It seems as though any conversation about music eventually becomes a conversation about style -- and any conversation about style ultimately turns to music. They're symbiotic. They're part of a system that has been in place for decades -- art fusing with art, art fusing with commerce, art pretty much fusing with anything it can get its hands on. So ultimately not only do music and style work harmoniously to define each other, but they elevate each other as well.
Let me clarify that when I speak of "style" I'm referring not only to fashion but "image" as an overall concept. For this installment of my When Style Meets Music interview series we'll be tapping into one of the hottest, sexiest, most fascinating relationships of all: When Style Meets Rock n Roll.
Enter LA-based rock n roll trio Nico Vega - comprised of Aja (vocals), Rich (guitar) and Dan (drums). The first time I met Nico Vega as a band was in LA, summer 2005. Seeing them perform redefined my feelings about rock n roll and I was instantly re-inspired by the genre, the lifestyle and the revolution. Watching NV perform is an all-encompassing sensory experience. Aja's deep husky voice gently pierces your heart and swiftly kicks you in the gut - every time she screams into the mic you feel her angst and passion, and every time she floats on a melody you wish you knew the words to sing along. Rich -- a combination of Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards -- jerks and shreds the guitar so hard you can almost see the electricity running through his body, while Dan knocks over drums, aerobically pounds on symbols, and behind his swooping bangs you can see his closed eyes and meditative expression. This band has energy. This band has grit. This band has style.
Mihal Freinquel: Aja, how has your style evolved after getting into the rock n roll scene? Has the music has shaped the way you dress?
Aja Volkman: It comes very organically. I dont really think about trends much, I never have. With both music and fashion, I have always just known what looks and sounds good to my eye and ear, and generally, they seem to work together. Of course, I have influences in both areas, but most of them are over 30 years old at the very least.
MF: What do you think defines the rock n roll aesthetic and image?
AV: I think on all levels rock n roll is defined by a level of passion, rebellion, and individuality that comes together into an eccentric explosion of art. I love that people who do these things begin to resemble wild animals.
MF: A huge part of the fashion industry is based on the rock n roll aesthetic. Do you think there's a difference between an authentic rock n roll look vs an inauthentic look?
AV: I think as soon as you are paying $75 for something that costs $3 at a thrift store, it's time to move on to a new style. Usually by the time something hits the mainstream, I am pretty sick of looking at it already. It's hard not to sound snotty in this situation, but the truth is, I wish that more people would recycle clothing anyways. Thrift store shopping takes a little patience, but a person can really find their own style this way.
MF: Well that pretty much answers my next question but let's spell it out anyway - where do you shop?
AV: Goodwill, salvation army, and any other thrift store.
MF: Worst mainstream trends of the last decade? Best?
AV: Worst would probably be anything that's made to look rebellious by putting flames and skulls on it. Best: I love that vintage dresses, heels, hats and gloves have all come back in style.
MF: Aja, you always perform barefoot. It's raw, dirty, and I-don't-give-a-f**k...just like your music. Inquiring minds want to know: why barefoot? AV: It's liberating. I only ever wear shoes on stage if my feet feel so numb that I might kick a mic stand without knowing it. With shoes on, I am hiding my natural movement. I love the way heels look on women, but I don't love the way most women move in heels - including myself. I don't like to be careful. Which means I cut my feet all the time on broken glass.
MF: I think there's a good chunk of people who begin listening to a certain kind of music because they're sold on the image of it. With rock n roll they're attracted to the irreverence, the counter-culture, anti-establishment appeal, etc. Do you feel a responsibility to represent these images and "embody rock n roll"? If so, how deliberate is it?
AV: Honestly, I don't think that hard about it. I think the best art comes out of resistance, or limitation - how hard a person has to fight to create something. We have had to fight. And it seems as thought the battle has just begun. That is what makes our music so intense. That, and the fact that I am not a light person. Ha!
MF: We're going to do a little word association here. Respond with the first word/phrases that comes to mind:
Favorite Band//Radio Head, White stripes, Rolling stones
AC/DC vs Ramones//Both for different reasons
Britney Spears//America created this
Best part of LA//The Ocean
Best part of NYC//The culture
Religion//Beautiful, and dangerous
Ugg Boots//Warm, but Ugg-ly
Celeb gossip//Bigger problems in the world
MF: What other genres do you get down with besides rock n roll? Obviously there are influences from all over the place in your music.
AV: I love jazz, classical, blues, old folk, country, and any music from other cultures. I am not picky, although I don't really love what's on the mainstream radio these days.
MF: What's your intention when you head on stage?
AV: To connect, and tell stories, and lift people up.
MF: If you could flip your style up completely, what would your alter ego wear?
AV: Nothing at all. Or I would dress like a real lady, maybe from the 20's.
MF: What are your staple articles of clothing? AV: For stage - long dress, and some sort of cloak.
MF: Lady Gaga adamantly claims that her image is not an "image" in the dress-up sense of the word. Meaning, the Gaga we see in public is her, all day everyday. Is there "Nico Vega - The Performers" and "Nico Vega - The Regular Folk"? Or are they one in the same? AV: We dress up for stage for sure, but thats what I have always done. I wear some crazy stuff off stage, but I save all my nice stuff for stage.
MF: Who is Nico Vega, in the deepest, gnarliest, most honest way you can describe?
AV: We are three really dominant personalities that love each other to death. Like family. Nico Vega the name came from a Mike Pena's [the band's original drummer] mother's maiden name. The story of her life inspired me to change the way I was living before this band came together. I don't think I would be where I am without that influence. I am grateful to know that people can change, and grow, and learn from mistakes, because nobody is perfect. Honesty is the most important thing. In real life, in music, in art, even in fashion. Things that don't stem from honesty are disposable. Especially all relationships.
For tracks, videos, tour dates and more photos, visit Nico Vega's MYSPACE page. Lookout for the next When Style Meets Music installment coming soon!
Happy listening, and of course, happy shopping.