The Cold and Lovely is an LA based alt-rock, shoegaze duo comprised of Nicole Fiorentino and Meghan Toohey. Between the two of them they have some of the most rock solid resumes around town. Nicole famously played bass for The Smashing Pumpkins and as well toured with Veruca Salt and Spinnerette, while Toohey played with The Weepies, Lenka and Schuyler Fisk. Since joining forces they’ve put out three albums, the most recent of which, What Will I Become, was just released at the end of January. Oh and did I mention they’re married?
images by Misty Michelle Photography
Nicole and Meghan took the time to answer some of my questions on their project, their new album and, for the first time ever publicly, their marriage.
AfterEllen.com: Can you tell us just a little about how The Cold And Lovely came to be?
Nicole Fiorentino: When Meg and I first started hanging out, she was a session guitarist and producer, and I was playing bass for The Smashing Pumpkins. Meg played me all of these demos she had recorded and I was blown away. It had been years since she had released any music of her own, and here were all these incredible songs just wasting away on the computer. I was like, “You need to record these and get them out into the world! Also, how can I be involved in this project?” It was around the same time that we met Patty Schemel at Rock n Roll Camp for Girls LA and began playing with her. I was in Sedona, AZ writing with the Pumpkins when Meg came out to visit me. She ended up staying there with me for a month in a cabin on the side of a mountain, and this is where the first TC&L album came to be. I would leave during the day to go work on the SP record with Billy [Corrigan] and when I would get back at night, Meg would play me what she had been working on that day. When we got back to LA, Patty laid down some drums and that recording became the self titled The Cold and the Lovely.
AE: I’ve noticed that a lot, if not all, of the press I’ve read on the both of you highlights your very impressive rosters of previous projects. And after having had an opportunity to listen through your recently released album, What Will I Become, your musicianship is obvious, but the sound is all your own. How would you categorize the kind of music you’re making now with The Cold And Lovely?
MT: For me, the sound of the band sort of grew out of the fact that I was playing with a bunch of “folk” artists and singer songwriters. As much as I love the artists I work with, I felt like I wasn’t really able to branch out from getting those kind of gigs and playing a certain style of guitar. I have always really been drawn to more ambient rock and pop bands like Radiohead, PJ Harvey, The Cure, My Bloody Valentine, and this project gave me a chance to play with those sounds and play the kind of music that I really love.
AE: Can you tell us a little about the process and evolution of this record?
MT: Both of us, as musicians, have been facing up to what’s happening in the music industry. It’s definitely getting harder and harder to survive with touring being so expensive and less and less revenue coming in from music sales. When Nicole was cut from the Pumpkins, it was rough to see her go through the fallout. One night you are on stage in front of thousands of people and flying around the world, and the next you are trying to figure how to pay rent. Imagine what that does to your identity! I also lost a family member in a tragic accident during the writing of this record and wrote “The Omen” about trying to move forward in our own lives and kind of pondering death and the idea of reincarnation. Most of the songs on What Will I Become are about transition of all kinds.
AE: Now onto some of the good old fashioned fun gay stuff. I know that the two of you are married, so first of all hand clap emoji to you both. Secondly, what is it like for the two of you to be out and open in the music community?
NF: Thanks for the hand clap emoji! Yes, Meg and I got married in March of 2012, before it was legal in CA—such rebels. We are both from Massachusetts, so we got married there in a courthouse and then had a big ceremony and party here in LA. Thankfully, it became legal here in 2013 so at this point we are “legit.”
As for being out in the music community, I personally have never made any statement that I am married to a woman. So officially, this is the first interview we have ever done in regards to our marriage. It’s actually pretty exciting to me! For many years the way that I looked at it was it’s really no one’s business who I am with. If someone asked, obviously I would talk about it, but I’ve never been one to bring up my personal life. I guess I felt like I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into being a queer musician. I didn’t want to be liked or disliked based on my sexuality. But things have shifted a bit for me and I think it’s really important as a public figure to just be completely open and proud of who I am.
Being queer is not all of who I am, but it is a huge part of my life. And I feel like if I can help one other person in this world feel just a little more comfortable in their own skin, then it is worth discussing my personal life. I remember when I was in high school and worshipped Hole, there was an interview with Patty Schemel where she casually talked about her girlfriend, and I remember thinking how cool it was that she didn’t make a big deal out of it. It was really inspiring to me, and I hope that by talking about my life I can inspire just one person to do the same.
AE: How do you think your sexuality has shaped your career as musicians?
MT: I don’t think being gay or being a gay woman makes a difference. Maybe at certain points in my life it’s bothered me to be labeled as queer musician or it’s even hurt my ability to land gigs because of the fact that I “look” gay (whatever that means, and yes, it’s happened). I have really let go of a lot of that stuff. It’s just how Hollywood behaves and it’s dumb. One minute they are telling you you’ve got an edge and the next minute you’re “too dykey.” It could eat you alive if you let it. Nicole and I have very different looks and embrace sexuality in very different ways. I think that’s a strength for us. We are a girl band because we are girls.
AE: What does visibility mean to the two of you as queer artists and what are your feelings on artists that you know who choose to remain silent in light of their own sexuality?
NF: I have no judgement towards artists who remain silent about their sexuality. I think it’s a very personal issue and we should respect everyone’s individual experiences. The whole time I was in the Smashing Pumpkins, I was very vocal about my feelings on gay rights, but I never discussed it in terms of my own experiences. I just wasn’t ready at that point for my own reasons. So I feel empathy for other artists who are going through their own process. It takes time, and everyone is going at their own pace. I am grateful for the brave public figures who came out long before my time and paved the path, but they also had their own process.
AE: What does having a queer audience mean to you?
NF: I am grateful to appeal to ANY audience! I think if people identify with us on a queer level, and can find something to relate to in our music based on that, fantastic. If they identify based on us being women, fantastic. If they just straight up love our sound, perfect. The more ways you can engage an audience, the better. That’s what I love about Tegan and Sara. You have these extremely talented queer twin sisters who have crossed over into the mainstream and even though their original audience may have been primarily lesbians, they are now just pop stars who happen to be gay and appeal to so many different kinds of audiences. I think that is the ultimate goal with The Cold and Lovely, to appeal to everyone regardless of our sexuality or gender.
AE: Where do you find that you both draw inspiration from in relation to your own art?
NF: I think I tend to draw from personal experiences in life, ones that have burrowed deep into my psyche and ones that are very surface, like that rock I found on my hike the other day. I think Meg would say the same. Meg, thoughts?
MT: Same, but I wouldn’t say that thing about the rock.
AE: What have the two of you been listening to recently that maybe we should check out?
NF: I’ve been listening to a lot of St. Vincent, Bessie Smith and my classical Indian Pandora station. Yes, I still listen to Pandora, not Spotify.
MT: I like the new Blonde Redhead, Blake Mills, the new Sleater-Kinney, whatever Nicole is listening to in the other room. I’m always listening to music—all types.
AE: What comes next for the two of you, musically and in general?
NF: We are so excited to be performing at the Cumbre Tajin Festival in Verucruz, Mexico in March with The Flaming Lips, Incubus and Sean Lennon‘s band, The Goastt. I played the festival in 2013 with the Pumpkins and it was incredible. It’s on the grounds of ancient Totonac ruins and pyramids. When I was there last time, I met the Totonac elders and received a blessing from them. It’s really a beautiful, special place. This will be the Cold and Lovely’s first time in Mexico! I am also going to be playing bass for Night Terrors of 1927 for part of their tour with the Bleachers, which will include Coachella, so that’s exciting!
MT: I’m going to be touring the US this summer with The Weepies and their three kids on a bus. Fourteen people, one bus! We’d love to play more TC&L gigs if the right ones come up.
AE: Can you tell us one thing about each other that we wouldn’t be able to find out through intensive internet “research”?
NF: Meg is severely allergic to cats and I am a crazy cat lady. I found a three week old kitten, sick and dying in the streets of Hollywood last year and I brought him home to “foster” him. Cut to one year later, Thom Yorke the cat is alive and well, frisky as ever, and is the king of the castle. I’ve never seen Meg so head-over-heels in love with an animal. Marriage is all about compromise!
MT: Nicole wears the pants.