Well here we are at the fourth, and last, installment of Almost Famous: On the Road with Nico Vega. It's slightly ironic because, well, I'm not on the road at all. Instead I'm in my studio apartment in New York - eating almonds and half-watching The Doors movie while typing away on my couch. Being back has been a hard adjustment for me. After feeling like a rockstar for 2 weeks straight, I had to go through the weaning process of reminding myself that not only do I not get to be a rockstar ever again, but that in reality, I never actually was!! The Road is a magical land - an unreal reality. It's a great place to be and a humbling place to return from.
I certainly did a lot of wide-eyed, self-indulgent writer's rambling on the trip; going from The Van, to The Greenroom to The Stage - all from my voyeuristic point of view. But now that the dust has settled, regular life has resumed, and I no longer perpetually have Nico Vega songs stuck in my head - I figured it's time I stopped my jibber jabbering and gave you guys what you undoubtedly want by now: an interview with the band.
So friends, I present to you the musicians, the lovers, the forces to be reckoned with - some of the most positive, thoughtful, supportive, open people I have ever met and spent time with: Nico Vega.
Mihal Freinquel: Tour is over. When the last show is played, the goodbyes are said, and you're drifting off to sleep - what is on your mind? (For those of you wondering, I bawled like a baby and wrote ooey gooey things about the power of art until I passed out.)
Aja Volkman, Vocals: It's hard to move on from an experience like that. It's like camp. You fall in love, you make best friends and then it's over. It's not always like that. But sometimes it is pretty powerful.
Rich Koehler, Guitar: I'm thinking about what the next tour's gonna be like.
Dan Epand, Drums: It never feels like goodbye. If you really have a connection with one of the bands you're on the road with, you know there will be many opportunities to play together in the future. When the tour is over, you finally get some much needed rest. It's always nice to get home.
Mihal: How about the next day?
Aja: It's kind of like a hangover. Except your body is so beyond exhausted.
Mihal: Favorite things about touring?
Aja: I love meeting new people. I love the crazy adventures. I love being in new places.
Dan: Performing on a nightly basis, learning from the great bands and people we are on tour with, improving as a band.
Mihal: Worst things about touring?
Aja: Not enough vegetables. Snow. Constantly lugging everything around with you.
Dan: Yeah, the only truly annoying thing about the road is loading and unloading our gear every day.
Rich: Dirty socks and not being able to cook.
Mihal: Favorite memories of this particular tour?
Aja: Being carried across the stage by [lead singer of Soundtrack of Our Lives] Ebbot, while [MC5's] Wayne Kramer played the guitar solo in "Kick Out the Jams". Wow.
Dan: Agree with Aja, playing "Kick Out the Jams" on stage with Wayne Kramer ... holy f**k!!
Rich: There are a lot, but one that stands out is drawing this super cool piece, with a super cool friend, at a place with hidden doors. We folded it a thousand times and just burned it in the street somewhere in Brooklyn early in the morning.
Mihal: When did you start identifying yourselves as artists?
Rich: Not too long ago. It has a nice ring to it.
Dan: I wanted to play the drums since before I can remember. Animal was my favorite muppet.
Mihal: Do you think there's a difference between identifying as an artist vs. as a musician?
Aja: Not for me. I feel that art is art. It's all creation and creative communication. It should never even be judged as far as I am concerned. I think it is unique to whoever creates it - and good or bad is irrelevant. It just should be acknowledged for existing. Without art, there is no evolution. It holds as much weight as science to me.
Dan: I'd say being a musician is being an artist. There is a difference, however, between playing an instrument and being an artist/musician. Anyone can learn to play an instrument or to play songs. Being an artist involves a level of creation and control over an instrument. It's easy to identify when someone is actually making music and not just playing an instrument.
Mihal: What do you wish you had brought on this tour that you didn't?
Aja: A french press. Although it's always my plan to cut coffee out - but it's tough with cold weather and long days.
Rich: More new music.
Dan: Better running shoes.
Mihal: Gah! I'm still bitter that nobody told me to bring my running shoes! Goodfornothings. Anyway, you just released a music video for "Gravity". Can you talk about the concept behind this video and what it means to you?
Dan: I thought about the idea while I was driving through Glendale, California at 7 in the morning - tired, hung over, and in the thick of a breakup. I just thought it would be cool to get the sh*t totally kicked out of us. Careful what you wish for, I got my nose broken in the process [of making the video]. Yes, it was worth it.
Aja: The concept is that conformity kills individuality, and art. Artists should not be viewed as rebels or "people who think outside the box." Art should become more of a staple in our education system, and in our society. It should be encouraged as a career choice, for its value in our society as well. And until that happens, people should be relentless with their art.
Rich: Be yourself ... for yourself.
Mihal: How does this relate to the overall message of the band?
Aja: The most important thing as a human is liberation. Freedom. One's ability to create is directly related to how free that person feels, no matter what a person believes. The root of all religions, and the root of humanity, is creation. If you stop a person's ability to create, you are stopping his ability to evolve. What is man without his ability to evolve? Nico Vega has taught me to never hold back, and to always feel liberated within my world of art. And we ask you to do the same.
Rich: You'll be happier at the end of the day if you're able to be who you love everyday.
Mihal: Most memorable encounter with a fan?
Aja: A man in California told me that he was in the hospital for four months in recovery listening to our record every day. When I asked him what he was recovering from, he told me that he walked into his friend's house as she was being raped by an intruder. He stopped the man and chased him out of the house, but was repeatedly stabbed and left in critical condition. I felt like I was in the presence of greatness - a real lion heart.
Mihal: This question is probably just as annoying as a senior in high school being asked about his college plans, but what's next for Nico Vega? And what's after that? And after that?!
Dan: Keep evolving. Keep touring - hopefully get overseas this year. Make a new record.
Mihal: Favorite van music?
Rich: Spirit Animal.
Dan: Charles Mingus.
Mihal: If you all had to wear the exact same outfit on stage, what would it be?
Aja: Ha! A black hooded cloak ... with sequins.
Rich: Crazy fake fur vests.
Dan: I'd play naked before I'd put on one of Aja's leotards.
Mihal: Which band(s) do you want to tour with?
Aja, Rich, Dan: Muse, Kings of Leon, The White Stripes, Dead Weather, Queens of the Stone Age, LCD Soundsystem, Beck, Mars Volta, Grizzly Bear.
Mihal: Salty or Sweet?
Aja: The boys will say salty I am sure. I say SWEEEEEEEEET! Dark chocolate.
Rich, Dan: Salty.
Mihal: Fiction or Non Fiction?
Aja: Non Fiction for the left side of my brain, and fiction for the right.
Rich: Non Fiction, with a Hollywood twist.
Mihal: If NV had a catch phrase what would it be?
Aja: Suppression is a prison.
Rich: You get presents when you in the present.
Dan: Love your neighbor.
There you have it dudes and dudettes. There's nothing left to say except ... Rock n Roll.
First photo by me. Color photos courtesy of Paige K. Parsons