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Viva Von Iva
San Fran band featured in new Jim Carrey flick includes lesbian rockers

Nov. 07, 2008

KELLY HARRIS, ALSO KNOWN AS LAY LAY, is a bit tired as she and her bandmates — Jillian Iva and Bex — make their way through Milwaukee on the way to their next gig, promoting their self-released EP “Girls on Film.”

“I actually don’t know where we are right now,” Harris, the drummer, says in a phone interview from the road. “We drive eight hours, we play all night, catch some sleep, and then hit the road again.”

The hard work is evidently paying off for the band described as “fashion-forward dance punk queens.”

The indie band is about to hit some major mainstream notoriety after playing the band fronted by actress and singer Zooey Deschanel in the Jim Carrey movie “Yes Man,” set to be released in December. They’re ready, though, says Harris, who keeps the band steady with her beats as the drummer and, yes, is openly gay. Bex, who plays keyboards, is also openly gay.

“Making the movie was a pretty amazing experience,” Harris says.

“The whole reason we were discovered to be in the film was because we put the EP out ourselves,” she adds. “And I firmly believe the more you put out yourselves, the more you get back.”

The movie, a comedy about a man who decides to say “yes” to everything for a year even when he perhaps should say “no,” also offered the band a chance to work with Deschanel, who has acted in such films as “Almost Famous” in 2000 and “Bridge to Terabithia” in 2007. In March 2008, she also released her debut album, “Volume One,” under the band name “She & Him.”

TWO WEEKS OF INTENSE rehearsals and writing resulted in Von Iva and Deschanel developing the band Munchausen by Proxy featured in “Yes Man.” And Von Iva, as the fictional band, was given the go-ahead to sing their original songs “Uh Huh” and “Sweet Ballad.”

Jillian even shares vocals with Deschanel in a few scenes. Von Iva also wrote the song “Yes Man” specifically for the film which will be performed over the closing credits.

“Working with Zooey was great,” Harris says. “It was a super collaborative effort and we were given a lot of artistic freedom, to come up with the band’s attitude, look, sound.”

Have they seen the movie yet?

“No, no,” Harris says. “We’re going to wait for the premiere. But we’ve heard from others that it’s really good.”

VON IVA perhaps makes it’s mark in the rock scene by not fitting squarely into one set genre. They’ve been dubbed everything from electro pop punk, soul rock dance, synth rawk, gay icons, dirty disco, punk soul as well as “a booty-shaking mix of soul, disco, and dirty raw rock and roll.”

That unique style has captured the attention of many talent scouts. Von Iva wrote the theme song for “Curl Girls” on Logo and their song “Birds of Prey” was featured in the 2008 movie “Baby on Board,” starring Jerry O’Connell and Heather Graham. Their song “Same Sad Song” was played also on Showtime’s “The L Word” in 2006.

Von Iva also has opened for groups such as the Go-Go’s, Lady Sovereign, the Walkmen, the Gossip, the Raveonettes, Imperia l Teen, Girl in a Coma, Noisepop and The Warped Tour.

Critics constantly rave about their live shows and Jillian, who apparently garners the love of many gay men while Bex and Harris have the girls swoon for them, is known for some crazy antics on stage. Apparently Jillian has been known to stand on Harris’s drum kit while belting out a song.

“We just like to do what feels good,” Harris says. “There was never a philosophy or strategy of what we would do on stage. The chemistry with us just ignited when we played our first live show.”

Having what happens on stage come about organically rather than forced and rehearsed makes for a better live show, she adds, and allows the band to be more creative.

AS AN OPENLY GAY MUSICIAN, HARRIS says she doesn’t try to bring the issue up too much unless people ask her about it. But she also doesn’t shy away from it either.

“I’m definitely out and openly gay,” she says. “I’ve never really been big on bringing it up because I don’t want to be pigeonholed — not by my sexuality or by our genre.”

However, it is important to be open about who she is, she acknowledges.

“I know when I was growing up I wish I had female rockers who I knew were gay,” she says.

The band has never played Atlanta before, but Harris promises a great show.

“We know it’s a great place and we’re super excited to be playing there,” she says. “It’s going to be even more special because it’s Jillian’s birthday the night of the Atlanta show.”