If someone made a film about The Virgins, the director's pitch to the studio would be Stand By Me meets The Goonies meets Kids. It'd be an adventure story full of crime, hedonism, self-discovery and, more importantly, friendship against-all-odds. Three boys from opposite sides of NYC with polarised backgrounds, united in bizarre twists of fate and a shared love of good-times and guitars. This time last year, few could have guessed that this bunch of tear-aways would be preparing one of 2009's gleaming radio-indie Trojan-horse albums.
'The Virgins: The Movie' idea wasn't without substance. The band's core trio are exquisitely mismatching in a way only possible in New York. They're the kind of Motley Crew that screams out for a buddy-film screenplay for the post-Strokes generation. Whilst Donald was still in high school, his father announced he was gay and left. Donald went to live with his mother and aunt in Queens - a move that would see him grow up broke, yet surrounded by millionaires in his West Village school - a "colourful existence," he notes. Nick's childhood was "like a Benetton advert, but with ugly kids." Growing up on the Upper West Side he attended a forward-thinking school that prided itself on its multicultural policies. Constantly on the move, Wade changed home, school and city like clockwork ("I've lived in pretty much every neighbourhood below 34th Street"), and had already grossed up 12 moves by the time he dropped out of school and left home aged 17.
Donald and Wade first met on a roadtrip to Mexico. They bonded on a moonlit beach with a couple of acoustic guitars, strumming Buddy Holly covers. Nick had vaguely known the more eccentric Donald through mutual pals for some time. "I remember him going through this real dandy phase, he'd dress like Willy Wonka in the middle of downtown New York," he recollects. "I'd see him in the street and be like, 'Man I can't believe you're doing it!', and he'd be like, 'That's right bro, I'm doing it alright.'" It wasn't until Donald's roommate returned home one fateful afternoon (with a typically sheepish looking Wade in tow) and announced he was swapping apartments, that work on The Virgins EP began. "No one consulted me about the swap, and I hadn't really seen Wade in ages since the Mexico trip," Donald recalls. "He just arrived with boxes one day, said he'd found this guy, and that was that. The coincidences were bizarre." "I needed a cheaper apartment, he needed one that didn't involve Donald at all," adds Wade. Roping in Nick on bass, the trio began adapting the songs Donald had been writing on his own into dishevelled grooves of ragged party-pop at the newly-shared digs. The guys spent every spare minute either demoing records, or losing their heads at parties that made the Skins intro sequence look like tea at the Ritz. "We'd end up making demos specifically to play at parties," explains Nick. "Then other people started playing them, and we'd turn up at parties and strangers would know who we were." It wasn't long before the band's buzz had transcended the Big Apple hipster party circuit and infiltrated the industry sphere, making the scruffy nay-do-wells the most sought after band on the East Coast. Donald set a new challenge for the band's lo-fi leanings. "Cool shit and radio shit are worlds apart in The States," he explains. "I'd listened to commercial music all my life, so I wanted to make a record that'd sound good on the radio." Pulling in producers Dave Katz and Sam Hollander, the group's natural slacker instincts were drilled into shape. "I've been told I'm a slacker all my life," scoffs Nick. "But I think working in this situation was the first time I've ever really taken heed to someone telling me to raise my game. I think the compromise and constraints between our slackness and their efficiency is what makes the album."
The group's carefree mantras are more at play than ever before on the band's eponymous debut album. Tracks like the stomping joyride 'One Week Of Danger' and 'Rich Girls' bubble over with an unruly jubilance. The swoonsome 'Teen Lovers' invokes a bittersweet lump-in-throat melancholy that hints at the comedown that follows the carnage of the night before. The record is equally as influenced by white-boy 1980s disco and the bravado of hip hop, as any of their favourite rock'n'roll staples like Squeeze. "The record's about coming into adulthood in New York without the benefits of having followed all the advice you've ever been given. It was meant to be an optimistic, fun record about kids who make the opposite decisions from what you're meant to do," Donald considers. "That's where all our paths cross. At some point we've all thought, 'I don't give a fuck, I just want to have a really good time tonight and I don't give a fuck about anything else.'" The group are a total product of their environment. Donald's aim is to solely reflect the experiences they come across on a day-to-day basis. Rather than transporting listeners to some far-away mystical land of fantasy, he wants to show what fun people can have in the here-and-now. "New York's a place that inspired Lou Reed to write ten albums worth of material," points out Wade. The band's love affair with their hometown's anarchic make-up cuts to the core of every first-pump of every tune. "I will never get over how bravado orientated and ego-centric New York teenagers are," Donald confesses. "You could be the poorest kid in town, but have a box-cutter and be willing to fight at any moment and they'll think you're the coolest guy ever, you could be the richest kid around but you're willing to punch a cop in the face and you're just as cool. It doesn't matter what your background is, as long as you can throw your weight around. That's what's made us who we are."