Growing up in an uber urban city like Philadelphia can lend a certain amount of je'ne sais quoi to a musician's lyrical and thematic direction that borders on defiant madness. Maybe it is the depressed city aching to be heard under the blazing lights of history, maybe it is the hard-edged true-blue collar mentality that flows through the veins of most native Philadelphians, or maybe it is the sheer balance between pleasure and violence that seems to stamp its way onto the daily life of the city folk. Whatever the case, Philadelphia is a fertile ground for independent artists. Take for instance, Philly's own, Nothing.
Sure the band's moniker is a nod to the existentialists, but behind the wordplay is a serious band with incredible raw talent. Fronted and founded by native Philadelphian, Dominic Palermo, known affectionately as "Nicky Money" to close friends, and supported by additional band members, Michael Bachich, drums; Joshua Jancewicz, bass; Brandon Setta, guitars; and Ryan Grotz, guitar, Nothing has infiltrated the independent music scene with only an EP to their name.
The band itself has been together for a paltry five months, yet has managed to record the inner working's of Palermo's chaotic mind with an unrefined grace. And they hit the mark, perfectly.
And with good reason. No member of Nothing is a virgin to the indie scene. Palermo himself is a former member of hardcore/punk/metalcore darlings, Horror Show, and XO Skeleton, (whom he played with Sean Martin of Hatebreed).
Dominic Palermo grew up chewing on the brain candy of Gogol and Dostoevsky. The dark themes that thread through the Russian greats find their way delicately interwoven into Palermo's music like a soft whisper. Though they may caress the ear, the lyrics carry quite a bite. With intricate compositions and complicated musical integrity, Nothing offers an escape into the madness of the mind. But don't be fooled. Nothing isn't just inspired by a bunch of dead Russian writers. Their influences stretch far into their experiences with drugs, death, and prison terms served. Did I mention drugs? If I were to endorse alternative states of reality, (which I'm not) I may suggest downloading a free track or two of Nothing to bring along with you for the ride, (but I'm not, so don't. Wink, wink).
We caught up with the quiet frontman behind Nothing. At first blush, Palermo is quiet and unassuming, but to know him is to know the shyness of him reflects something deeper and more intense. It is the self-same intensity that weaves through the fabric of his music. Dominic Palermo is as genuine as he is introspective, brilliant as he is modest, and possess a natural magic to his songwriting. If you could pack all the malcontent and sheer joy of living into one entity, wrap it in a ball and throw chords around it, you'd be listening to Palermo's band, Nothing.
antiMusic: What drew you and the band together?
DP: The legless world of unexplainable events and circumstances. I was drawn into this and not the latter.
antiMusic: And how long have you been playing together as a band? Are you happy with the current lineup?
DP: We have been playing together as a band now for only about five months. Most of the members were sent to me by some sort of divine, superior being. Some worked out, many didn't. There have been quite a few signs leading up to all of this. I don't know who or what to thank yet, but I'm having a great time so, yeah.
antiMusic: What instruments do you play?
DP: play a little of everything. Never had any formal training with anything. I used to watch my brother play Johnny Marr guitar riffs and try and immolate what he was doing, I think it has a lot to do with the unorthodox style of writing I use.
antiMusic: Speaking of unorthodox, after such a short time together you and the band hit the studio to record your EP. What was different about this lineup than past efforts that allowed you to progress so quickly?
DP: The demo was recorded very quickly, only a few months after having a(semi) full band, mostly due to the fact that I was awarded a couple talented individuals who were eager to be a part of the plan I had developed. We clicked, and the choppy noise I had been writing and recording myself for the last 5 years evolved into a sound I still can't believe I'm a part of. We have a very solid relationship.
antiMusic: How would you describe your sound?
DP: Sticking a chainsaw into a fresh mound of dirt.
antiMusic: This is an echo of the question I just asked but maybe I'll get a different answer. If you had to pick a genre that you could fit into, what would it be?
DP: We've been tagged Shoegaze, Noise, and Psychedelic. I'm not sure.
antiMusic: Talk about the thematic pallet of the EP?
DP: We toyed with naming the band Poshlost for a bit. It's a Russian word that can't really be translated exactly. It's been described as," petty evil or self-satisfied vulgarity" amongst other putrid things people can be but, can still be considered "beautiful". Even if it isn't the standard. We decided Nothing fit a bit more and I'd hate to have to try and explain that constantly. Russian literature has had a huge effect on my life. Metaphysics and Existentialism. Not a complete subscriber to anything, but I love the darkness in Gogol and Dostoevsky's work. It gives me chills.
antiMusic: Who produced your EP?
DP: Julian Grefe and Justin Gellar, easily two of the best dudes making music in Philadelphia. http://www.myspace.com/pinkskulltheband
antiMusic: I was told that the Coachella festival in LA influenced you in writing this album. Can you talk more about that? On a side note, I was also told that you may have been influenced by some "mind altering substances" while you were at Coachella that helped you write the songs on the EP?
DP: The trip to Coachella was a pretty big turning point for myself. I was in a bind. Just wasn't very happy with the direction my life was heading and like many other imbeciles, stuck in a web of confusion, I ate mushrooms and ecstasy for four days and had an epiphany. I had given up on music at the time and decided to move back to Philadelphia from Los Angeles and write a record. Since I've been back I feel as tho the stars are aligned and there have been signs everywhere. I guess you can say I'm allowing myself to be carried by the wind and so far it has been working out.
antiMusic: Personally, I hear a lot of Pink Floyd and Roger Walters influences in your sound; who are some of your influences?
DP: Haven't heard anyone mention Floyd or Waters before. A good friend gave me a Roger Waters CD once and to my demise I actually enjoyed it. I was always a big hater on that whole scene, but f**k, I would love to be in a band that people bought tickets to see us live and bash their brains in with an array of drugs.
antiMusic: How are you promoting your EP? Are you using social media and digital methods?
DP: We have the demo all over the web, and always looking for new ways to get the music to people for free. We have a facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nothing/126871300690737?ref=ts), a blog (www.wearenothing.tumblr.com), and our music for free download (www.wearenothing.bandcamp.com). We have also been emailing a ton of blogs that we all check out frequently asking for mailing addresses to ship out a hardcopy of the demo and a small press package. Feels a bit more sincere.
antiMusic: What other bands have you played in and how is this band different from the other projects you've worked with? Is this music more mature than your previous stuff? How?
DP: We have between the lot of us a very Punk/Hardcore looking resume. Horror Show, Cold World, XO Skeleton, etc. I would hate to ever get tagged post rock tho. Growing up is a part of life, but as far back as I can remember I always wanted to be in a band that sounded like this, guess I just didn't know how.
antiMusic: You were a member of Horror Show and they recently had a reunion in Philly. Can you talk about that show?
DP: The Horror Show reunion wasn't legit. I was the only member of the original band. It was more of a favor for a friend. I want to say I am completely done with it, but for the sake of sounding like a hypocrite there could be a small Euro tour to help sell the discography recently Deathwish Inc. released.
antiMusic: I understand you also played with a member of Hatebreed for short time? How did that come about?
DP: XO Skeleton was put together by Sean Martin who played guitar for Hatebreed, produced for Cage, and involved in other various Cardboard City projects; and Wesley Eisold, formally of American Nightmare, and currently, Cold Cave. I was asked to be involved in some early recordings and then kind of just became a part of the group. I believe it all started on the Hatebreed tour bus during an OZ Fest with a MPC and a whole lot of pot and prescription pain medicinals.
antiMusic: This is the habitual question that most people would rather claw their eyes out instead of answering. Is there anything you are hoping to covey with your music?
DP: I'm not sure I'm trying to convey anything with the music. There's too many things I don't like about life and living, the things people care for and such. If I didn't have music I wouldn't be here to resent all things I resent.
antiMusic: What inspires you?
DP: I feel my life inspires me. Where I could be. Better places, worse places. Just how cause leads to effect. I despise a lot about what human beings are, what people care about, what they are willing to die for. From bigger things as organized religion to American Idol. It's sad. It often makes me wonder if I'm actually one of them or better yet, why I can't function as one of them. Ignorance can be so bliss.
antiMusic: You have a book of poetry you published, tell us about that?
DP: I worked on a few zines that were pretty limited, just for friends and such. A friend of mine, Matthew Gallagher and I released a book called "You're Very Beautiful". He's a wonderful photographer that I grew up with. We both have different ways of expressing what we see and have seen growing up in Philadelphia. We decided to combine the two. It is still the project I'm most proud of being a part of. (www.youreverybeautiful.com)
antiMusic: Is everyone in the band from Philadelphia?
DP: Everyone lives in Philadelphia, some born and raised, some not. We all have a huge love for music, I wouldn't even know where to start honestly. Influences? Slowdive, Swirlies, Catherine Wheel, almost anything Kevin Shields touches.
antiMusic: What was it like growing up in Philly?
DP: Growing up in Philadelphia definitely has it's big ups and downs. Growing up in the neighborhood can shape you into something a little special, but in the end were all singing the same song. You have money sometimes, sometimes you don't. You're in trouble sometimes, sometimes you're not. Keep a lot of the same friends, sometimes you lose a few, sometimes make new ones. Life is the same everywhere. Were all in a burning building, just born on different floors.
antiMusic: Who are the Dead End Kids and what is their significance to you and your music? How has it formed your lyrics and how you view the world?
DP: We as humans, and when I say humans I mean the decent ones, tend to try and express ourselves in whatever way suites us best. I've always enjoyed reading and writing. I try and write about what I've seen, sometimes through my eyes, sometimes through friends, to the best of my abilities.
I have a few friends that I've had my whole life. We've all been in the same sh*tty spot our whole life and wherever we wind up we will still be there mentally. It all must sound so tragic, it's not always. We celebrate it often and even greet it with open arms occasionally. Tragedy, that is.
antiMusic: How has growing up in Philly influenced your musical tastes?
DP: I was blessed to come from a family with great musical tastes. A sister who introduced me to Morrissey, a brother who introduced me to Minor Threat, The Cramps, Slowdive, Catherine Wheel, Ride, etc., and a mother who had me listening to Vashti Bunyan and The Cocteau Twins when I was in the third grade. It didn't do well for my popularity as a kid, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Many of my friends grew up the same way. I know we weren't the first kids driving around with large amounts of cocaine and guns in the car listening to Loveless, but it probably doesn't happen too often.
antiMusic: Do you have regrets in life? Do they find their way into your lyrics?
DP: I've had a few regrets in my life, but for better or worse it's made me who I am today. I spent two years in prison for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Central New Jersey. I lost time Ill never be able to get back, but I think if I wasn't stopped in my tracks then it could have ended up worse. I was able to take a step back from my life and see things differently. Not exactly rehabbed, more intelligent about where to direct pent up feelings of aggression and anger. I guess you can actual call that rehabbed huh? I got a chance to catch up on some reading as well.
antiMusic: How have you matured as a musician?
DP: I certainly hope that no part of me has matured.
antiMusic: What does your fall schedule look like?
DP: We have a few surprises set up as far as shows in late October. Then we hope to tour as soon as possible.
antiMusic: That's very ambitious. Do you have any plans for a full-length album?
DP: We are constantly writing new material. We have plans for a two-song EP release by the new year. Hopefully a full length album following soon after.
antiMusic: Are you committed to the indie route or are you looking for mainstream pick-up?
DP: We're interested in working with anyone who is interested in working with us.
If you can catch Nothing live when they tour, I'd suggest it, and if you can't, immediately download their free music. You'll be glad you did. Nothing are the real deal. Completely and utterly antithetical to a world full of regurgitated sound and fake passion, Nothing brings a breath of fresh air to the indie-scene with some truly kick-ass talent that is both evocative and provocative.
Check them out.
CD Info and Links
First Look: Nothing