Nico Vega has some very interesting ties. The band was co-founded by Michael Peña with Richard Koehler and Aja Volkman. Peña later quit the band to focus on acting. That’s been a successful venture for him with notable appearances in movies like Crash, End of Watch, and Gangster Squad. That’s not the only tie that the group has, their entertainment attorney is Robert Reynolds, the brother of Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds. Aja ended up meeting Dan through Robert and now the two happen to be married. So the past year or two has been an insane time for Aja. Her husband fronts one of the biggest bands in music and Nico Vega made a return to notoriety after their song “Beast” was picked up by 2K Games for a major marketing tie-in with their hit game Bioshock Infinite.
If you’ve ever seen Nico Vega live then you know how amazing that Aja Volkman is in that setting. But that presence is something she feels that she’s still getting the hang of. Talking with Alternative Addiction, Aja talked about her torn relationship with the stage and how performing music led her to find her place and settle in to her role as a performer. Volkman went to school for the theatre, something that she said wasn’t easy for her.
“I struggled in theatre, especially with stage fright,” said the now-charismatic front woman. “There was something about playing a character, I just felt so nervous, the memorization step of it and having to expose yourself but as this other person. There was a love/hate relationship with theatre. I liked the idea of it because it gave me such a rush, but the whole time I would be in knots. When I started performing as a musician it was better because it was me and I was in a band. There was loud music to hide behind if I needed it. I could be myself, and I had these comrades on stage with me to help ease the knots. That’s when I really found myself. I can be a painfully shy person, and performing has helped develop me as a person, I really think that.”
Volkman found her passion for music in theatre school, she also found her passion for rock there too. You can thank Volkkman’s acting research for her discovery of her own personal rock aptitude.
“I was cast in a role to play this entertainer in Vietnam during the war. I played this young entertainer and I had to learn all of these songs on guitar to play the part. I knew how to play, but I had only written and played my own music. While I was researching for the play, I came across Janis Joplin and realized that was my register. I was probably singing more like Cat Power; in a soft, whispery, raspier tone. When I learned about Janis Joplin I started to cover some of her songs and realized I could sing “A Piece of My Heart and songs like that. Then I discovered Tina Turner, early Tina when she was with Ike. That’s when things really started to happen for me because I listened to how she released all of her emotion through her voice. I thought you could really hear everything she was feeling. That was a huge influence for me and that changed everything for me as far as music,” added Aja.
Just as interesting as how Aja turned herself into a credible frontwoman is how Nico Vega made a big splash with Bioshock Infinite. The band owes a huge thanks to a fan of theirs who worked at 2K games and ended up getting the attention of the company’s licensing staff for the band.
“There was a girl who worked for 2K and she was a Nico Vega fan,” started Aja. “The video game was kind of in alignment with our song “Beast” and so it was a funny coincidence. She took the song and showed the head of licensing to see what he thought. He fell in love with it and that’s how it happened. It resurrected this song that was on our first album. That was one of the first songs that the band ever wrote together. It’s funny because that’s always been the final song we play in our set. That’s our song we go out with a bang on every night. We love it and it sums up the whole message of the band. So to have that become our single has been kind of beautiful.
“It’s also a great pat on the back for us as a band, because we’ve always been obscure in our own way. We were starting to feel like we needed to conform a little bit. We play these songs that were great for us but still only acquired a cult following. We felt that we were going to have to make changes with how we write music to be able to make a living. You hit that point in the music industry these days and that stinks. Then that happened and it made us feel that if people liked what was really the first song that we wrote, that really validated what we were doing.”
Since making a return, “Beast” has died down. It’s not the buzz song that it was six months ago, but it has set the stage for Nico Vega’s new album coming out this fall to do very well. If the album has more songs like “Beast” and “Easier”, then consider us excited. The band is currently on tour this summer with Crash Kings. For tour dates and more information on the band, go to Nicovega.com