New York Punk Afrobeat

Band names, eh? Gone are the bands revolving around being associated with ‘Kids’ or ‘Fields’ (see ad 2008).

If you haven’t already noticed, The Virgins have got style! One can imagine their shared Lower East Side pad possessing several shambolic piles of hip distressed denims and numerous garishly-coloured accessories. Very rarely will you see the New York locals take the stage without at least one member wearing a hip influence (literally) on their sleeve, with tatty band shirts a hot matter for the outfit’s string bean front man Donald Cummings.

“I used to buy all those rock shirts in the early Nineties,” he explains, in his slow moving New York slang. “Merch isn’t cool like that anymore. I wanted our merch to be shitty; like less quality and more interesting.”

Indeed, the topic comes up having seen the newcomers’ latest addition to the merch desk: a T-shirt bearing cold-naked male genitalia, each bound by chains and bulging in innuendo; it’s apparent that it’s not merely the band’s name that winks sex. “The name ‘The Virgins’ is kind of sexual but it’s also fun and we wanted shirts that way,” says Cummings. “Like, a little bit sexy too. But I just get so tired of seeing half-naked women on rock shirts, you know? I just wanted to find a different way to be sexy.”

Having met guitarist Wade Oates in 2004 when the two were modelling in Mexico, The Virgins formed around a handful of songs Cummings had recorded on an eight-track. After recruiting bassist Nick Zarin-Ackerman, the band recorded the demos and tested them on the bustling New York live scene. “When we were looking at the songs initially we were playing them at parties and clubs to see if there were things we wanted to change about them, and see if we can get away with putting them on at a party with other music,” states Cummings. “You know, see if we could sneak songs into the actual nightlife. And it was fun, and nobody was terribly offended, so we were encouraged to continue.”

Though the band would continue to get together (their third gig, rather unfairly, was supporting Patti Smith at a Fashion Week party) resources were scarce, with a record deal the only means by which The Virgins could continue on as a band. Cummings recalls the motives in signing with Atlantic. “We needed money to get equipment and shit; guitars and amps and a practice space,” he says. “We just had nothing except for these songs. It seemed like a good idea, so I just went in there a little bit more confident than I should have been. We basically just needed the deal…”

This deal has quickly borne fruit in the form of the band’s hook-filled, party-rock stunner of a debut. Set for release this spring, ‘The Virgins’ is a sure thing for 2009, with lethally delivered riffs, sprinkles of Afro-beat (Fela Kuti is a favourite of Nick’s) and generous portions of gritty New York punk (both Wade and Donald are fans of rock legend Richard Hell), it’s almost certain these New York City boys are well and truly riding a wave to renown. And not in any part because of their shirts…


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