(((folkYEAH!))) Presents Two Nights with
777 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA, 94110
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
While a reunion record titled Memory may conjure images of a band waxing nostalgic about the halcyon days of yore, Vivian Girls’ newest record is anything but a pleasant reminiscence. The latent darkness that always haunted their records is on full display upon their return. Vivian Girls are back and they haven’t forgotten what they went through.
During their initial run as a band, Vivian Girls were a band of outsiders for outsiders. They existed in warehouses and house parties. The DIY spots, the small clubs. They were a band for the freaks, the malcontents. The ones who loved The Wipers as much as Burt Bacharach as much as The Shangri-Las. The ones who talked about astrology and politics and romance with equal passion. They were the band that made the punks feel like they could sing harmonies and pop fans could get in touch with their anger. Cassie Ramone’s lyrics alternated between love, loss and rage. They were heart-on-their-sleeves romantics in one breath and a spiraling explosion of feedback in the next. They were a band that we needed. No one wrote about all the bands that started in their wake in 2009. But let us remember: Vivian Girls not only gave us their songs; they gave us a chance to believe in ourselves.
And they were a band that made the indie gatekeepers uncomfortable. And so they were ones that paid for what made them special. Since their time as a band, the comment threads that demeaned and threatened them with violence have since been deemed irresponsible and removed. Websites dedicated to their bodies under the cheap veil of irony have been shuttered. One would hope that today, major music publications would no doubt reconsider having a male reviewer question their “place in indie rock.”
After their third album -- 2011’s Share the Joy -- the members of Vivian Girls parted ways and the band who had known each other since they were teenagers, went about the business of living. Katy Goodman and Ali Koehler both moved to Los Angeles, continued making music (La Sera for Goodman, Best Coast and Upset for Koehler) and started families. Ramone continued to make art in Brooklyn, released two solo records and two full-lengths with Kevin Morby as The Babies, and moved to Los Angeles in 2018 after a phone call with Goodman spurned the idea of playing music together again.
With Ramone and Goodman on board, Koehler (the drummer for Vivian Girls’ second full-length Everything Goes Wrong) re-joined the band and the trio began playing together again during the spring of 2018, keeping the practices a secret and enjoying the simple communion of playing together. By fall, the members of Vivian Girls were ready to enter the studio and over the course of two sessions in mid-September and Halloween week, Memory was recorded with producer Rob Barbarto (Kevin Morby, The Fall). (Please note that during the September session, there was a waxing moon in Scorpio/Sagittarius, sun in Virgo, while during the October session, there was a full moon in Taurus, sun in Scorpio.)
Memory is an album filled with personal reflections on toxic relationships, the false promise of new love, mental health struggles, and finding ways to accept oneself amidst it all. And of course, there is the trademark mystery that set the band apart during its first incarnation. Even when we don’t know what exactly a Vivian Girls song is about, we know it is true.
Fittingly, the sonic textures of the album match this sense of desperation and longing. It’s a loud, snarling journey and there’s a sense of streamlined direction and intensity to the performances: it sounds like a band returning to a core idea of itself.
In the end, Vivian Girls have returned to making music together, looking to the future while bringing their past along with them, boldly and without apologies. And so let us listen and remember: we can still believe in ourselves.
In the Wildwood Tarot deck, the ‘Four of Arrows’ is adorned with a painting of man face down on the ground. The titular arrows surround him, sticking straight up from the ground but never making contact; a large butterfly hovers above him. The card symbolizes rest – a call to recharge and recovery. This card revealed itself to Great Grandpa’s Pat Goodwin in a reading and the symbolism aptly embodied where he and his fellow bandmates were in their lives.
Following the 2017 release of Plastic Cough, the band were a unit, they lived together, worked together, and toured tirelessly across the country. As tours ended and band members relocated across the US, they found themselves suddenly separated and eventually isolated. The time spent apart wasn’t planned, but it proved to be necessary. It was a chance to gain perspective into their lives, relationships, and creative purpose.
Thus enters Four of Arrows, a creative turn toward introspection and Great Grandpa’s collective result of rest and solitude. Undoubtedly, the 11 songs comprising Four of Arrows are a departure from the playful nods to pizza and zombies on Plastic Cough. The writing and recording process had evolved — less Seattle garage jams and more vulnerable solo songwriting sessions. Most of the songs on Four of Arrows were written in isolation by Patrick and Carrie Goodwin while traveling and living in the Midwest. Though written separately, the songs came to life when the band reunified and began recording with producer Mike Vernon Davis (Modest Mouse, Portugal. The Man) on New Year’s Day in 2019.
The band instantly found common threads between their individual contributions, citing mutual love and admiration for vulnerable and emotionally resonate music. Four of Arrows embraces subtlety and pays close attention to the quiet. From the methodical dirge of “Dark Green Water” into the haunting and howling guitar of “Digger” — Great Grandpa try something new by letting the acoustic guitar and piano lay the foundation for many of the album’s tracks.
Despite the quiet, Alex Menne’s charismatic vocals burst triumphantly through on each song. The attention to detail is clear down to each echo and the silky addition of vocoder. Since most members contributed lyrics, Menne is that of an emotive voice for the group — channeling the heart of each song’s message and keeping Great Grandpa’s playful touch alive.
The songs weave through the pains of familial divisions, partnership, internal and external forgiveness, and the struggles of mental illness. Pat Goodwin describes “Digger” as the emotional pillar of the album. The lyrics allude to the titular tarot cards and set the scene for Four of Arrows — solitude and an exploration of the obsessive, neurotic and even paranoid existential questioning seen in ourselves and the characters in our lives. “Shouldn’t go out in the darkness” repeated over tranquil guitar, serves as the mantra of the song before it erupts into an evocative and tense outro.
Thankfully, Great Grandpa go headfirst into the darkness and escape from the other side with their most transparent and accomplished work to date. Though the content remains heavy, the bright poppy arrangements of “Mono No Aware” and “Bloom” serve as an unreliable light amongst the dark. “Mono No Aware” a wistful ode to loss of innocence, impermanence, and more explicitly “the pathos of things” combines starry synths and polished harmonies that when paired feel like floating. “Bloom,” the seemingly most hopeful track on the record, shines with conversational charm and demanding hooks (“When I think about Tom Petty, and how he wrote his best songs when he was 39”), before dramatically shedding the facade to reveal it's melancholic heart in a grandiose, Phil Specter esque outro.
Leaving it to the cards, Great Grandpa used their time off to grow, and their time together to reunify. Their collaborative approach cultivated a musical backdrop for their shared emotions and Four of Arrows is a testament to themselves and their ability to adapt.
‘Four of Arrows’ is out October 25, 2019 via Double Double Whammy.
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