IT would be easy for Romy Vager to deliver a middle finger to elements within our society.
Social media is a cesspool of negativity, and often those on the fringes are the prime targets of the dirt-slinging.
For the past three years the RVG (Romy Vager Group) leader - who is a trans woman - has watched on as the political polarisation has become more stark among COVID-19 lockdowns and the spread of conspiracy theories and disinformation.
She wants no part of it.
The Melbourne post-punk four-piece are about to release their third album Brain Worms.
While it's seething with fury, take Giant Snake's chorus of, "I've got Ivan Milat with a giant snake around his neck/ He keeps saying I'm the weirdest shit he's ever seen," Vager is also offering an olive branch.
As the opening track Common Ground suggests, she wants people who are ideologically opposed to meet in the middle.
"It's an angry record about how everything is polarised and there are some f--king stupid people out there, but I don't want to be part of the pile," Vager says.
"It feels like there's a pile going on where we're constantly piling our shit on top of other people's opposite shit and creating this horrible pile on our shit.
"This band has always been about trying to find other ways to communicate and have some kind of community, and to bring people on our side, who at first glance would initially hate us, and try to figure out ways to get to people."
Prior to the pandemic RVG were building momentum.
Their 2017 debut album A Quality Of Mercy was critically acclaimed, earned four Music Victoria Award nominations and saw the band support the likes of The Pixies, Kurt Vile, Pete Doherty and Sleaford Mods.
RVG's jangly '80s guitar-pop instrumentation and Vager's romanticised vocals and melancholic lyrics conjured up comparisons to The Go-Betweens and Echo & The Bunnymen.
Then just a month into the pandemic RVG released album No.2 Feral, which was again critically-acclaimed. Rolling Stone described it as "the record of a lifetime" and the Sydney Morning Herald gave it four and a half stars.
However, due to its unfortunate timing it struggled to reach its full potential.
Brain Worms is major leap forward. The songs hit with more immediacy and showcase a grander sonic palette for Vager's growing self-belief.
The album was recorded in London at Snap Studios with James Trevascus (Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, The Goon Sax), a far cry from A Quality Of Mercy, which was famously tracked for $100 in an empty room of Melbourne music pub, The Tote.
"I feel really confident with this record, I don't even care if some people don't like it.
"I like it enough that I can say, 'well, you're an idiot'," Vager laughs.
The writing of Feral in 2018-19 was a bleak period for Vager. Much of those years were spent touring abroad and the isolation led to depression.
"The last record was written when I was reasonably depressed and being cryptic with a lot of stuff," she says.
"I was using more characters and wrapping everything up in a way. I definitely didn't have the capacity to be direct. Because I'm an awkward anxious person, it was hard to be direct.
"This was one of the goals on the record, to put out all the intense stuff and deep stuff and meet people halfway on this."
Vager credits the pandemic for providing the re-set she needed to push RVG forward.
Brain Worms is easily RVG's most eclectic record, ranging from the sparkling melancholy of Common Ground, to the ramshackle garage of the title track about being consumed by internet conspiracies, to The Pretenders-style power-pop of first single Nothing Really Changes.
Another thrilling moment is Squid, a slab of intense new-wave written out a jam session between Vager and her bandmates Reuben Bloxham (guitar), Marc Nolte (drums) and Isabele Wallace (bass).
It's a method RVG had not previously explored, with Vager usually presenting fully-formed demos to the band before the recording process.
"I think we wanted to have a jam song," she says. "We'd never done that before and been adverse to it, because we've always seen ourselves as a tight little pop-rock songwriting thing.
"Doing that was really eye opening. I wouldn't mind if the next album was more of that."
RVG release Brain Worms on Friday.
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