the insider: the virgins

we talk to donald cumming about rap music and outfit inspiration.

by ray siegel

Five years ago, The Virgins had every bar in New York City playing "Rich Girls" at least twice every night, thanks to the release of their self-titled debut album. Since then, the band's experienced a major turnover, with three new additions--and lead singer Donald Cumming being the only original member still in the band. This week marks the release of the Virgins' a sophomore album, Strike Gently. Boasting a mix of sexy fuzz-rock with a '70s NY cool-guy folk, the record's pretty much exactly what we hoped it would be--and more. Before hitting the road to tour with his band, Cumming invited us over The Virgins' head quarters on 2nd Avenue to talk about the new members, rap music, and the band's fashion mantra.

I just saw the music video for "Flashbacks, Memories, and Dreams." Did you come up with the concept for it? I really like making things as cheaply as possible. Whenever I see a bigger production on a music video it feels like something is being wasted. I think it's cool to have the video be exactly what the band wants, without any marketing strategy or excess shit.

You're the only original member who's still in the band, right? Yeah, it's three others and me now. When I started making songs for this record, we were already friends and already playing music together. It just made sense that they ended up being in the band.

Did you write all the songs on this album? I wrote a bunch before we started recording, and then a few after we started recording. It's a cool system we have going. I'll bring in a song that's just lyrics and cords and then everybody adds their own parts. As we play it, it tends to grow really intuitively. We really couldn't have made this record without any of the members--everyone's contributions are really integral to the album. It's great. It's nice that everyone feels great about doing it and enjoys adding something to it. I just feel really lucky that it worked out.

Are you happy with how the album turned out? Oh yeah, very much.

In a perfect world, what kind of scenario would you want this album to be played in? I like listening to music in places where I can really hear it. I like being enclosed with speakers--so maybe in a car? Only if the drive is long though, so you listen to it from start to finish.

What musicians or other bands were you into when making the album? I listen to mostly instrumental stuff when I'm writing lyrics, otherwise I would just zero in on the lyrics and not be able to concentrate. But when I'm not [writing music], I listen to all kinds of stuff. I listen to new rappers a lot.

What's your favorite part of making an album? I really like writing songs and I like recording. It's cool to get as much recording done before you have start nit-picking details. Playing live is fun, especially when there's an element of improvisation. It makes it more interesting for us if we can change things a bit during every show. I like how everyone kind of does their own thing during the performances.

So you guys don't coordinate outfits before a performance? You don't have a fashion mantra for the band? We try to dress weather appropriate. That's our mantra. Click here to buy Strike Gently!