(Photo by Catie Lafoon)
There’s no Nico Vega in Nico Vega. The name was actually a reference to founding member Michael Peña’s mother. He’s since departed for a notable acting career, which includes roles in Eastbound & Down and American Hustle; but the band has continued on to escalating notoriety.
In a fittingly postmodern entertainment transpiration, it was the inclusion of their single “Beast” in the massive 2013 video game Bioshock Infinite that shot them decisively beyond cult status. Their upcoming album, Lead To Light (out in July on Five Seven Music) now finds them a little less beastly, and in a much more experimental mode; but lead triller Aja Volkman still brings it with enough visceral force to make Florence Welch sound like Dora the Explorer. They do rip it up Jane’s Addiction style on “Fury Oh Fury”, and “Lightning” is simply the best Cure pop song Robert Smith never wrote. There’s also a wicked sexy cover of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”.
BlackBook caught up with the band—Volkman, guitarist Rich Koehler and drummer Dan Epand—in NYC on their way to a UK promotional jaunt. (A US tour is planned for September.)
Aja, a devoted vintage and vegan lifestylist, was also gracious enough to turn us on to her local faves. BlackBook also has the world premier of their new video for “I Believe (Get Over Yourself)”.
New Yorkers love to rag on LA as being the land of plastic people.
Epand: “Hmm, if you’re meeting too many phony people in LA, maybe you should check yourself.”
Volkman: “Even in the Northwest there’s a major thing about LA. Like, ‘Oh, that’s where the phony people are.’ There are a lot of desperate people in LA; but I have to say that the artists all really stick together.”
At a time when rock & roll seems to have been essentially neutered, your new songs do seem to have a genuine urgency and sexuality about them.
Volkman: “For us, it’s all about that raw, visceral feeling. The new record is extremely emotional and much more experimental.”
Koehler: “Unfortunately, though, rock just can’t scare the status quo anymore. I mean, Ozzy visited the White House.”
Volkman: “Funny thing is, our music can be confrontational, so in some ways it almost makes the cool kids uncomfortable.”
Those kids are basically accessorizing with shows these days. It’s more about posting that you were there than actually experiencing it.
Koehler: “Yeah, but you go to Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland…and they just flip out.”
Epand: “But back in LA, audiences are so afraid of doing anything that makes them come off as not cool.”
You’ve been vocal about the movement for food awareness.
Koehler: “There is a real rebellion going on in regards to the organic vs. GMO fight. It seems like all the politicians are in bed with Monsanto.”
Volkman: “And good food is so expensive, poor people can’t afford to eat healthy.”
As ever, it’s all about whomever has the highest paid lobbyists.
Koehler: “Seriously, people get arrested for catching rainwater in some places now. You can’t bottle your own water because corporations own all the water rights.”
Volkman: “Maybe not even your own tears!”
You have a tour coming up in September. Do you live more healthily on the road these days?
Volkman: “Yeah, now on tour it’s all about juicing and doing yoga…just trying to survive it all.”
Aja Volkman’s Guide To LA Vegan and Vintage
Cafe Gratitude is amazing. I loved the original one in SF and I think I even like this one more. It’s classy and hip yet totally comfortable. The food is outstanding for a veg head. Love it.
I love Real Food Daily because it’s so much fun. There are lots of creative options for people that have eaten meat in the past and want to branch out. They also have awesome beverages and desserts.
Native Foods is an awesome chain that is popping up everywhere and bringing vegan cuisine into the mainstream. I love the options and I feel like someone who normally eats meat won’t be disappointed at all. Native is casual, affordable, and really healthy. Go.
I will forever be a Goodwill girl. My favorite by far the one just north of Santa Monica Blvd on Vine Street. You get some pretty eccentric people coming through there, but the clothes are awesome. I think there must be a lot of rich people donating.
Shareen Vintage is where I get all my crazy fancy dresses and cool music video costumes now. It’s ‘no boys allowed’ because the whole place is a dressing room. You basically walk in and strip down and try on dresses. It’s like a dream closet for princesses from all eras.
Squaresville in Los Feliz is amazing. They have good pickers but not a huge selection; which is nice for someone who doesn’t want to be overwhelmed.