Interview with Nikki’s Wives
with Song River
A natural organic flow wells from the deep and saturates the layers of music formations found in the trio known as Nikki’s Wives. This Toronto-based alt- blue and rock pop band have shot straight out of the cannon their single “Ghost” a song about those residual relationship memories that seem to haunt us.
Nikki Whitehead is well acquainted with the recording process and has been in and out of studios since she was 12 years old. The completion came as Dylan Lauzon and Nate Baylor joined and the sultry smoking visions of Nikki’s Wives was the transformation ordered to make this their arrival.
Nikki’s Wives is a trio headed by Nikki Whitehead and completed by Dylan Lauzon and Nate Baylor. They are currently out on tour with CeeLo Green and in support of their debut EP, For E•V•E•R.
Song River: Nikki, who are you channeling? There is a hauntingly striking reach to some of the greatest voices of mood, blues, soul and rock coming from the seed bed over your vocal presence.
NW: Well, I grew up listening to a lot of girl rock and playing in little rock bands. My dream was to be this bad ass rocker chick who’s vocals were effortlessly raw and aggressive. I tried so hard to sound like Joan Jett, but my voice never really sounded right. It was when I started listening to people like Ella Fitzgerald and Motown singers that I started to develop more as a singer. Now I take inspirations from singers like Florence Welch, Debbie Harry, and Lana Del Rey. I really like mixing styles with a variety of tones with my voice!
SR: Dylan Lauzon and Nate Baylor along with you Nikki Whitehead, all so easily the three of you just shape this trio that is intricately connected. Does it feel as natural to you three as it seems to the rest of us?
NW: I think the only reason we’re in a trio is because it came so naturally. This whole project started out as a solo session, and its transition into a band seemed so effortless that it came as a complete surprise. The first gig we played together, each of our artistic energies complimented another so well that we knew that this was the way it had to be.
SR: Your songwriting style is picturesque of an old noir postcard, yet visually it’s rich in the venture of the avant-garde. How much is the lyrical content linked to the video creations for you?
NW: We have a bit of a different process than a lot of musicians when it comes to working with artists in other disciplines like video. In the case of our shoot with Mac Boucher and Gaya Lamouche who were fresh off working with Grimes and Yukon Blonde, we basically called them up and said “hey here’s a rough idea of what we’re looking for, and here’s a lyric sheet. Hit us up with a couple of ideas and we’ll go ahead.” We just tossed out words like David Lynch and ran with it. In the end, I think our collaboration really did match the lyrical content of the song, as does all our video content – but it really is a collaborative effort.
SR: How do you feel your home of Toronto has influenced your music, outlook on the industry, and overall view of the world?
NW: In many ways Toronto has just kind of made us braver. Guys like Drake, Majid Jordan, PND, and stuff are just out there doing whatever the fuck they want – which kind of leads us to do the same. That said, I don’t know how much the city itself really affects what we’re doing since we lead kind of insulated artistic life. We just live in the studio and rehearsal space and don’t pay much mind to the outside world.
SR: Synth mixes and clipped strings give a discotheque spin on “lonely being cool.” Who did you all work with on this video production and where was it filmed?
NW: I kind of spoke about this a bit in the last question about the link between lyrics and video – but we worked with Gaya Lamouche (director) and Mac Boucher (producer), and it was shot in and around Toronto. We kind of slammed a ton of shooting into a super short period of time, so it was a lot of insane set change-overs and driving around the city. Mac and Gaya absolutely knocked it out of the park for us.
SR:”Ghost” has written all over it the center point of what is to come. Who in the land of film or TV production has contacted you yet to use this song in their celluloid?
SR: Dylan to the mix and working closely with Nikki over the last five years now, what is it about the sound chemistry that seems to fit where you want to be and go?
NW: We’ve all kind of had this connection since day one, and the history of it is kind of weird. Dylan and Nate have played together for like 7 years, and Dylan and Nikki for about 4 now. We spend a lot of time learning from each other, so by the time we actually started making music as a trio we already had a ton in common musically, even though we hadn’t necessarily played together the three of us yet. I think the biggest factor for us is that ego gets kind of tossed out the window in Nikki’s wives. We trust each other when someone says an idea is shit, or it’s great – and we’re willing to move on to keep momentum. It’s what allows us to kind of grow and adapt so quickly.
SR: Nate as you and Dylan went to the University together and you were asked to be brought in as the drummer for Nikki’s Wives, in a relatively short amount of time you’ve created this foundational premise on which everything else in sound holds. What is it in the foundation you rely on to create the base on which all else holds itself to?
NW: Growing up playing jazz, you’re forced to learn real quick how to lead a band. You discover that part of leading is knowing what cues an audience wants to hear, and which musical tools you need to use to direct focus in a song. It’s basically mind reading. I always try to be a foundational player to establish trust, then I can have all kinds of fun pump-faking the listener’s expectations.
SR: Creativity holds no boundaries. Listen to your own music and as you plug in where does it take you?
NW: This seems like kind of lame and obvious answer, but listening back to the record always takes us back to writing and recording it. Our buddy and string arranger Richie English hooked us up with this guy Bruce Moser. When we met, he kind of took an interest in working an album for us as a radio promoter, so we just kind of booked the studio right then and there. We had three weeks to write all these songs before we were on the hook for tracking them. The catch was our only available writing space was Dylan’s apartment – and there was no heat… and it was the dead of winter. So, here we are freezing, and under the gun trying to get this album done so we can give the band a jump-start. It was such a visceral process, but honestly, I’m so proud of the outcome, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. We wrote the record in ten days and recorded it in another ten.
SR: You are out on tour with CeeLo, m², Pickster One,DJ Tricky T… on the Love Tour Part 2: where and how did you find yourselves in this mix?
NW: These stories are never as dope as you expect them to be. We were just in the studio working on some new material and we received an email from a dude that was very vague. It had no body – just a subject line saying “Would the idea of doing a tour as direct support for CeeLo Green appeal to you??”
We’re like – yeah obviously, why do you have to play this damned game dude, what are the details? It was kinda funny though – he definitely had us going.
SR: What do you all think?
NW: Honestly – it’s been one of the greatest tours we could ask for. CeeLo’s fans have been super engaged and into what we’re doing, and we’ve been having a blast playing every night. More than that – CeeLo’s whole crew has been awesome to us, and we really feel like we’re part of the family when we’re on the road with them. Plus, CeeLo is the most awesome, humble guy, and he knows how to party.
SR: What have you learned?
NW: I’ve learned that I can party harder than I ever dreamed possible. For real, though, hanging with CeeLo showed us that no matter how successful you get there’s this fundamental love of the art that never goes away.
SR: And what is it you want to take with you when the tour closes?
NW: For sure the bus and driver (paused) and the catering.
SR: Okay, so you have created a buzz according to music media industry… what is next?
NW: Next is we sell out and forget all our real fans
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