crush. It went "Julian, oh Julian, you are so very fine, and Julian oh Julian I wish that you were mine." So bad! I remember I got my first guitar and the first song I learned was "Doll Parts" by Hole and then I wrote "Julian" like 5 minutes later.

80. Worst run-in with the law (to date)?

When Katy and I were pulling an all-nighter driving from Chicago back to New York in June, we got pulled over twice in an hour. That sucked. Clearly you can tell how wholesome our band is considering this is the worst run-in with the law we've had.

82. Current pop song that you would file under "guilty pleasure"?

Miley Cyrus - "See You Again" RULES. We listened to it so much in the car on tour.

86. With Radiohead's In Rainbows release and Nine Inch Nails doing boffo business with his online releases, do you see yourself ever doing some alterative kind of release for any of your future projects?

We're planning on putting out a 7" ourselves - like recording, mixing, and getting it pressed all on our own. That's basically it though.

88. What's your deepest source for musical inspiration?

Ex boyfriends. Bad dreams, bad vibes. Crushin' hard on dudes. Songs on the radio.


Visit the Vivian Girls' website.

Visit the Vivian Girls' MySpace.