By Peter Cronin
The Virgins: Born To The City
If you think the New York rock scene started and ended with the CBGB glory days of the Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie back in the late ‘70s, Xan Aird, guitarist for Manhattan-based rockers, The Virgins, thinks you need to think again.
“There’s been rock ‘n’ roll music going on in New York since way before CBGB’s and way after, right up until today,” he says. “CB’s is a cultural memory I guess, but that was just one chapter. There’s always going to be rock ‘n’ roll being played in New York. It’s a form of music that is so suited to the city.”
With their brisk-selling and buzzworthy 2008 debut album generating reams of positive press and successful domestic and international tours, The Virgins – guitarist Donald Cumming, bassist Max Kamins and relative newcomers Aird and drummer John Eatherly – are psyched about the imminent release of their sophomore album, Strike Gently.
And while Aird claims “no frame of reference” for The Virgins newly minted music, the arresting guitar interplay between him and Cumming is reminiscent of Television, another legendary CBGB’s mainstay from back in the day.
“Keith [Richards] calls it ‘the art of weaving,’” Aird says. “There’s a lot of guitar going on, and that’s a huge part of the process for us. It’s all about getting together and listening to each other.”
Bypassing the fedora-wearing, hipster crowd over in Brooklyn (the current musical epicenter of New York), the boys in The Virgins all make their homes in the East Village, where they “walked to work,” to record their sophomore effort. According to Aird, that has everything to do with what comes out of the speakers.
“We do feel like outsiders sometimes, but the East Village is definitely part of our identity,” he says. “No matter what you do, this city is going to press on you in some way. It’s like jumping into a cold body of water; adapt and survive or die.”
The Virgins are adapting well. Newly signed to Cult Records, the label started by Julian Casablancas (leader of another seminal NYC band, the Strokes), The Virgins headed to Austin for SXSW on the eve of their release date before kicking off a nationwide tour to in support of Strike Gently.
“This record is real collaboration, and the audience has been there for us, consistently and supportively,” says Aird. “That’s something we’re really grateful for.”