"This album feels like it's been a long, long, long time coming," says Nothing frontman Domenic "Nicky" Palermo with a weary laugh. Tired of Tomorrow, the Philly shoegazers' second full-length album, drops May 13th – but it came perilously close to never seeing the light of day at all. Along the road to its release, the band had to hurdle such obstacles as a brutal beatdown that left Palermo with a fractured skull, unexpected deaths in the Nothing family and a contract with a label that turned out to be financed by "pharma bro" Martin Shkreli.
"Really, it goes back to just after our first album, Guilty of Everything, came out two years ago," Palermo explains. "There was just months and months of touring piled on top of each other; there was lots of partying and avoiding any real-life stuff, and I kind of stopped dealing with reality."
Reality came rushing back on the night of May 19th, 2015, when "four or five big guys" approached Palermo following the band's gig at the Oakland Metro in Oakland, California, and asked if they could use his phone. "I know what that is, you know?" Palermo laughs. "I grew up in Kensington [a rough Philadelphia neighborhood], and I'm pretty sure we invented that move. You do it, and you're not getting your phone back!"
When Palermo refused to hand it over, the men responded by beating him up so badly that he required lengthy hospitalization. "I had a fractured orbital, a fractured skull, fractured bones in my back," he explains. "I had 19 staples in my head, and they had to sew my ear back on; I'm fucked up on all these painkillers, I'm alone because the rest of the band had to drive back to Philadelphia, and I'm just sitting there in this hospital in Oakland dealing with the reality of everything." (Though Palermo served two years in prison in the early 2000s for aggravated assault and attempted murder after stabbing someone during a fight between rival hardcore crews, he says the Oakland attack was "an isolated incident" with no connection to his past.)
With Nothing already booked to enter the studio in just two weeks, Palermo began furiously writing and re-writing lyrics for the songs that would make up Tired of Tomorrow – first in the hospital, and then during a brief but restorative road trip to Big Sur, California. "I'd never been there, and a lot of my favorite writers had been there at strange times in their lives – Richard Brautigan, Henry Miller, and all these writers that I always looked up to – so I figured what better time to do it?" he says. "I got a shitty little motel room, walked around in the woods and on the beach, ate Percocets and drank red wine, and chilled the fuck out for a couple of days. It was great, but it was still a struggle; I was dealing with a lot of different emotions, as well as vertigo and all this crazy shit."
The vertigo spells continued to plague him at Studio Four in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, where the band recorded Tired of Tomorrow during a month-long session with producer Will Yip. "I would be doing vocals," says Palermo, "and then I would literally have to run to the bathroom and vomit. I was a mess, and everyone else was a mess, too; everyone was stressed out and dealing with their own issues, on top of my issues. But we got it done."
The "issues" included the unexpected deaths of bassist Nick Bassett's mother and Palermo's estranged father, both of which understandably hit the band hard. Then, in September, it was revealed that the money man behind Collect Records – the label run by former Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly, which was planning to release Tired of Tomorrow – was Martin Shkreli, the Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO who had recently shot to infamy by massively jacking up the price of Daraprim, a drug widely used by AIDS patients. Horrified by the news, Palermo immediately took to Facebook and excoriated Shkreli as a "soulless man" and a "monster."
"I'm not one to judge anybody, because I haven't lived a great life myself, and I've done things that I wished I didn't," says Palermo now. "But this record was such a big part of me – there was so much blood spilled for it, both figuratively and literally – that I wasn't about to let it be tainted by someone like that, who was so blinded by pure greed."
The band refused to let Collect release the record, though it was initially unclear whether or not Shkreli would allow them to take it elsewhere. "I thought, What a perfect ending to this story," Palermo laughs. "After everything we went through, this record never sees the light of day!"
Happily, though, the story didn't end there. Through Rickly's intervention, the band was able to leave Collect and put the album out via Relapse, which had already released Guilty of Everything. And as "angry, agitated and in pain" as Palermo says he was during the writing and recording of Tired of Tomorrow, the album holds together beautifully; swirling, hard-riffing tracks like "Vertigo Flowers," "ACD (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)" and "Our Plague" are as alluring and intoxicating as they are turbulent, making for a very immersive (and addictive) listening experience.
"It's important to me is trying to build records that are something you'd actually want to listen to all the way through, which is a rare thing these days," says Palermo. "Even with the circumstances we endured while making it, I feel like the music ultimately came through like I wanted it to."