Siren Call

Nico Vega
courtesy of Nico Vega

If you’re at all familiar with the thriving LA music scene, then you’ve definitely heard of Nico Vega. This rock n’ roll threesome–consisting of singer Aja Volkman, Rich Koehler on guitar and drummer Dan Epand–channel the visceral raw power of the Stooges, the pure sex of Led Zeppelin and strangely the pained conviction of Tina Turner’s sultry wail on their latest EP No Child Left Behind. Known for their intense, high-energy live show and their feisty frontwoman Aja Volkman’s preternatural beauty and lustful, gravely vocals, Nico Vega have attracted a fervent and devoted fan base that has spread word-of-mouth and from venue to venue across the country. Besides being a kick-ass band, Nico Vega are also a deeply spiritual group that believes in rock n’ roll as much as the pursuit of freedom of expression, spiritual clarity and the bettering of human nature. Recently, I had the pleasure of discussing the story of Nico Vega, their altruistic approach to music and their love of SF audiences with lead singer and living siren Aja Volkman.
What is the story behind the name Nico Vega? On your myspace page you describe Nico Vega as a virtuous modern-day saint. Is this saint modeled after a real person?

Aja Volkman: The name Nico Vega is, in fact, someone’s name who inspired me to change the way that I was living my life. That person actually passed away several years ago, but the impact that her death had on her family caught my attention, and I proceeded to lead a more positive, healthier lifestyle after I met her son, who is, in fact, our old drummer, and continues to be a dear friend of the band. It is also just a beautiful name. And I have a lot of gratitude that he has allowed us to carry it with us on our path.

How did you guys meet?
AV: I met Rich through Mike, our original drummer, who came to a solo show of mine with a friend. It was about eight months after I had moved to Los Angeles. I had been sort of desperately been searching for people to play music with. When Rich and I met, we knew that something big was happening for both of us. We write together very well, and communicate our ideas in a secret language.

What are your influences musical and non-musical?
AV: Rich listens to a lot of Funkadelic, and is always digging around, looking for good, new bands. He grew up listening to bands like Kiss and AC/DC. I, on the other hand, did not get heavy into rock n’ roll until I was about 18. Then I discovered Tina Turner, and when I listened to the tone of her voice in the recordings that she sang on with Ike, I could hear the pain in her voice, and I had never heard someone use their voice to communicate that way. Then I discovered Johnny Cash, and got more into Bob Dylan, and then …  Jack White came along. I am influenced by singers that communicate.

What stands out to you about the audiences in San Francisco?
AV: We have loved playing in San Francisco so much that we even talked about having a residency there in the future just because the crowd is so loving, supportive and responsive. It is an absolute pleasure to play for people who appreciate music, and devour it the way you people do.

You are known for your frenetic live show. Do you have any pre-show rituals that get you ready and pumped for the show?
AV: I do some chanting, praying and a lot of breathing. I spend a lot of time focused on people. If I can walk around and see people in their daily lives during the day, it helps me a lot. I try not to feel any separation between us, and the people watching us.

What’s something about you that might surprise your fans?
AV: When I enter a room, I usually feel like everybody else belongs but me. I have to constantly remind myself that I am welcome, and that other people around me probably feel the same way.

Digital or analog?
AV: Analog is more romantic, but I wont turn my back on technology. It is miraculous what people can do in their homes these days.

What was your day job before finding fame with Nico Vega?
AV: A restaurant. A newsstand. Actually, I have had all kinds of jobs. I even used to detail cars and bus tables.

You are a fierce frontwoman. Who has influenced your stage persona?
AV: I think Karen O has opened a door for women in general, and I love her energy. I also love old footage of Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, and besides that, I guess it just comes from inside my belly.

How would you describe your sound in five words or less?
AV: Loud, raw, deep, honest and human.

Catch Nico Vega along with Shout Out Louds and Johnossi at the Independent on Tuesday, October 9 and then cruise over to the exclusive after party hosted by Tank Farm Future Sounds at Poleng Lounge for drink specials, guest DJs and more surprises.

Congratulations, Kiersten. By commenting on this blog post, you scored two free tickets to the show and after-party. randomly selected a winner (Kiersten) on Monday, October 8, at 4 p.m. Enjoy the show!
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