A Discourse With a Brilliant Bassist – Nicole Coelho

From the moment I was introduced to Vuvuvultures, I became a true fan of Nicole Bettencourt Coelho’s unique sound that  she releases via her bass guitar.

The band did a brief SA tour in 2013. I’m a pretty big Lark fan, so to have Paul Ressel, (Lark’s lead guitarist) back on SA soil, knowing that he was doing something new, was a welcomed concept.


Unfortunately, due to a brief lapse in my personal health, I missed the VVV SA tour.  My hospital visits were filled with friend’s elaborate stories about “The amaaaaazing show that Vuvuvultures played this weekend.” To add insult to injury, I was the one that introduced them to VVV magic.

Luckily, a short while ago, I got to “interview” Nicole – bassist, label manager and one of the most down to earth people I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing.

Here’s how it all went down… via electronic communication:

Mzi: Where are you doing this interview from?

Nicole: From my bedroom in London. Manor House! Looking at a bit of trees next to a train track.

Mzi: How old were you when you first picked up the bass guitar?

Nicole: I was 17, started by accident as I actually went to audition for guitar. I hadn’t known that basses existed. I REALLY sucked at the first audition apparently! I fell in love with bass and played it non-stop for 10 days after, determined to get the gig and voila! First band I ended up in was thus Nemesis, with Marc de la Querra who is still very active in SA music scene.

Mzi: One thing that really stands out for me is that you seem to like to make the bass a priority in any given track. Whether that means distorting and/or bending the sound into something completely different. Is this something you clearly take into consideration before starting the song creation process?

Nicole Coelho

Nicole: It’s not quite as thought out as that, I’ve always had a bass guitar in hand when creating music so therefore it’s mostly been my focal point when in a room with people. I find it really inspiring as the range of sound you can get out of a bass never ceases to amaze me. Also the fact that it straddles the line between melody and rhythm inherently is a space in a song that I’ve always been drawn to. Just sort of suggest a vibe in a room and see where it goes. Bending and distorting is just a side effect of trying to express what I’m feeling with a rather constrained            starting point. Limitation is useful at times!

Mzi: It’s almost been three years since the launch of Vuvuvultures EP and the South African tour. How was that experience? Coming back to the RSA and having people know the music off by heart?

Nicole: As a tour it was very surreal to come back to SA and perform in the cities I grew up in after living abroad for a long time. It was almost like walking through a dream. I love South Africa, the country, the people and the scene has an amazing energy to it that you don’t necessarily come across very often.

Mzi: How different is the London music scene to the South African one?

Nicole: To be honest, I couldn’t really say as I have been out of South Africa for more time than I was a part of it and a lot has changed. What I would say is that in terms of the quality of musicians and inspiring people I have met, there is actually very little difference. The most striking difference is the structure of the industry and the opportunities to meet people and perform in London are vast, mostly because it’s a European hub, you meet people from all over the world.

Mzi: You have been living in London for a long time. What’s the most British thing you have every heard during your stay?

Nicole: Fabulous darling.

Mzi: I discovered something quite cool when I was doing my research. The Vuvuvultures instrumentals for Pills Week, Safe Skin and I’ll Cut You have these beautiful smooth curves. Happy accident?


Nicole: Hehehe excellent! Unsure on the answer to that, but as an aside I do find that there are some very interesting things that happen when you start to try to translate music to visuals.

Mzi: You are currently the Label Manager for Energy Snake Records. If am correct, that means everything that leaves the energy snake door has the Nicole “stamp of approva”l on it. Was this something you have always seen yourself doing?

Nicole: Again it happened quite by accident as a means to an end! When we started VVV, we were very passionate about cutting our own path and retaining the freedom to experiment and try new things. We wanted to try to keep ourselves and our music as un-influenced by the external industry agenda as possible. We really just wanted to express what we wanted to make without watering that down due to outside pressures.

When we started the label it was very collaborative, we worked as a team. I also had a lot of help from my friend Rylan Cutting who was the general wing-man of the band as well as the label, and also the club night we used to run called The Island.

After VVV I felt strongly about sharing what I had learned with anyone else who was interested. I didn’t deliberately seek to sign any artists, it was all based on people who approached me asking for advice. If I saw something in them, a desire to make music in their own voice and a sort of warrior spirit about it, we tended to immediately click and we would do a release together. It was always about helping artists find their feet and confidence if I could be of any assistance, I did my best!

Mzi: What are some of the big difference between being the artist and label manager difference?

Nicole: Well, I tended to blur the lines a lot as I was guessing as I went along BUT inherently the label is responsible for a product, putting together a campaign around a release, making sure it is available and promoted properly. Managing a band is all  about having a long plan, a vision for where it is going, and executing it step by step once you have the plan. It is a more holistic view on the band and should also include sensitivity to the lives and feelings of the band members, keeping everyone’s spirits up.

Mzi: You and Paul Ressel have started a new project, Bl=ndfolds. Can you tell us more about it?


Nicole: Paul and I had an immediate connection when it came to music, we never stopped writing basically and BL=NDFOLDS came out of a direct reaction to the split up of VVV. We wrote a lot of music quite quickly, and a lot of it was very emotional because of what had happened in the split of the band. I can’t speak as much for him as for   me, but I poured all of the feelings and angst and frustrations and love and  confusion into that music, without really having the time to take a breather, or look back on what had happened or restore my energy before starting something new.

Therefore I exhausted myself a bit to be honest and needed to gather strength and a fresh outlook on the project to see it in a new light. We didn’t want to rehash something we had done but there were a lot of old habits we needed to break. We have done many experiments and are continuing to do so. Currently working on finishing a 6 / 7 track EP which will likely emerge next year.

Mzi: Last question… If people wanna get in touch with you or hear more where can they go?

Nicole: I’d say https://www.facebook.com/nicolemariebettencourtcoelho/ is probably most consistent at this time. I will also be posting work that I am doing on  http://nmbc.one/.

Got a few tricks up the sleeve for next year! I’m very excited about 2017 🙂



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *