I have to confess to being a little fan-girly excited about this entry to my wall of awesome. Now I suspect that for most people, the last thing they’ll think when they look at Erica Nockalls is ‘nerd’, but if wikipedia is to be believed then:
“Nerds can be described by their hobbies” and “Some interests and activities that are likely to be described as nerdy are: Interest in the fine arts, non-mainstream music such as classical, techno, or folk music.”
So I put it to you that a conservatoire trained violinist and artist falls into the nerd camp and as she’s rocking it in her own band – EN, in her acoustic duo with Miles Hunt, and as a member of The Wonder Stuff, she’s proof, if ever it was needed, that nerds are cool!*
Erica, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions, let’s dive straight in:
You started playing the violin from a young age. How many hours did you put into practicing and what impact did that have on your school life or teenage social life.
The violin is a difficult instrument to learn, there are no two ways about it. Because it isn’t as instantly gratifying as an instrument such as the piano, for example, it is incredibly frustrating for about the first ten years, and it’s something you really have to stick at. I was encouraged to chip away and practise every day when I was younger, even if it was only 15 mins a day. As a beginner, this is essential for developing muscle memory – I believe it’s how often you practise, rather than how long you practise for, that is important.
As a teenager I began playing in my first bands, which is a healthy thing to do. I knew I needed to practise my violin regularly if I wanted to be any good, so I just got on with it, but of course I grumbled about it from time to time! I felt like music was the only thing I was any good at, so it made perfect sense that I should stick at it, and yes, that sometimes meant not getting drunk on a street corner with mates. Being a professional musician in a rock forum often means you have access to free booze frequently, so I kinda made up for missing out over the years.
Your first album incorporates a variety of musical genres. What is your approach to writing and recording and does it vary depending on the style?
It know it sounds odd, but I don’t really have an approach to writing, other than getting the lyrics written first, then I fit them to music. I stop layering things up and adding new sections when I think the piece has gone as far as the song can go, then I call it a day and move on.
Stylistically I love listening to and playing heavy music, and that might be from anything to a Shostakovich string quartet to doom goth metal, but it has to be at least slightly progressive otherwise I get bored incredibly quickly and lose interest. I have dark tastes in music.
My lyrics and music could be considered rather angular at times, and the lyrics, particularly on EN2 are feisty and uncompromising. I’m certainly not painting by numbers and trying to sound like anybody else here, I never have done that. If you’re not adding anything to the development of music, you’re wasting everyone’s time, not least your own.
How involved are you with the production side of your recordings and videos?
100%. EN2 is entirely self produced, self funded through selling my artwork, and it is also self released, and all through choice as I wanted complete control over this record. It’s my intention to make some music videos for EN2 – it’s next on my to-do list. I enjoy making videos – it’s a relatively recent creative outlet for me. I’m not bad at editing and I actually find it quite relaxing and rewarding!
How do you feel about social media?
I like it. I think people need to put their phones down occasionally so as not to waste their entire lives online, but as a musician you need a platform from which to air your wares, and as such social media is invaluable. I use predominantly Facebook and Twitter to make announcements and post gig details. Generally I try to be as engaging as possible without ramming my music down people’s throats. You have to treat people as you’d like to be treated yourself, which is absolutely the way forward in real life too.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It’s difficult to say, but I’m not going to measure highlights of my career in audience numbers. I’ve played to hundreds of thousands of people at a gig, I’ve played to 10 people at a gig – the number of people you play to rarely translates into whether it was a good gig or not. I think the highlight of my career so far is being able to say I’ve travelled the world and avoided getting a ‘proper’ job as a result of being good at doing something that I love. It’s been hard in places and I’ve had so many knock backs I’ve lost count. If you believe in yourself and get your head down though, it’s possible to achieve virtually anything.
What’s next for EN?
Make more EN videos, I’m seriously thinking of putting a US version of my band together and decamping over to NYC for a bit in 2015 – the music industry seems sewn up in this country, so I’m going to see if the yanks will have any of what I’m doing…see if they ‘get’ it.
The Wonder Stuff tour acoustically in December 2014 for our Sleigh The Uk Tour.
Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls are gigging acoustically across the UK seemingly constantly!
And I’ll hopefully be painting more in the new year and having more EN art exhibitions.
Where can we buy your new album?
Through choice, EN2 is only available from my website and nowhere else. I’m bypassing all online platforms for streaming and selling until musicians are awarded a fairer deal for their music in an attempt to give value back to music.
That deserves a hi-five! Thank you Erica, it’s been fab. Congratulations on your recent art exhibition and good luck with the new album.
If you haven’t already been to check it out, head over to Erica’s website www.ericanockalls.com
* Okay, I’ll admit it, I just really wanted to interview her, nerd or not!