While most rock bands go out of their way to convince you how cool their are on their social channels, trying to channel some mid-90s Oasis arrogance, Nothing has built its rapport with fans by being brutally honest and open. “It’s important to me to stay true to the piece of trash that actually I am,” leader Domenic Palermo says.
Whether they’re storming a VICE party after Pac-Manning pills or pounding margaritas at Applebee’s, Nothing’s candidness is refreshing. Palermo is open to speak at length about his experiences growing up in the hardcore scene in Philadelphia, being involved with graffiti, and how his time in prison influenced the band, topics rarely explored in the very non-confrontational genre of Shoegaze that Nothing gets associated with, even though they simply consider themselves “alternative rock… maybe.”
For the past six years, Nothing has progressed from Palermo’s bedroom recording project into one of the most charismatic and recognizable bands culling their sound from the ‘90s, with a mix of sludgy rock pitted against swirling, effected guitars, and the occasional big chorus, albeit submerged under an Adderall haze.
After Nothing, then a Philadelphia-based act, found success with their debut LP, Guilty of Everything, on Relapse Records, they were handed a bit of a golden ticket, signing with Brooklyn’s Collect Records, a label rife with budget in a time when indie labels are more frugal than ever. Then last September, while the band was finishing their second album, things got really fucking weird.
Amidst a price gouging controversy for the drug Daraprim, Turing Pharmaceuticals chief executive Martin Shkreli became an instant villain, embracing his role as a diabolical “Pharma Bro” who hiked up the price of a drug that benefits those with complications from AIDS, even filming videos dissing members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
So what did this have to do with Nothing? It turns out that Collect was a Shkreli’s passion project, which he funded and formed after buying a guitar from Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly.
“I don’t watch the news,” Palermo said about hearing of the link between Shrkreli and Collect. “I don’t know anything about pharmaceuticals, minus buying Percocets off people on the streets.”
Upon hearing that Shkreli was funding the label, Nothing became outspoken about the 5,000% price hike that caused the drug’s price to rise to $750 a pill under Shrkeli’s reign, as they’ve been active in the LGBT community and were blindsided by Shkreil’s actions. As they readied their second album, Tired of Tomorrow, they quickly severed ties with Collect, while Shrkeli gained more attention, eventually being arrested by the feds for alleged securities fraud charges, unrelated to his time at Turing.
Unlike the Wu-Tang Clan, whose unreleased album Shrkeli held hostage after buying it for $2 million, Palermo said Nothing were able to reclaim their album from Collect relatively easily, despite an early “tug of war.” Still, the threat of their second album becoming fuel for another one of Shrkeli’s stunts weighed on the band as they waited for his next public meltdown.
“It was on my mind, plus once he started becoming so vocal—having rap beefs and all that shit,” Palermo said from the West Village, where he spends time when not in Philadelphia. “If he gave it more thought, he could have easily thought to fuck us over and make it a more of a thing. We lucked out. He probably had so much going on that we slid out the back door. The last thing I want is to have beef with a billionaire—it’s not like you can just go down the street and sock him.”
After talking to various labels and keeping timing concerns at the front of negotiations, Nothing have found themselves back at Relapse, happy to have the pharma bro behind them and the focus on Tired of Tomorrow’s May 13 release. Despite being in label limbo, they feel that they’ve been able to match the urgency of their sleeper hit debut, coalescing as a band with the “first record where you can say, ‘This is what Nothing sounds like,” according to Palermo.
With a new video released recently for the single “Eaten By Worms,” complete with a surprising cameo, Nothing are focused on moving forward, but they’re also not afraid to look back in a little bit of anger. Filmed during the recording of their new album, the band is releasing a six-part documentary produced by Don Argott, which chronicles not only the writing and tracking of Tired of Tomorrow, but the surprising Shkreli twist, mid-album. For Palermo and Nothing, it’s just another chapter of the band’s unpredictable history, and one that’s bound to have plenty of sharp turns, controversies, and most importantly, marked with a lot of pleasantly, melancholy songs along the way.
“LIfe… It’s all absurd, it’s all chaotic,” Palermo says. “but the one thing I’ve learned is that nothing needs to be taken that seriously.”
Update: Part two of the doc is now up. Watch below.