The Girls: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed

Never defunct, they just needed new chemistry.

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in," Vas Kumar laughs, delivering his best Michael Corleone impression. The guitarist is talking about his second stint with local band the Girls. A member of the quintet's early lineup at the beginning of the decade, Kumar quit in 2003, but came back on board over the summer after years in exile in eastern Washington."I was living in a house with a girlfriend and a job," he says. "But I just got sick of that, I got fed up with not being able to play music and being in this hick town in the middle of nowhere. So I came back and they offered to bring me into the band again, and now things are going great."That the Girls even still existed for Kumar to rejoin was a minor miracle. Forming in the early '00s around the vision of singer Shannon Brown—simply "Brown" to his bandmates—the original fivesome unabashedly drew from the power-punk of Buzzcocks and the Voidoids, the synth-punk of the Screamers, the New-Wavey pop of the Cars, and glam-era Iggy Pop, putting it all together in a spirited, never-too-serious package and spearheading a thrilling, killer Northwest nü-punk scene that included the Briefs, the Spits, and the Epoxies.Word of mouth about their energetic, charismatic shows helped build momentum, and the Girls put out their self-titled debut album on Dirtnap Records in 2004. And then it all fell apart rather quickly. One by one their members quit, leaving Brown by his lonesome, and the band was, for all practical purposes, dead.But as with Jesus, Brian Wilson, and John Travolta's career, a surprising resurrection occurred. With Brown heading a revamped lineup, the Girls re-emerged at the 2006 Seattle International Film Festival's "Face the Music" party, where they performed a Devo cover."Brown always kinda knew he wanted to keep the Girls going, he was just looking for the right people," says Elie Goral, who for the past two years had been doing double duty as drummer for both Raz Rez and the Girls before departing the former a couple of months ago for full-time membership in the latter. "He's the only original member now. But he always knew he would make it work, and he's said a number of times over the last year that he really feels the best about this lineup.""It's always fun playing with Brown," says Kumar. "We write good songs together. And with the new lineup, it's a lot more fun playing with these guys."Rounded out by bassist Griff and keyboardist Derek Mason, the Girls recently issued their second album for Dirtnap, the Martin Feveyear–produced Yes, No, Yes, No, Yes, No (named for the band's rollercoaster history). It's not too far removed from the Girls version 1.0; still spiky, anthemic, and fun, the band's also made room for darker, more claustrophobic musical tones and conflicted lyrics.The disc has received favorable attention around the country—in August, just prior to its release, SPIN made the Girls its "Band of the Day." "The turning point where we realized we had a good record was when suddenly we had a booking agent and we had a publicist and all these tours started happening with Flogging Molly and Ben Weasel, and the SPIN thing," says Goral. "All this shit fell into our laps, and it was all based on the demos that were going out before the album came out."But while other U.S. markets are just now getting turned onto the Girls after all these years, things are a different story here, the band feels. "Nobody in Seattle gives a shit about us," Goral laughs. "We are totally old news. Nobody really pays much attention to us.""It's pretty much just all our friends that are coming to the shows now," Kumar adds, "the same friends that were coming to the shows five years ago.""We're not bitter about it," Goral continues. "I'm not one of those guys that's like, 'Fuck my city, nobody likes us!' There's just not a huge turnout at our shows, so instead of trying to force it, there's people in other cities that dig us, so it's time better spent out there touring than playing here."Not that they're completely giving up on Seattle, but with momentum on their side again, the Girls plan to be scarce locally over the next year as they tour the country as much as possible—and continue writing songs for their third album, which they hope to have out by the end of 2009."The funny thing about this band—I remember doing the same exact stuff back when I first joined the Girls," Kumar laughs. "You know, touring and starting from the ground level, and since we got a new lineup, we're starting from the ground level again. It's basically a brand-new band. I wasn't sure what I was getting myself back into when I rejoined, but things are going pretty damn good for us right now."

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