The first time i head the name 'Nikki Fierce' was in a now closed bar in downtown Toronto named the Central. The band i was in at the time was playing a show there where we met Emzy, who was working there. She told us she was in a band and if we ever needed a group to play with, give her a call. A couple months later we had the opportunity to play with them at a benefit at the same bar. There energy, presence and passion stuck me so much that years later when i was putting this project together i added them to my 'must interview'.
The bond that these girls share is amazing to witness. The energy they give off when talking about music is inspiring and true. After forming in High School, the experiences they've shared since then have made them a tight unit on stage and off. It's through a long history of trust that they are able to share experiences and problems with each other in order to write such honest music. Getting to sit down with them was a great moment and i hope some of the words they shared with me stick with you. Just before their release show for their new EP 'Man Made Woman', it was great to get back to basics with them and talk about the root of their writing.
So on a mild winter day in January, on the University of Toronto St George Campus I sat down with Bassist/Vocalist - Emzy, Guitarist/Vocalist Evangeline, and Drummer/Vocalist Claire to ask them these questions...
Inspirational Songstress: How would you describe your music?
Emzy: We’re feminist, artistic, witchy, powerful, dark, textured, gritty, bad ass, expressive and honest.
Evangeline: She basically summed it up, especially with the adjectives.
Emzy: We defiantly like to speak from our heart and describe our personal experiences through music, and lyrics.
Claire: You already said honest but, honest and raw. Which I think are two very important aspects to our music.
Evangeline: I find we tend to try and get the sound to reflect the lyrics in a way. I’m sure that’s the same for a lot of bands but, I think we especially try to focus on that and get the emotion and the musicality to feel the same as what we’re saying.
Inspirational Songstress: How would you define confidence & what does it mean to you?
Emzy: You can be yourself without second guessing, without doubting who you are. For me it means being able to write music and pushing myself to stand up for what I believe in and building myself up to who I wanna be; happy, a good person, free from constraints of societal norms and things that I don’t agree with. We’re all effected by those things so you have to be aware of it. Being confident means allowing those things to affect you but not necessarily feed into them or be altered by them. You are who you are so you got to be that and nothing else.
Claire: I think that for me I struggle with a lot of fake confidence. I think that stems from when I’m having the most insecurities and then I’ll project that and become cocky. I find what confidence is to me is when I can be surrounded by amazing, beautiful, talented, successful people and still be encouraged and feel like motivated by that and also comfortable with myself.
Evangeline: I feel like they summed it up so much. But what confidence means to me personally? I think a lot of it would have to do with letting go of inhibitions. Especially in terms of being a woman and having a lot of pressures on how you’re supposed to look, how you’re supposed to act and basically getting beyond that. Acknowledging that you’re going to feel these things but getting past that.
Inspirational Songstress: Do you feel more confident on stage or off?
Claire: I think that’s tricky! It’s almost a different energy on stage.
Emzy: It’s a different kind of confidence. I love performing so for me I think I do feel more confident on stage, especially with our band. We have such a powerful feminist message behind everything we say and who we are in general. Being women musicians it’s kind of a given, at least I think so. So having that message behind our music while we’re on stage brings that extra confidence that feels sincere and powerful.
Claire: There are sometimes I feel more comfortable or confident on stage, there are sometimes I feel less. There are sometimes I feel more confident on stage and sometimes less confident. I think it just depends.
Evangeline: I would, in general, say I’m more confident on stage except when you think of those times you do have a bad show, it does happen. Then it almost shatters your confidence. You’re up there then, ‘Oh fuck! What am I doing?’ It used to happen when we were younger and starting out, but now when we’ve got to that point we’ve become a lot tighter.
Claire: I’ve had a lot of bad confidence shows where I’ve been like ‘Shit!’
Evangeline: Or sometimes you have a moment to yourself where you feel like your confidence disappears and you hit a wrong note or something. In general, I find it’s just definitely a more open space, less inhibited. I’m not thinking about things like, ‘How do I look? What are people thinking of me right now?’ I’m more just being myself in the moment and feeling happy.
Emzy: It’s energizing, crazy energizing. You feel like, especially when the audience is feeding into it, you feel that energy and that can help your confidence for sure.
Inspirational Songstress: Where does your strength come from to share your art?
Evangeline: I would say from these two, my bandmates. Just because, we’ve known each other for so long. We’ve been through so much in terms of with the music and with each other, our friendships, changing as people. Just realizing the music is more for us, and we hope that other people can listen and connect to it, but it’s mostly for us and for each other.
Claire: and feminism.
Emzy: We write about things that are true to us, when I write about something honest then it feels like I almost have to say it. I want to share it with people because it’s our story and our experiences. Especially being women in a scene that is dominated by men, it personally gives me strength. Even when we weren’t very good musically, the fact that we were women in the music scene just felt like ‘We have to be here.’ If we discourage ourselves then that’s just wrong.
Evangeline: This is where we have to take up space and where we can take up space literally, physically, but also with sound.
Emzy: Fill up a room! With our voices singing, shrieking, yelling!
Claire: Also overcoming. A lot of our songs are about really shitty times that we’ve gone through together. Or, one of us have gone though a shitty experience and the others have been there to support and grow. I feel like our strength comes from, I wanna say, even from the music itself and it’s a cycle of empowering each other.
Emzy: When you sit down and write about something that made you feel like shit, you can bring something out of it that’s positive, it strengths you.
Inspirational Songstress: What is your first memory of feeling musically confident?
Claire: I remember when I couldn’t drum along to a metronome at all, it just seemed impossible. I was like ‘I don’t know how drummers can do this. They’re all full of shit! You can’t actually drum along to a metronome.’ Then when we first recorded our EP and we decided to do it along to a metronome I had to just practice that way, it was so foreign to me. I don’t know if it was one day I was able to do it, or if one day I realized I was able to do it, now I feel like a robot. When I was able to drum along with a metronome that was one of those first moments of ‘Whoa I can do this!’
Emzy: Just practicing more in general. I wanna put my all in this instrument, my voice or bass playing. When you put the effort in it shines through with the results. You see it even after a few weeks, or a few months of practicing everyday or at least a few times a week. You see a huge difference, then you know your shit so you feel confident. Also, I personally really like singing. Singing is my real passion, I love bass playing too but, my voice is just so connected to my soul. That’s when I feel most confident, singing without even really thinking about technique. You just let yourself feel the emotion and let it feel exactly what you’re thinking. I like improvise singing so that’s where I feel most confident.
Evangeline: I remember in particular, this one moment a couple years ago when we were playing at the Central. We were playing our song ‘Bloom’ which is a song that’s one of our more positive songs, not that they aren’t all positive, but especially musically it’s just a bit “happier”.
Claire: I cry every time I play it.
Evangeline: It’s a prettier song. I remember playing it, then all these girls in the audience were jumping up and down and singing it with us and they were singing “We are in bloom” with us. I almost wanted to cry on stage. I remember your (Claire) sister being there and being in the front.
Emzy: There’s so many moments like that.
Claire: I think a lot of those moments, going off of what you(Evangeline) said, they come when we get to play shows and we see people’s reactions. It’s so cute we have this little fan base, a lot of our family and friends, who have been with us from the start and they know all the lyrics. They have their favorite songs and the songs get stuck in their heads. It’s the best feeling.
Inspirational Songstress: Why did you pick this location? What about it is special to you?
Evangeline: I picked it because I went here for my undergrad at U of T, University of Toronto. Em Zy went here as well. The time that I was here represented a time of great change in terms of individually as a band and as a friendship. I found it was a time we were growing, moving on from being high school teenagers when we first started out, and actually becoming young women. I learned a lot here too. I know that with the education system in general, there’s a lot you can say negative about it but my eyes were open here. I took Sexual Diversity studies as my minor and that’s when I really started to think about things in a different light and in a way I was never taught to think. Also, it’s just beautiful here and I like the way it represents Toronto in general because I think Toronto is important to us in term of our origins and who we are.
Emzy: Critical thinking too. I took humanities courses, Philosophy, Sexual Diversities, and Sociology. I found all my courses were very critical of capitalism and societal norms in general, which I didn’t really expect from University. I learned a lot about the different ways that the system we live in is fucking many people over and that was very eye opening for sure.
Inspirational Songstress: What’s your biggest battle in keeping the confidence and the battle to keep it growing?
Emzy: Meditation, medication and music. I’ve meditated for about 4 or 5 years now. It’s defiantly something that’s come in and out of my life, and that has really helped me through every day things that I deal with like anxiety. Also, I’ve been on medication for depression for one year and that was a huge turn around for me. It really helped with the anxiety and depression that I was struggling with. Then music as well, singing about your struggles is something that again makes something negative into something positive. It also turns it into something understandable, tangible. You can feel empowered by your pain or your depression, through music.
Claire: I find my biggest struggle is being a drummer and not feeling good enough. I’m constantly focusing on how I could do better, and I always compare myself up or down. I look at people who are better than me, other drummers, and it makes me feel really self confident. I do think it has to do with me being a female drummer because I constantly had people critiquing me and my drumming. Ever since I started, and to this day, I’ve experienced so much ‘mansplaning’. The biggest one is “Hit your drums harder.” Or just things like people telling me how to drum, especially people we aren’t drummers which I find just ridiculous. I think that comes from me being a female, and I often think men who pick up the drums and are shit they still have confidence. People see them as ‘Whoa you play the drums!’ Same as guitarists, men who pick up a guitar and can be shit but, you play a guitar so that’s a bonus. Where as females, I feel like it’s this ‘you have to prove yourself, you have to prove you’re good.’ So I struggle with that but, I defiantly think that being aware of that helps. The ones who give me the most critic about my drumming I kinda laugh at them because it’s so obviously a ‘mansplaing’ thing.
Evangeline: To put it simply, my biggest battle in keeping my confidence up I find is in day to day life when I sometimes get caught up in really unimportant things like watching Netflix all day. Or when I feel like there’s a bit of a pressure, especially being out of school, to be focusing on some sort of special job. I find that I might get caught up in worrying about that stuff instead of worrying about what’s important, which for me is the music and playing music. Not getting too down on myself on not having some sort of 9-5 job that’s making me an income so I can get a mortgage and stuff. That’s stuff has been on my mind a lot cause it’s getting at that age.
Claire: And our friends are starting to get married! It’s actually scary!
Inspirational Songstress: When you’re performing, what makes you feel most powerful?
Claire: The audience.
Emzy: Sounding fucking good.
Claire: Watching people respond to our music is a big one.
Evangeline: I really like when we connect on stage, because sometimes you get really in your little bubble and you’re facing the audience so you are very focused on that. I like when we have these little moments where we’re in our zone together.
Claire: When we’re really vibe’n.
Inspirational Songstress: Who is your female inspiration? Musician or not.
Evangeline: I was thinking musician, Emily Kokal from Warpaint. She’s the guitarist and one of the main singers. I think she’s so badass and I love everything she does. She does no wrong for me, and Warpaint too the band in general is just my ultimate inspiration.
Emzy: I have four older ladies that really inspire me. My mom for one, she’s just really a strong person. She’s very patient, even though she maybe thinks she isn’t. She had my brother when she was 23 and was just finishing up university so I don’t know how the hell you do that! Also my vocal teacher who is amazing and very inpiring. Also my ex boyfriend’s mom who introduced me to mediation, she’s a really good friend of mine. I’m not really friends with my ex boyfriend but I’m really good friends with her. As well as my current boyfriend’s mom is really really cool, she can find the positives in every situation and it’s really inspiring to see someone like that. It’s easy to be negative sometimes and to just concentrate on those negatives. Even when you’re in a negative situation there is always positives to see.
Claire: I’m inspired by these girls. I’m sure you guys feel the same?
Claire: I think we all inspire each other which is nice. I’m also really inspired right now by my sister, my younger sister. She’s so confident and fearless and she just does whatever the fuck she wants. I wish I could be that fearless. It’s crazy she’s younger than me.
Evangeline: I think that’s the thing with youngers siblings.
Inspirational Songstress: What has been your biggest personal confidence set back? Did it help or hurt your music?
Emzy: I developed depression in the last two years or so, it just came on suddenly. I was a pretty happy go lucky person, didn’t really care about what people thought too much especially throughout high school. I didn’t really care. Then after high school, a few years ago something switched in my brain. I got really bad anxiety to the point where I was suicidal, it was really hard. It defiantly hurt the music in a lot of ways cause with depression comes jealousy and other really shitty emotions that get in the way of your interactions with your friends. So for Nikki Fierce, I was ready to quit almost because I was like ‘I can’t handle this.’ When you’re in a band with amazing women it’s hard to feel equal to them when you’re feeling shitty in general. Then at the same time the depression really pushed me in a way to develop my music elsewhere. So me and
my current partner started making music together, I was singing a lot and I started taking singing lessons and dance lessons and bass lessons and piano lessons. I really delved into music more and that helped with the depression a lot. It made me able to express myself though the art. It helped and it hindered in a lot of ways.
Claire: When I was 19 I went though a really toxic abusive relationship. At the time it really hindered the band, and now I would say our music and our friendship and bond has grown so much stronger because in a way we all went through it together. Even though it was me in that toxic relationship they were with me during that time and they were suffering as well. That was a really rough time, but I feel like a big part of why our music is the way it is now is because during that healing process we wrote so many songs about that.
Emzy: Specifically ‘My Shadow’ and ‘Without Thorns’.
Claire: And ‘Poison’, a lot of the fucking songs had to do with that time in our lives.
Emzy: It defiantly made us stronger as a band together going though that, and getting through it. The process of getting though it was really hard but knowing that we would be together and push through it and stick together though it made us stronger.
Claire: It just goes to show because of what we went though, with your (Emzy) depression and my really shitty ex boyfriend, I think we’re so much stronger. Because if we went thought that, every fight we have it’s something in the moment, but we can get though anything. We’re powerful in that way.
Emzy: I think a lot of bands break up from each other because of petty things sometimes, or at least I’ve heard stories. At this point we know we can get through it because we’ve been through so much. We just talk it out, and some times we’ll fight with each other but we know it wont last.
Claire: We’re more than friends, we’re more than a band we’re family at this point.
Evangeline: They summed it up haha.
Inspirational Songstress: What do you think is the most important thing to remember as a female musician?
Evangeline: Don’t be too hard on yourself. I think that, like Claire was saying with being a female drummer, having people come up to you and criticize you more then they might a male musician. I’ve experienced that too after a show people coming up to me saying what they like but, “Oh you could do this, you could do that!” Or walking into a music store and feeling pretty awkward and all these guys basically wanking off on their guitars and being like, ‘I don’t wanna be here.’ Getting beyond that and just fuck it, fuck that.
Claire: I always get scared to go into the drumming room, but they’re always so nice and I don’t expect it. For them to treat me like a drummer. They don’t treat me like a woman, they treat me like a drummer it’s so weird!
Emzy: That’s good, you should expect that.
Claire: I know but at this point I don’t. Another thing to remember as a female musician, and I’m more speaking on behalf of myself, I contently compare myself to others and especially female musicians who are more successful. I was just talking to my friend the other day about success and how relative it is. I want to be happy for women who are doing well in the music scene, I don’t want to be jealous. So that’s something to remember.
Emzy: Have fun, inspire yourself and your friends. It’s not a competition so just do your best and be positive with your own musical growth and each other, like other women who are potentially better than you or you think are better than you. Just be happy with their growth because that could be you eventually. You’re not Beyoncé so just be yourself.
Inspirational Songstress: If you could go back to a time where you felt taken back by whatever obstacle, what would you tell yourself knowing what you know now?
Emzy: Be patient. Everything comes and goes, even pain and sadness just watch how they change and try not to be afraid. Use this awareness to get to know yourself but not judge yourself. Patient cause again everything comes and goes. Pain will come, you’ll have a shitty break up or you’ll just randomly get depressed for no reason. It happens, just watch it and if you need help seek help but you don’t have to be afraid.
Claire: This is so cheesy but it’s so true. You deserve to be happy. It’s so true though, or you deserve better don’t sell yourself short.
Inspirational Songstress: Do you have a message you hope to send to people who see you live or listen to your recordings?
Emzy: Just feel it, read the lyrics cause they’re really important. Interpret them in ways they relate to you. If we can start a girl band from scratch you can too. We were losers in high school, Evangeline knew how to play guitar but me and Claire didn’t know how to play our instruments at all. We didn’t have a lot of confidence and needed something to feel good or we’re cool, we’re not just random people. Having a secret girl band just felt awesome.
Evangeline: I do really hope people will actually listen to the music. I hope that especially men, if they listen to our lyrics that they’ll actually take it in and hear what we’re saying. It’s the same thing with what’s happening right now with the ‘Me Too’ movement and ‘Times Up.’ A lot of people are just talking over each other and I think it’s the point that we need to listen. I just hope that’s what people will do.
Claire: And not be so defensive. That might not go along with music, now I’m just thinking about the ‘Me Too’ movement.
Inspirational Songstress: No, I think it’s very relevant and also relevant with this project because it’s all about female empowerment.
Inspirational Songstress: What’s your advice for other women, young or old, who struggle with confidence?
Emzy: Try music, pick up an instrument or something to express your pain or feelings of inadequacy or social pressure. Singing, playing an instrument, writing lyrics, writing poetry, any art in general is a really good way of expressing that. Even if you don’t give it to anyone else, just do it for yourself to explore that shitty feeling. It’s a good way to just kind of work with it and understand it more. Also try meditation, you can go to tergar.org for mediation guides. It’s an online course that I really like. If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, ask your doctor about treatment. Ask your doctor about medication or therapy, just your regular pediatrician, is the person to go to for that. It’s a medical problem it’s not just something you should weather on your own or dismiss as something you can go through. Seek help if you need it.
Claire: Going off of that; I hope that people who I’m giving advice to, I hope that you can find friends that you feel comfortable talking too about your feelings.
Evangeline: I also feel like, especially for young women like teenagers, just get off your phone sometimes. Get away from the constant barrage of social media, your Instagram, your Facebook. Comparing yourself to others, that’s a really easy way to lose confidence and be really hard on yourself. That’s in terms of physical stuff but it really does effect your emotional health. Just travel, get out there, get away from the city sometimes it actually can help so much to get away from it all turn your phone off for a day. Go out with your friends, or go camping or something. Just take yourself out of it sometimes
Emzy: Take up Hula Hooping. Hula Hooping’s sick.
Claire: I’m going to give advice to older women, listen to younger women. Have conversations and try to get on the same page because I think there’s such a divide between younger and older women. I don’t think it should be like that.
Emzy: It helps knowing older women than you understanding 1, the aging process and 2, how badass you can be when you’re older and 3, be inspired by women who know so much more than you. So if you’re young talk to older women if you’re older talk to younger women.
Claire: It’s so obvious you can learn from older women but I think, I know it’s not that big of an age difference, even my younger sister I learn so much from her. You learn so much in the experiences that your living with day to day.
Emzy: Young people being brought up especially in a time where we are awakening to social norms and social issues that are so engraved in our society. They are growing up already understanding the things that our generation had to figure out, so I think a lot of people are throwing things like gender norms out the window, which is really great. So we can learn from the younger generation, how free you can really be in the world that is coming.
Claire: This is the last question we should leave it with something really powerful.
Evangeline: Change is coming! What is it that Oprah said?
Emzy: Be the change you want to see in the world!
Inspirational Songstress: Just be more like Oprah haha.
Claire: But also be critical of Oprah haha.