It’s been a whole four years since the beloved ear-shattering guitar quartet from Philadelphia last came to our shores. Priding themselves as being one of the first bands in the US to do a full nationwide tour since the pandemic hit two years ago, they’ve finally been able blast out hit after hit from their latest record The Great Dismal with sold-out shows across the world. Whilst the lineup has fluctuated over the last 10 years or so, leader Dominic Palermo couldn’t have a better group of people to join him on the road, with Christina Michelle (Gouge Away) on bass and Benny Meed (Dead Swans) on drums. Ahead of their Brighton show at Green Door Store, I was lucky enough to speak to Nicky and lead guitarist Doyle Martin of Cloakroom about their return to the UK and the context behind that sample on ‘Say Less’.
Your first EP Downward Years To Come came out 10 years ago, how does it feel looking back on it?
Nicky: That’s a long time to remember! But yeah, we did that record with Kyle Johnson. So the lineup was a lot different. We didn’t really quite comprehend what we were doing, not that we do now either. But yeah, it felt young. Things felt more like a band, as recording Sons and Lovers still felt like the demo that got put together by us. Downward kinda felt the same, except that, got put on vinyl. It was also kind of the first time that I felt like we were starting to see what our sound might be. As far as like, where we’re at now it’s like a whole different planet!
(At this point in the interview, Doyle asks my girlfriend for a ‘tiny cigarette’ which we call rollies in the UK. I watch as he constructs it together and doesn’t even need to lick the paper to fold it.)
On The Great Dismal it felt like you took a more ‘cinematic’ approach to songwriting. Would you say that’s a fair statement to make?
Nicky: I mentioned Sound Of Metal in a previous interview, but I also watched a lot of movies by Yorgos Lanthimos and Akira Kurosawa during quarantine, so it coincided with us demoing the album. I think I watched a movie or two a day during that first year so yeah, I watched good shit, some bullshit, I downloaded the Criterion app at one point, which was cool because I would never usually have the time to sit down and appreciate shit like that. So yeah, it was definitely an art-filled time when we wrote the record.
I wanted to know more about why you chose that sample of a woman talking about shopping at a mall as a form of exercise for the song Say Less, what’s the context there?
Nicky: That song is about people speaking to you too much. Like whether it’s just on some like, punishing shit. Or if it’s like, someone just trying to like, talk your ear off. Or if it’s like some coke head shit, like, it’s kind of like a mixture of all that. So the video that we use is like, it’s like this pretty unused video of this lady that’s like, looks like she’s on a bunch of amphetamines at the mall. And she talks about working out at the mall through shopping. So it was it seemed like a good my friend sent it to us when we were in the studio and I just was like, “I’m gonna sample this”.
Doyle: Not a lot of views on it either before we used it!
You recently posted some photos of yourself with Full Of Hell, what can we look forward to hearing from both of you?
Nicky: They’re very close friends of mine, but aside from a live stream set and being on a few bills we’ve kept what we have planned for Roadburn Festival pretty quiet. So hopefully one day we’ll get to record something together unless it’s a complete disaster of course. It’s just gonna be me and Doyle but even then it’s always hard trying to get everyone to rehearse together. We’ll see how it goes.
Despite all the bad luck you’ve had over the years, do you feel like there are people out there that get the wrong impression about you? Do you still get accused of being a ‘tough guy’ band?
Doyle: I mean, we are a tough guy band dude, hahaha.
Nicky: It’s awful, we still get that from certain people online and in person. I think it’s just people don’t know how to handle someone that’s as open and honest as we are and things like that. And, you know, we don’t really follow the same guidelines and rules that everyone does. So like, we kind of alienate ourselves in that way. And the easiest way to misinterpret someone that’s put themselves in a different spot is the kind of like give them something that they don’t understand whether it’s like a being called a bully or like, whatever it is, that’s how they deal with not being able to understand that we just want to do things the way we do things.
What do you love most about touring the UK?
Nicky: Mostly just getting to see our friends that we don’t get to see face to face very often. We don’t have the same lifelong connections in mainland Europe so we consider y’all to be our real friends. Ben who’s filling in on drums is someone I’ve known for over 10 years, for example. We had fucking breakfast at his parents’ house in Worthing this morning with beans mushrooms and eggs, shit ruled. No matter how many times I come over here you guys still sound funny to me, I can’t get enough of it! I also just love being in Brighton in general, it’s for sure one of my favorite places to visit.
I know it’s probably a question you get sick of hearing about but is Horror Show done for good?
Nicky: Short answer, no. I don’t have the energy for it and the people that were involved with that like I owe them a fair bit of respect to just like not bother with it anymore. Every once in a while we would hit a show or something like that and I didn’t feel like it was disrespectful to Joshua who passed away or anything but… I’ve had the thought of like recording again, maybe a third final little EP but it just seems doesn’t seem right. Plus, the people that are coming back around, bringing their old band back and trying to do it again like they just end up embarrassing themselves most of the time and I don’t want to accidentally do that to myself. I’ve managed to make it this long without like not completely embarrassing myself.
Right, so my follow-up question to that is…will there be any more Death Of Lovers material in the future?
Nicky: I’ll probably do something again, like that. The thing with that was, I think that there’s a medium which existed for why I did that band was because, at the time, the lineup was a little bit more fluid as far as writing and stuff. But now that like, it’s back to like a band again new people. And there’s absolutely room for change. I think that like I can probably appease what I want to get out of Death Of Lovers with Nothing. In some sense, I would expect big changes because I’m not going to make the same record again. Maybe that’s when I’ll embarrass myself along for the ride!
Finally, when can we expect a new record from Nothing?
Nicky: I don’t think we can release records at the same pace that we did before the pandemic, but also it feels like there’s way less pressure now to do so. The Great Dismal felt like an amazing way to end being in this band for a decade, almost like closing the final chapter of a book. I got what I wanted out of an album during a fucked up time and now I’m hitting up shows with these guys and it’s sick.
Doyle: I think next year we might start writing again but for now we’re just chilling. I mean, when I joined the band you guys already had a bunch of demos ready to go.
Nicky: Yeah I want to feel less pressure on my shoulders, we’ll start up again when the time feels right. It will be good to write a record with Doyle and do it that way.
Doyle: Are you gonna tell people I did that? That I housed Nicky’s pint?
Nothing will play the Sunday of Outbreak Festival in Manchester on 26th June. Get tickets here.