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Ellie Vee - conducted by Alex Goldberg  

Ellie Vee (The Charms) Interview

July 2006

These are the transcripts from a July 2006 interview with lead singer/guitarist Ellie Vee of Boston garage rock band, The Charms. The band is composed of Ellie Vee, Joe Wizda [lead guitar/vocals], Prince Frederick [drums, vocals] and Mark Nigro [bass]. The Charms have been featured in the Jim Jarmusch film, Broken Flowers, as well as MTV Made. They are also ranked number one on Little Steven’s Underground Garage Rock radio for their last record, Pussycat [2005]. The interview is conducted over the phone.

Ellie Vee: So you’re going to record this and then transcribe it?

MVRemix: Yep. Basically.

Ellie Vee: Cool.

MVRemix: So, let’s begin with an introduction, tell me about yourself and a little about the band.

Ellie Vee: Well, I’m basically the lead singer and one of the main song writers in the band. The Charms have been around for about four years, we’re from Boston, and we’re about to release our fourth record, so we’re pretty prolific [she laughs].

MVRemix: How did the band form?

Ellie Vee: Well, Joe [Wizda] and our first drummer Dennis had a rockabilly project and I had a band and a lot of extra songs so we just started jamming together. Originally it was just supposed to be a side project, but it started to do better than our other projects so we decided to just run with it, and that’s how it happened.

MVRemix: So it started with rockabilly…

Ellie Vee: Well I had an indie rock band and they had a rockabilly band. But I mean, we all wanted to play music a lot, so we got together to have fun, and it just happened that we had good chemistry, so it just kind of all worked out and we put out the record.

MVRemix: If you were in hell what record would be on loop for eternity?

Ellie Vee: Hmm, that’s a tough one. That’s a really really hard question. Well, what would be really funny and one of my favorite albums would be to have Highway to Hell on loop for eternity [both laugh].

MVRemix: Yeah, that would be a good one. The Charms have put out a good amount of music in a short time. In 2003 you released Charmed I’m Sure, and in 2004 it was So Pretty, and then in 2005, Pussycat, and there’s another one on the way. How would you describe the progression in sound and development as a band from your 2003 release to your 2005 release?

Ellie Vee: Well, Charmed I’m Sure [2003] is kind of more raw, because we did it as a series of demos, and then we put them all together. It was just forming our sound but it was weird though because even from our first album we had a focus-a focused sound, we had our own identity. It kind of set the tone for a raw sound. When we got to So Pretty, we had been playing a lot of live shows, so it was a little more gritty, because I think when you play live shows, you get a little more street smart [I laugh]. And that comes through [she starts laughing] in your playing. I mean, we still stuck with the rock and roll roots and the power pop sensibility. With Pussycat [2005] I feel like it was a combination of the poppy song writing that we had on both albums and the more edgy sound that we have been developing. It’s almost like a party record. We wrote a lot of those songs in a short period of time and we had been traveling for a while, so the live aspect of what we were doing came across in that record. A lot of the songs before the new one have been character sketches of the people I knew, or what they were doing, and the new record is a lot more personal.

MVRemix: So you’re trying to move away from the party power pop of Pussycat with this new album?

Ellie Vee: Not really, like, I’m not one of these writers who likes to orchestrate everything I do. I write very much from instinct. Some people write from their heads and some from their hearts. I write what’s in my heart. I just write what’s coming out, and I definitely listen to things and I am influenced by the music I listen to, so that comes through. And, I try to listen to music that will have a positive influence on what I write. When it comes to actually sitting down and writing, I’m not going for anything in particular, it just kind of happens. And with the band, when we write together, like, when I write with Joe [Wizda, lead guitar, vocals] and [Prince] Frederick [drummer] we don’t really plan it, we just see what happens, see what works, see what doesn’t. And each record is kind of a snapshot of what we’re going through.

MVRemix: What were you listening to when you were working on Pussycat?

Ellie Vee: Oh my god, I can’t even remember, but [she laughs], I know I was listening to a lot of Lesley Gore who Blondie probably was influenced by, and The Sonics. Also, Little Richard.

MVRemix: I read a quote off of your Myspace that in describing your band says, “Rock and roll has reinvented itself all fucking over again.”

Ellie Vee: Oh, that’s our manager who wrote that. The reason he wrote that was because we are influenced by fifties, sixties and seventies rock and roll, and I wouldn’t say there was tons of good rock and roll since the seventies, so, it kind of makes sense that if you love listening to rock and roll, you’ve been listening to fifties, sixties, and seventies music. I think that even though we listen to older rock and roll I think that our sound is fresh. I grew up with all classical music, so I have a more quirky sense of harmony and melody. So I think that the combination of the little bit of quirky and harmonic sense of music mixed with the rock we listened to, give us a fresh sound.

MVRemix: What do you think makes The Charms stand out from the other bands who are also doing a fifties, sixties, seventies rock revival?

Ellie Vee: Well, that’s the thing, I don’t think what we’re doing is a revival; it’s just what we like. I don’t know if that makes us different, and maybe having a female vocalist might set us apart a little. I don’t like to think of this band as chick rock or anything. I think using the keyboard sets us apart somewhat, and we experiment with a lot of different sounds and a lot of different keyboards. And I think our song writing has a lot of that power pop element but is presented through edgy-guitar-rock-organ sound. I mean I guess it’s hard to see how you’re different when you’re the one writing and playing. It’s kind of something you have to see from an outside perspective.

MVRemix: How would you describe your band, because, there is suggestion that it is garage rock. The Charms were ranked number one on Little Steven’s Underground Garage Rock, and I read a quote that “Lousing my Addiction” and “Pussycat” are all examples of “20th Century garage rock.” Do you see yourselves as a 20th century garage rock band?

Ellie Vee: It’s hard to classify music exactly in one genre [she laughs] but it’s pretty convenient to classify it as garage rock. Garage rock has a much broader definition than it used to. I think it [garage] is a really broad term now. It doesn’t mean like 60’s pop organ. From what I believe it means now, it covers anything from The Strokes to the White Stripes and The Raconteurs. The Raconteurs definitely have a modern sound, even though The Greenhorns are the rhythm section and they are a garage band, and Jack White is garage rock, I guess, although, I see him [White] as more of folk blues. They don’t really sound retro to me, but they’re classified as garage record. And I see that on our new record, that we’re not going for that retro sound so it ends up sounding like something new, so I guess it’s easy to put it into the category of garage rock. People need to understand these things [she laughs] people want to know what you sound like.

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"I don’t think what we’re doing is a revival; it’s just what we like. I don’t know if that makes us different, and maybe having a female vocalist might set us apart a little."