Over the past seven months or so, I’ve managed to spill quite a bit of virtual ink covering the rapidly rising Adelaide, Australia-born Melbourne, Australia-based singer/songwriter Romy Vager and her band RVG. Vager has a remarkable backstory: She was a teenaged goth kid runaway, who left Adelaide and headed east to Melbourne. Upon her arrival her new city, Vager joined her first band, Sooky La La, a project that specialized in material rooted in anger and discordance. Unsurprisingly, the band was largely misunderstood, routinely cleared out rooms and never found much of a following. Eventually that band split up. But it resulted in Vager committing herself to write songs that people would actually want to listen to, by attempting to do what countless aspiring songwriters try (and hope to) do well: match feelings of alienation, loneliness, heartbreak and feeling misunderstood with melody, introspection and rousing hooks and refrains.
For a period of time, Vager wound up living at The Bank, a recording, rehearsal and performance space that took over an old bank building in Preston, Australia, a suburb about six miles from Melbourne. The Bank was a scene unto itself, featuring a handful of bands that would receive national attention, including Jalala, Gregor and Hearing, who at the time, all played, practiced and lived there. Living in such a space, surrounded by musicians, who were constantly working and honing their work was profoundly inspiring to Vager.
In September 2015, Vager launched a tape of solo material that at the time hadn’t been actually pressed yet — and it helped her landed her first solo show at The Bank’s downstairs performance space. FFor her live solo debut, Vager recruited Drug Sweat’s and The Galaxy Folk’s Angus Bell, her Bank neighbor, Gregor’s and Hearing’s Reuben Bloxham and Rayon Moon‘s Marc Nolte to be a one-off backing band. But as the story goes, once they began playing together, they all realized— without ever having to say it aloud — that they needed to continue as a band. Shortly after that show, they initially formed as Romy Vager Group before shortening it to RVG.
RVG’s 2017 full-length debut A Quality of Mercy was recorded live off the floor at Melbourne’s beloved and iconic rock ‘n’ roll pub, The Tote Hotel. Initially released to little fanfare — no press releases, no music videos, no press photos of the band or any significant press push, the album’s material was heavily inspired by The Go-Betweens, The Soft Boys and The Smiths, prominently featured Vager’s passionate and vulnerable vocals. Much to the band’s surprise, their full-length debut received attention and praise across their native Australia and elsewhere, with the album eventually catching the attention of Fat Possum Records, who signed the band and re-issued A Quality of Mercy, leading to a much larger international profile.
Late last year, the band released the Victor Van Vugt-produced single “Alexandria.” Written as a response to the immediate aftermath of Brexit and Trump, the song is appropriately urgent and ardent. Featuring jangling guitars, pummeling drums, a rousingly anthemic hook and Vager’s earnestly plaintive and gravely howl, the song finds the band gaining a subtle studio sheen but without scrubbing the grit, soul ,and honesty that has won them attention.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the entire world on an uneasy and indefinite hiatus — but the band still hopes that this year will be a momentous year for them: Now, as you may recall, the rising Aussie indie rock act signed to Fire Records, who will be releasing their highly-anticipated, Victor Van Vugt-produced sophomore album Feral on next week throughout the bulk of the world — excluding Australia and New Zealand, where the album will be released through their longtime label home Our Golden Friend. Immediately after signing to Fire Records, the band released Feral‘s second single, the devastatingly earnest and heartbreaking ballad “I Used to Love You,” centered around a universal tale of suffering in the aftermath of an embittering breakup, with the song’s proud and defiant narrator reclaiming herself and her life.
“Christian Neurosurgeon,” Feral’s second single was a decidedly New Wave-like track that nods at Heaven Up Here-era Echo and the Bunnymen, while being a rousingly anthemic song about cognitive dissonance. “Perfect Day,” Feral’s latest single continues a run of jangling and cathartic guitar pop centered around frustration, despair, uncertainty and turmoil. But they manage to do so in a way that great pop songs — hell, great songs — should do: by speaking to the listener in a manner that often feels as though the band was in the listener’s head, putting words to the thoughts and feelings they’ve known and felt but couldn’t properly express. Interestingly, “Perfect Day” as the band’s Romy Vager explains in press notes is “a song about trying to give someone the façade of it being a nice day, even though things around them aren’t good.”
Directed by Geoffrey O’Connor, the recently released video for “Perfect Day” is a hauntingly dream-like visual that sees the band performing in a snowstorm. The video manages to emphasize the turmoil and unease of the song — and the hope that there might be something better just around the corner. “Movies and TV shows set in the snow have always made me feel happy in a way I cannot quite describe, so filming RVG perform their song 500 times in the middle of a snowstorm was a magical experience,” O’Connor says in press notes. “I’m forever indebted to these lovely people and their beautiful music for giving me an excuse to buy a snow machine. I don’t know when or why, but I’m sure I will need it again.”