Nerdkween(pronounced "nerd queen") is the stage name for the American singer/songwriter and composer Monica Arrington who is known for lo-fi recordings and minimalist style of electric guitar playing with added...
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Nerdkween(pronounced "nerd queen") is the stage name for the American singer/songwriter and composer Monica Arrington who is known for lo-fi recordings and minimalist style of electric guitar playing with added electronic noises. She is also known for a wide range in vocal ability, from haunting and airy tones to gritty and country-like tangs. Her music is a part of the genre slowcore or dream pop. She is also one of the few African-American performers in experimental pop/rock music.
Arrington started self-releasing cassette tape demos in 2000 starting with "i see things differently now". Then she put out other CD demos "the dark horse" and "Sketches at Eddie's Attic". Arrington's debut full length album "Synergy" is distributed through Stickfigure Records in Atlanta, Ga.
nerdkween by Performer Magazine There's at least one at every high school: a girl who wears her non-conformity like a badge of honor. Too plain to be popular, but too hygienic to be a stoner; too chipper to be a goth, but too...
Nerdkween: Looks preppy, sounds post-modern by Creative Loafing You can't judge a book by its cover. But Monica Arrington will gladly use her inviting looks to sell her music. Arrington finished her second demo as Nerdkween this past September. And she's ready...
nerdkween by Performer Magazine There's at least one at every high school: a girl who wears her non-conformity like a badge of honor. Too plain to be popular, but too hygienic to be a stoner; too chipper to be a goth, but too cynical to be a peacenik; she has too much self-consciousness to be emo, but too much dignity to be a mathlete. She falls into that catchall misfit category: a nerd. She can be seen in the lunchroom or school library, perhaps with one or more of her social outcast friends or perhaps by herself, listening to Bjork, Brian Wilson or Mazzy Star, filling the void of her social life with meaningful artistic expression.
As is the case with Atlanta's Monica Arrington, a.k.a. nerdkween, these nerdy girls sometimes mature to make their own quirky, yet endearing music. As Lisa Loeb and Kate Bush have done in the past, nerdkween uses her pop platform to write songs with an empowering edge directed toward her fellow outsiders. However, if you think all of nerdkween's music is jangly, happy tunes with supportive, "you-can-do-it" lyrical messages, you have a very inaccurate preconception of who this writer/performer is and what she believes.
Many of nerdkween's songs are bleak, with disparaging lyrics and nebulous, lo-fi arrangements that contain ambient noise like phonograph pops and crackles and radio static.
My sound can have many elements and moods. I like to use my 'sweet' voice to sing about dark subjects, yet nowadays my songs are more of a realist nature," states Arrington. "I think of myself as having a hypnotic and soothing quality. I like to use Eastern ideals, 20th century composition forms along with noise from prerecorded tapes."
Having been classically trained in singing and composition, to hear such avant-garde tendencies, minimalist compositions and non-confirmative singing can come as a bit of a surprise. Nerdkween counters that it was specifically her formal musical education that encouraged her musical outlook.
As I studied music history, I learned that even the master composers of highbrow music were at times rebels," says Arrington. "They had to be, otherwise we would not have the standards of today. I think what I'm doing, and other singer/songwriters like me, [is] pushing intelligent and creative music to the next level."
In addition to the classical masters, one cannot deny the influence of more contemporary songwriting nonconformists like John Lennon, Yoko Ono and P.J. Harvey. While some singer-songwriters relish the idea, Arrington doesn't want to be considered a "girl-with-guitar" archetype.
I am most importantly a singer who plays instruments," stresses Arrington. "My voice is the centerpiece, whether it's the message or the musical tone. Not many people think about the voice as an instrument, but it really is."
nerdkween's vocals embody a wide range of tones, textures and registers. Sultry, airy, gravely, husky and gentle are all terms that can describe Ms. Arrington's evocative vocals at different times. She has even mastered a particularly impressive technique called "vocal breaking," which is the difficult manipulation of one's voice to create an effect similar to yodeling.
nerdkween notes that her name and image are not a result of pandering to a target audience or attempting to otherwise exploit some stereotype of what a non-conformist should be. "On stage I don't wear a crown and glasses, that would be insulting to my audience and the music I play," explains Arrington.
If I planned on living in Atlanta as a black woman singing and playing music, I couldn't use my first name," she says, referring to the established R&B singer Monica. "I wanted to chose a name based on what is important to me, which is knowledge and being my own person. I don't consider the word 'nerd' to be a negative term. I like being unique, smart, and self assured."
nerdkween has several irons in the fire for 2007. Production is underway for Synergy, her first full-length release for Atlanta's Stickfigure Records. Arrington notes that she is capably handling all production duties, so as to retain her own unique sound without the intrusion of a third party. Also on the horizon is the possibility of scoring films, with Arrington actively scouting interested filmmakers. A new website is also in the works. One thing not to be expected from nerdkween is for her to dumb-down her adventurous and deeply personal sound or pretty-up her nerdy-chic image to conventional standards.
If I had a choice of being pretty or smart, I'd choose being smart any day," Arrington states playfully. "But I don't have to choose...I'm already both."
Nerdkween: Looks preppy, sounds post-modern by Creative Loafing You can't judge a book by its cover. But Monica Arrington will gladly use her inviting looks to sell her music. Arrington finished her second demo as Nerdkween this past September. And she's ready to try her hand at modeling as an easy way to pay the bills while she continues chasing down a music career.
Arrington, who works days at Pearl Artist & Craft Supply, comes off like the J. Crew/JCPenney type -- preppy and nice. But her music isn't necessarily so. "[Preppy] is part of my personality, but I have a definite wild streak," she says. "That's why I identify with the dark horse. I'm a person that nobody knows too much about at first glance."
The Dark Horse is the title of her most recent demo, a collection of six dreamy keyboard-and-guitar soundscapes reminiscent of PJ Harvey and early Liz Phair. The music is ripened by Arrington's classically trained voice, which, at certain moments, sounds like it might shatter -- or shatter something. This demo follows I See Things Differently Now, which received local radio play last year.
published Feb. 6, 2002
For Arrington, her music is a reflection of her life, offering hints to what lies behind her misleading countenance. "It's very cryptic. I like to consider it post-modern pop music," she says. "I like to throw in little pieces of different styles, like country and jazz, and mix it up into this one form."
Arrington's ultimate dream? To have her own label and produce. Until then, look for her in those JCPenney ads.