Von Iva Turns Up the Heat
Photo: Haley Shelmadine
San Francisco’s home-grown synth-rock band Von Iva has been meeting success far beyond their indie dreams. Their DIY style has led them to an expanded national tour, to Hollywood (as the backing band for Zooey Deschanel in 2008’s Yes Man) and to an upcoming fashion line. Now, vocalist Jillian Iva, synth player Bex and drummer Kelly Harris are hitting the road, as this one part straight, two parts queer trio is set to play at this year's Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Curve got Harris to pause her whirlwind tour long enough to dish on the band's sound, the Internet and why it doesn't suck to have women throwing themselves at her.
Where are you guys at today?
Well, we’re in San Francisco right now, but we’re headed to San Diego and then Tucson, Ariz.
What’s it been like to be in an all-female rock band that doesn’t have any guitars in it?
It’s pretty funny, because a lot of times people come to our shows and they don’t actually realize that there’s not a guitar. Like, sometimes they’ll show up and the sound guy will be like, “Wait a minute, so, where’s the guitar? What side of the stage is the guitar?” and I’ll be like, “We don’t have a guitar. It’s all keyboards.” I think, a lot of the way that Becky plays, too, with two distortion pedals—and she actually plays through guitar amps—like, a lot of people get confused. Sonically they’re not sure what is making that sound. So, it’s kind of fun that people don’t really get it right away and they’re just surprised by it so that’s a cool element, I think, for a band.
It seems like you guys are sort of in this transition period from being an indie band and a big band. Are you guys looking to become a big band or would you rather stay in the scene?
Sometimes people are like, “Hey, you know, if you guys did this or that, you guys could really be huge!” And it’s like, well that’s really not the goal, is it? I became a musician because I love to play music and I have a very clear vision of what I want to do on the drums so once I sacrifice that, it just becomes nothing. So, I think we’re open to becoming as big as we can be but without sacrificing any kind of integrity.
Do you think with the Internet, and the way music distribution is done now, that it made it easier for indie bands to become big without needing to have a corporation backing them?
Yeah. You know, in some ways, yes. I think it’s great that a kid in Indiana…can get online and find out about band all over the world and really get in there and have the inspiration to create their own music and I think that’s probably the most important part of the Internet and people being able to publicize themselves but, I also think that it is sort of a strange dichotomy because in some ways you really do have to work twice as hard, because everyone is doing it. And that’s when music can either get really good, people can become even more creative, or people can become very lazy because they see, “Hey, this band, this is what they’re doing, so this is how we’re gonna do it.” Or “All we have to do is record these four songs on MySpace. We’re a band,” you know? And it didn’t used to be that way. It used to be, you’d spend a couple months in a studio, recording things to tape and now it’s like everyone has Garage Band or ProTools and they’re just doing it themselves, which, is great, but also, in some ways, like anyone can do it. So, I don’t know. That’s a tough question. As far as allowing people to become bigger, I don’t know. I don’t think that that’s necessarily true but, it is nice that somebody who wouldn’t normally have exposure to that can get it now.
It kind of changes what you would call “success” then, doesn’t it?
Yeah. I think that’s a better way to put it, like what does “success” mean nowadays, you know, to a band? For us, like, we don’t have day jobs so I suppose that that is success—some level. [Laughs] Like, being able to tour, that’s like a big deal, too, now. For us, it took us years to be able to find a booker and actually get on a national tour. I mean, this is the first year that we’ve done that and we’ve been a band for five years.
Yes, you have lots of women throwing themselves at you, apparently.
Ok, good. [Both laugh] Nothing wrong with that. [Laughs]
Are you dating anybody right now?
You wanna know what the reality is? Like, I am dating the road. I am dating, like, both members of my band and the road. [Laughs] That is the only thing I can say to that. I think that’s kind of the most honest answer.
And you guys are going to play at the Michigan’s Womyn’s Music Festival this year, right?
Yes. We did that last year and that was a blast. We weren’t sure what that was going to be like going into it because it just seemed like, “Are they going to be ready for a band like us?” It just seems like maybe most of the people performing are doing more of a folk kind of thing. [But] it was so awesome, the response that we got. And also we were just inspired, once again, being around all of these women building this little city, almost, in the middle of nowhere. And, you know, just seeing as many shows as you can and just talking to as many people as you can. So, we’re excited to do that with Girl in a Coma this year because it’ll be like definitely a fun little campsite, for sure.