There’s Nothing left to lose
If you think you’ve had a couple of bad years, wait until you hear Nothing‘s story.
Words: Jessica Goodman.
It seems as though Nothing have always had a shadow looming over them. It echoes through their music, and it hangs heavily in the title of their latest album. But for all the turmoil they’ve faced, the Philadelphia outfit stand steadfast. ‘Tired Of Tomorrow’ may be seeped in strife and confusion, but much like the band, it bears its scars with no apology.
“There’s seemed to be a cloud following over the band’s head, or my head, even, forever,” frontman Domenic Palermo mulls. “As far as the band goes, it’s always kind of had this vibe to it where anything that can go wrong will in fact go wrong, without a doubt. But we just take it in our stride.” With chaos surrounding them, the group turn to creativity, finding and forging resilience.
“Everything that we do reflects on what we’re going through,” he conveys. “We take a blank canvas and look at everything going on in our lives and use that to write the music itself.” More than just an outlet for inspiration, Nothing use their music as a way of dealing with the world that surrounds them. “That’s why people back it so hard. They know it’s coming from a legitimate source.”
The record has been in the works since debut album ‘Guilty Of Everything’ hit shelves in 2014. But it wasn’t until after a post-concert attack brought everything to an abrupt halt that the band ventured into the studio. “Someone tried to rob me after we played. And I didn’t comply,” Domenic cautiously explains of the incident. “So five guys beat me up pretty bad. There was no one around, so it kind of went on for an absurdly long time.”
Rescued by his tour mates and rushed to hospital, the injuries he sustained not only kept the band off the road, but left them miles away from home. “I had a fractured skull, a fractured orbital, couple of fractured parts of my lower back, nineteen staples…” he lists. “And I had a swollen brain, so I couldn’t really fly home for a few weeks.”
Prevented from performing, the group continued to compile the songs that would form the foundation for their second album. “I went out to Big Sur, ate a ton of pain medicine, and started to write,” Domenic shrugs. “I was hanging out on the beach, walking around the woods, and just being high, trying to get my life back together.”
Diving straight into recording after six weeks of touring, emotions continued to run high. “I don’t care who you’re around for that long: it could be your mother – though your mother might be worse than anybody,” he chuckles, “but you’re going to start getting irritated by them.”
Having “rewrote everything from top to bottom”, the group found strength in their creativity, and the end result is a snapshot inside the lives and minds of the shoegaze punks with the world raging around them. “The songs that we did keep from previously began to take a whole new shape and meaning. It’s a more blatantly honest version of itself,” Domenic interprets of the record.
“We went through so much shit together it felt quite inspired,” he reflects, “but we also felt like we were waiting on death row. It had a very grim vibe to it. Not just mentally, but also physically from the pain that I was dealing with. Everyone’s morale was in a hazy place, so it started to come through when we were doing the record. Everything changed after that.”
Everything was about to change. Having signed with Collect Records for the release of the album, Nothing were shocked to learn that the silent investor behind the label was Pharmaceutical price-gouger Martin Shkreli. “It was a Wednesday evening,” Domenic recollects. “A friend who was HIV positive reached out to me asking ‘is this the guy that’s involved with your label?’”
Shelving the release was the only decision the band could make. “It wasn’t even a question in my mind,” the frontman asserts. “I wanted to wait for Geoff [Rickly, Collect label boss], but ultimately I knew that I don’t want to be a part of anything like that. I wasn’t going to put out something that I literally bled making compromised by something like this.”
Returning to Relapse Records (who released the band’s debut album in 2014), ‘Tired Of Tomorrow’ was back on track. “We know that trouble is always walking at our footsteps,” Domenic expresses. “As soon as we signed to Relapse and everything seemed to be good, Nick’s [Bassett, bass] mother passed away suddenly. They found her face down in her apartment. She’d been there for about four days. Then literally two weeks after that they found my father on the side of the road, dead in a puddle.”
With all odds stacked against them, Nothing stand strong. “It’s a continuous thing for all of us, but it’s a continuous thing for everybody,” Domenic articulates. “The circumstances are a little bit weird considering that it keeps happening to us, but this isn’t an isolated incident, this is happening to everyone, everywhere. At the end of the day we just try to laugh at the utter absurdity of everything that life is.”
With their heads held high, the band are determined to take whatever the world throws their way. “We’re used to it at this point, and I’m not surprised by anything that happens,” Domenic imparts. “That’s just how we deal with it. Life can try to batter us down all it wants, but the record’s coming out, and it’s going to do good. Who knows what’ll happen after that?”
Strength against adversity is a key component in ‘Tired Of Tomorrow’. “I was really adamant about trying to move away from the more black and grey pallet that we stuck with before, and trying to use brighter colours,” the frontman states. “The record is still pretty sombre and lethargic, but sometimes colours speak that too.”
‘Tired Of Tomorrow’ owes its vibrance to the studio that brought it to fruition. “When we did ‘Guilty Of Everything’ we were using pawn shop guitars and the shittiest fucking pedals,” Domenic groans. “This time the studio we recorded in was this fucking beautiful, immaculate place with a giant piano and the most insane soundboard ever.”
“I got to use everything that I’ve always wanted to use,” he enthuses. “Being able to sit there with three musicians in a string section that is undoubtedly way more musically talented than you, but have them listening to you and playing at your league and to your music…” he trails off in amazement. “I could see myself – if I have the opportunity – getting more and more into that, loosening the knot on everything that we do and trying to progress.”
Thrilled though the band may be about expanding their horizons, they’re not all that sure what it means for their live show. “We’ll probably just get drunk and play all these really pretty songs on the record really terribly, and then everyone will think we suck live,” Domenic laughs. “We have some plans. Things progress. We’re going to not be as cheap.”
Every decision Nothing have made on the run up to ‘Tired Of Tomorrow’ has been characteristically bold, from their instrumentation right down to the album artwork. The title painted across a New York rooftop is typical of everything the album name represents. “I chose that roof,” Domenic proclaims. “We did the record cover ourselves in Brooklyn. I wanted to show that monotony, the everyday grind of being stuck in this square peg of a city block.”
Like the multi-story buildings that adorn the artwork, ‘Tired Of Tomorrow’ is an album of many layers. “It has so many different stages to it,” the frontman illustrates. “I feel like the album is as close as you can get to watching a documentary about four dudes who literally were just being pulled apart by everything.”
It’s appropriate then that the album release is accompanied by a six-part documentary detailing the albums creation. “That was something we talked about before any of this shit happened,” Domenic reveals. “It was supposed to be just an in studio doc, but Don [Argott, director] was following us around pretty much from the hospital on, through the studio, then through the Collect thing, and the Relapse thing, then eventually the deaths… That kind of just wrapped it up. It was funny that he had been there and he happened to wind up picking up a lot of this stuff, so we figured it was interesting enough to release.”
With no holds barred, ‘Tired Of Tomorrow’ is a very real portrait of Nothing at their most candid. “You start to realise that you’re an important thing to somebody,” Domenic contemplates, looking back on how far they’ve come. “There are people this means a lot to, and they feel like they’re a part of it. After a while I felt more responsible for things.”
With their new album finally imminent, it’s full steam ahead for the Philadelphia outfit. “This thing is so far behind where I should be right now that I’m already thinking about the next record,” the frontman teases. “I really just want to get this out, and start working on the next thing again. I want to keep pumping stuff out until people don’t want to fucking hear us any more. Then I can crawl back into the hole that I came from and disappear.”
The cynicism – or indeed, realism – with which the group view the world is very much a part of who they are. With their latest effort they make no bones about the turmoil that they’ve faced. And why should they? ‘Tired Of Tomorrow’ encapsulates everything that builds us. In the face of a daunting tomorrow, Nothing remain resolute today. And sometimes that’s all you need.