Interview: Nothing [December 2014]

By James Fox

Another band coming to the UK for the first time this year is Philadelphia’s shoegaze outfit Nothing, who feature Nicky Palermo – previously of hardcore band Horror Show – and the notorious Nick Bassett of Whirr. After putting out a stunning debut full length in ‘Guilty Of Everything’ earlier in the year, they’ve won over many new fans in 2014 and are rounding off the year with a split 12” with Whirr released on Run For Cover Records. We had a chat with guitarists Nicky and Brandon after their first ever UK show outside Brighton’s Green Door Store.

How was your first show in the UK?

Nicky: It was good, yeah good.

You’ve been busy with Europe over the past month. How’s that been?

Nicky: It’s been good. All the shows have been good – there’s been a couple sleepers here and there, but there’s been some good surprising shows that were crazy. Paris was really great.
Brandon: Kortrijk was sick.

I saw on your guitar the sticker saying ‘terrible feelings’. What is that?

Nicky: Yeah that’s a punk band from Sweden, they are really good.

Quite a few historic bands that you might be linked to have reformed recently like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride. What do you think about that and the current resurgence of shoegaze music?

Nicky: For me, it’s tight to see those bands again, but as much as we owe our sound to them I feel like they owe bands like us a little bit.
Brandon: Without bands like us, no-one would care for their reunions. It’s cool that they’re all coming back but who would give a shit without bands that are making young people realise that that era was cool?
Nicky: But it’s cool. I can’t wait to see Ride. We’ve just seen Slowdive recently.
Brandon: And My Bloody Valentine, so we’ve seen it all so far.

In the past, Nicky, you’ve spoken about how you’re quite a big reader and how that’s influenced you personally.

Nicky: I try. There was a time when it was a lot easier, but I still try to keep on it.

Have you had any books out with you on this tour?

Nicky: I just finished Sherwood Anderson’s ‘Winesberg Ohio’. I read it a long time ago but I barely even remembered it because I think I was just really stressed out at the time. I don’t think my brain was even saturated with anything I read.

You also mentioned, more specifically, how you’ve been influenced by existentialists like Dostoevsky and Sartre. Have you picked up any books that are more recent that you’d recommend that explore similar themes?

Nicky: I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone because it’s a life-changing book that makes you really hate everything that’s going on all the time. But if you’re into that kind of self-punishment then you should pick up ‘Conspiracy Against the Human Race’ by Thomas Ligotti. I won’t even get into detail, just read it if you want.

You’ve said previously, related to your taste in literature and art, that you described yourself as pessimistic or cynical. Is there anything you’ve ever found and been interested in that is the complete opposite of that?

Nicky: No, I’m attracted to things that are a little bit on the bleaker side. I don’t know why, it’s a terrible quality. My favourite thing is to sit late at night and talk to these guys about how bleak everything is and put myself into this horrible frenzy sitting in a hotel room at five in the morning.
Brandon: We’ll be there at five in the morning in a hotel and this dude will roll in and be like “YO! Nothing means nothing at all. Everything is so fucked up, nothing means anything. We’re all fucked.”

The video for your latest track ‘Chloroform’ ends on a pretty dark note.

Nicky: Doesn’t everything now?
Brandon: It was fun for us. We had a good day. It was an excuse to drink at 11am.

Who’s the guy that kidnaps you?

Brandon: Our friend Kyle. Kyle Kostel, big ups to him.
Nicky: He plays in a band called Sad Actor from Philadelphia and they’re fucking great.
Brandon: He’s a natural creep but his band are good.

Was he chosen because he’s a natural creep then?

Brandon: Yeah! He was in this band Trouble Everyday and they toured with Interpol and The Killers back in the day. And now he owns his own bar and he’s killing it. We’re just like “You’re a fucking creepy weirdo. Be in our video” and he loved it.

That track is from the split 12” you did with Whirr, and they’re a band that have been giving you praise for a few years now. They seem like a band you’re quite close to?

Brandon: They’re our best friends in the world.
Nicky: Family.

For people that don’t know them, how would you describe them?

Nicky: To me, it would be freshman year at high school sitting at a table with all your homies – no fucks given, joking, laughing. Every time we get around those dudes it’s like the real world doesn’t exist and it’s back to being 16, throwing caution to the wind and having a good time. That’s my interpretation of those guys. That’s why we stole Nick Bassett from them because we’re all miserable when we’re together and Nick kind of just like pours sugar on top of us.

On July white flags resembling those on your album artwork were raised on Brooklyn Bridge in New York, where there are usually the stars and stripes.

Brandon: Yeah, that was us. There’s an American flag there now. We can’t really give out names but…
Nicky: It was a press stunt. We’ve had some legal issues over it but we’ve got really good lawyers. We’ve got the best lawyers there are. So fuck them.

What does that white flag on the front of the album represent for you guys?

Brandon: Surrender.

Typically, yeah. But why did you gravitate towards that on the album? What did that surrendering represent?

Nicky: I think it’s about time for everyone to stop acting like they don’t really know what the fuck is going on in this world and I think things could turn a little bit more – not necessarily more positive – but different from what it is now which is a complete pile of dog-shit.
Brandon: It’s oddly positive in a world of people that live in shit and just wake up and deal with all of life’s bullshit. We’re just like “We can’t do this anymore, so let’s make some songs or whatever” because we literally can’t continue doing the real world shit. So we can’t sort of get above that and write songs about it and see what happens.

On this tour you brought Milk Teeth out with you. Did you manage to see them tonight?

Nicky: Yeah, they’re great. We’ve been following them for about eight months now. I started harassing them as soon I heard them. We were on tour in the US and I heard them and said “Yo, when we get to Europe we’ve gotta get this band.” They all thought it was tight. I was so persistent and started blowing up their Facebook page with messages like “Yo! Motherfuckers. You’re gonna play these shows with us or we’re gonna beat you the fuck up.”

Looking ahead for you guys with the split 12” that’s just come out, do you have any other future plans or anything else in terms of recordings?

Brandon: We’ve been writing some stuff. We haven’t had time off really since the record came out; we’ve just been touring crazy hard. We all have our own shit going on back home so it’s really hard to sit down with a guitar. I’d rather throw my guitar off the edge of a bridge and never see it again but we’ve been writing some shit and transitioning into some different stuff that’s still along the lines of what we’re doing now. We’ll write another LP and hopefully people will still give a fuck so we don’t have to get jobs ever again.

It’s always good to hear what bands are listening to right now. What new music have you been listening to? Anything other than what we’ve already discussed?

Brandon: All I’ve been listening to recently is Fear Of Men – ‘Loom’. They’re a Brighton band. The Alvvays self-titled from Canada and ‘Conversations’ by another English band, Woman’s Hour, is a great record. Aside from that, Code Orange – ‘I Am King’. A lot of good records came out this year.
Nicky: Not as close as ours but they’re pretty close. There are some close seconds and thirds.
Brandon: Whirr’s ‘Sway’ is in there too.
Nicky: Oh, and put on that Merchandise record too because that record is my favourite record of the year so far, besides our own. I listen to our record more than anything because it’s so fucking good, but that record slays, honestly.


Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]