Nicole Atkins’ latest LP, Slow Phaser (released last month), represents the songstress’ widest array of musical capabilities to-date: the most soulful psych rock, the sultriest Americana, quirkily empowering piano pop… and most of the things that would fall in-between. She’s beginning to remind me of Chrissie Hynde at her most eloquent and badass, all at once. Much of her latest output was inspired by Hurricane Sandy and the literal and figurative demolition of her childhood in New Jersey. She worked on the album with producer Tore Johansson and also enlisted the help of song-writing buddy Jim Sclavunos (who’s been one of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds for two decades now). Although she has already played Philly this year, with 2014’s first Free At Noon, she also has two additional upcoming dates in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. Nicole Atkins will be wrapping up the current leg of her headlining tour March 27th at Johnny Brenda’s and she will be at the Mann Center on July 25th (the birthday of Philthy’s very own LZ RN.), opening for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I recently got a chance to chat with her about all of this… in addition to her experience at The Fire… and a friend of hers whom I might have a slight bit of a crush on…
Izzy Cihak: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask if you have any favorite memories of the city?
Nicole Atkins: One of my most significant memories of Philly has to be at one of the first shows I ever did in 2001. It was at this little rathole called The Fire. I was a solo country singer at the time and they booked me with this hardcore punk band. I was terrified. But the band took me in and were super nice and we are friends to this day.
Izzy: You recently released Slow Phaser and you’ve been on the road since the beginning of the month. What have been your highlights of 2014, so far?
Nicole: Highlights have def been having Slow Phaser come out, being on the road with some of my best friends, getting married to my best friend, finding out we are gonna tour with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. So far so good.
Izzy: What would you consider to be Slow Phaser’s most significant influences?
Nicole: ‘70s AM gold and progressive rock were the sound influences. Thematically it’s about growing up, my time in the desert, Hurricane Sandy. Lots of fire and water themes. And overall a basic “I killed the afterparty” theme. A time to put aside the empty boxes.
Izzy: How do you feel like the album compares to previous releases? It does sound quite different.
Nicole: It’s a much different sound than my previous albums. I wanted to balance the heavier lyrical themes with a playfulness in the music. The prog rock pockets, combined with the disco bass, helped give the darker lyrics a lift out of the gutter.
Izzy: Do you have a particular favorite track? I’m pretty in love with “It’s Only Chemistry,” both for its snarky lyrical quirks and sonic quirks, alike.
Nicole: I like that one a lot. I think overall right now I’m in love with “Gasoline Bride” because it sounds so epic live. It makes me feel like I’m twenty stories tall when I sing that one.
Izzy: The album was produced by Tore Johansson. How was working with him?
Nicole: Tore and I worked together on my debut Neptune City. This time around it was more like two good old friends just playing around in the studio, just making a sound that followed that playfulness with no expectations. I respect him to the nth degree. And he’s a genius on the bass.
Izzy: Not to detract from your music, but I cyber flirt with your buddy Cristina Black pretty regularly on Twitter (She started it.) How would you characterize her? What’s the first thing you’d tell someone prior to meeting her? Any chance of more collaborations in the future?
Nicole: Cristina and I will def collaborate in the future but I’m not answering this one, ya creep. 😉
Izzy: You’re currently on tour and playing some of the most intimate shows you have in a while. What can be expected of the live experience the next time you’re here in Philly, or Philthy, as we like to call it?
Nicole: It will be the last show of our tour so we are gonna blaze the place out with our rock fury.
Izzy: And this summer you’re going to be touring with Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. How excited are you for that? Seeing as Jim Sclavunos is a friend and collaborator of yours, any chance you may join the Seeds onstage at some point?
Nicole: I’m over the moon! Seriously, one of the coolest things that is gonna happen to me. I’d love it if I got to join them onstage. In the meantime, Jim is gonna be my drummer for my UK tour in May! Top notch guy and he’s bringin’ that pink drumkit!
Izzy: And what are your plans for the rest of 2014? Musically speaking, are you looking to further explore your current aesthetic, or are you excited to move on to something else new?
Nicole: I’m working on new songs that are definitely an extension of Slow Phaser. I’m also spending time on my two side projects, Redeemer with Jim Sclavunos and Very Night (my ‘80s stalker jams with Glen from Gil Mantera’s Party Dream) and also looking forward to my production projects, new artworks, and fleshing out my record label, Oh’Mercy! I’m a busy bee and it’s a good time for it.