From Dolls to Femmes: a chat with Brian Viglione


When you’re in the midst of an identity crisis and pondering the meaning of your life, the first thing you’d expect is to receive an email from one of your favourite bands, asking you to become a member.


Well, maybe not – but when you’re Brian Viglione, anything’s possible.

The charismatic Dresden Dolls drummer from New Hampshire has officially joined alternative rock band the Violent Femmes after an email invitation from bassist Brian Ritchie.

Along with singer Gordon Gano, the revised group have dreams of capturing the ears of a new generation, and will head to Tasmania this New Year to celebrate their formation at the Marion Bay Falls Festival.

Brian Viglione describes himself as “supremely enthused and feeling very fortunate to team up with with this band.”

“It’s a beautiful match in terms of style and attitude.”

The hyper-expressive drummer rose to global fame through his theatrical and energetic performances as a Dresden Doll.

After being confronted by Amanda Palmer’s intimately dark solos during a Halloween party, Brian acted on his compulsion to team up with the singer/songwriter/pianist, and as history has it, the Dolls were born.

The punk-cabaret concoction have spanned a decade of explosive chemistry made evident across four albums, with Brian attributing his distinctive drumming style to his long-term admiration of the Violent Femmes.

“The Femmes’ music helped shape my drumming style as a Dresden Doll – their songs are part of my musical DNA, so it was a very natural fit.”

“The Femmes’ brand of energy, humour, and sense of spontaneity is a huge part of what fuels me as a musician.”

While Brian is commonly seen sporting the porcelain face of an old fashioned mime artist, his enigmatic alter-ego as a Dresden Doll will take the back seat on his journey with the Violent Femmes.

Although the two Dolls have divided, Brian’s new role has not put strain on his relationship with Amanda. In fact, the lady Doll shares Brian’s enthusiasm and publicly exclaimed support through her online blog.

“Amanda wrote me several times to congratulate me,” says Brian.

“We bounced around with excitement when she and I met up in August to play together.”

“We changed our course, but it’s the very thing that saved the band and has allowed us to come back together when the timing is right and have a blast touring together.”

The timing couldn’t have been more right in 2011, when the duo toured to Tasmania to play at MONA FOMA – the island state’s vibrant music festival curated by none other than Violent Femmes’ bassist Brian Ritchie himself. A spontaneous turn of events had the two bands collide for one massive performance of the Femmes’ entire first album.

Brian Viglione will return to Tassie before New Year, this time performing at the Falls Festival as an official member of the Femmes. He acknowledges the changing music scene, encouraging the small state to pursue its position as a world class center for the arts.

“I hope you continue to strive to provide places for young musicians to meet, rehearse, and do shows so that you can foster the community.”

“Encourage diversity in the scene and also creative exchanges between artists from different disciplines.”

“You have your own voices down there, let them shine.”

Brian is confident that when the Femmes head down for the gig, they’re “gonna kick that old-school flavour for yo’ ass and put on a sick show” (or, as the pseudo-gangster translates for the more conservative listener, “the band is feeling rejuvenated and excited to get down there and play”).

Until the Falls Festival, Brian will continue to work toward new album releases with Loudboy, XNY, and Morning Glory.

“Music is my life and what sustains me,” says Brian.

“I don’t have or need something outside of music to get supplement enjoyment from life.”

Witness Brian’s passion at the Marion Bay Falls Festival with the Violent Femmes between 29 December and 1 January.


This article was featured in WARP Magazine October 2013.
(Image sourced: Warp Magazine)

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