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“I don’t feel as though I’ve grown less cynical by any means– maybe just more comfortable knowing that I’m no longer using existence, existence is using me”, chuckles Domenic Palermo when speaking of NOTHING’s third installment, Dance On The Blacktop. Palermo first discovered the title, taken from ancient prison slang meaning a fight or hit during outside recreation, in the works of urban fiction writers Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim. Known for their popularity throughout the prison system, Palermo became acquainted while he was incarcerated, later finding it to be a symbolic interpretation of the album’s philosophy. “I’ve learned to bask in the absurdity of it all– in the chaos,” preaches Palermo. “There’s beauty in the confusion if you can learn to hold its hand.”
The story of NOTHING began in 2010 with a simple demo tape in a Philadelphia apartment. The project, which started as a therapeutic outlet solely for Palermo, snowballed into a polished machine with a chance meeting with guitarist/singer Brandon Setta and the eventual addition of Kyle Kimball on drums. Sharing a musical bond, the trio weaved melancholic tales of imprisonment, broken bonds and lost youth as the centerpiece for their 2014 debut, Guilty Of Everything. The world post Guilty served as the focus for the entirety of 2016’s Tired Of Tomorrow – painting a Schopenhauerian tragedy in vivid color and sound.
Dance on the Blacktop is the next chapter of NOTHING’s story and like its predecessors, pulls from all corners of life in its contents. Stories of self loathing, self destruction, and a general disdain for humanity and its, “insignificant” role in Palermo’s vision of the universe are met with his poised amusement and tranquil hysteria being one himself. All of this told through the eyes of a recently diagnosed Palermo suggesting he is dealing with the early stages of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), a neurodegenerative disease found in people with serious head injuries. And as they packed themselves in a coffin-sized NYC apartment for 23 days to demo songs it became abundantly clear that the ripple effect left upon his psyche from dealing with these newfound symptoms would leave its mark on the material.
NOTHING sought out celebrated producer John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr, Breeders, Sonic Youth, Kurt Vile) to help accentuate the band’s love for all sounds 90s, from rock to shoegaze to pop realms and on both sides of the pond. The next month was spent tracking at the historical Dreamland Studios in Woodstock, NY with newly appointed bassist Aaron Heard. As days moved by, Palermo spewed songs of heightened confusion, anxiety, paranoia, depression, and chronic battles with physical pain– a result of his unstable past and more recent illness. These themes, spoken in a lush angelic language are juxtaposed against the band’s now signature apocalyptic, reverberating wall of shimmering sound, all captured beautifully by Agnello and the open room.
Throughout the course of their history, NOTHING have brought their signature heavy live performance on the road with a diverse cast of acts like Dinosaur Jr, Jane’s Addiction, Failure, Hum, Power Trip, Baroness, Torche, DIIV, Merchandise, Car Seat Headrest, Thursday and AFI. They’ve appeared at the world-renowned Governor’s Ball, Lollapalooza, Primavera, Made In America, Levitation, Osheaga and Sasquatch, becoming a staple of the festival set, all while garnering widespread critical acclaim from the likes of Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NPR, NME and more.
While sticking to the sound that has now become their own, you can still hear the band testing their boundaries and creating a plethora of genre-bending, yet widely accessible songs. As a band, NOTHING manage to muster a smile in the face of the illogical, and there is no denying that Dance On The Blacktop is a brave walk into the absurdity.
Culture Abuse dare you to try categorizing them. On their debut full length, “Peach,” the San Francisco Bay Area band drop hints with every song — power pop mel…odies collide with punk grit, garage rock swagger meets hardcore aggression, and there’s even an upstroke or two — but never give the listener enough to definitively put them in a box. And that’s just the way they like it.
Recorded with Scott Goodrich at Nu-Tone Studios, “Peach” is an eclectic album that represents a band finding their sound, and that sound is anything they want it to be. The album sees the band lean full tilt into the Nuggets-inspired garage punk only hinted at on their more hostile early work, throwing keyboards and even the occasional string arrangement on top of their distorted attack. The result creates a barrage of outsider earworms that might be hard to label, but aren’t hard to sing along to instantly. This refreshingly try-anything approach to songwriting makes for an unpredictable listen that is somehow simultaneously cohesive, a testament to Culture Abuse’s ability to wrestle disparate styles into something all their own.
Culture Abuse don’t care what kind of band you think they are, and after listening to “Peach,” you’ll be too busy singing along to care either.