Bassist Nicole Fiorentino has taken the stage in front of tens of thousands of people, touring the world with The Smashing Pumpkins. But ask her to speak in front of a group of 10-year-old girls, and the raven-haired, 35-year-old's long legs shake.
“It's totally irrational, but it's a real fear,” she says.
Fiorentino is a volunteer at Rock & Roll Camp for Girls, where over the course of a week, girls from 8 to 16 form a band, write a song and perform at an actual L.A. music venue. Fiorentino's wife and bandmate, songwriter/guitarist Meg Toohey, is on the camp's executive board. The goal of the program is to get girls to be loud, work together and not compete with one another, Toohey says.
“You see these girls come in and they're really shy, and by the end of the week they're like fist-pumping, screaming these amazing lyrics in front of a crowd at the Troubadour,” Toohey says.
Female musicians such as Sia and Linda Perry have been known to stop by for a visit, and the campers often warm up for the day with punk-rock aerobics. Campers also learn how to play their instrument, write song lyrics and battle stage fright. There's even a “ladies” camp for older women, attracting a diverse group including everyone from single moms to the AARP set.
All-female bands shouldn't be a “trend,” says Toohey, who counts herself lucky to have been raised on the likes of The Bangles and Sleater-Kinney. “We grew up in a time where there [were] a lot of female bands,” she says. “We had the Lilith Fair that was based on women's acts, for Christ's sake!”
Toohey and Fiorentino aren't just a married couple who often break into song, speak in unison and finish one another's sentences. They are also a band called The Cold and Lovely. The two were married in 2012 in their home state of Massachusetts, when gay marriage wasn't yet legal in California. A few months later, they celebrated their nuptials again in Elysian Park, with Fiorentino clad in a champagne satin dress and Toohey in a J. Crew suit.
“We get to celebrate two wedding anniversaries every year, so that's the perk,” Fiorentino says.
Both women have long résumés in the music industry, including Fiorentino's time in Veruca Salt and Toohey's in indie-pop group The Weepies.
As The Cold and Lovely, whose sound Fiorentino describes as “'80s synth-pop and '90s shoegaze,” they play shows and have entered the lucrative world of TV song placement, landing songs on Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. “In, like, a scene at a bar, where there's something barely audible in the background, that's totally us,” Toohey says with a laugh.
The couple spent much time apart in their relationship's early years, as Fiorentino recorded and toured with The Smashing Pumpkins. Now their life is more domestic. Fiorentino goes to yoga while Toohey cleans the house, and they record The Cold and Lovely tracks in their Eagle Rock home studio.
“Our cat just hangs out while we're writing,” Fiorentino says.
“That's so lez!” Toohey interrupts. “I think he's really into our music,” says Fiorentino.