Interview: Nitroville

They like to rock and they know how to do it. A short introduction for a band which introduced itself pretty well in the next few lines, as you’ll notice under the cut. Nitroville blend rock and blues, and you can get it from their debut album ‘Can’t Stop What’s Comin’. Enjoy a long chat with Tola Lamont (Vocals) and Kurt-Michael Boeck (Guitars) about female vocalists, ‘traditional’ rock and broken heels.

You’ve been described as a hard rock band, and this is clearly proven by both the instrumental and vocal parts.  Which bands influenced your sound the most?

KM:  There are many influences that come together in our album Can’t Stop What’s Comin’, bands as well as films and books. On the band side, bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, early ZZTop, Aerosmith –  on songs like Let it Roll.  Sabbath, Led Zeppelin on other tracks.  It’s not a mish mash of classic rock styles on our album, but evidently these bands could pull it off without an array of effects live and in the studio.  We’re confident in our musical ability, so this is what we believe in.  Also, films and books like No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy certainly left a mark on our album to the extent that the front cover image was taken by me in West Texas, exactly in the area where part of the film was shot.

Tola:  I definitely think we managed to capture a certain atmosphere and vibe on the whole album from the influences that Kurt Michael has already spoken about.  Some reviewers totally ‘got’ this.  A couple didn’t, possibly because they didn’t give it a long enough listen….to suss out where we are coming from or they just didn’t like it because it was slightly old school with the influences, that’s fine, in fact, that’s kind of our point!  We’re not worried about being the next fashionable trend!

To which extent is your music blues and in which way is it more rock-oriented?

KM:  It depends who you speak to, a Blues musician would tell you its Rock and nothing but Rock, whereas a Metalhead calls it Blues.  Essentially, Rock came from Blues.  We are a Blues driven Hard Rock act and that means the Blues is still traceable.  Hence, NitroVille is American in its musical roots and not Wagner and Bach interpreted with fast metal guitar licks a la an artist like Yngwie Malmsteen.

Tola:  Yes, it goes back to influences also I guess.  The vast majority of my musical and vocal influences are American Blues and Rock, so this is what was created between us.

What can we expect from your début album ‘Can’t Stop What’s Comin’?

KM:  Rock solid musicianship, power vocals paired up with lyrical story-telling. We didn’t want to compromise as we thought we are only as strong as the weakest link.  Therefore, we only invited reputable musicians and engineers into taking part in our album.  We believe it’s consistent, conceptually as well as in its execution, from the song writing to the arrangement, to the recording, to the minute arrangement of highly expensive vintage microphones at Fortress Studios, over to the mastering by Metropolis in London. All top notch and it cost us a buck, but hey, there you go, if you want to do it, do it right all the way.

Tola:  A lot of people have described it as ‘good car driving with the roof top down in the summer/motorbike riding music’!  This is really cool!  There are a few songs on the album relating to journeys, be it personal or fictional story telling, (without wanting to sound cliché!) so it means that people are buying into the vibe of it.

Can your music be described as some more ‘traditional’ rock, lacking of effects and synth and relying on the pure power of voice and instruments?

KM:  It’s not so much a lack rather than a deliberate absence of effects as there wasn’t a need for them due to the level of everybody’s musical ability.  If you are a strong vocalist, well, we tried adding effects in the studio and it didn’t make it better, worse in fact,  if in doubt, just leave it out, less is more, even in Rock’n’Roll.  Thing is, you need to know your shit and not break out in sweat when on stage or in the studio.

Tola:  Kurt-Michael has a “strictly no pedals” policy, “Pedals are for Pussies” is his motto!   His guitar playing is very varied, consisting of different tunings, thumb-harmonics, all done by his fingers and a plectrum, plus pure amp distortion.  Who can pull this off these days?  Not that many that we know of.  I actually wanted to layer up the main vocals with some harmonies, in fact, we had just a tiny little barney over this as he disagreed!!  In the end, he did have a good point that this was something we could not reproduce live.  So you will hear just main vocal lines with no harmony backing vocals apart from one track, Coming On Strong (where I got my way)!  Also, a few backing vocals from KM on Dust Devil and Mississippi Wide Boy, (I made him get in the vocal booth and work hard)!

Now we come to a pretty controversial but still definitely interesting question I’d like to ask. What do you think about all the bias based on a female fronted rock band?

KM:  Times are great for female hard rock singers, I heard a couple of young guys recently commenting on a classic Van Halen track, I think it was Running With The Devil, saying the singer sounds gay. It wouldn’t have struck my mind, but it explains all the screamo male front men in Metal these days.  It seems in some cases men aren’t allowed to sing properly anymore without being associated with for example, say, Rob Halford of Priest. That of course opens up great possibilities for female fronted bands.

Tola: There are a lot more female fronted rock bands out there now than there ever used to be and great ones too!  In my ideal world, it shouldn’t even be a subject open for discussion, it should just be a given!  There is however, still a certain stigma attached to it for sure.  If we’re talking about image, women in music or in any kind of show business are under huge amounts of pressure to look perfect!  Why?  We’re not models, we are singers and song writers!  A strong image is important in my opinion, I love creating a personal image, it’s fun, but I’m never going to look perfect, so I think that what you see is what you get and if you don’t like that, then that’s not my issue, I’m just doing my thing. I don’t feel I have to prove myself more as a female vocalist, I just say come and see us live and make your own decisions.  On a sales level, does a female vocalist sell a band more easily on the image front?  Possibly?  Really though it’s not much good if the rest of the band don’t match up.  I think NitroVille is consistent with that, in branded image on a whole, musical ability and the strength of material that we write, play and perform.

Besides that, Kurt-Michael is a self-confessed rooster so he prefers to work with female singers, it works better this way, believe me!  (We just let him think he is in control….LOL)!

Are there any other female vocalists, who influenced you as a hard rock singer?

Yes loads! I can’t list all of them we’ll be here all night – but here are some of the female artists:  Ann Wilson, Stevie Nicks, Etta James, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Grace Slick, Allanah Myles, Sheryl Crow, Lita Ford, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner (early recordings).

Writing lyrics, where do you draw them from? What inspires them?

Tola:  Depending on what’s going on in my life!  For Can’t Stop What’s Comin’ there is a definite theme going on of fictional characters with most of the tracks telling a short story.  I drew influences from books, movies etc.  The track Killing Kind was loosely based on one of my favourite films, Natural Born Killers and the track Dust Devil started off as some inspiration from Kurt Michael’s stories of driving across the desert, along the entire Mexican Border (which he did alone!) – I thought, my god, that takes balls!  What if something had gone wrong miles from anywhere?  Then I started to get this whole story line in my head about a man who was on the run from a murder, he manages to get away from the law, but supernatural events take over to bring forth his retribution!  Also, there are a couple of personal lyrics on the album, Got What It Takes and Cuts To The Bone, the latter being about lack of personal space in urban dwellings and feeling trapped about their daily routines.

Which is the aspect of live performances you enjoy the most? Do you have any interesting/embarrassing anecdote about a gig to share with us?

KM:  Live is always best.  I believe our stuff is written for the stage, for the big stage in particular, think songs like Let It Roll or Dust Devil. We pull it off well, people see that we are actual people with different personas on stage.  We add a good deal of humour into our shows, it’s how we get the crowd moving and we like to have fun!

Tola:  An embarrassing episode recently for Kurt Michael was that he nearly fell of stage when kicking his guitar cable out of the way, this was exacerbated by his snakeskin cowboy boots which have a high rounded heel and, of course, … the copious amounts of beer that he had consumed as we were on late!  Oh yes, I did laugh!  I broke my heel off once (previous band) and had to hobble around.  I felt like a proper idiot, but you just have to carry on!

How do you find the hard rock scene? Is it really dying as some people in the Net are predicting?

KM:  Keeping a self-fulfilling overly positive attitude out of the way, times are a bit meagre to say the least.  If you need six major super top acts, plus many mid-sized bands to scrape 25.000 people together for High Voltage Festival in London, then we’d like to take the view that the genre has seen better days. However, we are playing with the occasional younger band and they sound promising too.  It’s good to see that their following loves NitroVille so the death bell hasn’t quite sounded yet. Another thing in a lot of Metal these days is that it is overloaded with in your face evilness, a lot of the bands try to outdo one another in terms of badness, satanic undertones, obscene brutality etc, this whole thing, I think it’s been done to death (literally) and it becomes like watching the same Horror film over and over again, until it appears ridiculous. This is not how Hard Rock started out, think AC/DC, Skynyrd, Aerosmith, G’n’R, ZZ Top, Rose Tattoo, even Motorhead, these bands represented toughness, a bad-boy image and are loved by a much wider audience than your average keyed-in, know-all-bands Headbanger.  These classic bands are no lame shit, they totally rock and they never seem to have forgotten that you need to have a laugh. Thankfully, we meet bands that share this spirit, Hard rock doesn’t have to be depressingly negative, if we all bring Hard rock back to what’s fun about it, then I see a bright future for the genre. After all we aren’t naturally born suicidal.

Tola:  Furthermore, Kurt Michael DJ’s as “$urfinKurt” around Shoreditch in trendy places such as the Old Blue Last and Strongroom.  Believe it or not, Hard rock, especially Classic Hard rock has been a staple down there for several years now, so it’s not just Hoxton hairstyles and suits down there, but some good classic metal denim jackets as well.  Maybe a good sign.

What does the future look like for NitroVille?

KM: In one word: Bright, … capital B that is.

Tola: More songs, more studio, more blood/sweat/tears, more gigs and more partying!

Thank you so much guys, wish you all the best with your music. Check them out on Sept. 30th at ‘The Distillers’ – London, or Oct. 22nd, ‘The Old Blue Last’ – London


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