If you like texting on your Blackberry during a show, beware of Nico Vega. Frontwoman Aja will kick it from your hands. Based out of L.A, hard-rock band Nico Vega, consists of singer Aja, guitarist Rich, and drummer Dan. Lately, the trio has been touring with Toronto synth-rockers Metric. Nico Vega’s current tour ends with a Hollywood Palladium show Friday March 26. On the road heading to the Southern California, I spoke with Dan and the rest of the band about touring, defining their sound, and avoiding Lady Gaga as a musical role-model.
I hear it’s your day off. What plans do you all have?
Dan: We’re driving in the van heading to Southern California. We’re in the middle of nowhere right now.
I saw you guys in the merch booth and things looked pretty good over there.
Dan: Yeah, Metric’s audience has been awesome. It’s an opportunity to get in front of a bunch of new people.
People looked interested in buying and learning your name. It felt like a great atmosphere.
Dan: Definitely, man. I think an interesting thing about is that we have a diverse sound. We work with many styles and we match up well with other bands we open up for.
I noticed a sign up at the merch booth and it said Aja’s jewelry for girls. This being the Bay Area, did you get any joking comments about it from fans?
Dan: I think the sign said. There were two signs. The jewelry and the other sign was pointing to the shirts.
That clears that up. You never know maybe someone’s going to buy it for a girlfriend.
Dan: Both Rich and I wear Aja’s jewelry. We love it. A lot of guys buy it. A lot of times, we’ll see a bunch of frat guys buy her jewelry. It’s pretty funny.
What venues have you played have been the most fun or interesting?
Dan: The Metric tour has been great. We’re usually a club band and play those kind of places when we’re doing our headlining thing. Every city is its own adventure. But New Orleans stands out. New York too. We always have fun in Colorado or Detroit. And Ohio, which is Rich’s home state. The Metric tour has been great and more hospitable than we’re used to.
Have you played at unorthodox venues? I know of one band that played in the basement of an abandoned building.
Dan: In the early days, we played in a Myspace cubicle.
That’s a good story for anyone reading this who works in the Silicon Valley.
Dan: We were doing a little show for a webisode series. In the office, they wanted us to play in the corridor. We said, hell, let’s do it in a cubicle. So we set up and people were hanging out around the outside. It was cool.
I bet those guys need a break from the work pressure and computers.
Dan: Also, we did a fashion show at Nordstroms. That was funny. People were standing around and Aja was walking up and down the catwalk.
That’s interesting. I’ve been in Nordstrom’s in the middle of the day. I can see half of the people in to it, and others standing and giving weird looks.
Dan: In the beginning, everyone was uncomfortable because it was in the middle of the day. By the end, we had them going pretty hard.
Have you encountered a venue where the management worried about Aja’s jumping into the crowd?
Dan: I think most venues enjoy what we do and go along with it. We’ve never really played somewhere where they told us to pull back or not have Aja climb around on the equipment. They usually go along with it. We’ve replaced mike stands and microphones. Things do get broken. Rich broke his guitar over his amp, but that was his stuff. We have great relationships with all the venues we play.
I think they’d be cool with a band that pulls people in with their performance. It’d be win-win for everybody.
Dan: I think people like performances and don’t want people who don’t take themselves too seriously and I think that comes across. We like to liven things up a bit and clear the air. We like to just think an experience should be a release and fun and you should be exhausted afterwards.
The tour is pretty much over what future plans do you have. A break till the next tour? Recording?
Dan: We’re going to keep touring. But we’re also going to try and get in the studio. We have a friend, Bob, who’s going to help us get some songs together for the next record. We’re ready to record as soon as we get the money to do so. At the same time, I feel our first self-titled record is still a baby and people need to hear it. Hopefully, we plan to tour overseas really soon in Europe, Asia, and Australia.
As far as Asia, I heard China is growing as a music venue.
Dan: In Japan, they definitely enjoy music over there. I think if we can go it’s going to be a really wild experience.
Going back to the self-titled album, I think people need to hear the range of songs you guys can handle.
Dan: We don’t think a lot about specific genres when we play. I come from a varied musical background and listened to a lot of different styles growing up. All that comes out and we like diversity. I like records where some elements are off the wall and, at times, I feel records these days have a single unified sound and that’s boring to me. If you listen to old Beatles albums, each song sounded drastically different from the other one. However, I think our record has a singular voice. Aja lyrics have a message that flows through the different styles we explore. We’re grounded in that way.
I don’t know if this will work, but I have a new band I want to compare you to. I want to see if it’s one you haven’t heard before. Aja sounds like Grace Slick and Nico Vega sounds like a darker version of Jefferson Airplane.
Dan: Heard that one.
I wanted to find a comparison that made sense. You guys get the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs connection and I can’t see that. I’ve read 4 or 5 articles about other bands and the writers make the same Karen O connection.
Dan: I think it comes from the nature of the band in that we don’t have a bass player. Aja’s been getting more Grace Slick comparisons than she did before which is interesting to me. We also hear a lot more Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac which we never used to get. The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs thing is starting to fade away.
I’m sure you’re pretty thankful for that.
Dan: We’re huge fans of them, though. Love that band. But I don’t think our music veers toward them.
Definitely, you can hear some similarities, but it’s not 100 percent. Your band and singer ultimately sound unique.
Dan: We feel like we listen to a lot of music, including the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. Perhaps, unconsciously, we picked something up. If it were a modern band, I think it’d be more the White Stripes in terms of a band with a drum, guitar, and no bass player.
About making records in general, I notice you have a link to iTunes on your website. The music industry is in a bit of a hole right now. What are you going to be focusing on? Will it be more albums, or are you planning to release more singles and 7-inches?
Dan: I personally still believe in the album as a work of art. It’s an artistic statement like writing a novel or performing a symphony. Individual songs are chapters. If you release only songs, it devalues rock and roll. It’s the trend, obviously, but we think it devalues something really special. I don’t believe in giving into that just because Lady Gaga does it.
Don’t even remind me, I saw a young mom one day playing Lady Gaga on her iPhone to keep her kids from yelling. I thought it was a form of child abuse. Switching to the notion of popular music scenes, Brooklyn’s been getting a lot of attention. Would you consider moving locations a good thing for the band?
Dan: If we were still starting out maybe. But the truth is, we can operate anywhere. We’re a touring band and have spent the majority of the past year living out of the van than anywhere else. It’s our home. We’ve thought about New York or San Francisco but we can go anywhere. I don’t think if we relocated to Brooklyn we’d be hanging around town for long.
There are plenty of bands from around the country, like The Black Lips.
Dan: I think LA is cool. It has a history of good bands and it’s great to be a part of it. The Silverlake area is pretty vibrant. There’s bands you’ll probably be hearing about soon.
That’s interesting. I first heard of that area a couple of years ago following this one band.
Dan: Edward Sharpe, Warpaint, Saint Motel, Crash Kings and Spirit Animal, these bands are all friends of ours. There’s a lot going on right now.
What two words would you use to describe your music?
Dan: Fiction and Freedom
Aja: I’d add honesty.
Sweet, I like all those. Thanks a lot and have a safe trip and a great show.
Nico Vega's MySpace page
Nico Vega's official website
Catch Nico Vega's video for "Gravity" below