How much can one take from life and be able to just keep moving? Well, that’s something it must be done day by day and sometimes it becomes something inexplicable. Nothing‘s frontman Domenic “Nicky” Palermo seem to be that kind of person who keeps pushing forward even when things get really dark and rough, and then he was able with his bandmates to deliver yet another brilliant record. Nicky opened up to us about the recent hard events of his life and the whole process of making Tired Of Tomorrow.
It’s been 2 years since you released your incredible debut album, Guilty of Everything and a lot of awful stuff has happened to you ever since. How are you feeling nowadays?
I feel ok. I’m relieved that yesterday is done with and I’m very excited to see what tomorrow brings me, hopefully it gives me a little bit time off of the bullshit that we see.
Yeah, I like to think that there’s always a new tomorrow, even if it’s a fucked up one.
[laughs] Yeah, that’s a good way of thinking about it.
One of the awful things that happened to you was during a tour last summer in Oakland, CA. Can you tell us what happened that day?
When loading out equipment after a gig, some guys came into the venue and seemingly looked like they wanted to take my phone from me or something, so I got in tossal match with one of them and then it wasn’t long before they took the advantage… and they sent me to the hospital for a few days with a fractured skull, a fractured orbital, a couple of small fractures on my lower back and like 19 staples in my head. They dislodged a thing that was in my ear that was kind of irritating my hearing a little bit more than already is, but apparently at least that is supposed to fix itself over time, unless on this tour I just destroy it completely, we’ll see. [laughs]
During that time you shared a picture of yourself, I was horrified how badly injured you were and really worried about your health. How long it took for you to recover?
I didn’t really have much time to recover. I mean, the tour was kind of cancelled right at that point, obviously, because I was in the hospital for three days and my doctor advised me not to fly home right away, because my brain was so swollen… Since I was in the bay, I was losing my mind and just anxious and stressful at that point. There was just so much that had built up at that exact moment anyway. We toured so extensively after Guilty Of Everything was released. It was just wild times and all this crazy stuff happening and then boom! I’m just on a hospital bed and everything just stopped… It was the first time that I was able to stop and look around and I was just like “What the fuck is going on right now?” I took a trip down to Big Sur and I’ve always wanted to go and never had time to. While I waited for my newly found gigantic brain to go back to its normal small size, I took a trip to Big Sur and visited some of my favorite writers’ homes and went to Henry Miller Memorial Library, and stuff like that. I just kind of ate pain pills and just kind of wrote a ton of stuff. Just kept listening to the demos that we had and that we were about to record in a week. I rewrote a lot of stuff and changed a lot of the lyrical content because, you know, things just seemed to want to rewrite themselves a bit. I flew back home and then we started the studio experience.
Obviously the experience that you went through that day had a massive impact on your life and also on your music. As you said, you had some of the music and lyrics done for the new record before that incident. How was the process of rewriting them after what happened?
Everybody at this point was pretty confused. They were on the same boat as I was, except they just weren’t at a hospital, you know? They were dealing with what I was dealing with, just as much as I was and everything else that we were dealing at that point… This placement from being home, but not really feeling like you’re home, because you’re on the road so much… We got to the studio like you could tell that Will Yip is just this really positive and happy guy. [laughs] He worked with all these bands that are just like happier bands like Citizen, Title Fight, Basement and that’s not us at all. [laughs] We’re the complete opposite, you know? I was like covered in bruises and cuts. Nick’s mom had passed away during that time unexpectedly and then you got Kyle, who is constantly going through an existential crisis, so he’s looking at everything and freaking out. Will was probably like “Man, this is going to be a mess” but when we got in the studio, especially when we had some kind of inspirational stuff like this happening, that’s when we write music. We started to turn these songs out and Will knew right away – and we knew right away – that we were doing something special.
What was it like to work with him [Will Yip] and what did he bring to the songs for Tired Of Tomorrow?
He’s very methodical. The thing about Will is that he literally is like how we are with things when it comes to make music. He understands the vision that the band that he’s working with wants and we’re kind of assholes about that stuff usually, like we go into a studio and there’s a producer that is like “Hey, do you want to try this?” and we’re like “No!” We know what we want… You hear stories about bands that haven’t produced a whole song or parts of it. We’re completely fine, but there hasn’t been anyone yet, besides Will, who could make us a mention and I respect him enough to be like “Ok, let’s hear what he has to say.” It was cool in that aspect. Will was really great to work with.
You released a six part documentary series on the making of Tired Of Tomorrow, directed by Don Argott (Art Of The Steal, Last Days Here, As The Palaces Burn). The episodes show how Tired Of Tomorrow was developed. What was the best and the worst part of working on this album?
The worst part was absolutely the tremendous pain that I was in personally. I woke up one night and rolled over in bed and the whole room started to spin. After trying to diagnose myself through Google, I realized that I was suffering from vertigo out of the blue. I was like “This is nice, this is a new thing.” That was an interesting twist to be in. I was literally just like spinning around and it was pretty awful, but for the most part it was a healthy experience by the end of it. We were around each other for so long at this point and just seemed disastrous like with everything that was going on and literally it just wasn’t. It was a beautiful experience and it really solidified the fact that by the end of it, it was like “Ok, there’s nothing that anyone can do to stop us from what we’re doing, unless they literally put us in the ground” you know what I mean? That was the only way. So, it was kind of exciting for me to see that everyone was ready to do this to the bitter end.
The title Tired of Tomorrow feels such an accurate and strong portrayal of what you may feel after these few last months of your life. Was in that regard that you choose that title?
The funny thing about it is I wrote that title maybe a month… it was a part of a small piece that I wrote, but it’s not connected to the song at all. I wrote this thing that I liked and then I hated everything else about it except for the title, so it was like “You know what? This title is sick. I think that we should use it as the record title.” And then life tends to happen and next thing you know the title of the record was like way more accurate than it even was before. That wasn’t actually intentional as far as the recent events went.
“I rewrote a lot of stuff and changed a lot of the lyrical content because, you know, things just seemed to want to rewrite themselves a bit.”
You were talking about anxiety and I think it is such a big part of everyone’s life and is one of the themes that you approach in your songs. Songwriting is a way to repel those feelings for sure. Did you feel that writing Tired Of Tomorrow was a way for you to figure things out after all you have been through?
That’s been my only saving grace, just travelling through this life has been the connection to music for a small bit of the time where I decided that I wasn’t going to do it anymore was probably the worst point of my life, in general. There wasn’t even that many awful things like the way things rolled after I started writing it and I was in the worst place ever. I felt like if I’m not doing this, I’m not gonna last too long. The band has literally been about turning tragedy into songs and turning feelings into songs. Without that, I don’t even know where I’d be.
Does it feel weird for you to see that so many people connect with your music?
I always had a hard time answering this question just because is kind of hard for me to swallow. I see that there are people that enjoy our music or they’re not part time listeners ever. They seem to be like extremely connected to everything we do and that’s really hard for me to see the love all the time, but the best way I can answer it is that I just think that people can see the honesty in everything that we do. There’s so much bullshit and there’s so many phony people in this music world. It literally till this day still surprises me when I think that I have like a legitimate friend in this industry and I just realize once again that they’re not. I think that the reason why people attached themselves to us is because they can see the brutal honesty in everything that we do. I think that might be it or they just feel bad. [laughs] There are people that have things way worse than us. People want to see this lucid and mystical embodiment of something like “They won’t follow you on Twitter man, they’re above you.” It’s all phony bullshit with everything. At the end of the day, I guarantee you that there’s maybe ten musicians in this world that live exactly what they portray while they’re walking around in their house, having eggs or something, you know what I mean? It’s all bullshit.
I totally understand you, it’s hard to find musicians that do their music with a purpose or with honesty. Sometimes it just seems they’re doing just to get by or just for the fun.
Yeah, just to get by… A lot of my friends like Torche, those guys are the best guys and there’s no bullshit in them. They do this because they love it and they need to do it, you know? It’s a necessity to them to live their lives and to create music because without that, we don’t have anything else and I think there’s people who cannot understand that and they want to attach themselves to it.
Kurt Cobain passed away 22 years ago today [April 5th] as well Layne Staley 14 years ago, and it’s curious to see how different the 90’s were from nowadays. Everything is really different.
Yeah. I was just reading an article – I think it might be from Rolling Stone – with Krist Novoselic and he was just talking about the impact that Nirvana still has on bands these days. I mean, it’s just really because it was something so special and honest at that point in all music, not just in rock music. It was just overflowing with awful fucking shit and then all of the sudden this punchy, loud like “I don’t give a fuck” band comes out and it has the most beautiful poetry. It’s like overdriven feedback guitar, how could that not have changed the world? There’s not many artists out there right now that I could see that could ever do anything like that. Hopefully there’s someone around the corner that is capable of that…
I wonder sometimes if Kurt Cobain was still around us, what he would think about nowadays’ music. I would really like to know his thoughts about it. [laugh]
[Laughs] I think he would be highly upset, but who knows? I mean, he lived through heavy metal and so I don’t think it would be possible for him to get through with nowadays music. [laughs]
Listening to the track “ACD (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)”, it leads me to all your struggles. How did you come up with this song? It’s probably one of the most intense tracks of the LP.
Yeah, for sure. Brandon had this song almost completely written, it was the first song that we had out of all the demos. We sat on it for so long and we never had words for it. Actually, Brandon had words for it, but it was about hanging out in this gig club that we hang out all the time, it’s like an afterhours gig club. Anytime we end up there, it’s just going to be one of those days where we’re just going to wake up the next morning wanting to end our lives because of the hangover, so that’s basically what he had written for the lyrics… Again, while we were on tour, all of that stuff happened and he was suffering from a really bad tooth ache the all time and I kept telling him “Dude, you have to write this song. You have to write the lyrics. Make it about your tooth” and he messed it around for a while. When I got into the studio, I had all these new ideas and he went through this weird… I hope he doesn’t get mad at me. [laughs] He was going through this weird breakup with these two girls. He was hanging out with these two different girls at the same time and I was just like “Dude, you literally are like a cancer to some of these people” and I just kind of wrote the song about him essentially being with an infected tooth that’s like sitting in someone’s mouth, just like songs about being awful for them.
Now I understand that part of the lyrics, “And I will leave you / With a bad taste in your mouth.”
Yeah! So, I got that for him and then he was like “Cool man! Thanks!” [laughs] He probably likes it.
And then there’s “Nineteen Ninety Heaven”, such an easy and calm track, but lyrically is more intense than it looks like, and you had Kylie Lotz of Petal as guest vocals.
She has a beautiful voice and she’s a really good friend too. Will introduced us. We were discussing this in a couple of different female vocalists that we knew. When I wrote the song, I really wanted to have a female vocal over it and it was hard to get some people into the studio, just because it was so far away and I was dealing with the idea of flying a couple of people in just because I was out of my mind at that point like I said. I was aware of Petal and Will was like “I’m really good friends with her” and Brandon kind of grew up in the same neighbourhood as her, and then I was like “It’s so much easier, let’s have her in.” It was great watching her like blowing my vocal away on the track, so it was nice.
“There’s so much bullshit and there’s so many phony people in this music world. It literally till this day still surprises me when I think that I have like a legitimate friend in this industry and I just realize once again that they’re not.”
You said earlier that you suffered from vertigo while in the studio and I suppose the song “Vertigo Flowers” is connected with that.
Yes, it is. That was the most direct song to the studio experience on the record for sure. There was anxiety, paranoia and on top of the pain there was just this looming vertigo thing, which we were at this point when we were on six days a week with only Saturday as being the day off. There was no way for me to get to a doctor or anything like that, it just wasn’t happening. I was like “Well, I’m just gonna push forward and if I happen not to wake up one day because there’s something wrong with my head, then that’s just going to be the way this all ends.” That song I wanted to be like very short to the point and a powerful one, quick and catchy.
Even the video for “Vertigo Flowers” is quite straight to the point and very colourful, in which you are standing up against a white wall while you’re being blasted with paint.
[Laughs] We set the paint out of eight fire extinguishers, it was awful. Not to mention it was pretty much right around the zero degrees, which was like 30 degrees below freezing. It was freezing cold and it was painful on impact, but also burnt my eyes so bad. It was literally like a final torture test at this point that “You know what? We’re just gonna continue to torture ourselves to get our point across.” We only had one take on that, so there was no practicing for it. We practiced without the paint going off a few times and then we just recorded and rolled with it. We had to try to stay in character as much as we could, but I couldn’t see for like two hours. It was just like some regular house paint from The Home Depot, with no research done if it was going to blind us or anything. This is on top of the awful decisions with this band. [laughs]
Your latest single “Eaten By Worms” was released with a dark and surreal video, which was co-written and co-directed by you and Kevin Haus, and it even has a Michael Jackson cameo on it. Tell me the story behind this song and video.
I was meeting with a new director and we talked on the phone. We were meeting in New York City for lunch and I got a phone call that morning like 6 in the morning from my stepbrother saying that my father passed away. They found him on a side of the road. He fell off his bike in a storm pretty much at the same time as I was out drinking while this was going on, which we had a weird relationship, but still it hit me pretty hard because he fell off his bike slipping off into a ditch. The ditch was filled with water and he was just knocked out and he just drowned. It was like an awful kind of weird, he didn’t deserve that… Obviously, I reschedule the meeting. We talked on the phone with Kevin [Haus] about what I was thinking for the video and had some ideas. He was dwelling on it and a lot of it was about tragedy, life in general and how dearly humans hold on to life so much when they don’t know what happens after. This song is pretty much about letting go the whole process of why we hold on so hard. When I explained all that to him, he was like “Wow!” [laughs] I think he became emotionally invested at that point as well as I was, so I feel like it really comes across in the film that way because again how invested he was and how honest it felt.
Are you and Kevin planning on make more videos together for any other song of this album?
I’m not sure if we’re gonna make anything else on this record, but I would love to make a video for every song because I feel like I could. I don’t know if they would be good, but I feel like I could definitely come up with a concept for every one of these videos. Right now, me and Kevin are also trying to put together some short films. We’re working on that now.
The record ends with the beautiful and melancholic title track with piano and string arrangements. What led you to approach this song with a piano-based moody sound?
Honestly, I had the song written on guitar for a while and we were gonna do a kind of similar to the acoustic stuff that we do sometimes, but we have done that on the record a couple of times in various kinds of forms. Nick Bassett [bassist] is really great at playing piano and pretty much anything. He’s like out of his mind and he doesn’t drink or anything, he’s a crazy person. He likes to sit in his room, playing guitar or piano or playing with a recording software. You can’t talk to him, he’s a maniac. [laughs] But anyway, I kind of went with him and we turned the guitar into a piano version. I was like “This is really nice, I always wanted to do this.” We had access to a piano in the studio that John Lennon and Elton John had recorded songs on it. We were like “Why not use this in this big room? It will sound awesome.” We did that and then I got with Will to bring a string section to it, and we did that next. It was really cool to just be a musician with not that much of a formal training and just kind of have the string section at my hands, making these melodies and these different strings going on violin and going in different directions, tunes and melodies. They would kind of listen to me like humming out loud what I want and then they would write sheet music. It was a cool experience to have that at my fingertips. I really enjoy that side of music, sometimes much more than even heavier stuff. I would really love to go into that more.
Last time we talked, your favorite song off Guilty Of Everything was “Somersault”, so what’s your favorite on this new album?
It’s tough for me… I really loved the process of recording “Tired Of Tomorrow” and as far as heavy songs like as simple and as straightforward “Eaten By Worms” which was me in the hospital that song. As “Vertigo Flowers” means the studio, “Eaten By Worms” means me in the hospital. So, there’s so many things that I connect myself to that they feel so personal. It’s hard for me to pick. Obviously there are songs that me and Brandon wrote together and I was in love with that, and then are songs that I’m really excited to play live like “Curse Of The Sun”. I can’t wait to play that song live, I feel like we’re going to blow people’s faces off with that song when we play it live. I’m gonna say “Somersault” again. [laughs]
“I felt like if I’m not doing this, I’m not gonna last too long. The band has literally been about turning tragedy into songs and turning feelings into songs. Without that, I don’t even know where I’d be.”
This new album was originally set for release on Geoff Rickly‘s Collect Records, until some controversy emerged within the label. That was another issue that you guys had to deal with and you eventually left the label and now you’re back on Relapse Records. What are your thoughts about the whole thing with Collect Records?
Honestly, it was a terrible thing for Geoff. He had his heart fully into this whole thing and that was one of the main reasons I went with them in the first place, just because of the pure dedication that he had. I could see how invested he was physically and emotionally into the thing, you know? At the end of the day, I’m not the one to pass judgement on many things to people like I live my life in an awful way and sometimes is not definitely acceptable, but there’s some things that I just can’t ignore. I hate money, you know what I mean? I hate money and I hate people who truly buy it more and I just couldn’t connect myself to that at all. I just told Geoff that I was really sorry and I couldn’t do this. It’s one thing if it was like I was working at a job like a mindless shit like painting houses for a guy that was like “Well, obviously there’s nothing in this.” But for me to attach something that’s so personal that I worked so hard for and let it be tainted it by anything like that was something that I was not willing to do.
It was such a delicate situation, but it’s great to see you back with Relapse Records.
Yeah, that was the good thing. We chopped around at different labels and had a lot of interest from a bunch of labels, even some major labels and stuff. A lot of it was timing stuff problems, you know, people being like “Can’t just move you to the front, you’re gonna have to wait”. Relapse was like “Dude, yeah! We’ll put it out the fastest we can. We’ll get this record out.” We were just like “Why would we ever take a risk again with anything when everyone at Relapse were so perfect?” They have the most amazing and caring staff, never once asked us to change anything on any of the recordings. They’re just an amazing staff from top to bottom.
Looking to all you’ve been through, I have to say that even when life hits you hard, you still manage to move on like you have this constant inner strength and your music is a way of showing that. Would you agree with that?
I don’t see it that way, I see it more as it’s not in my DNA to leave the world at my own hand ever… It’s just not a part of something that I could do, if that was something that I was able to do, it would probably happen. I’m just able to shake it off and keep moving. I almost feed off of it so it becomes a kind of a thing like “How much can I take?” rather than “I can take anything”. It seems that life has chosen to be as how much are you willing to take. I become obsessed with it.
Are you still living in Philadelphia?
Actually, I’m in New York City most of the time now, I had to change it up a little bit. I like it now more than Philadelphia and I like it a whole lot better than Los Angeles. I don’t foresee myself ever staying in the same place very long.
I was asking about that because I wanted to know how’s Philadelphia music scene like now.
It’s still kind of the same story with Philadelphia thing. There’s a lot more press on us nowadays and honestly Philadelphia is just a very hateful place, it has always been like that. As that goes to bands, to websites, to anything from promoters… There’s only a few good solid people in that city and they constantly try to eat each other up there and it has always been like that. That was one of the main reasons that I left. We skipped the all like “This band is touring well and they’re from Philly, let’s show them love.” We went from being like “Ok, we’re not going to talk about this band at all” to “Ok, this band think they’re too big”. They just missed the whole showing us love type of thing and it kind of sucks. We have some good friends there, there are some great bands coming out of there, but for the most part I don’t even bother anymore… Like I said, you find out how phony everyone gets and so it gets to a point where you don’t even want to fucking mention anything anymore… I just hope I’ve never had to deal with anybody at some point where I just never have to talk to anybody or think about anything like that. Hopefully I find someone who could do our social media one day so I don’t have to even look at that and I would be the happiest person in the world.
Do you recommend us any new bands or records that we should totally check out?
Yeah! I don’t know if you heard the new WRONG record, but it’s insane. It’s a punishing and ripping record. I love it! I haven’t really liked something like that in a while. Culture Abuse’s new record is another one! I know it seems I’m being partial because we’re doing a tour with them in the States for a month, but those two records right now are huge for me. Tony Molina’s new record is going to be amazing. There’s a few things actually from the last time I talked to you I was like so jaded, I didn’t want to talk about it, but there’s some people that you can tell right when you meet them that you can tell they would never hurt you or harm you in anyway, and those people that I just mentioned you are three groups of people that fit on those lines.
And what about films, any particular one that you really liked recently?
I feel like every time we write a record, I always circle back to The Passion of Joan of Arc. It really embodies everything that I feel, not that I’m going through, just in a very lower way obviously. [laughs] It’s the perseverance of Joan that was always something that struck me and again not being afraid of letting go. The film is just shot beautifully. It’s something that I always like to circle back to whenever we’re about to record or while we’re mixing, like listening to the raw mixings I threw that on and kind of just turn the volume down and listen to the record.