Released in June 2023, Brain Worms is the fantastic new album from Melbourne post-punk band RVG. Led by lyricist/frontwoman Romy Vager, the Aussie quartet have built on the promise and acclaim of 2017’s debut A Quality of Mercy and 2020 follow-up Feral to give us their most confident and complete record so far. Lead single “Nothing Really Changes” and “Midnight Sun” showcase their ability to write catchy rock songs that stick in your brain while “Common Ground” has a more atmospheric, anthemic feel. Brain Worms is the work of a band at the top of their game and will doubtless feature on many Top Album lists at the end of 2023.
The band consists of lead singer and guitarist Vager, guitarist Reuben Bloxham, drummer Marc Nolte and bassist Isabele Wallace and recorded the record in London at Snap Studios with James Trevascus (Billy Nomates, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, The Goon Sax).
After figuring out the challenge of which timezones we would be in, I chatted with Romy over Zoom to find out what the reaction had been like for Brain Worms and their plans for touring the record.
Hi Romy! How’s everything going right now?
Yeah. Good. We’re in a kind of quiet period at the moment. We’ve been working hard for the last year and now the record’s out, we’re just having a little, tiny break until we do heaps of stuff at the end of the year.
Your new album Brain Worms has been out for two months now. How’s the reaction been?
Yeah, it’s been really good. It’s been different than the other ones, which is good. I think it’s reached more people than the last couple of records have, and yeah, everything seems to be positive. I guess you already kind of know when you play the gigs for it and people show up. I feel like it’s kind of hard trying to work out what’s going on on the internet.
Which classic album cover is your current mood?
Oh my God. I don’t know. I’m trying to think of one.
(Romy later got back to me with…)
For Brain Worms, when did you write and record the tracks?
I recorded them last July in London, which was exciting. We spent about three weeks in London; it was really, really nice. But it was during the heat wave in London, which was interesting, it was when it was like 40 degree weather for the first time. Even as an Australian and knowing what that weather feels like regularly, but in London, it was just hotter than it could have ever possibly been.
In Australia, you have houses built for that weather but, in London, people were asking me, “what do we do?” Because people think that you’ve got to open all your windows in hot weather. And it’s like, “No!”. You’ve got to close everything and put blankets on your windows. Everything’s designed wrong for that kind of weather, so we didn’t have a good time.
Brain Worms sounds like such a confident record with the whole band on top of their game. Having had two critically acclaimed albums previously, did you feel any added pressure to really make this one special?
Um, yes and no. I feel like the second record was a lot of pressure just because we weren’t used to it, but we didn’t really feel that much pressure this time. After two years of Covid we didn’t really know if anybody cared so much if we made a third record, so we just kind of just did it quite instinctively and kind of naturally. It felt like a lot like when we recorded the first record; we didn’t have a whole bunch of other thoughts in our head, which was good for us.
Do you have a favorite track on the album?
Um, I think “Squid” at the moment. I think that’s the funnest one. We just play a lot of like really depressing, sad songs and there’s a lot of gentle songs, which we’re kind of used to, but “Squid” was something different and it had like a kind of rhythm to it that I kind of hope we do more on the next record.
If you could only listen to one record, what would it be?
Hmm. Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) by The Kinks. That’s my favorite and, every time I listen to it, I get something new out of it. It’s got some beautiful harmonies. You hear it and it’s not like listening to a Beatles record. It’s like you can hear the kind of inconsistencies and you can hear them kind of singing off-key in it. And there’s all these weird things in the mix. There’s a kind of connection to Australia and Adelaide in particular, which is where I’m from. And it’s a concept album and it kind of keeps giving. Yeah – that one for sure.
How do you feel you’ve changed as a band since your 2017 debut Quality of Mercy?
We’re more organized and we’re just less lax about things. We used to be like, oh, you only need to play a couple of times before you record something. We hardly rehearsed and now it feels like a real band. It feels like a confident band. I guess we just know what we’re doing a bit more. But, at the same time, I think we know when we’re getting too comfortable now, which maybe we didn’t realize when we were a younger band.
Who were your influences when you were growing up and who in particular made you want to form a band or become a musician?
I really liked Nirvana when I was like 13 and I think that’s probably the catalyst for a lot of this. That’s probably the thing that inspired me to play guitar or something, I reckon. But also Bowie, The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, that’s when I was about 16 or 17. I just got into that music and that’s kind of set the course for a lot of what I do now.
Especially here in the US, it seems like there’s more and more divisive rhetoric and laws targeting the LGBTQIA community being spread around. As a trans woman, how does that affect your plans when you try and promote and tour records? Or do you not find that as much in Australia?
Yeah, I guess the way we tour as a band, it doesn’t really affect me. But, we were in Texas earlier this year, in Austin, and there was definitely kind of a different feeling to when we were there in 2018. I guess, not so much the big cities on the east and west coast but you’re kind of wary about stopping at a gas station in between cities. I think that’s more my concern. I definitely feel for a lot of people who are living through it right now in some of those states ’cause it’s appalling.
How was South by Southwest when you played there this year?
Yeah, it was great, it was really good. I realized I missed American enthusiasm a lot because we hadn’t been back since 2019. They free pour alcohol and they come up to you and they’re like “That was great!” and everyone’s enthusiastic and lovely. We went to the Lyndon Johnson Presidential Museum in Austin. And, just seeing stuff like that, as an Australian, it’s very, very fascinating to me.
I see you’ve got some shows planned for Australia and Europe towards the end of the year. Are you planning to come over to the US?
We are very much hoping to come over before our US visa runs out. We’re sort of making plans maybe for early next year but it all depends on money. We haven’t gone to the US as much because it’s always been more lucrative for us to go to Europe or the UK. But there’s definitely a desire because we’ve only done a proper American tour in 2019; we went to Philadelphia and Chicago and Seattle and I wanna see those places again.
Hopefully you come back to Philadelphia so we can see you guys live! When you’re on tour, what’s the one thing you can’t leave home without or can’t do without on tour?
My phone with data on it. I feel like I need to look at things constantly. Um, what else? If I go on tour right now, I have nicotine mints because I need to not smoke, but I also need to have nicotine. So that’s the thing that keeps me very sane at the moment because the last tour was a gamble. If I don’t have these, I’m like, I’m gonna kill somebody!
What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
Oh my God. Do you know about Australian pizza? It’s disgusting by US standards; you have a couple of items on and it is very sparing in a lot of cases. Australian pizza is just chunks of stuff just piled on top. So I think I would just have the most chunkiest, everything Pizza. Artichokes, anchovies, potato. Yeah just the most disgusting Australian pizza because you get more for your money’s worth, I feel. Quantity over quality, definitely!
What’s the plans for the rest of 2023 and then into next year?
Hopefully lots more touring. We’re doing a national tour here, which is kind of exciting, and we’re doing like a European headline tour, which we’ve never done. I just wanna play as many gigs as possible. I’m slowly starting to write again, just trying to figure out what the next record will sound like. Just leaving things kind of open and hopefully going to a whole bunch of new places.
Photo Credits – Izzie Austin