Romy Vager of RVG: 'I had given up on being in a band'
It’s been a big 12 months for Romy Vager.
She uses words like “bizarre” and “overwhelming” and “unusual” to describe the way audiences have coalesced around RVG, the band she fronts.
About twelve months ago, RVG released their first album, A Quality Of Mercy. The record was made on the cheap, live, at Melbourne pub The Tote, and was released without any fanfare on their Bandcamp page.
It’s eight guitar-pop songs that feel both stark and joyous, with a sheen that’s reminiscent of The Smiths or The Cure, and a brightness that reminds you of The Go-Betweens.
The buzz around RVG steadily built.
Last year, they played BIGSOUND, they played Meredith, they were nominated for four Age Music Victoria Awards and signed booking agent deals around the world.
This month, they sold out three nights in a row at Melbourne’s Old Bar. They are now in the US for South By South West, where they will no doubt garner even more love.
It’s clear Vager didn’t see this kind of thing coming.
“I suppose I had given up on being in a band,” she tells Double J.
“I was just making things mostly for myself. It's quite unusual that people have enjoyed it.”
The stuff she initially started making, she says, was purposely different to the standard fare, e.g. falling in and out love.
“I was trying to write songs about aliens and computers,” she says.
“I was trying to be as strange as possible.”
Those early songs Vager was writing became homemade demos. At the time, she was living in a share house in the Melbourne suburb of Preston, and had agreed to play a set of her own songs.
She roped in some friends – Reuben Bloxham, Angus Belle and Marc Nolte – and RVG, or more formally Romy Vager Group, was formed.
It’s interesting that Vager says she only worked out “recently” how to write songs.
A Quality of Mercy stands out not just for the melodies and Vager’s powerful-but-intimate voice, but for her insights.
The title track, named for an episode of The Twilight Zone in which a solider is given a unique insight into the perspective of his enemy, came about in response to the execution of two members of the Bali Nine.
'I’m staring at the ceiling, feeling numb,' she sings. 'I’m thinking about the readers of the Herald Sun. They say that I’m evil, they say hurry up get on with it.'
The album is full of songs that explore perspective in subtle ways.
In 'Vincent Van Gogh', Vager prods the entitlement and sensitivity a particular kind of male in the music scene:
“You say you’re hard done by
You say you’re a wreck
But the damage you do is worse than the damage you get”
Vager says a lot of people in the Melbourne music scene think it’s about them.
“About seven or eight people,” she says.
“They don't believe me when I say it isn't about them, which I think is beautiful, and says so much about what people are like.
“I just wanted to poke at someone – a type of person, a very male musician in Melbourne that is quite prevalent. It's not as prevalent as it used to be, but is still quite prevalent.”
As they look towards starting work on the follow-up to A Quality of Mercy, Vager says it’s “quite beautiful” that an album the four-piece spent $150 recording has now found audiences around the world.
“This time around we are going to things more studio, and work with somebody, and it'll be a different experience.”