Bowling, Karaoke, Drunk Strippers and Weed: Out All Night With the Band Nico Vega
[Editor's note: Soon-to-be-award-winning gonzo music journalist Danielle Bacher prowls the late late night scene for West Coast Sound. For this installment, she hit the town with Nico Vega, the prolific and talented LA alt-rock band you might know from their collaborations with hitmaker Linda Perry, tours with Neon Trees, Manic Street Preachers and Blondie and various video game and movie soundtracks. They blew off some steam after a breakneck touring and recording schedule including an EP and a full-length album due within four months of each other this year.]
Danielle Bacher Rich Koehler (Left), Aja Volkman, Dan Epand, Jamila Weaver (Right)
7:43 p.m.: "Did you get searched when you walked in?" Nico Vega bassist Jamila Weaver asks me as I enter Shatto 39 Lanes bowling alley in Koreatown. She folds her arms and looks at me with round, sheepish eyes. "I was about to get searched, so I ran to my car to put back my whiskey." She touches her hair. It's mohawked with buzzed sides and a maroon tint on top. Drummer Dan Epand chuckles at her confession. He sips a Blue Moon and asks if we need drinks.
7:48 p.m.: We order two beers at the bar.
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7:49 p.m.: Lead singer Aja Volkman and guitarist Rich Koehler arrive. She smiles and introduces herself. I notice that she's really skinny for having just given birth to daughter Arrow Eve Reynolds less than six months ago.
Danielle Bacher Jamila (Left), Aja, Dan, Rich (Right)
7:51 p.m.: Arrow's father is her husband, Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds. He would have been here with us tonight, but he had touring commitments. Ava sports a blue- and white-striped hooded jacket and tight black pants. She smiles and gives me a large hug.
7:52 p.m.: Rich has a Southern-inflected accent and odd vocal cadence, so it's surprising to learn he's from Toledo, OH. He rocks a gray V-neck under a denim vest and black jacket, and his chest hair is exposed. He looks like he is auditioning to replace Jam Master Jay in Run-DMC.
7:53 p.m.: The group is a motley crew, but an endearing one. "We're all different people, but we are similar deep down in our belief systems, you know?" Aja says. "There is a unified thing at the base of everything we do." The original trio of Aja, Dan and Rich formed in LA in 2005, and they have been making noisy, brash modern rock ever since. Jamila joined last year. Aja wanted another female in the band, and they all wanted a bassist for big venues. "We're really lucky we are fun, positive people. It works really well when we are on the road," says Aja. Their sophomore album We Are Art is coming out in June.
7:54 p.m.: The album reflects the major personal changes the members have gone through in the past few years. "It's made us a lot stronger," says Aja. "One of the songs on the record is even about me struggling with vocal issues I've had in the past and lyrics about my childhood. It's just very personal, and it's some of the best stuff we've done. It's a very emotional contribution."
7:55 p.m.: Dan directs most of the band's videos. He thinks that it makes sense to create the song and then the visuals. They're excited to release "Beast" the first week in February. The song has appeared in the video game Bioshock Infinite and the trailer for Tom Cruise's film Jack Reacher. They also have a new EP, Fury Oh Fury, due February 5.
7:56 p.m.: We walk over to a coffee vending machine that looks like it's at least two decades old. You can even add "whitener" if you would like. We all think it's racist innuendo, and we dare Rich to order one and drink it. Aja films the event, and Rich and Dan make a fake commercial hyping the disgusting-ass coffee. Dan thinks Rich is "overacting."
7:59 p.m.: We look for some balls to bowl with. Aja, Jamila and I decide to use the same eight-pound ball with medium finger holes. Aja picks up a 14-pound ball. I tell her it's heavy as shit.
"You think this is heavy? Really?" She thinks I'm a wimp, or at least I think she thinks so.
"Can you put your finger in the holes?" says Aja
"I think the holes are too small."
"Don't mind me, I'm just touching your balls."