Katy Goodman is leading a double life. For several years now, she's been widely known as "Kickball Katy" — the crimson-haired bassist for Brooklyn's punk trio Vivian Girls. But just like the Dodgers back in '58, Goodman packed up and relocated to Los Angeles last summer, re-emerging with a slightly mellower musical identity, and a solo project called La Sera. Now her two worlds are colliding, as she alternately hits the road in support of both La Sera's self-titled debut and the latest Vivian Girls' record, Share the Joy.
"Vivian Girls and La Sera are definitely very different, separate things," Goodman says, speaking by phone from the terminal at LAX. Fittingly, she's on her way to reconvene with Vivian Girls after a two-week European jaunt with La Sera.
"I enjoy doing both immensely, but it's hard to even imagine them in the same realm of my brain."
Though it was mostly written in New York and recorded in Seattle (with producer and jack-of-all-trades Brady Hall), the album La Sera finds Goodman cultivating a sound more in tune with the warm ocean breezes and swaying palm trees of her new SoCal digs. There are certainly Vivian Girl elements here — fuzzy three-chord riffs, girl-group "la la" choruses and song lengths entirely in the two-minute range. But the backdrop of even the album's darkest tunes has shifted from manic, big city traffic to a cozy beachfront hammock.
"The first time Vivian Girls toured L.A. in 2008, I was like, 'I need to live here!' " Goodman says. "I love L.A. — I like living in Eagle Rock, anyway. It's very relaxing. I like the weather, the pace. I'm much more in tune with the West Coast than Brooklyn, as it turns out."
That said, Goodman's still worn a path back to the borough in recent months to finish up the third Vivians album with bandmates Cassie Ramone and Fiona Campbell, each of whom have side projects of their own. "We're still a very tight-knit unit," Goodman says. It's with La Sera, though, that "Kickball Katy" has been able to spread her wings for the first time as a primary songwriter, showcasing her love for the immediacy and dreamy tonality of late-'50s and early-'60s pop.
"I feel like a song is all about capturing a mood — capturing a moment," she says. "You know, so many of the great old pop songs were like two to three minutes long, tops. And there's something to be said for that. Whenever I'm working on a song, I tend to want to get to the point pretty quickly."
On the punk evolutionary chart, Goodman definitely descends from the Joey Ramone genus — pop-oriented, approachable and a tad geeky. The tattooed tomboy loves her Xbox nearly as much as her guitar. But while her general sweetness finds its way into her riffs, the lyrics are a different story.
"I definitely think it's easier to write about heartbreak than happy love songs," she says. "I try to write songs that are like, 'I love you, everything is so good! Woo!' But it makes me feel weird. I just can't do it. Whereas, if I think about an ex-boyfriend, then all of a sudden there's a song there."
In the Brady Hall-directed video for "Never Come Around," for example, Goodman actually murders and chops up a collection of ex-boyfriends, Dexter style, before their corpses eventually join her in singing the song's peppy chorus.
"Yeah, I'm not a huge gore fan, so I was a bit skeptical of that premise," she says. "But once I saw the final footage, I was like, 'Oh yeah, that rules.' That song is an incredibly angry, bitter song, but it doesn't sound like an angry song at all, so the video really brings out that other side. ... Although the lyrics aren't actually about murdering people."
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