The incredible voice and front-woman for Warren Defever’s long-standing experimental rock band His Name Is Alive, Andrea Morici was previously best known as the keyboardist for Detroit underground favorites the Tranzistors and Sonapanic. She’s been playing piano for most of her life. She’s a visual artist and jewelry designer, and is about as unpretentious as they come. I interviewed her at Motor City Brewing Works on November 10, 2013.
Name: Andrea Morici
Current Location: Ferndale
Day Job: I am a full time nanny, and a part time jewelry designer.
Which instrument(s) do you play?
I sing and play piano mostly.
Right now my primary project is singing and playing synth bass with His Name Is Alive. I also play sometimes with Ethan Daniel Davidson and I sing for Infinity People, and I have a solo project that I’ve slowly been working on.
How long have you been playing in each of those projects?
I started with His Name Is Alive in 2004. Infinity People, about two years, and same with Ethan.
Who else are you playing with?
His Name Is Alive is technically only Warren Defever. I’m the second “member”. For this current album, there’s an actual band which records together and practices regularly. That is different from what we’ve done in the past. Before, an album would be just mostly Warren, with me adding vocals after most of the music was completed.
I’ve been in a lot of short lived projects! The only bands with any sort of longevity were my first band, Sonapanic, which I played keyboards (and wrote the music) for in 2003, Tranzistors, and Izquierdo. I was technically a member of Sparklehorse too, for one album in 2009.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in beautiful Sterling Heights Michigan.
When and why did you start playing music?
I started piano lessons when I was 6 or 7. I started playing because I was taking ballet and my teacher, Tina the ballerina, would always put on Chopin records for use to warm up to. That was definitely when I first became interested in music. I loved Chopin so I started picking out tunes by ear on the piano, and so my parents figured they should get me into piano lessons. I was much better at piano than I was at ballet, by the way.
Are either of your parents musicians?
My dad is a jazz drummer. He had stopped playing by the time I was born and he didn’t pick it up again until I was in my 20s. My mom is musical in her own right, although she never had formal lessons. She can really sing!
What was your first favorite song?
The first song I remember singing along to on the radio was probably Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant)
What was the first song you learned to play?
It was called “Music Land” and it was in one of my sisters’ old piano books from when they took lessons.
What was your first instrument?
It was the Kimball upright piano that my parents bought from a furniture store before I was born.
When did you first play with a band/perform live?
I started playing in bands when I was 22. I remember my first show because it was really embarrassing. It was probably in 2002. We were playing with my favorite comedian Neil Hamburger. He was performing at the Magic Stick, and we were playing downstairs in the Garden Bowl. He was leaving when we were playing, and he stopped to listen to a couple of songs. I remember being really embarrassed because I was like ‘so what did you think?’ and he said ‘I uhhh, I really liked that one song about being a bug.’ That was our cover song. That actually happened to lot. We covered the Urinals song “I’m a bug.” Everybody loved that song [laughs], it was our most popular song.
What was the first song you ever wrote called/about?
I don’t remember what is called, and it didn’t have lyrics. My ex boyfriend Ian and I wrote it together.
What instrument(s) do you currently own/play?
I was recently given a piano by my aunt and uncle. I grew up down the street from where my aunt and uncle lived, and so that was like my “other piano” since I played it almost every time I would visit (which was frequently). They moved to Chicago a couple months ago, and they needed to get rid of it. I was so happy they offered it to me. I had it moved in, and have been playing it daily since.
Do you have any other music gear? If so, what?
My piano is my main instrument, but I also own a Farfisa from the 60’s.
What are your current influences?
I like that you said current because it varies all the time. Right now it’s all over the board. Kate Bush (at least her first album, The Kick Inside). Always David Bowie. Sparks. 10cc. King Crimson.
What is your favorite thing/type of music to play?
Classical. To be specific – Chopin.
How do you balance your music with other obligations?
Usually all of the projects are dormant except for one at a time, so right now the only one that I have to focus on is His Name Is Alive. That’s recording or rehearsing one night per week, so it’s really manageable with my schedule. Sometimes it does get crazy, like when I have to leave for tour and have to rearrange the rest of my obligations.
Have you only toured with His Name Is Alive, or have you toured with other projects?
I toured a little bit with Tranzistors, but not much.
What was your longest tour?
One month, I think. It was a US tour, circa 2007.
How was that experience?
It was really, really fun, and really difficult, because we were on tour with the 9 piece afro-beat band NOMO. That’s a lot of personalities to contend with. I had only one little meltdown. Everybody gets one! But, as long as you have good people to stay with, good venues to play, and don’t go too crazy, it can be a lot of fun.
What was the first record that you bought with your own money?
I think it was U2’s Achtung Baby, on CD, at Kmart, purchased with babysitting money.
What was the first concert you ever went to?
Probably Amy Grant – but before she became a pop star with her hit “Baby Baby” – Christian Amy Grant. Before she sold her soul to the devil.
Who is your all-time favorite musician/band(s)?
Ultimately, Chopin. But if you want to get a little more contemporary, I’d have to say David Bowie. Or Sparks. Or King Crimson. Or the Cars. I can’t choose.
Who is your favorite Detroit musician/band(s)?
Am I allowed to say Warren Defever? No? Okay, Westerbur and Rowe – Ross Westerbur and J Rowe. They are geniuses. Also, The DeCamp Sisters.
What is your favorite local venue to play?
That’s hard. When I play Detroit, I get so nervous.. I’m much more at ease playing somewhere that I don’t know a lot of people. We recorded a live album/DVD at Cliff Bells a few years ago, so maybe I should say Cliff Bells. It’s so beautiful, and the sound is pretty good.
What is your favorite non-local venue?
Doug Fir in Portland. They treat you like royalty, the sound is really good, and they feed you an amazing meal at the restaurant. Plus you can stay at the super-cool adjacent hotel; it’s awesome.
What was the best show you’ve played?
The last one we played, which was in Phoenix. That seemed to be a really good show with good vibes and good people. It was like a mini-vacation. It was really fun all around.
What was the worst show?
Probably my first show with His Name Is Alive. It was in the basement of Oslo, and it was the first show I ever played singing for anybody. The sound wasn’t good. I couldn’t hear myself, and I was so nervous. And ADULT. was there – Nicola and Adam’s presence (for some reason) made me really really nervous. They were so sweet; they said “Great job!” and everything, but I was still mortified.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Overcoming my self-consciousness. I’m not a singer or a front-woman by nature. I’m comfortable behind a keyboard. I’m comfortable off in a corner. I’m comfortable writing. But when I had to step-up and become the singer of His Name Is Alive it was really tough.
When did that happen?
I sang back-up on a couple things that Warren recorded with the Tranzistors. And I was under the impression that he had retired His Name Is Alive. But Warren had a birthday party – at CPop I think – I was there with my ex-boyfriend Ian and the three of us snuck upstairs under the guise of just jamming. Ian said, “Andrea can sing some really good Elvis songs and Patsy Cline,” and Warren was like, “Oh, let’s hear it.” He got out his guitar and started playing, and I started singing along thinking this was just a joke; just messing around with friends. Apparently, it was a secret audition. After that, Warren asked me to come in and record on this “thing” that he was working on. He didn’t call it His Name Is Alive, he just said he was working on some music and asked me to come in and sing on a little bit of it. I thought he was asking for back-up vocals. Sure, no problem. So I did it. Then a couple days later, he asked me to come back and do some more. Ok. Did that song. And then ten songs later… I saw a flyer for His Name Is Alive, playing live with a new album and a new singer – Me! I had no idea. I think if he had presented it to me as ‘you’re going to be the lead singer – I want you to be the primary voice on my next twelve albums, and tour the country singing in front of people,’ I would be like, NO WAY! No no no no. But the way he did it eased me into it. It took a long time, but I don’t really get stage fright anymore. I’m kind of fine with it now.
What advice would you give to other women who play or want to play music?
Just do it. Don’t let your hang-ups keep you back. I saw all of my friends – mostly male – playing in bands since I was 15 or 16. I could have started then, but I didn’t because I didn’t have enough confidence. If I had started earlier, I would be much more advanced now. It didn’t take me that long to get to a point where I got over those insecurities. Now I’m 34, and I could have gotten to this comfortable spot when I was 20. So, just do it. I see people like my 18 year old niece and her bandmate (The DeCamp Sisters) playing music. They’re doing it, and they’re just incredible. I’m envious of them, they’re so cool!
What are your immediate (1-3 year) goals for your music?
I can’t wait to finish the new His Name Is Alive album and tour it. That’s going to be really fun. We’re nearly done now. I’d also like to have my own album finished.
Are you interested in working on new projects with new people?
It’s funny, I get requests practically once every three weeks from acquaintances to play keys or do vocals on a project – and then I never hear back from them. I’m always, always open to things, but it depends on how serious someone is, and also how full my plate is.
Do you have any shows coming up?
Not that I know of.. I believe HNIA is planning to tour with the new album next spring or summer
Where can people hear your music and/or get in touch with you?