The Virgins, aren’t as pure as the driven snow. No, they’re the kind that people have trampled over, where the dirt has been dug up and one which you know is a heralder for the beginning of a dirty weekend. These dirty boys bring about a love for filthy fights and bathroom sex. Representing the youthful, fun and grimy underbelly of both New York’s elite and street punks, The Virgins have melded their sound of rocky guitars and old-fashioned New Wave sensibility, managing to craft the perfect set of catchy pop songs.
On tour promoting their self-titled debut, a debut met with resounding attention after some of their songs debuted on the popular teen show “Gossip Girl.” I spoke to singer Donald Cumming about how life is on the road, the inspiration behind some of their catchiest tunes and the most perpetual question of all: Is a night with the boys as dirty as they say it is?
Alma Verdejo: How do you acclimate to the touring?
So, you guys are pros at this then? You know how many hours of sleep you can get by with?
Actually it’s never really successful [sleep]. You kind of learn that [nothing can be done at] any specific amount at anytime.
The consensus is that you guys met on a photo shoot in Mexico for Ryan McGinley. Is there anything else you want to add that?
We, actually, met a week before in a Manhattan bar called Sweet Vicious when the Yankees went against the Red Sox. The only thing I can remember was rooting for the Red Sox, I don’t remember why. But, they won.
And we were hanging out with Punk Rock Jake, a friend of ours, he was wearing this homemade Yankees shirt which said “Fuck Boston.” And the bar was being run by “We are the Weapon,” and they’re from Boston, so it was interesting.
So, we all kind of sat around and watched the game. And that’s how I really met Wade. Then four or five days later we were going to Mexico. The two meetings were completed in one week.
So, is it true that you have to be a native New Yorker to be in the band?
No [decisively], not at all. They [magazinez] can weigh that we’re all born in Manhattan but that’s more of a coincidence.
How do you pass the time on tour?
Mostly reading and playing music. It depends on what we’re touring in and right now we’re in a bus so we’ve been writing a lot of songs. Sleeping very comfortably and just enjoying ourselves, which is really sweet because we’ve just come from a six week tour in Europe and we traveled in a van. And that is a lot more…, it’s just a lot; you relax a lot less.
Do you guys sing “The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round?”
No. [laughs] We may though. But yesterday everyone got tattoos.
Was it of the same tattoo? Did you get one?
No, I didn’t get one. People got different ones; they woke up [this morning] and compared tattoos.
Lissy got a tattoo, and then Kevin our drummer and then Paul – our bass player – also got a tattoo.
I was listening to your album under heavy rotation and a lot of these songs make me wonder: What is the inspiration behind them? They always seem like they deal with women, like “Rich Girls” or just with a lifestyle like in “One Week of Danger.” Are these songs that are based on real people or are they just songs that come to you and you feel the need to write them?
I prefer to leave some of them to interpretation, at least for the time being. I haven’t scrounged my thoughts for some good answers.
Any new songs that you’re writing that are working with this exiting theme of the last album?
We like to play covers and follow that, but there really isn’t anything new. We’re trying to debate whether or not incorporate new material into the sets we play or just wait until the tour is over and then work in a new album. Wait and play when there’s more of it; when it’s more done. But we’ll see; it depends on what happens.
I know that you guys are coming here. Any preconceived notions about Texas, especially since I’m not aware that you’ve been here?
Actually, one of our favorite shows we ever did was in Amarillo, Texas. We were opening up for Jet and it was our first tour. I’d only read lots of stuff [about Texas] like this book “12 Days on The Road” by The Sex Pistols. It’s about their only American tour, in the South, and they played rodeos, just like not so many traditional venues – like, they only played one in San Francisco.
So we were kind of expecting really tough cowboys – we didn’t really know what to expect – and Jet is like a really heavy rock band. But the audience was so cool and they were so energetic and it was one of the best shows we’ve every played, having fun. It was one of the most fun shows. It was a great surprise. We all love Texas; Austin is a lot of fun.
Do you find that we actually dance more than New Yorkers?
Yeah, you do. New Yorkers are just too self-conscious.
The video “Rich Girls,” is that a typical party night for you guys?
It was originally conceived as a really typical night, which is just a bunch of dudes getting really drunk, but it was suggested, by a few people, that it wasn’t going to be interesting enough for a video. So, we had the foresight to invite the hotties of Victoria Secret’s [to make the video].
She came and hung out with us and it was really good idea; her presence made it not a “typical” night for us. It’s really just not like that but it was a lot of fun.
Okay, referring to another music video “Teen Lovers.” Now, this looks like a cautionary tale, where did you guys get this video idea?
I don’t know, the music video was really the director’s interpretation of the song. That video wasn’t any like the others, where we just sort of just showed up and did what we were told. I don’t know the link of the song with the video.
[Now] The song, when we were writing it, we were in Ohio on tour and a friend of us, Alex, told us a story about a girl he saw on the subway and it hadn’t really spoken. He saw that she had written this thing on him, on Craigslist on a forum called Missed Connections, and she wrote to him “You on the C train, between Bedford, and whatever. You were wearing a hat and write me back.”
So, we were looking at the posts [on Craigslist] and just looking at their missed connections and I started to think about my life, how I had come close [to certain things] and sort of not found the courage to do something exciting.
A lot of your success has been in the UK and Europe as opposed to the U.S. Would you recommend for bands to start off in the UK?
I don’t know. We put out our record six or seven months before in the U.S. than in the U.K. and we toured in the U.S. before that. We didn’t tour in the UK ’til later and the album wasn’t released ’til about a year later because the record label had to get their ducks in a row. So, I really don’t know. I mean, I don’t know that anyone does it consciously; it just might be a different reception, perception [in the UK].
The thing is we didn’t go to [Europe] first, it just caught on there.
Okay, last question: Three words to describe your show.
I don’t know. A transcendental confrontation?
Check out The Virgins with Lissy Truille, May 28th at Rudyard’s.
Doors open at 8pm. Cover is $10.