What are your names?
Andrew Nicol & Rachel Elliott
What is the band’s name?
Nicol & Elliott (imaginative, we know)
How did you come up with the band’s name?
Rachel: I can’t remember who suggested we use our surnames first, but I think we should have known better having surnames with so many different spellings!
Andrew: Yeah, it’s not uncommon for people to think Rachel is Nicole or that I’m Elliott! Too late to go back now!
What is your genre of music?
Andrew: I guess it sits within the broad church of Americana but specifically I would say somewhere around folk-noir, indie-folk and alt-country. That sort of neighbourhood.
Rachel: Yeah it’s in the Americana sphere but it can vary a fair bit and we definitely aren’t married to one specific sound so I think it will continue to evolve.
Give us a little bio about you.
Rachel: We first played together in 2018 for a one off Celtic Connections gig and it went so well that we decided to keep playing together, initially as a duo then shortly after as a 4-piece, and now there’s 6 of us in the full band.
Andrew: It just seemed to click. We had already collaborated on songs for the gig and we seemed to stumble upon this great live chemistry. I contacted Rachel after the gig about keeping things going and the rest is history as they say.
What made you go into music?
Rachel: I picked up the violin at school when I was about 8 and have pretty much loved it since then, I think I’ve always been part of some form of band or orchestra, but now it’s great being part of Nicol & Elliott because I’ve been able to explore writing and singing too which I’m really enjoying and hadn’t done much of before.
Andrew: My brother taught me my first 3 chords on guitar when I was around 16 and I self-taught from there. I was never really interested in being a guitarist. I just wanted to be a songwriter. Years later at uni I started working with bands at the Student’s Union and kind of fell in love with the idea of performing so I started an open mic night and built up skill from there.
Who are your influences?
Rachel: There are so many but I know a big influence of both of ours is First Aid Kit. I also love Joni Mitchell and more recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Jenny Lewis. I couldn’t name a specific artist that influences my playing it’s more an amalgamation of artists and styles that I like.
Andrew: From a song writing point of view, Neil Finn and Crowded House are a huge influence. Stylistically, I’d say The Handsome Family are a big influence too. We’ve been told we have a similarity with The Civil Wars but that’s mostly incidental. Although I do like their music.
Are you a signed?
Andrew: We don’t have a record contract but we release on an imprint of Glasgow based label Last Night From Glasgow. It’s very much a trust based agreement. They’ve always been great to us and offered us solid advice and they give us 100% creative control of our music.
Rachel: Last Night From Glasgow is a great label to be part of, it’s such a supportive community, their gigs are always really special and it’s always amazing to play alongside LNFG artists.
Your new EP ‘The Storm’ is out now, tell us more about the EP.
Andrew: “The Storm” was recorded as as part of a larger batch of songs. Around 15 in total. We felt this group of 4 songs worked well thematically in that they were all quite atmospheric and emotive but varied enough not to become monotonous.
Rachel: Yeah having a lot of songs recorded we had to decide how to group them for releasing and we just felt these songs worked side by side, I think it’s my favourite collection of songs we have released so far.
What is the meaning behind the EP?
Andrew: I guess there’s a recurring theme of an external malevolent force throughout the EP. I’m sure that’s something most people can relate to in the current climate. And, although the EP is pretty dark, it’s actually about facing up to that malevolence and overcoming it.
Rachel: Yeah even though the subject matter is dark, I still find the EP has a spiriting feel to it overall. The video to Dragging Me Down, created by Gabriela Sibiliska, captures these dark and light themes really well.
Who did you work with on the EP?
Andrew: We wrote and produced it ourselves and recorded it with Luigi Pasquini in Glasgow with our band. We were lucky to also have Andy Lucas and Ross D. Barron both come in to guest on Dragging Me Down on piano and guitar respectively.
What was the writing and recording process like?
Rachel: Usually Andrew puts down the chords, lyrics and main melody to a song and then sends me a recording so I can play about with it a bit and add in a fiddle part and harmonies. The sound always changes quite a lot by the time we’ve been in the practice room and the rest of the band have added their take as well.
Andrew: The songs can change wildly by the time Rachel has made her mark on them. “Snake Eyes” was very much a stripped bare acoustic number when it was written and turned into what you hear on the EP now. Creatively, it’s never dull.
Describe each track in two words.
Andrew: I’d describe
“The Storm” as rousing and atmospheric.
“Snake Eyes” is menacing and spooky.
“Dragging Me Down” is powerful and emotive. And for me,
“Down in Flames” is understated and resolved.
Rachel: Damn Andrew going first with this one and using up all the good adjectives! But I’d describe
“The Storm” as dramatic and driven,
“Snake Eyes” as foreboding and unearthly,
“Dragging Me Down” as compelling and affecting, and
“Down in Flames” as gentle and uplifting.
What else can we expect in Early 2021?
Andrew: Sadly gigging is out of the question for the moment but we will be releasing new music again in the early summer. We’re hopeful playing live will be an option by the autumn.
Rachel: We are very lucky to have had a good batch of songs finished early last year which means we can keep releasing music even though we can’t do much in the way of gigging or practicing just now. We are still quietly working away on music remotely though so we’ll be more than ready to gig again as soon as possible.
Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
Andrew: I’ll be amazed if I’m not splitting my free time between walking my dog and music. I think Nicol & Elliott has longevity and in 3 years we’ve never really had even a disagreement so I’d be hopeful that we’d still be making music in some form.
Rachel: I agree I can see us still see us making music. Even in the last couple of years our sound has changed a lot so it’s exciting to see how it will develop from here. We had just started gigging with our full band before lockdown so hopefully we can do much more of that over the next few years as well.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
Andrew: At our label the mantra is “don’t be a dick”. I think that’s timeless and foolproof! More people in music should try it.
Rachel: Where I currently live the local motto is ‘Persevere’, it’s been particularly warming to see it written on pavements and outside pubs recently as it’s something we’ve all had to do a lot of this past year.
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget?
Andrew: For me, at a gig I want there to be an engaging performance, good sound and a decent crowd. I’m not into bands that act like the crowd isn’t there. If the sound is off, what’s the point? And if some dude behind me is shouting to his mate about his girlfriend issues, weekend plans or how wasted he is then he should stay at home and listen to the CD rather than piss on everyone else’s night.
Rachel: When I’m watching a gig, agree with all of what Andrew said above. When I’m playing, from a practical point of view, lyrics and my violin – unfortunately I’ve been known to forgot both before! But I’ve learned my lesson and I’m extra vigilant these days. I also find it hard to eat just before gigs and so I’m starving afterwards, so a good post-gig snack is always important to keep handy.