Nikki Coogan: The Tattooed Devil’s Twin

BY JULIA CIRIGNANO

The Devil’s Twins released their debut album Handsome Devils in 2012. Since then, they have released two underground albums. The first they released later in 2013 titled Old Fashioned Mischief, and the second was released in 2015, titled Consequences. Influenced by acts such as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Amy Winehouse, Johnny Cash, Social Distortion, Local H and Iron Maiden, this trio has had giant success within the underground cult party.

The band consists of Nicole “Nikki” Marie Coogan and Jeremiah “J”  Louf who founded the band in 2010. They later added Matt Young to their auxiliary of live drummers and Shaqed Druyan, who began to drum in new recordings.

Nicole Coogan Tattoo Artist
Besides being a musician, Nicole Coogan is also a tattoo artist. (PHOTO BY JULIA CIRIGNANO)

Although Coogan is very passionate about her music, her other love and creative outlet has always been her work as a tattoo artist. While some girls dream of rose scented futures, Coogan dreamt of being a tattoo artist before she even got her first tattoo. Limelight Magazine sat down with Coogan while she tattooed one of the co-owners of Limelight on Sept.28th to ask her about both her music and her life as a tattoo artist.

“I’ve always been a painter and artist,” Coogan said. “I’ve been really interested in tattooing for as long as I can remember. When I was young I starting noticing them on people and when my dad would get tattooed sometimes he would let me come along. I was hooked”.

Coogan got her first tattoo when she was 18 and started her apprenticeship at Inflicting Ink Tattoo in Portsmouth, R.I., during her senior year at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She graduated and got her tattoo license the same year and has been working at Inflicting Ink for five years now.

Coogan loves the artistic elements to being a tattoo artist and also the social experiences. She loves to talk to people, hear the stories behind their tattoos, and when they see the end result. She also enjoys the process of getting to know the person she is permanently tattooing.

“I like working with my customers on their ideas,” she said. “I have a couple of favorite parts in each appointment. The first being when I get to meet the person I’ll be working with and hear their ideas. Sometimes they don’t necessarily know exactly what they’re looking for but when I come back down from the drawing table with their ideas put together visually it’s really satisfying to see the excitement they get in seeing it come to life. My second and truly favorite part is when they look in the mirror and see themselves and the tattoo for the first time. I watch for their facial expressions. It makes it all worth it to see themselves become more of who they want to be”.

“It’s interesting,” she continued. “Being tattooed is a vulnerable time for a person because they’re trusting me with their body and we’re very close. It’s like, ‘nice to meet you. I’m going to hold your arm for four hours’ but when I’m tattooing someone they really open up to me and that’s really cool.”

Coogan spoke about the ways in which being a tattoo artist has affected her.

“Both of these parts of my life have really made me a lot more confident. I used to be quieter,” she said. “As a tattoo artist, I get to make people happy all day. I get to talk to them and learn so much. That’s made me so much more comfortable in my own skin.”

Working at a tattoo parlor, Coogan has met a variety of interesting people. She has done some crazy and humorous tattoos. One of her favorite moments was when a nervous chef came to her asking for a tattoo.

“It took her a while to tell me what she wanted,” Coogan said. “What she ended up getting was two sunny side up eggs and a piece of bacon as a smiley face on her bum.”

Another crazy moment was when an older gentleman who Coogan has tattooed showed her a tattoo that surprised even her.

“His body is completely covered in tattoos,” Coogan began. “There’s this myth that he had a totem pole on his weiner and sperm whales on his balls. So one day I got really nervy and asked him and he told me it was true. I just had to know. It definitely was.”

One of Nicole Coogan's favorite tattoos was the (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Pictured above is one of Coogan’s favorite tattoos that she did for a friend. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Coogan talked about one her favorite tattoos she has ever done which she did on her friend Kacey Ellis.

“She has distant ancestors to Lizzy Borden so she wanted to get a Lizzy Borden tattoo,” Coogan said. “We did a lot of research on the story so we could keep it pretty historically accurate. The two of us live in Fall River so it’s pretty common folklore in town. We did a lace doily with the broken axe on it with a couple of peaches with bites taken out of them. The peaches were part of her alibi. We rounded it all up with ‘Daddy Issues’ written around it. It was a pretty sassy tattoo.”

Pictured above is a tattoo of Amy Winhouse by Corey Goyette that Coogan got on her leg after Winehouse died.
Pictured above is a tattoo of Amy Winhouse by Corey Goyette that Coogan got on her leg after Winehouse died.

Coogan herself is covered in tattoos that instantly draw your attention when she walks into a room. She talked about her personal favorite tattoo: a portrait of Amy Winehouse on her thigh.

“I got it the year she died,” Coogan said. “I remember when I heard Amy Winehouse for the first time it woke me up inside. She has this really unique voice. When I was first trying to find my voice, I feel like I tried to sing like a lot of other people but when I started listening to her, I realized that I didn’t have a bad voice. It was just really different.”

When she started singing like herself and not anyone else, Coogan became a far better vocalist. She found her sound, herself, and friends like her.

“If you own it, that’s it. It only takes one person to say something’s cool, before everyone else joins in,” Coogan said.

Coogan talked about her perspective on the way people with tattoos are stereotyped.

“It’s too bad the way some people judge others based only on the way they look,” Coogan said. “I do find that as time has passed things have gotten a lot better as far as tattoos go in means of judgement. Fear and judgment really do just come from people not understanding. It’s too bad that so many people decide that they know you right away rather than just asking questions.”

Coogan talked about one experience she had a few years back.

“I was working at my last job in retail at a tennis place,” she began. “It was when I had started getting a little more tattooed and an older woman came up to me at a tennis tournament and said, with a super straight face, ‘does your mother still talk to you?’”

Coogan understands that most judgement towards tattoos comes from fear of the unknown. She wishes that everyone could enjoy tattoos or at least try to understand them. She said that getting tattoos makes her happy and said, “When I get a tattoo I feel so much more like myself.”

Coogan said stereotyping has changed over the past couple of years. She explained that she now tattoos people of all ages and professions, including teachers and elderly people.

“Tattoos have been a lot more prevalent in the media, newspapers, and TV. Reality TV has really brought the industry way more into the spotlight. In some ways it’s good because it makes it a little easier to digest and understand but at the same time it gives people this preconceived notion of what the job actually entails and means. It’s not all like a show where you walk in and can get a back piece in a few hours.”

Besides being a tattoo artist, Coogan is also a member of The Devil’s Twins. She explained the natural progression to which she and Louf started making music together.

“J and I have obviously known each other for a long long time.” Coogan said.

Although their styles in music differed growing up, they came together in The Devil’s Twins. “In college J had started writing some music with a drummer from Berklee named Jesse Hangen. They were in the studio at MassArt writing ‘I Can’t Stop Sinning’ and they got stuck at a part where J really wanted a soul singer. He came up to my studio floor and brought me down there to lay it down. I think it was a kind of ah-ha moment where we all looked at each other and realized we had really started something.”

The band’s music can be found on Spotify, but Coogan explained why they chose to release these last two albums underground, after releasing their debut album in a more mainstream fashion.

“In the last year or so we’ve definitely made a change in how we want to do move forward together as a band,” she said. “What we’ve really worked for and what has made us successful in the last year or so is totally changing our format. We play less shows so they’re a bit fewer and far between and are more selective to how often we’ll play an area in a concentrated time. For Boston, we’ll plan four or five big events a year and really work sell them out and release something at each one of those.”

Coogan explained why being an underground artist attracted her and Louf and why they have stuck with it.

“We’ve also found that with these more formal releases and special events, we’ve grown so much closer to our fan base and it’s all be so much more special. They’re the reason we can do what we do,” she said.

Many of The Devil’s Twins’ fans come from an underground cult following. Coogan explained how these dedicated fans helped propel the band and how unique and special their relationship is with the band.

“They’re all crazy. They do ridiculous things,” she said. “We have this attitude with them, we’ll never stop playing this music with you and we’re going to support you and make you part of our family but what you do to support us is in your hands. They’re all really in the public eye with their support. So many of them have come to me to get the ‘2’ tattooed which is crazy. So many of them have made patches and pins and merch for our table. They’ll go to other shows and hand shit out and like tag walls and graffiti things. They’re extremely extremely supportive.”

Not only are The Devil’s Twins close to their fans, they’re also close to their crew.

“We try to keep our crew close. The 2 crew are our core fan base. The ones who are always there no matter what.” she said. “They’re like a family that has developed over the past years. They have their own Facebook group where they’ll make plans and share videos and talk. They all have the tattoos and they’re all out of their damn minds. They definitely all feel included and they know we couldn’t do it without them. It’s all felt a lot more special since we started treating things like that.”

The Devil’s Twins are currently working on new music. They’re experimenting with new sounds and collaborating with other musicians.

“We’re working on some new material now that we’re really excited about,” Coogan said. “We just finished a song with the Boston rapper, Slaine which has always been a dream of ours. We’ll be releasing that soon and I’m so excited to have everyone hear it. We’ll be releasing it as a single in the very near future.”

Coogan explained that The Devil’s Twins’ new music will sound like them but with a new twist. They are exploring new instruments and sounds to create what they think will be the band’s best album so far.

“I feel like we’re melding into a new era where we’re less afraid to use more auxiliary sounds,” she said. “We have so many options open because right now it’s just J and I making all of those decisions and we’re both so into just kind of getting free with our music now. I’m really into our lyrics being very wordy and almost tripping over themselves. I love making music that has a real narrative storyline to make people think.”

Recently, The Devil’s Twins have been nominated for two Boston Music Awards: Best Rock/Indie Band and Best Live Artist of the Year. Cast your vote HERE!

Nicole "Nikki" Marie Coogan shines on stage at a recent performance with The Devil's Twins. (PHOTO BY
Nicole Coogan shines on stage at a performance with The Devil’s Twins. (PHOTO BY ROGER GORDY, SUBMITTED BY NICOLE COOGAN)

 

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