Have you ever been to a live show and thought to yourself “wow this band is really dope but they don’t look as cool as they sound”? Probably a million times but never if you happened upon Nashville “psychedelic-bloos” band The Minks and her front woman, Nikki Barber.
Their music is the encounter of blues, psychedelic and classic rock and their looks perfectly match their musical style. With fashion being another talent of Nikki’s, her band throwback musical style is paired with Nikki’s fashion design and visual artistry, a unique line of merch and music videos that capture the often-overlooked underbelly of Nashville’s rock and roll scene.
Their full length debut record “Light & Sweet” came out a year ago and to celebrate (and with touring being on hold due to Covid) Nikki decided to get back to her sewing machine and release her own fashion line called Nikki Stitch
M: Do you think this strange year has made musicians aware of the fact that they have to be better at producing their own content?
Nikki:I think so. I think it’s made everybody eager to be a little more crafty with things. In some respects, it’s almost like taking it back to the DIY times. It’s the wild west. There’s no set path that you know works for sure. It’s kinda like, ‘what can you bring to the table that’s a little different’?
M: There aren’t that many people that care too much about their style or their aesthetics however artists like you would benefit from something like this more than others, would you agree?
Nikki: Yeah, I was talking to a friend and she was saying how this is the time for bands who are used to being a bit scrappy to shine. We’re used to making things work no matter what by coming up with unusual answers and I think it’s true! It’s gonna be a whole different ball game when everything opens up again. I can’t allow myself to think that touring life is never going to come back, so we should go about it like ‘alright, how do we prepare to adapt‘?
M: Exactly. Tell us about your debut record.
Nikki: It’s called “Light and Sweet” and it’s our first full length record. It came out a year ago through Cafe Rooster Records. It was recorded with some extremely talented musicians and friends at my home here in Nashville.
M: What is your role in the band? You write the music yeah?
Nikki: I write the songs’ skeleton for sure and then I bring it to the band. This last one was quite interesting because we had a few different drummers on it. It was mostly me and my producer, Joe Bisirri, as the core duo with everyone around us helping out.
Fashion: Laura Citron Photography: Erica Avi Hart
M: What about the theme of this record? You mentioned most of the songs were written after you started living by yourself for the first time.
Nikki: It was the first time I had ever really lived on my own. That was a really good time to be fully myself and figure out my feelings and my outlook on life. A lot of the songs came out as the result of me growing up and dealing with becoming an adult. The whole album is kind of about finding that silver lining and keeping it light and sweet even when life is totally NOT light and sweet.
M: So you’re from Pennsylvania originally?
Nikki:Yep. Right around Gettysburg. A town of ghosts!
M: Your musical upbringing started there. How did you get to where you are now?
Nikki:I honestly got really lucky because all of my friends were creatives. Gettysburg is a very small town but we all used to hang out at this venue called Emmaus. It was only open for maybe four years and it was amazing because it allowed so many people to come through and jam. We got to see so many bands, we would do open mic nights and we all started thinking: ‘oh I can play the guitar!’ or ‘oh I can have a rock band!’ That’s how everything started for me.
M: Who are your musical idols?
Nikki: Definitely Velvet Underground! I love them so much. The Sonics were also a big band for me growing up. They’re a garage band that did pretty well in the 60’s and I just thought they were fantastic when I discovered them. Neil Young has always been one of my favorite artists since I’m very into the words and lyrical aspect of music. I’ll always say that Patti Smith is a fucking legend too. Not just as a musician but as a well-rounded artist who does so much more than just music.
Fashion: Laura Citron Photography: Erica Avi Hart
M: What about your style icons?
Nikki: My favorite person is Françoise Hardy. I am so in love with her style. She’s classic, but perfectly stylish. I really love the 60s and 70s so pretty much anyone from that era. Obviously Janis Joplin was one of the coolest and Jimi Hendrix is a huge fashion inspiration for me.
M: The fact that artists like Hendrix were huge fashion icons gets overlooked a lot of times. But they really were!
Nikki: He was always dressed to the 9’s and looked fantastic. I don’t think that he ever wore a tee shirt and jeans. He probably didn’t even have normal clothes. He just had everything velvet.
M: When did you get into sewing and making clothes? Was that always a side passion of yours?
Nikki: I’ve always loved fashion. I’ve always just had an eye for color, patterns, textures etc. I would go through all these books and magazines and fall in love with these pieces of art. I loved it all so much that I started taking a sewing class in high school, and ended up taking it all four years.
Then I stopped and moved down to Nashville to play music. I thought I’d put the fashion and sewing on hold until people started to approach me to get their stage clothes altered or tailored. That’s when I became even more certain that fashion and music totally go hand in hand.
M: Having that visual exchange with your audience is crucial for a musician. Do you agree?
Nikki: Yeah, that’s a whole package. That’s always been a part that I find interesting with music. A lot of people don’t give a shit about that but it plays a huge role. You’re on a stage! People are going to pay more attention if you look put together and like you didn’t just roll out of bed.
I think that’s the same with a music video. You can hear a song without a video and perceive it in one way and then you can listen to that same song while watching the video and you’ll see it in a whole different light.
Fashion: Nikki Stitch Photography: Erica Avi Hart
M: Who are some artists that you would like to collaborate with? Perhaps out of your genre?
Nikki: Out of my genre..hmm…I would love to do something with Beck. He has so many different moods and personalities, but you believe every one of them. He expands genres, really. It would be cool to have Danger Mouse as a producer. His production is fantastic so it would definitely be an interesting experiment.
M: Tell us about your new fashion line.
Nikki: The brand is called Nikki Stitch. It’s my first collection and I’m going to release it online. It uses a lot of repurposed materials, so it’s sustainable fashion and pretty exclusive as fabric is limited. If this one goes well, I’d like to do more small-batch collections.
M: Any particular inspiration or theme for this collection?
Nikki: I use a lot of sequins and fringe for the band, but this one is a little more sweet. It’s an ode to that dreamy feeling of summer when you were young. Pops of bright colors and fun patterns with easy flow-y silhouettes. I’m calling it “Last Summer’s Hurrah”. It’ll be nice to have it out in the world. I’m so excited!