Erica Nockalls – The John Robb Interview
EN2 Album Reviews
EN2 IS THE SECOND STUDIO ALBUM FROM ERICA NOCKALLS, SELF-RELEASED, NOV 2014.
“We’re swimming in a sea of music from talented and exceptional musicians. Separating that sea of talent from possible audiences is a wall of music business, which is not interested in talent, just saleability. So what does a creative muso have to do to scale that barrier with morals and music intact? Think hard, for a start.
Erica Nockalls is an exceptional musician who works across a large range of styles. She is in demand as a fiddle player. She’s clearly studied the lie of the land, and spotted a few ways forward.
In fact there are lots of plays to make. You can go with image. You can work social media. You can go cute. You can go howling and savage. You can go with terrific songs. You can go with inspirational musicianship. You can mix styles. You can go with unnerving, in your face, blunt honesty. You can go with unsparingly hard production. You can build a following, step by step. And you can go, unswervingly, where your heart leads you.
I’m not saying Erica has deliberately worked all these elements, but it feels like it. This is not one of those off the cuff instinctual albums – Nockalls has put a LOT of thought and heart in her second album. For all that, it’s extremely accomplished and consistent, bursting with bared teeth creativity. Nor is it all savage and confrontational: there’s a song of love on the album (Five Star Review) that, if Nockalls is not careful, could get picked up and thrashed to an inch of its life by some nightmare howling schlock balladeer.
Nockalls has made a serious investment here. I’d take a listen if I were you. Take several listens. It’s well worth it. There’s more than enough to catch and seduce. I can see Erica Nockalls performing these songs to huge, adoring audiences. Catch her now, and marvel when she busts those music biz barriers down.”
Review by Robin Valk.
Robin is a radio veteran who now blogs at www.radiotogo.com
“EN2″… A f### you, to the music industry, an example of resourcefulness, commitment, skill, talent, and drive… and some songs.
Imminent Room is EN’s debut album… EN2 starts with more of this heterotopian analysis.
“Weight Of The Nation” reflects on the society’s repetitive grind for money followed by the almighty booze fuelled blowout at the end of the week. It’s an upbeat, lively, feel good, energetic sounding piece; with that iconic Nockalls “Cut Them Out” fiddle riffage. I once described Erica as the Slash of the violin world, and she’s shredding the hell out of EN2’s opener.
Years ago I couldn’t afford to have the blown head gasket fixed on my truck, so I learnt how and did it myself. Same story here. If Erica were to multiply the hours spent working on EN2 by even the cheapest of studio rates, the pound sign would have multiple zeros after it. I had some spanners and borrowed a torque wrench; Erica had a computer with Logic Pro, and borrowed a nice microphone. EN2 is an example of how the right kind of mindset and determination to learn and develop skills, can produce a top quality piece of work. It’s not often you see creative, artistic types, having the techy nerdy scientific mindset to comfortably get their heads around Pro Tools / Logic Pro, pre amps, audio interfaces, acoustics, microphones, gain structure, EQ, compression…. blah blah; all high value niche skills. This record is 99% Erica Nockalls, written, performed, programmed, recorded, produced and mixed. 1% outside help. Impressive.
“64 Backwards Teeth” features more driven guitar chuggery, and distorted Goth backing vocal. Chuck in some twinkly xylophone, choral synths, and quirky electronic effects… you know, just like, errm, no one. Uncategorisable.
Other bands would have by now re mortgaged and sold a kidney each to pay for studio hours, they’ve got their 10 tracks, now they’ve got to get it mastered, and if you want to press CD’s really you have to do a thousand to make it worthwhile, and there’s all the artwork and graphic design. Now this stuff does cost money, so how to fund it? Pre orders of the album, and knock out some paintings, that’s how. Could I have done this, no, as far as I know I can’t paint, but even if I could I don’t have the advantage of a fan base to sell anything to. As violinist for The Wonder Stuff, Proclaimers and Fink, there is a following of devoted fans who will buy stuff, so make some quality stuff, setup a pre order system your own website, and make a few quid to pay for this stuff… is what she did. An advantageous position to be in for sure, but it has been earned through years of hard musical graft… oh, and she can paint!
Trance synth, electro dance kick and snare are the basis of “Freight”. Intro’d by a choral, cathedral of vocals, an electro synth fires up and remains throughout. The effective simplicity holds up an arrangement of vocal harmonies that fills the rest of the sonic space that demands the listener’s interest. “5 Star Review” welcomes you with warm synths then an interesting piano arrangement, it’s a straight forward song, but with elements of strings and bass cleverly introduced, leading to a wonderfully arranged instrumental bridge, building into the anthem of heart felt vocals. The classical training shines through here, with arrangements complimenting each of the instruments, with an icing of exquisite violin performances.
ITunes, Spotify, Amazon… No. You can only buy EN2 from www.ericanockalls.com. Nockalls believes music has value, and financial value, and that once digitised and replicated across the Internet, its value is taken away. Free music streaming and downloading has made the financial value of a record, well, zero. U2’s recent antics was the nail in the coffin, and the only winners are the corrupt major players in the record industry.
“Yours Still Stinks”, it’s metal but its approachable. Military metal guitar chugs with the occasional Zak Wilde squeal, double kick drum, and a Steve Vai (Fire Garden Suite) kind of solo. Just what you’d expect from a classically trained violinist, right! The metal and industrial edge features heavily in EN2, but with the approachability of dynamics, well-constructed songs, and a catchy pop element. It’s not a heavy record but the elements of power really punch out.
How to promote EN2 then? Who will buy it without hearing it? Fans at gigs, but you need the record to be out there, to get the gigs… right? I dunno? What we do know, is that the record / music industry stinks. “Yours Still Stinks”, is about that, Erica’s pissed off, and you can hear it. There’s a dig a MTV and the BBC. Sarcastically, “Maybe I should have tried harder with my melodies,” she rhetorically asks.
“Second Hand Black Hole” opens with a harrowing traumatic repetitive machine like vocal. A dance track with industrial pop. It captures a tension and you can feel it if you choose to, or you can just groove with the pop’ness. Another conflict of genres that works so well.
I’d love to hear a version of this record with real, live recorded, massive drums and bass, and with a huge filthy Marshall stack guitar sound, for me, personally, that’s what’s lacking. Perhaps if Erica used the rhythm section from Nine Inch Nails or Ministry, it would have sounded too metal and would lose its pop accessibility, or it may have been an almighty industrial ballet, we’ll never know. For me though the drum samples feel a little programmed and synthetic, but with such production constraints, it’s a harsh thing to criticise, and it’s the song that is more important than the sonics. The vocal and violin performance and sound are superb throughout. We know she can play a fiddle, but for me the key to this record is the vocal arrangements, harmonies like an orchestral string section that communicates the message, tells the story, and conveys emotion while doing it. There is an overwhelming honesty and openness in the songs, it’s genuine, and you can hear it.
Maybe it’s “Art Metal, Industrial Pop”… Yeah, I’ll go with that.
Review by Edward Bol, Neon Hearts
Following her excellent debut Imminent Room was always going to be a big ask, especially for someone as musically downright busy as Erica Nockalls, yet her second solo outing EN2 arrives barely a year later and not only matches the depth and craft of Imminent Room, it represents a great step forward in Erica’s songcraft and musicianship that shouldn’t really be possible in such a short time.
Riff-heavy and underscored by drum beats that would have John Bonham purring, EN2 is a powerful statement of driving rhythms and vocal hooks that sear into the memory, yet these only serve to underscore Erica’s strength as a highly talented lyricist and crafter of delicate melodies. Her wordplay draws in the listener, betrays a deep feel for the English language and often verges on the playful (EN2 contains possibly the only use of the phrase ‘sixty-four backwards teeth’ in the entire history of recorded music, for example). This combination of the thunderous and the intimate is an extraordinarily difficult thing to pull off, but Erica achieves it consistently across the entire album.
The standout track for me is the symphonic ‘5 Star Review’ with its intricate harmonies, soaring fiddle lines, expansive arrangement and constantly-changing tempo, but there’s not a single weak song or filler here. The final cut, ‘Second Hand Black Hole’, references Erica’s debut in the line, “You’ve left the safety of the Imminent Room”. There was nothing safe about that album and EN2 pushes the boundaries of Erica’s creativity further than ever. More, please.
Review by Charlie Connelly, Author.
Twitter – @charlieconnelly
It’s early October, I am sitting waiting with great anticipation for my EN2 album to drop through the letterbox, thinking what will Erica come up with this time after the success of the debut album “Imminent Room”. To be honest, I never expected what I was about to hear, but boy was I impressed!
Erica Nockalls is back, the Conservatoire trained Violinist and multi-instrumentalist returns to entertain us with her second album, EN2. The album has it all, smooth indulging tracks that gently take you on a magical journey to the gothic rock and in your face intriguing dark pop art music of Erica’s unique underground wonderland world that is EN2, crying out for you to come inside and play.
The album races along effortlessly opening with the heartbeat track “Weight Of The Nation”. Erica immediately grips you with her haunting violins that bend your ears closer towards the speakers in anticipation of what pleasures are still to be experienced. After the first two tracks, you take a breath only to hear the dark and ballsy ballads of “Blatherskites” and “Arrows + Gods” that will have the hair on your arms standing up in awe of knowing you are listening to something special.“64 Backwards Teeth” is a terrifyingly good track that you could imagine playing along in the background of a cool Hollywood thriller.
The pinnacle spotlight of the EN2 experience is “5 Star Review”. If you close your eyes you can imagine the arty backdrop setting of a stadium stage, with the white Grand Piano and candles burning as Erica, and her band act out their own unique version of some dark fairytale that grips the audience. The album rolls on with equally good tunes working it’s way to the climax “Second Hand Black Hole” where you will find yourself hitting that repeat button to hear the album once more.
I truly thought that after Imminent Rooms debut, the next chapter may be a little difficult to achieve, but gladly I’m proven totally wrong as this album is graphically and musically a delight to own.
Sit back, listen, and take in the sheer genius of the lyrics as you witness the start of what could be a very long and successful era for Erica Nockalls’s solo career.
In a World of politically correct processed bands of karaoke singers, it’s not only refreshing to hear Erica Nockalls, but it also makes you proud that there are still musicians that show true unique and exquisite talent. Long may it continue, roll on album number 3, 4 etc!!!!
Review by Alan Hackney
EN2 is the work of brave empowerment – an artist laid bare – stripped of corporate mechanics, much to her own credit.
‘Weight of The Nation’ is the irresistible opener. Resistance hereon in is rather futile. Undeniably, the most instantly accessible track, augmented with building, rebel-rousing guitar riffs and freak-out, knee’s-up dance intervals. WOTN is my kind of perfect pop with a fabulous empathetic, lyrical refrain – ‘I can feel what you’re going through, Great Britain – work, work, fuck, play’. In WOTN, Erica proposes both problem and solution to our secular world. The only solution? Total self-obliteration. Now, that’s what I call therapy.
Over the course of the subsequent ten tracks, you’re on an aural fairground attraction, in pitch dark. You’ve absolutely no idea if you’ll be audio assaulted (‘Yours Still Stinks’) or gently caressed (‘5 Star Review’). At times, uplifting. Others times, dark and disturbing. You cannot anticipate the twists and turns, ups and downs ahead. And much like a ride – you don’t want to.
For me, ‘We Send Out Conduits’ hits the album’s dizzy heights. Epic in scope and intelligently written, lyrics state that “Energy is law”. Similarly, ‘Arrows and Gods’ is reminiscent of Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Troy’ – stirring and dramatic in its orchestration.
But I adore ‘Freight’. It doesn’t remind me of any other artist – which is exactly why I love it. Confident in doubt, Erica delivers gorgeous vocal harmonies over a simple backing track. Funny how sincerity always knows best.
EN2 is a remarkable testimony of the raw, creative prowess that is Erica Nockalls – an artist clearly in her own right. No validation from others is required. Free from such restraints it is, most likely, exactly why EN2 works so darn well, exceeding any preconceptions or prior expectations. And met with much approval – whether Erica wants it, or not.
Review by Jim Swindles
“…KICKING AND SCREAMING WITH ALMOST RIOT GIRL ANGST AND OFF KILTER GUITAR LINES.” – Uber Rock
“…JUST AS BEAUTIFUL AS TORI AMOS BREAKTHROUGH ALBUM LITTLE EARTHQUAKES.” – Liverpool Sound & Vision
“ERICA NOCKALLS STRIKES AN IMPOSING PRESENCE ON THE ROCK CITY STAGE. THINK PART ALICE IN WONDERLAND CHIC, MAYBE PART BRIGETTE NIELSEN IN ‘BEVERLY HILLS COP 2’, BUT WITHOUT DOUBT, ALL PARTS ROCK STAR!” – Rock N Rose
“IT IS VERY DIFFERENT AND CONSISTENTLY INTRIGUING.” – Indie London
“WE COULD SEE SOMETHING VERY BIG FROM HER INDEED” – Stereo Board
“DARK AND DISTURBING UNDERTONES AT PLAY THROUGHOUT” – Get Ready To Rock
“…A VERY REWARDING JOURNEY.” – Fatea Records
“…A FANTASTIC MIX OF DARK POP AND CLASSICAL FLOURISHES…THIS IS A PLEASURE OF AN ALBUM.” – Louder Than War
Click on the green links below for the full interview:
R2 Rock N Reel Magazine album review – July 2013
Fatea Records album review – April 2013
Kit Tinsley live + album review – April 2013
Radio To Go interview – April 2013
Louder Than War album review – March 2013
Liverpool Sound and Vision album review – February 2013
Spacerock album review – January 2013
Uber Rock – November 2012
Digital Press Kit
For the EN Digital Press Kit, please click here.