RVG’s Romy Vager: “There’s something about the last few years that’s been quite difficult for me. I feel like a wild animal a lot of the time, licking my wounds and hissing at everybody!”

Original photo by Anna Cunningham. Handmade collage by B.

Melbourne band RVG ride the road of a Southern Gothic sound, travelling high along the dark musical horizon of bands like The Gun Club and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, vocalist-guitarist Romy Vager baring her soul giving a unique slant to the genre. Their sophomore album Feral – follow up to beloved debut LP A Quality Of Mercy – will be out April 24 on Fire Records. We interviewed Romy about the record.

How did you first come to playing guitar?

ROMY VAGER: Growing up I got lessons from this guy Greg who caught a snake in our backyard. I use to go to his house down the road and he’d show me how to play classic rock riffs.

Your debut album A Quality Of Mercy was written in isolation; was the writing process for new album Feral like that?

RV: Yeah I guess so. We don’t tend to jam out the songwriting stuff at first so it starts with me. I like a warm place in the dark where nobody’s gonna bother me, I’m a lizard. Or maybe a mushroom.

Where did the album’s title Feral come from?

RV: Feral just sorta summed up everything I’ve been feeling recently. There’s something about the last few years that’s been quite difficult for me. I feel like a wild animal a lot of the time, licking my wounds and hissing at everybody! I want a place to belong but I’m having trouble getting there. Does that make sense?

Also “feral” is what Right-wingers call you if you care about social issues or climate change. You’re called feral for giving a fuck! I guess Feral can be interpreted in that sense as a call to arms.

You’ve commented that your “new material is actually a lot more depressing than the first record in parts”; while writing what was influencing this even darker mood?

RV: I just think there’s a lot less hope in it than the first one. The world’s become a lot more sinister in the last couple of years. I guess, like a lot of people, my songwriting has changed according to that. I can’t pretend that things are normal anymore. The first album’s like [Stars Wars movie] A New Hope, this one’s like The Empire Strikes Back.

Did you have any challenges writing the album?

RV: I guess it took me a while to get all the songs together. I’m not a quick writer like other people. I have to really concentrate to get the lyrics right, they have to be framed in a certain way.

The songs I’ve heard from Feral have a really lush sound to them; what inspired you to go for this sound?

RV: I think mostly because we like lush sounds. But also because I get kinda bored of punkier music being very one dimensional and grimy. It’s always been important for this band to have that angular energy but to pretty it up a bit.

Your last album was recorded live on the floor at The Tote for around $150; what was it like for you to record in a studio this time?

RV: It was nice! It’s not better or worse or anything. I like that you’re forced to take things more seriously in a studio because it’s costing you money. When you do stuff yourself you get lazy because you don’t have to commit to anything. When we did Quality… there was a gap of like a month and a half when I thought it wasn’t gonna ever get finished cause people kept putting it off. You have to be a bit more professional about it.

You worked with music producer Victor Van Vugt who’s known for working with artists like PJ Harvey and Nick Cave; how did he help craft the album’s sound?

RV: I guess he just really understood that it was best to get the songs as live as possible.

When I saw you perform in Brisbane recently, I noticed you made jokes between songs and there’s a track on your album called “Little Sharky & The White Pointer Sisters”; how big a part of your life is humour? How’d that song come about?

RV: I try to have a sense of humour! It’s this weird British kind of humour that’s a product of growing up in Adelaide. Maybe only Adelaidians find it funny!

Sharkie was a guy I lived with when I was a teenager. He was convinced that psych nurses were after him and you’d spook him if you entered a room too quickly.  He said he was in a band called, Little Sharkie and the White Pointer Sisters, but I don’t think it was real. I wanted to write a song that made it real, I didn’t want him to slip through the cracks.

Why is it important for you to create?

RV: It’s cathartic to me. I’m shy in real life and playing music gives me a way to communicate to people where I usually can’t. It’s precious.

Last question, as I mentioned before a lot of your songs have a depressing mood, I wanted to ask; where do you find great joy?

RV: Mostly by singing to my cat.

Please check out: RVG. New album ‘Feral’ available here through Our Golden Friend in Australia and Fire Records overseas. RVG on Instagram.