"Music is emotion," says Nails guitarist and vocalist Todd Jones. "When we started as a band, the idea was to project the emotion of anger – and as of today, it's still the same goal."
Like the two Nails albums before it – 2010's Unsilent Death and 2013's Abandon All Life – the Southern California trio's forthcoming You Will Never Be One of Us (out June 17th on Nuclear Blast) delivers one cathartic burst of unfiltered rage after another. Eight of the album's 10 tracks fall short of the two-minute mark, the arrangements assiduously avoiding any softer sections that might give the listener a brief reprieve from the band's intense death metal-meets-hardcore assault.
"We have to keep the wheel moving," says Jones of the preference for compositional brevity that he shares with bassist John Gianelli and drummer Taylor Young. "We could make our songs longer – we could repeat the verses and the choruses another two or three times and accomplish a longer song. But that would make the momentum of the wheel slower. Our band is built on extremity and aggression, and we just want to keep the momentum going as hard as we can."
That said, You Will Never Be One of Us – produced by Kurt Ballou of Converge – does contain some surprises for Nails fans, including their longest track to date, the eight-minute album closer "They Come Crawling Back," as well as more defined vocal and guitar hooks across the board.
"When we made Abandon All Life, we set out to make a really aggressive record that was just pummeling," Jones explains. "But in all that pummeling, I think some of the hooks got lost. At the end of that record, you feel like you got beat up, but you don't remember much of the beating. So with this album, we still wanted to have the intensity there, but we also wanted to focus a little more on hooks."
Still, the You Will Never Be One of Us track "Savage Intolerance" – which makes its debut above, along with its new video – is easily one of the most punishing things Nails have ever recorded. "That was one of the first tunes we wrote for the record," says Jones. "We were trying to go real fucking heavy, and take it as far as we could; we were just going full bore, with lots of double bass and some blast beats on the breakdown. It's a step to the next level for us, in terms of being extreme. It's one of our favorite tracks on the record."
The lyrical inspiration for "Savage Intolerance" came from one of the things that pisses Jones off the most these days: the violence being committed by the Salafi Jihadist group ISIS.
"I wanted to make something lyrically that matched the intensity of the music," he says. "I can't go online or turn on the TV or listen to talk radio these days without hearing something that's going down with ISIS – these people are just totally intolerant about anything and everything that's going on around them, and they just don't give a fuck, and I think that's total bullshit. I believe in peace; I think people should live in peace. But the fact is, that's what's going on, so we wrote a song about it."
As angry and uncompromising as Nails' music may be, Jones takes pains to stress that the album's title and opening track of the same name are not intended as a raised middle finger to the rest of the world, but rather as an anthem for all of those who devote their lives to passionate pursuits.
"'You Will Never Be One of Us,' is an inclusive, not an exclusive, statement," Jones explains. "Like, I'm passionate about music, I play music and I've dedicated myself to it. I'm not really making money off of it, it's not my primary source of income, but I do it because I love it. If you're passionate about something, and you dedicate yourself to it, whether it's music or journalism or whatever, you notice it right away when you see someone come along who is trying to do the same thing but is just doing it for whatever gain they can get from it. You know their intentions are shitty and not pure, and that's when you say to yourself, 'That person is not me, and they will never be me. They are fake!' I think most of us have felt that at one time or another."
A devoted family man who makes his living trouble-shooting connectivity issues for "a company that provides Internet service to aircraft," Jones has long been averse to touring. Nails currently has about 35 live dates booked for 2016 in the U.S., U.K. and Europe – including a slot on September's Ozzfest/Knotfest mega-fest – and Jones says there probably won't be too many additional gigs scheduled for the You Will Never Be One of Us tour cycle.
"I don't think we'll be touring a lot more for this album than we did for the last ones," he says. "We set the expectations with Nuclear Blast – we told them exactly what we can and cannot do, and they told us what they need and what's acceptable to them and what's not, and we were able to reach an agreement. The record has already been received really well, but at the end of the day, I'm not sure Nails is something we could really make careers out of ...
"I've always looked at a job as a means to play music," he continues. "I always wanted to have a nice Gibson guitar, and a nice Marshall amplifier, and I need transportation to get to practice; and when I take time off, I need to pay my bills, so I need to have a job that gives me vacation time. We make enough money in Nails to support Nails; we don't have to come out of pocket on airfare, van rental, equipment rental or anything like that. I'm not really thinking about the band making any money beyond that, but if it was my career, I probably would be thinking about that all the time – and it'd probably take some of the fun out of it, you know what I mean?"