Backstage Pass With Vivian Girls

By Evan Minsker

There are numerous lo-fi, rock ‘n’ roll bands coming out of Brooklyn right now. Each band has its own unique sound and many are getting buzz from music blogs and news outlets. The hype surrounding these bands is so overwhelming that sometimes, it’s hard to narrow down what to listen to. This year, Pitchfork Music Festival organizers picked Vivian Girls to appear at the festival.

Vivian Girls are a three-piece rock band from Brooklyn and New Jersey. Their name is derived from the title of a work by the late Chicago outsider artist, Henry Darger. The group’s head songwriter, guitarist and vocalist is the blonde-haired, denim jacket-clad Cassie Ramone. On bass is the band’s resident redhead, Kickball Katy. On drums is the band’s brunette (and the one with glasses), Ali Koehler.

Although Vivian Girls are certainly friendly with some others that appeared at Pitchfork Music Festival (like Wavves and the Black Lips), there’s no comparing their music to anyone else’s at the festival. Their sound takes the ’60s girl groups, mixes it with some surf bands and slathers it all in a fuzzy, lo-fi production.

Their performance, while already tight and lively, was enhanced exponentially by their obvious giddiness to be playing at the festival. Kickball Katy, smiling from ear to ear, looked out at the audience and yelled, “Everybody put both hands up like this!” The audience followed suit and raised both hands. With almost childlike glee, she was drunk with power. They then bashed into another dance-worthy and upbeat rock ‘n’ roll song.

For those who didn’t catch the show, have no fear. The Vivian Girls will be at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., on Aug. 30 with The Beets. Their upcoming album Everything Goes Wrong releases on Sept. 8 through In The Red Records.

Before their set on July 19, The Chronicle got a chance to sit down with the Vivian Girls’ drummer and the most recent addition to the band’s roster, Ali Koehler.

The Chronicle: How did you get involved with Vivian Girls?

Ali Koehler: I’ve actually been friends with Katy and Cassie for five years. Katy and I went to college together, and Cassie and Katy went to high school together. I met Cassie through Katy. We’ve all been in punk bands in basements and stuff in New Brunswick, N.J. and Brooklyn for as long as we’ve been in school. They had started the band with Frankie [Rose], and I had graduated college. They needed a new drummer and it just fell into place.

So how does Everything Goes Wrong differ from your first record?

Well I’m on it, so that’s different. [Laughs] It’s longer and it’s darker. The songwriting process is just naturally different because there’s a different member. I think it’s brighter sounding, and the songs are, uh, longer. [Laughs]

Do you enjoy playing in Chicago?

Yeah, but this is different. This isn’t really playing in Chicago. This is playing Pitchfork Fest. [Laughs] No, last time we played Chicago, we played the Empty Bottle, and it was a ton of fun. There were so many people there. We weren’t expecting it-it was totally packed. We were all really nervous, and wherever we looked, there was just a sea of people. I don’t know, maybe it was just 200 people, but to us, that’s a lot. It was a lot of fun. The last time before that, we played Subterranean. I like the Empty Bottle, though. That’s a good place.

Do you guys have any big future plans?

Well we’re starting a tour for the record. Like a world tour, pretty much. We’re starting August 25, going across the U.S., then to Hawaii, to Japan, to Australia, then back to Hawaii, then back to the U.S., then we’re going down and playing Puerto Rico and up the East Coast and home.

And you’re coming back to Chicago, right?

Yeah, we’re going to be back pretty soon, actually. We’re going to be back in the end of August-we’re playing the Empty Bottle.

You’ve played with a lot of great bands, but are there any that you’d like to share a bill with that you haven’t before?

We really want to play with The Breeders. We really love The Breeders. I’m obsessed with Kim Deal and Kelley Deal. We’re trying to think of bands with girls in them who are around now, who we could play with and who would be kind of relevant. And I really like Mika Miko. We’ve never played with them. I don’t know. We want to play with anybody! [Laughs]

Are you guys actually fans of Henry Darger’s work?

The old drummer came up with the name, so they thought it was a cool idea. It was a cool idea, and it was the only thing that wasn’t totally stupid that they could think of. They went through a lot of stupid names. It just stuck.

So between now and the tour, do you have any plans?

I think we’re kind of trying to lay low before this big tour starts, because we just got off [a big tour] in June. So we’re kind of trying to recharge our batteries where we can. I’m going to visit my parents a lot. We’re all going to do our own thing and catch up on TV. We missed a lot of TV!

For more on the Vivian Girls, Everything Goes Wrong and their upcoming shows, visit