The Virgins: Prima Materia

Ryan McGinley Captures the New York Band Debuting Their New Direction

Indie-darlings The Virgins return with new track "Prima Materia" in this short film by artist Ryan McGinley of the group performing live at the New York outpost of Parisian hotspot Le Baron. Channeling the quintessential early downtown punk sound of Television or The Modern Lovers, The Virgins played a selection of freshly written tracks for a packed audience. “It was good to play a small room, and just feel like a family,” says lead singer Donald Cumming. Best friend to Cumming and chief photographer of the band since its inception and subsequent runaway success in 2008, McGinley set up five different cameras around the dark space to capture the intimate performance and even used the audiences’ camera flashes to create monochrome zooms. “We were so psyched for Ryan to capture that show on film, because you only get to play songs for the first time once,” says Cumming. “'Prima Materia' was written that week, just a few days before so it was great that he got it.” After four years of touring the world and with two new members, the band is back in the studio recording for an exclusive 7–inch for OHWOW’s Downtown for Democracy event in May and a new album later this year. Here McGinley talks friendship, soap operas and pink visions.

How long have you and Donald been friends?
We've been best friends for 13 years now. In the summer of 1999 I used to see him reading books sitting on a stoop on East 7th street in Manhattan. I would ride my bike by him in the early afternoon and he'd still be there reading in the evening. I approached him one day and he told me he was a poet. He was always sitting on that stoop waiting for his girlfriend because her parents wouldn't let him in their house.

Was he always making music?
Until about 2005 I watched as he experimented in a lot of different mediums. He was making alternative movies with old VHS video cameras, making collage art about cats, drawing line portraits of himself and friends. All of us were in a soap opera that aired weekly on Manhattan Public Access and Donald was the star of it. He started modeling in a lot of high fashion campaigns and then acting in movies. All of these artistic forces were fused together when The Virgins were formed.

Why did you color the footage?
I've always been a fan of the monochromatic album cover. Two of my favorite bands that have pioneered that look would be The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian. I guess the aesthetic decision to tint the footage pink was my subconscious nod to those bands. I've always thought of The Virgins as a pink band.

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Conversations (1)

  • Fernando Batista
    This intersection between two artists and their collaboration is what in former times made NYC the place to be ... this feels like 21st century deja vu... Plus many fun memories of Le Baron...
    • Posted By Fernando Batista
    • March 20, 2012 at 10:11AM
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