– On the Line with … Nico Vega
Aja Volkman has been fueled by inspiration. The slender, doe-eyed brunette may appear timid by nature, but her thunderous vocals have made her the leading lady to watch, fronting Los Angeles rock band Nico Vega. While other female performers might opt to sing about last Friday night, Volkman’s three-piece band prefers to captivate audiences with explosive, fiery tracks of staying true to oneself—regardless of appearance—all while overcoming Herculean obstacles and coming out triumphant in the end.
While Nico Vega initially formed in 2005 with former drummer Mike Pena, whose mother inspired the band’s name, it has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. Not only has Volkman married fellow artist Dan Reynolds from indie rock band Imagine Dragons, but she is also the proud mother of five-month-old Arrow Eve. It’s an adventure she happily indulges in, one involving a major U.S. tour to promote Nico Vega’s new EP, FURY OH FURY. Before Nico Vega embarked on their major U.S. tour, Boxx Magazine contributor Stephanie Nolasco chatted with Volkman about her new journey as a mother, whether Nico Vega will ever collaborate with No Doubt and what the future holds for them as a group.
Stephanie Nolasco: How is your new EP different from anything else that the band has done musically?
Aja Volkman: Well, there are some electronic elements. I would say that’s probably the only difference. We’ve ventured off into more electronic things, but it still has that heavy rock stuff, too.
SN: Could you describe the moment you and your band decided to get together and record this EP?
AV: We recorded the EP actually at the same time as the new record. The record is coming out shortly. We had been working on material for a really long time, and we were just like, it’s time to do this. That was a little over a year ago; we did some of the recording in Los Angeles and some of it in Texas.
SN: What’s the name of the album that’s coming out?
AV: The record is…I actually don’t want to say the name because I’m not sure if that’s the name we’re going to use. It might shift or change…It’s probably going to be called We Are The Art
SN: Now, going back to the EP, which song would you say had the most impact in terms of writing and recording?
AV: Well, ‘Beast’ is one of our older songs and it’s really dear to me. It’s also at the heart of what Nico Vega is all about. And then second next to that is ‘Fury Oh Fury.’ It’s a really raw, emotional song. There’s a lot of aggression and anger.
SN: What were some of the surprising things you discovered about yourself when recording this EP that you didn’t see prior?
AV: Well, I got pregnant and had a baby after I wrote everything [laughs]. So that was kind of a crazy experience…but, you know, I think you learn a lot when you’re in a band. You learn a lot about yourself and the people that you’re working with. And, it actually makes you a better person because you learn to get along with people. You learn to be flexible and work around other people as well. That’s something that comes from being in a band. You get really good at relationships, I would say. Or you crash and burn. It’s got to go one way or the other.
SN: And speaking of motherhood, what has that been like for you?
AV: Oh, it’s been…amazing! It’s definitely a challenge to make everything happen, but we’ve been managing and taking things one day at a time, progressing and moving forward. My family has been extremely helpful throughout the entire process. I’ve had a lot of support.
SN: How has the band been responding to you as a mother? I could imagine it’s a completely different schedule adjustment.
AV: They are really amazing; I feel bad sometimes because…it’s just a different thing when you want to be a mom and you want to also be somebody who makes music and other people rely on you. You’re kind of dragging people through the mud with you a little bit. And I think that’s hard. I feel bad sometimes. And they’re just really amazing for going along with it and always being supportive, sweet and loving to me. It’s just a challenge, you know? And I think it’s sometimes different when you’re a dad in a band then it is when you’re a mom in a band. Because when you have a baby, they demand a lot more of your time.
SN: I read you opened for No Doubt back in November. Did you get a chance to speak with Gwen Stefani who, like yourself, juggles being a mom and also leading a band?
AV: She came backstage to meet the baby and that was really sweet. She was excited that there was a baby backstage. We’re friends with her husband Gavin Rossdale and he brought her to meet us. She’s really an amazing lady, and I was impressed by her.
SN: Is there any chance of Nico Vega and No Doubt doing more together in the future?
AV: I don’t know. That depends on them. We would gladly accept a tour with No Doubt.
SN: Going back to your music, is there one genre or artist that’s been inspiring you lately?
AV: My husband’s band Imagine Dragons really inspires me. And I don’t think it’s because I’m partial or anything. I actually think they’re an amazing performance band and he’s an incredible songwriter. I’ve learned so much from him about songwriting because he’s just really solid. That’s probably one of my heavier influences.
SN: What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced as a woman leading a band?
AV: I don’t know if the challenges are specific to my sex at all. I do think though I’ve always been adamant about not flaunting my sexuality to be a performer, to win over an audience or anything like that. I’m just treating myself like any human being, and I’ve approached this as asexual hopefully to a certain degree because I really think it’s about the music. I do think rock ‘n’ roll can be very sexy, and I think that when it’s an organic emotion for me I rely on that, but I never turn to it as a tool. And I also think that one of the challenges would probably be…I don’t know if it’s just me as a human or me as a woman, but I just got tired of sleeping on couches and tired of hard living. I think the guys can handle a lot more than me as far as discomfort goes. I don’t like freezing weather, I don’t like the snow that much. I like the snow when I’m in a log cabin next to a fireplace [laughs]. And the guys, they don’t even care what temperature it is when they’re out in the world.
SN: Have those challenges gotten better over the years?
AV: I don’t know. I think it’s always a battle with regards to being a woman. I think sex sells and…I’m not on that bus.
SN: How do you handle being a mother with a child who’s always demanding your attention and also being an artist who’s traveling frequently?
AV: I would describe it as having two full-time jobs. You have to be able to handle a lot of stress, especially if you’re not at the stage where you have a personal assistant or someone who is managing everything else. The one thing I’m not willing to compromise on is being a mother. Doing an album cycle takes a lot out of a person. It’s going to be a challenge how it all pans out because I’m not willing to deprive Arrow of life experiences and a relationship with her mother for that other side of life, for my career and my personal journey through Nico Vega. It’s just trying to figure out a harmonious way to make it all happen together.
SN: Is your daughter joining you on the road?
AV: Oh yeah. I would never leave her. I wouldn’t leave her at this age at all. It’s going to be crazy because babies need routine and they need a lot of attention and love. It’s going to be a little bit of a juggle for a while.
SN: Now that you’re about to go on this tour, what do you hope listeners discovering your music for the first time will get from the EP?
AV: I just hope it doesn’t get totally panned you know? I think it’s important for people to know I feel grateful everyday for being able to do this in my life—being an artist, a mother, somebody who gets to tour and also have a family. I feel like everyday my dreams are coming true. I don’t feel like I’m working towards something. I feel like I’m in it. And I think it’s so important to not let that slip away by constantly thinking about the future or how things are going to work out or worrying and stressing. It’s just happening right now and I think that’s something most people should do, live in the now. I think we get so caught up on whether things are going to work, what’s going to happen or what we’re working towards that we miss out on the journey, which is the life part of life. Be present. That’s my advice.