THE INTERVIEW: Nico Vega
Consisting of drummer Dan Epand, guitarist Rich Koehler and vocalist Aja Volkman, Nico Vega is the rock band that you’ll love in 2010, if you haven’t heard their music already. Hailing from California, this trio has released three EPs, and earlier this year released their self-titled debut album. Here, I talk with Epand and Volkman about the band’s songwriting process, what it was like to work with Linda Perry and what’s in the future for Nico Vega.
Nico Vega has come a long way since 2005… Did you expect to be where you are now in terms of success? What were your expectations when creating the band? (Specifically, what sound were you trying to achieve? Did you not include a bassist on purpose or did you simply prefer Nico Vega as a 3-piece band?)
Epand: We are proud of what we’ve done up to this point. We’re excited about our album and really want to get the word out to every corner of the earth. When the band was created, there was an instant and overwhelming chemistry. There was never much thought about what we were trying to do sonically. The band consists of three strong personalities and those personalities all come across in the music. It’s a gift to be a part of. Not having a bassist was not a conscious choice. It just feels like the band is complete.
Awesome! So what inspired the three of you to make music? Are there any favorite artists, bands or cultural figures that have influenced you throughout your career?
Epand: John Lennon, Bob Dylan, or any artist or person who creates or lives life with complete conviction. What’s the point of art if it’s not a complete release?
Agreed. How does the band feel being compared to acts like The White Stripes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs?
Epand: They are two of the best bands of our generation, and it is an honor.
Linda Perry is such an amazing producer/musician…What was it like working with her?
Epand: Extremely special. Her attention to detail and commitment to the song is really rare. She came into our lives at an important time and we will always be indebted to her.
You [Aja] probably hear this often, but your lyrical style is very similar to that of Perry’s, in that your voice soars but it’s rooted in rock…(Another female vocalist/producer you remind me of is Johnette Napolitano.) As a female-fronted band, Nico Vega is indeed a rare breed. Do you have any female influences or inspirations in life that have helped you to the place you are now in your musical career?
Volkman: I have several female influences, and it is nearly impossible not to have some of them seep out in my own style. I would say the strongest influence would be the early days of Tina Turner. I would not be who I am without the likes of her, or Janis Joplin, because those ladies represented the first time that I heard a woman truly belt out.
Right on. Now your self-titled debut album was released earlier this year, and contains many tracks from former EP’s like No Child Left Behind and Chooseyourwordspoorly. How does this studio album compare to the EPs? Did you do much to change the songs, or have these songs always existed the way you intended them to initially?
Epand: The EP’s were essentially released demos. No Child Left Behind was recorded in a practice space. The album Nico Vega is the definitive statement of those songs; however, there is a charm to those earlier recordings. If you go back, you can hear the evolution of the band and the songs over time.
Definitely. So who writes the songs for the band? Can you describe your song-writing process? Your album contains so many great tracks (I personally love “Rabbit in the Bag”…) What inspires you to write certain songs?
Epand: Songs come together in a number of ways. My favorite is when Rich spends the night at our rehearsal space, and by the time we show up, in his cracked out delirium, he’s come up with some kind of crazy guitar riff. We’ll jam on it for a bit, build out a chorus and bridge, and Aja will go into the hallway for 15 minutes and write the majority of the lyrics. By the end of rehearsal the core of the song is written. With Aja’s lyrics, it’s amazing how she encapsulates whatever it is in her life she is thinking about, studying, or experiencing. She definitely has her own spin on the world.
That formula of song-writing definitely seems to be working… How has touring been? What has been your favorite city to play in/show to play, if any?
Epand: Every city has something unique. It’s amazing what you can get into even when you’re in the middle of anywhere. I love those moments when I find myself in a car at 2AM with a random group of people. You meet some really cool people on the road.
What is your favorite track to perform live? Does the band do any cover songs?
Epand: That changes constantly. I’d have to say, whatever song is newest. Our set is always full of newer material; we try and change it constantly. We’ve done a few covers. We used to play “House of the Rising Sun,” and once we did “War Pigs,” which was pretty fun.
What’s in the future for Nico Vega? Are you or do you plan on recording a sophomore album?
Epand: Tour constantly. We hit the road with Soundtrack of our Lives in February. Our 2nd record is pretty much written. We can’t wait to get back into the studio. However, we are extremely proud of our first record, and there are still a number of people who need to hear it.
For those that have never heard Nico Vega’s music, how would you describe it in five words or less?
Be sure to visit Nico Vega’s MySpace page to hear some of their music.