Virgin Kids: Garage Lo-fi Pop With a Dash of Punk
It’s ‘garage lo-fi pop with a dash of punk,’ says Asher Preston, lead vocalist and guitarist, Paul Rosser, bassist and backing vocals, and Sean Hughes, drums. The guys have just taken the big leap from the rehearsal into the recording studio. Meet Virgin Kids and be prepared to space out.
For over a year now this London trio has been storming across the country supporting the finest garage bands today’s scene has to offer, and the time is finally ripe for them to properly shine.
Their debut album Greasewheel is a solid collection of fuzzy-buzzing tunes that will energise your entrails into a delicious, hovering, psychedelic trance. If you shut down all possible distractions, you might even get a pretty nifty out-of-body experience. Just let it go, let them rule your senses and hypnotise your soul.
However, when their sound hits the last note, you’re left with a sudden urge for pizza. Don’t fight it though, it was meant to be. For not only do the Virgin Kids adore it, they also worked under its influence, and declared their love by naming the album after a slang term for… pizza!
Well then, I’ll have a spinach greasewheel and a pint of your best lager, thank you.
Heatwave: Is your band name just a funny name or does it have some background to it?
Paul: It’s based on the idea of youthfulness, it’s evocative of the feeling we have while making music and what we hope our audience feels when listening to it.
The original concept of the band included an accompanying comic zine, which Asher was making, based around a gang of kids bumming around town. That was a big inspiration to our early songs and the band name.
Heatwave: From a solo bedroom project to a full band and a unique presence – after releasing your debut album, Greasewheel, on Burger Records in the US and Fluffer Records in the UK, your place in the music scene is pretty much settled. And you can already count on a loyal fanbase. How important has their support been?
Paul: Hugely important, but both in different ways. Fluffer have been great, as they are such a new label and they are based locally in London, it has allowed us to work with them very closely and also be a major part of their focus and attention. They drive us to work harder and constantly be better. Burger, on the other hand, has allowed us to open ourselves up to an American audience and a worldwide garage fanbase. Fans of garage rock/punk the world-over know of Burger and listen to bands on their roster. We are so stoked to be a part of that. We were so excited when they both came on board, as we were such big fans of theirs and couldn’t wait to release the record through such reputable labels.
Heatwave: You’ve been performing for quite a while, opening for many well-known bands. How has it been and what do you think it’ll change now that the audience knows you?
Paul: Well, I think the big focus for us now is to play more headline shows. We want to play fun, sweaty gigs in packed venues. Playing more headline slots will also allow us to give the crowd a little bit more by playing slightly longer sets. That said, we still want to play support shows, going on tour with great bands you admire is so much fun and can give your music a platform to a whole new audience.
Heatwave: When I listen to your music, I feel like I need to hear it in a bigger venue than the usual ones, to let your songs fill the entire space at its best. Do you feel there’s a difference in your sound and how it is perceived when performing to an audience of, say, 1000 people compared to one of 100?
Paul: Definitely – I think that’s something we are very proud of as a band, we can play our set in a variety of different ways depending on the venue, audience and atmosphere of the night. A good example of this is a recent show we played in Leeds. We had a set at the Brudenell Social Club, which went down so well, we played slick and tight and it sounded sweet through a high quality sound system. After the show we got asked to go to someone’s house and play a set in their basement, without a moment’s hesitation we said yes and ended up playing a sweaty, screeching, adrenaline-fuelled punk set to 30 washed out kids. They were completely different shows despite us playing the same set of songs.
Heatwave: I know you’re pretty eclectic in your choice of music – from pop to hip-hop, through r&b, hardcore and straight up punk, although your sound mainly revolves around garage and post-punk, with good hints of grunge and psychedelic. How much do you think other genres help you achieve the richness of your music?
Paul: I think we are influenced by a huge range of artists, both musical and from other disciplines. The important thing for us is that we try to never focus too much on one particular artist or style, we just try to write music that feels most natural for us to make.
Heatwave: People have compared you with the Black Lips, although you say your biggest inspiration whilst working on the album was the Clean. How much did they influence your sound? And what other bands do you feel more musically connected to?
Paul: I think it was more a realisation that our music had a lot of similarities to the Clean. Tony Price, the producer on our record, mentioned it to us and he nailed it. The Clean is a comparison we are all happy with. We always find it difficult to pick out a single artist we feel most connected too, but if pushed, I know all three of us loved and admired Jay Reatard so hard. He was the best.
Heatwave: What do you think are the main differences between your self-titled EP and the new album Greasewheel? What changed? Where do you think you evolved the most?
Paul: We definitely found our ‘sound’ more. Despite a few hints on Greasewheel, we have now left behind the grunge-tinged songs. We love that style, but our music has progressed into something different. There is more cohesion to our sound now, I think the songs fit together better. The production values have also changed. It was great to record with Ric and Tony, they are guys who really understand the sound we are going for and know exactly how to capture it.
Heatwave: Having your debut album now in full swing, what do you expect from here? Any plans for after the promotion tour?
Paul: We need to sit down with the record labels and see really. We play five new songs in the set already and we have a few more ideas kicking around, so hopefully a new single and album won’t be too far away! We also have a few festivals booked in over the summer and are busy planning for our next headline show on the May 31 at the Sebright Arms.
Heatwave: Your sound is so broad. It’s hard to believe you’re just a three-piece. What kind of instruments do you use to aid the traditional ones?
Paul: On Greasewheel there was a lot of vocal manipulation. We used vocal sounds and then played around with them and set them into the mix, it allowed us to quickly add some interesting texture to the songs. We have talked a lot about the next record and definitely looking into some use of alternative instruments, organs and brass would be nice. We are open to playing around with different sounds. It’s all part of the enjoyment of recording.
Heatwave: How do you approach ideas for new songs? Where do they usually stem from and how do you ultimately work them out?
Paul: Asher tends to start the ideas off. He will come in with a melody or guitar riff, a basic structure of a song, then we will flesh it out together. Our method is to be self-critical, it’s how you improve, we are all very opinionated about our music and that works in our benefit, as we are constantly pushing each other to perfect our music. We like to demo our songs, then sit back and listen to them before revising the ideas. You get a very different feel for a song listening to it back than you do playing it.
Heatwave: What does the future hold for the Virgin Kids? Do you guys dream big or do you prefer to go step by step and see what happens next?
Paul: We constantly want to improve. We want to get bigger for sure, but we understand the hard work you need to put in to get there. We will continue to work with the same intensity and just see what happens.
Heatwave: What drives you? And what advice can you give to the ones who are just starting?
Paul: Pizza! Nah, it’s more than that really. All three of us have a deep desire to become full-time musicians, to be able to tour on a regular basis and write music we enjoy. We are determined to do everything possible to make that a reality.
Our advice for young bands – don’t rush to release your music. Take time to find your sound, analyse and critique your own music, ask people you respect for their opinion and if you find yourself agreeing with them, then take that opinion on board. Oh and play a shit-load of gigs at the start, nail your live set. Being a good live band should always be your first priority.