Words by Phelps
Photos by Lucia Holm
Nicole Atkins’ latest record is a potent reflection on severance. Released this year, Mondo Amore draws you in to the tumult of broken relationships – a record littered with the ghosts of boyfriends, bandmates, and record labels. Far from feeling sorry for herself, the emotional upheaval is perfect fodder for Nicole as she weaves passionate vocals and huge choruses across her new band’s boot stomping waves of blues, rock, pop and soul. Check below for some tunes, pics, and a brief discussion with Nicole between her tour with The Black Keys and her own headlining trek.
You can catch her tonight @ SONAR IN BALTIMORE (Get social with Nicole via her Twitter where you may catch her trading jabs with 30 Rock writer Jack Burditt or comparing her looks to Izzy Stradlin – she should give herself more credit than that.)
BYT: Nicole, whatsup?
Nicole: I’m in a cab riding over the bridge, going back to Brooklyn, it’s snowing.
BYT: Ah, I live on the east coast but I’m out in Seattle now so missing all that.
Nicole: I’m going out to LA tomorrow, and so excited. I hate snow!
BYT: You doing some touring or promo out there?
Nicole: No, just gonna go out there and visit some friends before the holidays.
BYT: Well my shameless plug is my friend Justin is playing with Badly Drawn Boy two nights at The Troubadour while you’re out there.
Nicole: Oh, nice! My friend Greg that I’m going to see, he was checking if we could go to one of those ‘cause I’ve never seen Badly Drawn Boy. We could go see that or go see X!
BYT: Cool, I met up with them in Portland last night and it was a good time. Anyhow, sounds like you’ve got a whole new band for this record, and you’re pretty excited about it – how’d you get together with the new players?
Nicole: Well, for the actual record it was a combination of my last three bands. My old keyboard player from the original band, Dan Chen, ended up engineering and playing all the organ and piano on the record. The main rhythm section, bass player and drummer, were friends of mine from Asbury Park, New Jersey. The main guitar player on it, Irina Yalkowski, she’s my guitar player now, my main gal. You know her and I have been friends for the last ten years almost, from New York. We’ve always ran around in the same circles, always wanted to play together… She was in a band called The Soft Explosion, she played with The Brian Jonestown Massacre for a little while. We both ended up not having a band so we got together and she brought in her friends Jeremy and Ezra that used to be the rhythm section in Ambulance Ltd. Now, those are my people and it rules. It’s the first time I’ve been in a band where we’re all pretty much on the same page, you know, personality wise, music we like – it’s a good fit. It’s like a band of brothers and sisters.
BYT: You mentioned Neptune, and Asbury Park – I actually lived in Monmouth County for about 6 years, ending up in Belmar at the end. It was nice riding my bike on the boardwalk up to the Stone Pony for shows in the summer but I always really found the place to be very isolated and lonely, especially in the winter.
Nicole: Yea, definitely! Sucks there in the winter.
BYT: Do those towns and experiences continue to inform your writing from record to record?
Nicole: I mean, it always comes up, you know? It’s the place I’ve always been the most connected to. I felt like Neptune City was more of a landscape record and this is more of an emotion record as far as the subject matter. It’s a love and a hate record.
BYT: Have you been playing the songs live together?
Nicole: We just finished a tour with The Black Keys and pretty much did the whole record on that tour. When you make something new you get pretty amped to just play that so we’ve been playing the songs for a while. We finished the record in July and have been pretty antsy to start this tour.
BYT: Ah, ok – so have you continued to write since then?
Nicole: Yea, I’ve been writing a lot, nonstop. It’s cool too because the people I’m playing with, we just click so well that I’m really inspired by the way they play.
BYT: Cool, well thanks for your time, and –
Nicole: DC’s always our favorite place to play, too! We always do DC at the end of the tour and Rock and Roll Hotel, we always play there and everyone is super nice.
BYT: Yea? You should go to the rock and roll pie shop down the block.
Nicole: Rock and roll, pie, like apple pie?
BYT: Yea, I remember meeting the (Dangerously Delicious) owner Rodney in Austin at SXSW just hanging out and he said “I know the Drive By Truckers” and I said cool then I turned and saw him up on stage playing during their encore. Great guy.
Nicole: That’s awesome, we’ll definitely hit him up.