The Cold and Lovely : On Ellis Bell and More

Interview and Article by SPfreaks

SPfreaks recently had a chance to catch up with Nicole Fiorentino and Meghan Toohey after their Record Release Party for their newest release, Ellis Bell.

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Ellis Bell (front cover)

The Cold and Lovely recently had a Record Release Party for your new EP, Ellis Bell. How did it feel to showcase those songs for the first time?

Meghan – It felt great. Because of some scheduling conflicts with Patty and Mel, we have a new drummer (Erin Tidwell) and keyboard player (Jennifer Goodridge) playing with us now and they are really adding new energy and excitement to the band. We never really got a chance to even feel like a band before with Nicole touring all the time and Mel living in NYC; but now we actually rent a rehearsal space together and enjoy the process of practicing. For a first show I thought it was solid and the songs went over well live. I can’t wait until we’ve had a few months of rehearsals under our belts.

Does The Cold and Lovely have any particular history at the Bootleg Theater? Any particular reason you wanted to have the record release at this location?

Meghan – I’ve played there a few times with other artists and always liked the vibe and thought the room sounded good. They also have a projector set up and we knew we were going to have our video set up be a big part of the show.

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Poster from Record Release Party

The new release is an EP – was this intended from the beginning? Did you ever want Ellis Bell to be a full album?

Meghan – We had a strong group of songs and thought it would be great to just get something out quickly. The first record wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be sonically, so this time around I wrote songs specific to a style of production, as opposed to try and fit a song to that style.

How would you describe the vibe of the new release? Where was your band at the time?

Meghan – I definitely think I was ready to work. When Nicole came home from the last tour and listened to the mastered album, we basically both agreed we had something special with these recordings and we should make a run of it with the band.

Ellis Bell was the pen name used by author Emily Brontë in the 19th century. What is the significance of Emily’s work on the band?

Meghan – I’m a huge nerd and love all things from the Romantic literature period. I had read Wuthering Heights and loved it. I ended up binge watching Masterpiece Theater and A&E classics and it came on one night. I got obsessed with the story; which lead to writing the song based around the plot line. I ended up researching Emily Brontë and discovering the name “Ellis Bell”.

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Emily Brontë (portrait by brother, Branwell Brontë)

The Cold and Lovely is a powerhouse of women in a rock band. Is it important to remain an all female band? How does that play into the music?

Nicole – I think it’s an exciting time for women in rock. There are a lot of all female bands right now (HAIM, Savages, Warpaint, etc.) and it feels like a resurgence to me, because when I was a teenager I was really into Riot Grrrl and that played a huge role in why I became a musician. If I can inspire one young girl to play music then I feel like I’ve done my job. Nothing is more heartwarming to me than someone telling me I am one of the reasons they picked up the bass – especially girls. Rock and roll is still a male dominated world and I feel really good that I have been able to claim my stake in it. I want other girls and women to feel empowered in that way. That’s why we want to keep The Cold and Lovely all women and why we are so involved in Rock Camp for Girls.

Speaking of women in music, how do you feel about Miley Cyrus’ recent controversy to include Sinead O’Connor’s open letter rejecting “prostitution” in music? Is it okay to be a woman in rock and be sexually provocative?

Meghan – I think it’s ok to be sexually expressive as a woman. Where I get lost is the fact that we are dealing with a young woman who has grown up as a role model to young girls. Miley’s choices are her own, but they kind of bum me out because I think she should have a sense of responsibility to a bigger community than just girls that are comfortable being overtly sexual. Madonna also had amazing songs and style. To me, Miley is trying to shock people and I just think she’s boring – but that’s my own opinion. Give me a great song and then take your clothes off or leave them on…

The Cold and Lovely is still fairly underground, but you have a very strong and committed fan base. Can you attribute that to any one thing in particular – perhaps everyone’s history in some very iconic bands?

Nicole – I think it doesn’t hurt that we are all seasoned veterans; it piques people’s interest for sure. And I think there are a lot of Smashing Pumpkins fans out there who wouldn’t have necessarily heard of us otherwise. I am so grateful for all of [their] continued support in my projects outside of Smashing Pumpkins. But I think ultimately the music speaks for itself. Maybe people are drawn to it because of the names attached, but they keep listening because it’s solid music. I am confident in saying that. ; )

How did you meet all the members of The Cold and Lovely? How did your band come to fruition? Meghan mentioned “Not with Me”, at the show, as something that you wrote together which convinced her to start a band. Is it that simple?

Nicole – Meg and I met through mutual musician friends about six years ago. I listened to some of the demos she had on her computer and was astounded that she hadn’t released any of them yet. Around the time I joined Smashing Pumpkins, she decided to start working on those demos and wanted to do a proper recording of them. I said I wanted to be involved as much as I could because I loved the songs so much. We met Patty at Rock Camp for Girls; where we all volunteer. Soon after, we got into the studio and recorded our first self titled LP.

Who do you consider, as a group, to be some major influences on your musical style? Reversely, who do you consider to be very relevant in today’s competitive, evolving, and oft watered-down climate?

Meghan and Nicole – The Cure, Led Zeppelin, Heart, PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine. Listing relevant artists is tough to approach. We love a lot of “newer” bands like Radiohead, Silversun Pickups, Arcade Fire, St. Vincent, Tegan & Sara, etc. There’s also tons of amazing new music out there, but there’s also lots of crap. It almost takes more effort now to find your new favorite band in a sea of home recordings and/or people being able to post their music everywhere independently. I miss being able to go into record stores and browse and listen or check out “Staff pick”.

You personally played a Fender for a very long time and switched over to a Reverend. At the show, Meghan mentioned having some guitars custom made. Do you also have custom basses? Which do you prefer? Live vs. studio make any difference?

Nicole – Yes, I’ve been playing Fender since I was 14 years old. My first bass was a white Fender Jazz and it got stolen out of my car within the first week of moving to LA (note to self: never leave an instrument in your car in downtown). I am also playing both the Justice and the Decision basses by Reverend now; both of which I adore. And I recently got a beautiful bass from my friend, Lindz McKay, who builds replicas of vintage guitars. He built one for me that mimics an early 70’s jazz bass and I fell in love with it. His company is Bonneville Guitars. I really love [playing] Reverend with Smashing Pumpkins because they’re super punchy and cut through the wall of guitars. The Bonneville is great with The Cold and Lovely because it’s got a warmer tone. I mostly used a ’62 Fender Jazz on Oceania because you can’t beat the sound of a vintage guitar on a recording; but I don’t like to travel with expensive gear. On Ellis Bell I used a Fender Mustang with totally dead strings for that smooth, yet dirty, tone.

You responded once on a Twitter Q&A to having liked cassettes; especially because of the mix tape aspect. Did you ever make one or were you ever the recipient of one? Do you remember the songs?

Nicole – Someone made a mix tape for me right before I moved out to LA from Massachusetts, and I loved it so much that I listened to it all the way across the country in my U-Haul. The songs became my anthems for one of the biggest steps I ever made in my life. My favorite was “The Bluest Eyes in Texas”, the Nina Persson version. I still think a mix tape is one of the best gifts you can give someone you care about, because it gives them a peek at what songs have personally inspired you, and, if you choose the right songs, gives them an idea of what they mean to you. ; )

Feedbands.com is a website that is subscription based and releases one vinyl EP/LP per month. Do you enjoy the medium and are you a subscriber? Is The Cold and Lovely pursing a release through Feedbands?

Nicole – I think it’s an incredible way for new bands to get people interested in their music. Basically, you submit your songs to Feedbands, and if they dig them, they let their subscribers vote for whether or not they will print your vinyl. Once a month they print vinyl for whoever got the most votes and ship them out to their subscribers. So as a subscriber, you get a new vinyl in the mail each month from a band that you voted on! We are in the running to have our vinyl printed right now (we only have CDs/digital available at the moment). You can sign up for a free trial period and vote for us. After that I believe it is $14.95 a month. Not bad for vinyl lovers!

SPfreaks is very dedicated to collecting and preserving the legacy of musical output. Is there anything The Cold and Lovely find yourselves collecting?

Nicole – Shoes and VHS tapes.
Meghan – Rocks and music gear.

Check out five songs played live at the Record Release Party!

For more information on tours and releases available by The Cold and Lovely, please visit their website. SPfreaks would like to thank Nicole and Meghan for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer a few fan questions and wish them good luck with the new EP!

If you are going to be in the Los Angeles area on October 30th, why not stop by the Viper Room to see The Cold and Lovely play live?  Tickets available here.

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The Smashing Pumpkins 25th Anniversary Party at Madame ZuZu’s

Article and images by Geo Folkers

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When Billy Corgan announced a few weeks ago that no official celebration was planned for the 25th Anniversary of Smashing Pumpkins playing live gigs, there was one fan of the band called Matt Sams that felt like ‘this ain’t gonna happen!’.

And when Saturday, October 5th, 2013, marked the spot as being the exact date 25 years after the Smashing Pumpkins took the stage as the first four-piece line up at the Metro, Chicago (IL) in 1988, a plan was born in Matt’s head. And when it all came together last weekend, Madame ZuZu’s Teashop in Highland Park (IL), was the ultimate place to be for a Smashing Pumpkins Fan Event never seen before in the bands’ fandom history.

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Sales awards corner

It all started when Matt posted his ideas on the Forum of the Smashing Pumpkins website, and soon other fans applauded at the idea of organizing a Fan Event in Chicago (IL). Madama ZuZu’s, the Corgan-owned teahouse, was hired, artists were approached for playing live music, poetry reading and trivia games were planned, Smashing Pumpkins inspired art was supposed to be created, SPfreaks members were contributing parts of their memorabilia collections for a rare-Smashing-Pumpkins-items-exhibition, an anniversary cake was organized, and more. Online flyers for the fan event were made and spread around, and when even the Smashing Pumpkins used their highly anticipated social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to highlight this fan-organized event, there was nothing standing in the way anymore of a remarkable and joyful day for the fans of our favorite band.

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‘bat strat’ guitar replica and Machina / The Machines Of God era items

And it all happened as planned. Live music was played in several sessions during the day by Matt Sams himself, who performed “El Sol”, “Eye”, “Lily (My One And Only)”, “Soma” and “To Sheila”, and by Greg Bates(*), who performed “1979”. Together Greg and Matt performed “Today” and “Cherub Rock”, and both artists had the audience singing along to those longtime Smashing Pumpkins fan favorites.

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Greg Bates (left) and Matt Sams (right)

Between the acoustic gigs by Greg and Matt, another Smashing Pumpkins fan, Joy Goscinski, versed multiple Blinking with Fists poems. Then, the trivia games were a lot of fun with many laughs. Crayons, colored pencils, and paper were left out on the tables in Madame ZuZu’s Teahouse for coloring Smashing Pumpkins inspired art. And at some point, ZuZu’s even contributed an anniversary cake by surprise! Meanwhile, Matt Sams, being the organizer and host of the event, did a great job on keeping things moving.

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“The Everlasting Gaze” video guitar

As said, SPfreaks had a grand opportunity to set up and show some really rare Smashing Pumpkins memorabilia that showcased the musical history of the band. These memorabilia included one of the original props from the Grammy awarded “Tonight, Tonight” music video (a moon), and several fans took the one-of-kind opportunity to have themselves being photographed with the life-size video prop. Also on exhibit was Billy Corgan’s “Everlasting Gaze” music video guitar, a fan-made replica “bat strat” guitar, rare vinyl and demo tapes from the early days of Smashing Pumpkins, tour posters, a huge collection of career-defining CDs of the band, and several Gold and Platinum sales awards that the band had earned while building their musical legacy.

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Billy Corgan on Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

Then, at around 8:30 PM, a ‘surprise’ visit from Mr. Billy Corgan himself came next! He brought with him an original “Zero” shirt, one of the Gish album guitars, a set of antique photos that had inspired him during the creation of the monumental Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness album, and the original artwork of the Machina / The Machines Of God album. He shared these artifacts with the gathered fans with joy, and surrounded the items with many personal stories and great musical visions. Next to this, he brought ten prizes that he personally gave away to some lucky fans during another trivia round with-a-twist. Who had thought that we were allowed to ask Billy Corgan questions about his musical career, and then, when he didn’t know the exact answer, he would give a prize to the person who brought in the question. One of the questions to Billy, for example, was how many live performances the Smashing Pumpkins had done since 1988 to date. Since Billy didn’t know the answer precisely (being a little over 1,250), he gave away a copy of the Adore vinyl!

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Billy Corgan on Machina / The Machines Of God

Matt Sams, who performed some Smashing Pumpkins songs while Billy Corgan was watching, would later declare: “It was kinda nerve-wracking to perform SP covers in front of Billy… I was afraid he was gonna come up to me and say: Wrong chord… nope… wrong again… YOU’RE RUINING MY SONG!!! lol”. However, that didn’t happen, and at the end of the night, fans left in great spirits, joining for photographs with Billy and his guitar, meanwhile holding the original “Zero” shirt that he had brought, and sharing many stories of how the art and music of Smashing Pumpkins had affected so many lives.

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We would like to close this article with a big thank you to Matt Sams for bringing this fan event to life. Another thank you goes to Madame ZuZu’s Teahouse for hosting this event, and welcoming all visitors during the day. And thank you to the performers, being Greg Bates, Matt Sams, and Joy Goscinski. Also thanks to Linda Dodge, for all her help, and several fan outlets “out there” for contributing prizes to the trivia games.

And last but certainly not least, a big thank you also goes to Mr. Billy Corgan for taking the time to attend this fan event, meanwhile sharing so many personal anecdotes that were unknown to the fans so far. It was the icing on the cake of a really great day, a day that was highly anticipated on social media worldwide, and a day that many must have felt sorry to have missed in person!

(*) Greg Bates played with Billy Corgan in a band called Coat Of Eyes around 1984, and when Coat Of Eyes called it quits, Billy would play in a band called The Marked. After The Marked ended, Smashing Pumpkins was raised in 1987 by Billy Corgan and James Iha. Greg and Billy are still friends.

Please enjoy some more pics of the event:

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The Media Corner at ZuZu’s

 

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“Tonight, Tonight” video prop (moon)

 

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Billy Corgan drawing

 

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The Madame ZuZu’s Teahouse anniversary cake

 

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Billy Corgan signing a sales award

 

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The guys having a good time!