It's not everyday a feral plebeian such as myself gets to talk to a Smashing Pumpkin. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to chat with SP bassist Nicole Fiorentino, who along with singer-songwriter Meghan Toohey, makes up the core of Los Angeles-based indie band the Cold and Lovely. Known for simmering and moody verses that yield to equally simmering, yet catchy hooks, the Cold and Lovely will be playing at Alex's Bar on Thursday.
Chances are good that even if you haven't heard of this project, you've heard their music. The band's 2012 self-titled album netted the single "Paper and Gun," a darkly catchy number whose stormy sound is offset by an infectiously catchy, tinkling piano. The tune caught the attention of the Hollywood machine and has since graced the soundtracks of Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. But with a need to produce constant content to satisfy the fickle attention spans of today's music fans, the Cold and Lovely have taken little time to smell the roses. During our conversation I found myself in the presence of two hard working musicians who know all too well the endurance and tenacity required to succeed in the modern music world, even with the benefit of having ties to rock royalty.
OC Weekly (Brandon Ferguson): You guys have a lot of projects you work on. How did this one come to be?
Meghan Toohey: Nicole and I had known each other for a couple years just from being in auditions in Los Angeles. We used to constantly run into each other. The more we worked together I started playing her my own songs and she was like 'why are you not playing your own stuff? These songs are great.' She ended up motivating me to start recording things, then I asked her if she wanted to play bass in the band.
Do you find being a hired gun is less satisfying than writing and producing your own material?
MT: [Being a hired gun] is more satisfying for your bank account (laughs). They're both equally frustrating and satisfying for different reasons. It becomes more of a job for sure when you're not doing your own thing, but the experiences you can have as a touring musician–as I'm sure Nicole will tell you with the Pumpkins–she's travelled all over the world. I've toured all over the world with the bands I've played in. It's pretty amazing to do that and get paid for it.
Nicole Fiorentino: It's extremely rewarding when you're in a situation when you're getting paid and you love the music.
You guys have said before that it's hard to break a new band in the US. Where in the world is it easier?
MT: It's way easier in places like the UK or South America or even Australia. The people it seems are way more receptive to new music and they listen when you play which is kind of rare in the States I must say.
NF: Yeah I think people [here] are kind of bored and entitled–but not everywhere obviously.
MT: There's a lot of flavor of the month [in the States] and you can get ostracized. Take Coldplay for instance. Coldplay has become vilified because they're a great band, they've had success. Now people are like 'uh, you're lame because you're into Coldplay.' It's upsetting. And things move so quickly and attention spans are so small. It's really hard when you've got a new thing and it goes out on Youtube and 10 minutes later people are like 'what else is new?' They don't realize it costs thousands and thousands of dollars as an independent artist to make these bands.
NF: You literally have to have content constantly.
It seems that's the way media is moving across the board, toward this model of constant content.
MT: That's why we've moved on to this idea of recording EPs; because no one's going to listen to more than five or six songs anyway. A lot of my favorite records came about with me popping it in, listening all the way through and being 'I'm not sure,' then by the fifth or sixth listen I think 'ok yeah, I get this now.' I feel like that doesn't happen as much anymore.
Which one of you is the primary songwriter?
MT: I write all the songs and Nicole writes a lot of the bass lines. She has a lot of say about how a song's produced. We definitely are collaborators in that way.
NF: I think we're able to collaborate a little more [now]. We've had this band for a little more than two and a half years. For the three and a half years before I've been on tour constantly. When we started working together I just wanted her vision to manifest in some way and wanted to be part of it in any way that I could. But now I'm here and we're working on things together.
So Nicole, tell us how you came to play with the Pumpkins.
NF: I was playing with a band in LA called Light FM. They were originally a Chicago band. Josiah, the signer, was friends with Billy [Corgan]. A bunch of Chicago bands got together in LA to do a benefit for this woman named Laura Masura, who was a Chicago girl who had gotten into a really bad motorcycle accident and almost lost her foot. All these Chicago bands got together–including Billy–who at the time had a side project he was doing. Light FM ended opening up for him and he saw me play that night. A few months after that [then Pumpkins bassist] Ginger Reyes quit because she wanted to focus on her family–she had a baby. Billy just remembered me from the show and had his management track me down. We started playing together after that. There was no proper audition. We kind of just hung out and jammed.
I imagine that must have been sort of intimidating.
NF: Yeah mainly I think my anxiety was on the flight out to Chicago, but once I got into a room with him, I don't know what it was about the combination, but we just clicked musically. So on that level, there wasn't much anxiety. When I thought 'oh my God, this is the guy who wrote Siamese dream,' and when I let myself get inside my head about it, it was a little more intimidating. But on a personal level, a musical level, it just kind of clicked right away.
The Cold and Lovely will play with Bella Novela and Chapel of Thieves Thursday April 28th at Alex's Bar, 2913 E. Anaheim St. Long Beach. Show starts at 8 p.m. $5 at the door.