It’s been four years since we’ve heard new material from the Virgins, 2008’s coolest band, heirs to the Strokes’ made-in-NYC mantle, fashion favorites, and swordsmen supreme. Four years is a presidency. It’s a Civil War. A lot can change. A band can lose its guitarist, for instance (Wade Oats, famous for snogging Lily Allen, has been replaced by Xan Aird; boyish drummer John Eatherly has also been added to the group). But others things can stay the same: the Virgins are still very intent on showing you that they don’t give a hoot; they still sound young and brash and very NYC.
The band, who will be playing small shows and parties around the city in the coming months, is rehearsing its new album, which they have yet to record. “We don’t know exactly how it sounds, but the songs sound…good” said singer Donald Cummings, when we sat down for a few minutes before the show. “We wrote most of it in the last month.”
Last Monday, as part of Absolut Vodka’s “Encore” concert series, a crush of fans, sardined into Le Baron, had a chance to hear some of this new material, songs like “Island Girl,” “Blue Rose Tattoo,” “Prima Maria,” “Flowers,” and “Fast Times.” The sound was less dancey than the first record, instead flirting with classic rock and heavy undercurrents of Full Moon Fever-era Tom Petty. Those who miss seeing the band as much as hearing them will be comforted to know that their cheeky style’s still very much intact, evident in Cummings’ thrift store rocker tee, and Eatherly’s “Comme Des Fuck Down” sweatshirt (“I saw A$ap Rocky wearing it in that video,” he offered, by way of explanation). For Cummings, the fashion industry is “Kinda sketchy. It’s weird to see so much money and attention going to something that’s all about aesthetics, and generally doesn’t go a lot deeper,” he said. “But I like to support companies that make their stuff in America, and have good policies for their employers. We’re going to make some merch, and we’re going to try and find a T-shirt company that does all of that stuff locally.” As if remembering what the industry’s done for his band, he added, “Fashion is cool, but it’s also cool to know where your clothes come from, and the practices involved in how they get made.”
As frequenters of the fashion scene (the band played the original Baron, in Paris, in 2008 when they released their first record), I wanted to know how important their own look was to the Virgins. Cummings wasn’t really having it, “I don’t know,” he said. “As important as anyone’s look is to them, or whatever.”