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Interview: The Virgins


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The window of opportunity to say ‘I was into The Virgins before they were big’ is closing fast, the new-wave New Yorkers have truly penetrated 2008 as a buzz-band on the lips of the hip-parade.

The VirginsCurrently on tour in the UK with the Pigeon Detectives the band’s life is “hectic”, so much so that the their email interview exchange with The National Student was contained largely of one word answers and minimal information. Still they say they are “having a lot of fun doing tourist stuff.”

The five-piece consisting of Erik Ratensperger, Donald Cumming, Wade Oates, Nick Zarin-Ackerman and Paul Vassallo formed in 2005 in NYC after one of art-photographer Ryan McGinley’s photo-shoots. They say they got together because, “We hang out together so much we needed a good reason.”

The band have an undeniably arty background, they are considered a muse for some time Vice magazine snapper McGinley, most lauded for his shots of carousing, naked twentysomethings and having a shot on the cover of Sigur Ros’ last album. Cumming’s private parts also featured in a shot displayed at one of his exhibitions.

They are a band that once made t-shirts with “dicks on them” that were then bootlegged on eBay.

Cummings states that the band were formed out of the frustration of no one reading any of his writing or poetry, so he decided to put it to music.

Despite these artistic leanings The Virgins’ sound is less ambitious – they aren’t so much reinventing the new-wave wheel but keeping it spinning.

The band’s assertion that they sound like ‘loud noises’ is a little off the mark, as there is a definite pop-sheen to their angular post-punk ditties – they are the accessible, palatable end of genre like Talking Heads jamming with Duran Duran at a Disco club.

But if the adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ ever applied to any band, it’s The Virgins…their familiar sounds are almost part of indie-fans DNA. It’s not challenging but it will get you shaking your tail-feather - which is always a good thing.

The band say they’d like to sound like “Cherry Coke”- well they already have a certain fizz so that kinda makes sense.

Tales of sex, drugs and general debauchery casts of dark shadow of the summery nature of the bands music…this is the classic New York sound, street tales put to funky tunes.

In the US the momentum of the Virgin disco-punk machine has been gathering pace amidst a couple of years of crazy hype, their cross-over appeal between the arty indie-hipster set and swooning teeny-boppers cemented with their tuneage adorning schmaltzy, vacuous teen-drama Gossip Girl and prime-time HBO show Entourage.

Their self-titled major label debut LP released over the summer caused a stir gaining critical acclaim left right and centre. Featuring international hit ‘Rich Girls’ with it’s disco-punk cool and the NYC punk-swagger meets synth-pop stylings of ‘One Week of Danger’ it is easy to see why. As a debut it is polished and accomplished enough to sell but rough-enough to remain hip.

And so here they are in the UK with indie-faves the Pigeon Detectives ready to win over the hearts of the country’s indie-kids. Live their pedigree is high having supported amongst others Sonic Youth and punk-legend Patti Smith, which indicates they must be doing something right…in that company the fact they have also supported rock-revival dullards Jet becomes of little consequence.

The band describe their live gigs as ‘loud’ and reckon you should attend because “You’ll have a better chance of getting laid.”

Their sets have certainly been getting UK crowds in to a lather, as they say “The kids are fucking crazy here. Fizzy juice and beer. The shows have been really fun for us.”

And the fact that they are returning to the US for a winter tour after finishing on these shores is about the last of the useful information garnered from rock’s least talkative band. At this point I could spin out the tired cliché that The Virgins don’t need to speak much as the music speaks for itself…but that would be lame.

Instead the end will come with two nuggets of Virgin-wisdom:

“Don’t stick anything in your ear bigger than your elbow.”

“Duck fat is good for you.”

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