Von Iva Interview

They've been called the best band in San Francisco and are still working on their debut album, with their first 12" out soon. The quartet is called Von Iva, a hot girl group heavy on the fun and dancing grooves. A bunch of us in the San Francisco betterPropaganda office became instant fans when we first heard them, and we were amazed when we saw their energy packed live show. They've just started to play gigs out of town, but so far, there hasn't been much to know about them. We set up a phone interview through their label Princehouse Records, and got the scoop on how the band came together in an exclusive betterPropaganda interview. During the interview, Jillian is highly animated, like the band's live show. While talking, she drifts into comic voices and laughs heartily.

Better Propaganda Editor Terbo Ted talks to Jillian Iva of Von Iva

betterPropaganda: In your own words, what is this thing called Von Iva?

Jillian Iva: In my own words... this thing called Von Iva is about spreading the love, sharing a passion towards music and all things creative, and having a good time, and trying to get people to break out of their shells and have fun and dance. It's a little more simplified than, you know, most causes. It's like "hey, you're not that cool, don't worry about it" and just kind of cut loose. HAVE A GOOD TIME! you know.

bP: Right on. Can you tell us about the Princehouse Records Von Iva 12" coming out on September 21st?

VI: Yeah, we're pretty excited, it's one of our favorite San Francisco bands that's now en route to Germany, The Vanishing. Kind of a cool idea, it's going to be our first release, because we've been working on stuff for awhile. It has "Not Hot to Trot," the original version before we've rewritten it, 'cause now there's a new version WE have, but it's an older version of "Not Hot to Trot" with a remix version. I unfortunately don't know the guy's name, but it's very 80s dance style, it's like for the clubs kind of situation. It's bordering on cheesy, but I think people are gonna like it, that's just my opinion. (laughter) And then The Vanishing, I don't know, I haven't heard theirs but, we're hoping it's just put the shit on and dance to it situation, it should be pretty good.

bP: The drummer for My Bloody Valentine is on record saying you're QUOTE The best band in San Francisco UNQUOTE. What are your thoughts on that, and who are your favorite bands around the Bay Area these days?

VI: It's flattering. (My Bloody Valentine drummer) Colm (O'Ciosoig) is a really cool guy. I worked with him... before I ever played with Von Iva, he saw me sing with my ex-boyfriend's band, this kind of short lived thing that we did. And he was like 'holy shit.' So, he got me in on a project to sing with him on a song, and then, you know, of course, he was really interested in what I was doing, came to a show and was just like "My God! You girls are really great." He actually recorded a song for us, we worked with him. It didn't turn out as everyone liked, but we were still pretty new to the game at that point. So yeah, he's definitely a fan and he's a really really good guy, he comes to a lot of our shows still. And as far as my favorite bands, um... wow, The Vanishing, as I mentioned, I like them a lot. ooooh! I really like Harold Ray Live in Concert. I don't know if you've ever seen them, but they're pretty phenomenal. They're just kind of like we are, they do a lot of old soul covers, they do it really really well...

bP: You guys have just started playing out of town shows...

VI: Yeah!

bP: New York and L.A. That must be pretty exciting. What's it like playing away from home to people you don't know?

VI: It's interesting, because we've definitely... the reception we've gotten from San Francisco has been very overwhelming and it's just like people are SO into us here, and we really really appreciate it, and the shows just keep getting bigger and better. And then we go to L.A. where it's just like all these jaded individuals, where it's like "you know what, there's something great going on here every night, you better serve up something good." So we haven't played to a lot of people there, and it seems like a lot of times, they're standing there with their arms crossed. But then afterwards, they're always just like "wow, that was amazing," even if they don't react at all during the show. I mean, we got that a lot in New York- with the exception of the all ages show, because kids were freaking out at that show- not the biggest turnouts. But then, after the show... 9 out of 10 people come up, just really intrigued and 'blown away' as they put it. A word we get a lot is like "YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING" which is really flattering. We need to get out there and spread the word a little more, but the little amount of people that we do hear from when we play out of town, they're really into it. We've gotten a lot of emails based on that too.

bP: Your group has no guitarist and no soloist and yet you're constantly compared to Led Zeppelin. And that sounds like crazy talk, because they certainly weren't a chick band either. Why do people keep making that comparison to Led Zeppelin?

VI: I think it's the depth of the music, you know. Led Zeppelin definitely had this deepness... I think that's kind of a funny comparison too... HELLO! Jimmy Page was one of the main aspects of Led Zeppelin. But, also, it's just like they had this overt sexiness to them, you know, and I think that people correlate us with that. And maybe because fuckin' Kelly is such an amazing drummer. (laughter) And she watches (giggling) Led Zeppelin DVDs before every show, (laughter) and just like stares at John Bonham. So maybe that's it. I'd like to say that that could be a portion of it. But, I think it's just like the huge sound that we manage to create, because we definitely have a huge sound... And the sexy spiritual aspect of it, and I don't know, that's the only thing I can think of.

bP: Stylistically you guys have a very original sound. I'm not sure if you'd call it disco rock or whatever. I can't think of any other rock or dance party bands with a lineup like yours, and let alone a girl band. So how did you, as a group, get to the point where you knew you were really on to something? How did that happen?

VI: Well, we practiced... for a little over a year before we played our first show. 'Cause we wanted to be taken seriously. We wanted to believe. We're all definitely hard workers with a penchant towards perfection. We just really wanted to believe in what we were putting out there. And it took awhile to form our sound, because Kelly and Elizabeth played in Clone together previously, which was kind of this dark, more electronic kind of rock band, and then Elizabeth, 7 Year Bitch was just straight rock. Becky played in a lot of noise bands, believe it or not, like with one of the guys from Wolf Eyes from New York and stuff. So we all are bringing something different to the plate. I was kind of a newcomer. It just kind of formed on its own. We knew we wanted to do something fun and kind of light and dancy. It was hard for me, because I wanted to kind of be more poetic. You know, bring a deeper poetic side to the table with my lyrics and lyricism and such. And then I kind of realized, as I was singing, and they were like "holy shit girl, just cut loose," so I did. And they were like "WOW" and that kind of formed the sound a little bit. I just kind of went for it, and as you know, I've got this kind of crazy deep soulful- you know- kick you in your face voice that I can emulate. So we did that. And then we started kind of writing songs about it. And then subjects, you know, like love, this world could use some love, and that's one thing we've got more than enough of. Which is true, we do. So, the songs just kind of wrote themselves and we just kind of started building this sound that was very dancy and fun but still had this harder rocking edge due to Elizabeth and Kelly. Kelly's pretty much self-taught on the drums. We started off with Elizabeth, who was sick of playing bass from Seven Year Bitch, so she was on the drums and Kelly was playing bass. And then one day we were like "alright, this is ridiculous, Elizabeth is a phenomenal bassist, let's just switch it up." So Kelly kind of taught herself. She definitely has a propensity toward like these DRIVING... she hits SO HARD and these driving disco beats, and that kind of helped form the songs too. I don't know... we all love all genres of music, it's not one thing we focus on more so than anything, so we kind of brought that to the table. Mix that with Elizabeth's bass, my style of vocals, Kelly's disco drums, and then Becky can just fucking play anything you throw at her, and that kind of formed the Von Iva sound, whatever it may be. (laughter)

bP: The word fun keeps coming up. What does fun mean to you girls?

VI: What does fun mean to us?

bP: Yeah!

VI: Fun means... booze. (laughter) No, I'm just kidding. (laughter) Fun means cutting loose, getting down and dirty, throwing your arms in the air, and not caring who you hit in the face, getting sweaty, freaking out. You know. There's an old adage, "dance like nobody's looking," you know, the old cheesy saying. But it's very true... I grew up in Oklahoma, so coming out here, I kind of was like WOW! WOW! WOW! Everything's so new and exciting! So I got to the point where I was like (hick voice) "who gives a fuck" and would cut loose and have a lot of fun, and I could tell people were just like (Valley girl voice) "oh my God, what is she doing?" And then I kind of surrounded myself with like minded individuals, and they were very much like that, just like (hick voice) "Who gives a fuuuuck! Have some fun!" And I think that's a big portion of having fun, is not- for lack of a better word- giving a fuck. (laughter) ...cut loose and enjoy yourself while you can. Enjoy your surroundings, enjoy who you're with, enjoy life. For risk of sounding hippy-dippy. (laughter)

bP: So you're not afraid of your own sex appeal, it seems you all go a long way with that, and the way you present yourselves onstage, and also in your lyrics and your songwriting.

VI: Yeah.

bP: How would you describe the sex appeal of Von Iva?

VI: (Southern belle voice) I think it speaks for itself, don't you Ted? (laughter) Um... you know, we kind of realize... oh, god, how do I talk about myself and not sound totally ridiculous (laughter)

bP: It is kind of tough I guess.

VI: ...I've always been sexually inclined... it comes natural I guess is what I'm trying to say. It's not in like a Britney Spears kind of like...

bP: Contrived way...

VI: Yeah, contrived and trained... Nor, is it Christina Aguilera like "THIS IS WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO GO FOR" it's just natural, it's there and we ran with it.

bP: You must have an awareness amongst yourselves of it...

VI: Yeah, oh we definitely do. That's one of the fun things of being in a girl band, like "OK! what are we going to wear?" You know, we're not up there wearing big baggy clothes, that's for sure. We realized that we're an attractive group of women, and we have no problem with utilizing that. It's actually a lot of fun. I fucking LOVE putting on ridiculous outfits, and jumping around. It's just something I've always liked to do. So, rather than- you know- try and stifle it, or, once again, try and worry about how the other people are going to perceive it (hushed voice) "oh, they're just trying to show a lot of flesh to get attention" well, that's bullshit. We're just dressing how we want and having a lot of fun and being sexy and utilizing our bodies while gravity is still on our side. (laughter) You know, all that kind of stuff. It's not necessarily something we pre-planned while we were practicing. It just kind of came out. I was kind of at first, "Look at these outfits I got!" and they're like "Whoa!" (laughter) and then slowly but surely, they kind of just like "fuck yeah! Let's have fun with this." It's definitely in your face sexuality, but we come by that naturally like I said before.

bP: I'm amazed at the kind of shoes you wear onstage for how much jumping around you do.

VI: (laughter)

bP: How does that work? That just seems totally improbable.

VI: Um, you know Ted, I am so surprised I have not eaten shit really hard yet. I'm waiting. It's pending. I'm waiting for the day where I just eat it. Which is probably going to be really amusing to me. I almost did in New York, I almost tripped over the monitor and knocked off Becky's keyboard, but I managed to save the situation. I don't know, pure skill and determination... not skill necessarily, but just fuckin' pure determination. (laughter) MY LEGS LOOK GOOD IN HIGH HEELS! You know. So, I'll fuckin' make that shit work. (laughter)

bP: Your band's rider says you need something really really tall on the stage to climb on when you guys play. What's that all about?

VI: (laughter) Oh, yeah. That was Elizabeth's funny little comment. I guess that kind of correlates to the fact that I like to push boundaries. And if there's something there that looks like it should not be climbed on, or especially something there that most girls probably wouldn't attempt to climb on with a short skirt and high heels, by God, I'm gonna try and do it. And just hope that I don't break something one of these days. I think... I get kind of posessed when I'm up there, a little bit. "What can I do? What's around?" ...just kind of scan the area and see what I can fuck up, or climb on, or just, just kind of push someone so people go "Oh my god, I can't believe she got up there!" That kind of stuff.

bP: Elizabeth toured pretty extensively when she was with 7 Year Bitch. How does that experience affect you guys?

VI: Well, positively. Because she's so gung ho to get out there and see the world. The cool thing is- she's commented- if she was here she would say this to you, this is the most fun she's had in a band. And the best songwriting, she's feels like a band that she's been in that's produced. So I know she's like itching to get out there. 7 Year Bitch was just kind of like wham, bam, right away for them, because of the grunge thing. And Courtney Love basically just showed them the way and they were instantly popular. So, we're having to work a lot harder in this band, but I know she believes in it a lot more. She's like "I CAN'T WAIT TO GO TO JAPAN!" "I CAN'T WAIT TO GO TO EUROPE!" She's ready to fuckin' conquer the world again, and even more so than before. It's exciting. I think it's definitely given her motivation, and seeing what's capable, and being in a band that she's even more into at this point. Or not more into, it's just different and a lot of fun for her I should say. She's definitely ready and willing to do it again, so it's cool.

bP: You guys are working on your debut album right now, recording with local hotshot Mark Pistel, who's also worked with Michael Franti, and Spearhead, Meat Beat Manifesto, Tino Corp. and more.

VI: Yeah.

bP: What's it like making the adjustment from recording your own songs on Pro Tools to working with a more experienced engineer and producer like Mark?

VI: Well, he's basically taking all the tracks that we recorded, with the exception of one track we recorded with Tim Greene that he's kind of mixing in. It's really cool. It's neat. We realized, we are a DIY band. It's like we're so fucking determined. We'll make something happen and we'll figure out how to do it. I mean, Becky does our web page... Becky and Kelly went out and bought the Pro Tools rig. So, it's really cool to do things yourself and be determined, but sometimes you need a little extra push from people that have been doing it for a lot longer than you. He's great to work with. He gives good ideas. We basically needed production help. Someone to kind of give ideas, someone to spice it up a little bit here and there. And that's what he's doing. He's really making it sound good. It's what we needed, and what we were really stressing on, is like live, it's just so bombastic and huge sounding, and it's REALLY... it's definitely as you probably know, not easy to capture that in a recording always.

bP: Right.

VI: He's kind of helping give that effect. And so far, we're into the results, it's working out well.

bP: You guys have a undeniable chemistry onstage, and you all really seem to love and trust each other in a magical sort of way. I mean, that's kind of special for bands. Are you aware of you guys having something that maybe a lot of bands don't even understand?

VI: Yeah! I think so. Uh... who was it, a friend of ours recently... especially after all ages shows, the kids just kind of flock, and they're just like "WOW!" and you can see the little girls kind of standing there staring at me like just like (high trembling voice) "HI! HI! I LIKE YOUR BAND!" You know, it's like, I feel really good that they want to come up to us afterwards, and I was kind of talking to a friend about this, I was like "Why do you think that is?" and he's like... for lack of better verbage like (dry monotone voice) "you're not a scenester you don't have this holier than thou like (haughty voice) 'I'm in a band and my band is cool' attitude," we're very approachable. And that's how we have been throughout life... we just love each other like you said, and we love what we're doing so much, and there's no pretentiousness behind it... we're very serious about our music, but we're not very serious about when we get on stage... it's just like "Alright! This is what we're here for, to have the fun and spread the love" and I think that people can really see that. Obviously, you picked up on that. It's kind of hard to put into words, it's just something magical that happens. We have such extreme respect for each other. And respect for the audience too. I mean, we're really fuckin' so stoked to see people out there doing what we're trying to get people to do: cut loose and have fun and dance with people they would never dance with. So it's contagious. We catch it from the audience, they catch it from us, it's this circular thing that starts happening. It's pretty cool.

bP: Elizabeth, Becky and Lay Lay call you their diva onstage.

VI: hehe.

bP: What do you think they mean when when they use that term to describe you personally?

VI: Diva. Well, we're not at the point where I can be bitchy and, you know, request the all white dressing room, so I wouldn't say that it's that yet, no I'm just kidding... (laughter)

bP: (laughing) Is that what's coming up next?

VI: (laughter) No. I don't really have a tendency to be... I've got attitude, and maybe I think that always... divas tend to be these women with attitude that aren't afraid to ask for what they want and go get it. But also, "diva" correlates to having talent. God, I feel really cheesy saying this, (sassy voice) WELL LET ME TELL YOU WHAT A DIVA IS. (laughter) I think people associate "diva" with a woman with extreme talent and also not afraid to get out there and bust some balls and say what she wants and do what she feels in the moment. I definitely have that personality. I wouldn't necessarily call myself a diva, but by God, I can sing, I can dance, and I can throw attitude. So if that's what a diva is, then I'm a diva. (laughter) I don't know.

bP: So to wrap it up here, what are your guys' plans for the rest of the year?

VI: Conquer the world, you know, shit like that. (laughter) We're definitely trying to finish up our recordings with Mark. And get that released. And we're releasing that on a smaller label, Cochon, which is a REALLY good friend of ours, this guy Manuel from San Francisco. And we're kind of using that as a means to... it's basically, we're viewing it like a glorified demo, once we have that on Cochon ... then these people from Guerrilla Management, John O'Malley, is basically looking to shop us around and kind of get the word out there. And like I said, one thing begats another... Okay people see the record. Now we have a publicist. The publicist helps us get a booking agent. We're kind of trying to aim to get all those people together to really start to spread the word if you will and tour. Touring, by God, I want to tour so bad. It's been a slow process, just because we definitely don't see it as like jumping out there in a van that's going to break down and cruising around and playing some dude's basement with a crusty punk band, which is great, you know, I love that people go out there and conquer that, but, we're setting our sights a little higher than that, and we're working a little harder, so it's taking us a little longer. That's kind of what I envision in the next year. We're even contemplating just trying to start to do the international Europe and Japan thing before we even do any U.S. touring. But who knows, it's one thing begets another, and we're just kind of seeing how things fall into place, and working really hard to make it all happen.

bP: I wish all of you the best of luck.

VI: Thank you man, I really appreciate it, and thanks for your interest and all of that.

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