Nico Vega, Crash Kings
2548 Elm Street
Dallas, TX, 75226
Nico Vega isn't just a band — it is a way of life. In 2013, the Los Angeles based band — consisting of singer/lyricist Aja Volkman, guitarist Rich Koehler and drummer Dan Epand – releases their sophomore album. This album draws from intensely personal experiences and the band's passion for art and politics to deliver some of the most poignant tunes in recent memory.
We Are The Art was recorded in studios around Los Angeles as well as at Sonic Ranch Studios in Texas. It showcases the band's trademark blues-laden guitar rock, with soaring synths thrown in for good measure. Aja's fearless and passionate vocals round out the tracks, and her lyrics simultaneously inspire and incite action.
"This record has a lot of blood, sweat and tears," says Aja. "It's the most honest and personal thing we've done. Almost every song is about our journey as human beings… It's also about standing up for yourself and your art".
The band originally formed in 2005 when Rich and Mike Peña, Nico Vega's original drummer who left the band in 2007 and whose mother inspired the band's name, saw Aja perform at LA's Universal Bar & Grill. "We talked her into coming down and playing music with us," Rich recalls. "Before we finished a measure, we were like, 'This is it.'"
The band self-released a handful of EPs shortly afterwards, organically growing their fan base and attracting the attention of Myspace Music, which releasedNico Vega's self-titled debut full-length album in 2009. A slew of tours followed with the likes of Blondie, Metric, Manic Street Preachers and Shiny Toy Guns as well as headlining gigs across the country.
Channeling Janis Joplin and Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Aja's incredible stage presence is undeniable. She finds catharsis and relief on stage, and it's one of her favorite aspects of being in the band. "Getting on stage is like stepping into a hot tub…ahhhh," she laughs.
Nico Vega plan to tour extensively to support the new album with touring bassist Jamila Weaver and their newest member – Aja's infant daughter, Arrow Eve (with her husband Dan Reynolds from indie rock band Imagine Dragons) in tow. It's a new adventure for the first-time mom, and one that she relishes.
While the band and its members have evolved and matured as people and musicians, Aja says that there's one thing that will never change. "Nico Vega's running theme will always be standing up for who you are in the world and having the confidence to shine," she says. And shine they do.
Rather than employ the same old tricks of the trade, the Los Angeles trio breathes new life into
the genre. There's no guitar, nor does there have to be. Eschewing the six-string standard, the
band utilizes clavinet, vintage keyboards, piano, analog synthesizers, distorted bass, and a good
old-fashioned drum stomp. Crash Kings—Antonio (Vocals, Keyboards) and Michael Beliveau
(Bass) and Jason Morris (handling drums on the album—bent and broke boundaries in order to
craft their second album due out this summer. They're giving new meaning to the word
Growing up in suburban Massachusetts, the Brothers Beliveau knew they were meant to make
music together. One grainy family photo even shows Tony at three-years-old sitting at his dad's
piano next to Michael just a year old. Growing up, they jammed together constantly, but it wasn't
until the duo graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music that their own vision
started coming into focus.
In 2006, Crash Kings came to life in Los Angeles. Shortly after forming, they caught the ear of
the legendary producer and songwriter Linda Perry who signed them to Custard Records. With
Perry's guidance, the group developed an enigmatic sound all their own. That sound resulted in a
deal with Universal Motown in 2008, laying the groundwork for their self-titled debut to hit
shelves in 2009.
Propelled by the hit single "Mountain Man", Crash Kings sent shockwaves throughout modern
rock. The group was featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and George Lopez Tonight, as "Mountain
Man" took a firm hold on the #1 spot of Billboard's Alternative Songs Chart. Their music was
also featured in Zombieland and Warren Miller's Dynasty as the band invaded every facet of pop
Everything has been kicked up a notch (or eleven) for the band's second album. Michael
explains, "On our first album, we focused on making edgy rock n' roll that featured the piano.
This time around, we delved into using synthesizers and the clavinet a lot more. We've evolved
and expanded - this is unexplored territory for us."
In order to properly canvas that unchartered territory, the band enlisted Nick Launay [Nick Cave
and the Bad Seeds, Arcade Fire, The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Supergrass] as producer. "We were
searching for someone who was willing to take some risks," says Michael. "I started researching
producers and came across Nick. So we put in a call. We met him for coffee and after five
minutes of talking music, we knew he was the guy."
In the past, the band primarily worked from song ideas that Tony brought them. However, for
this second album, Crash Kings hunkered down in their Los Angeles studio for three months
writing together. As a result, each element stands out on songs like "6 Foot Tall". Tony's
whammy bar outfitted clavinet wails like a full-on rock orchestra, while Michael's bass roars and
rumbles with a distorted hum. Each song sounds more uninhibited than the next, especially when
Jason's bombastic beats kick in. Antonio reveals, "The fact that we tracked the drums, bass, and
most of keys live, gave this record an edge we were seeking."
In April 2011, Crash Kings set up shop in a North Hollywood house originally built by deceased
Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro. The group would work during the afternoon, and then dine together
at night before recording all evening. However, a few times, they think they may have gotten a
little assistance from the home's original owner...
"That house is a little haunted," laughs Michael. "I had a few run-ins with the ghost when I was
by myself. I came home from a Queens of the Stone Age concert, and I heard someone talking to
me in the backyard, but I was the only one there. Another time, I swear I locked up and, when I
came back, every door was wide open."
The only thing otherworldly about Crash Kings is their music. Their explosive live shows have
entranced audiences of all shapes and sizes. They're unique brand of rock has lead them to share
the stage with the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, Jet, Anberlin, Chris Cornell, The Bravery, and
Ultimately, Crash Kings go back to the basics with their new music, and they can rock anywhere.
"We have this love of traditional rock from the '60s and '70s," Michael goes on. "We're not hung
up on overproducing our music and layering to make it sound bigger. Most of time our
philosophy is: 'less is more'. There's a lot you can do with just three instruments and vocals".
Crash Kings bring back that traditional spirit with a fresh fire. "We want to turn heads and make
people think," concludes Michael. "That's why we're here".