When RVG first self-released their debut LP, A Quality Of Mercy, there was no press release. No one sheet. No music video. No proper band photo. No image to uphold. No narrative to forward.
Instead, there were just two guitars, bass, drums. Eight songs. Classic songs. Songs recorded by the band, live off the floor, at Melbourne’s iconic rock’n’roll pub, The Tote. Songs that leant on the band’s heroes —the Go-Betweens, the Soft Boys, the Smiths— whilst never sounding like homage or pastiche. Songs hitting that sweet spot between light and dark, employing guitars both angular and jangling. Songs passionately sung by Romy Vager, the eponymous leader of a band once called, in full, Romy Vager Group.
Vager had arrived in Melbourne, from Adelaide, in full Goth wardrobe, as a teenage runaway. Her first band, Sooky La La, was built on anger, discordance, screaming. They found no following, and routinely cleared rooms. In the wake of their demise, Vager committed to write songs that people would actually like, and want to listen to; to match alienation to melody, introspection to big refrains.
She was living upstairs at The Bank, an erstwhile recording, rehearsal, and performance space housed in an old bank building in suburban Preston. The Bank was a scene unto itself: Jaala, Gregor and Hearing, all played there, practiced there, lived there. Dwelling in this big house, surrounded by musicians, hearing their songs coming through the walls, Vager couldn’t help but be inspired.
She committed to playing her first show, downstairs, in September 2015, launching a tape of solo songs that hadn’t actually been pressed. Angus Bell (Drug Sweat, the Galaxy Folk), Reuben Bloxham (Hearing, Gregor), and Marc Nolte (Rayon Moon), fellow Bank residents, were recruited to be a one-off backing band. But once they’d played together, one time, without saying it, they knew all they were a Group.