Though it’s now a few weeks on from ArcTanGent, I’ve not been able to get the weekend out of my head. It’s the same situation I find myself in every year – the comedown always hits hard following that phenomenal festival.
From the ludicrously impressive line-up this year, there’s one band in particular that I’ve not been able to stop thinking about. Early Saturday morning, London based four-piece USA Nails took to the Yohkai stage and caved in the skulls of all those in attendance. As drummer Matt Reid attacked the kit at a thunderous, machine-gun pace, dirty basslines and guitars that howled and shrieked created a wall of pounding noise, with vocalist Steve Hodson shouting over the top in an unnerving, spoken-sung vocal style. It was fucking brilliant.
“I like gigs where people look like they’re not enjoying it, and there was a lot of that going on, so I really enjoyed it” said Steve with a wry grin, sitting backstage with drummer Matt and fellow guitarist Gareth Thomas, “I think they were enjoying it; it’s a different crowd to what we’re used to. I guess people standing still and nodding is good”
Friday night saw The Dillinger Escape Plan take to the Arc Stage at Fernhill Farm and rip everyone a new arsehole. It’s this reason that a lot of people had to shy away from the USA Nails set early the next day. It’s hard enough having to battle with the morning light (and Saturday was the one day Mr Sun poked his head out…), let alone having to deal with pulverising noise-rock. “You need to set your limit of what heavy is I think, because we’re not heavy” smiled Steve “we’re like Kate Bush.”
November 6th sees the release of their second album ‘No Pleasure’, with a launch party taking place at the Hope and Anchor in Islington a fortnight before. “We don’t really play a lot of songs off the old record anymore,” commented Gareth on the upcoming launch, continuing “so we’re looking forward to getting all these new ones out in the open really”
“The new ones better” added Matt with a laugh “It is though innit? It just is”
The ferocious new album was recorded live down in London, a conscious decision made to capture the intensity and raw energy of a live USA Nails show. “We recorded with Wayne at Bear Bites Horse studios in London,” mentioned Gareth, adding “It’s one of the most enjoyable recording experiences I’ve ever done, I think. No stress at all. Couple of takes of each song. Job done. Overdub a bit of noise”
“No cutting and splicing. None of that.” added Steve, “Just go in, fairly well rehearsed”
It’s one of the many things one can dig about USA Nails – their ethos of not giving too much of a fuck. The inside sleeve from the new LP has a brilliant piss-take “family photo” of the quartet, taken by friend of the band Bart Pettman. In a similar style to the recording of their debut album ‘Sonic Moist’, the new album is USA Nails at their purest.
“No digital scissors going on whatsoever – fuck that.” confirmed Matt “It should just be as rough and ready as it is meant to be. We’re a punk band, so just capture the moment. If the moment’s sub-par, well then so be it [laughs]”
“We don’t over think stuff, you know.” added Steve “We listen back to it as soon as we think we’ve got one that’s alright, and it’s – yeah, it’s fine. Did anyone fluff a note? Yeah. Oh it doesn’t really matter. It’s only one note. As long as it sounds alright, I guess”
I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of the record from the merch stalls at ArcTanGent; delighted to discover the orange and green splattered coloured vinyl within the sleeve. This comes down to Smalltown America – the rad Northern Ireland based label who are putting out the new record. “They’ve been very supportive of us.” Gareth added “Their roster is quite broad in terms of the different things that they deal with. I know there aren’t really a lot of bands that are like us on their label, but they’re always willing to listen to what we have to say. If we’re not happy doing things in a certain way, they’ll usually let us have our own way [laughs]”
“The good thing about them is that they want the release to be as special as possible. They pushed for coloured vinyl and things like that, and we obviously love that sort of stuff. It’s brilliant” confirmed Matt.
Following on from Sonic Moist, their debut full length released at the tail end of last year, this second album sees the band exploring new ideas. One notable difference between the two albums is the loss of former guitarist Stu. His absence has made way for a different take on the guitar work on their new material, as Steve confirmed “I guess kind of straight forward riffs went a bit. On the new album it sounds a bit more off kilter”
“It’s a bit more varied I think.” Gareth agreed, with the trio then noting they had leaned toward more discordant noise-rock, overflowing with angular, shrieking guitars. It makes for a real slap round the chops, hardly letting up through its duration of just over half an hour.
One particular highlight from not only their set at ArcTanGent but the new album itself is the brilliantly titled ‘They’d Name An Age’ – the spoken vocal throughout building to a guttural shout toward the songs climax. The jarring tone of ‘Automated Cyst’, with its numbing spoken word vocal over a chugging bass line takes the listener down a different, more claustrophobic path altogether. Of the new songs, it’s one guitarist Gareth is particularly keen on, as he explained “I like the telephone one, the track that we open with. It’s the sparsest thing we’ve ever written, but…I dunno, something about it. I really like how different it is to the rest of the record”
“It’s got a good Jesus Lizard vibe about it, and a bit of Liars – which is fine” added Matt with a laugh.
The final track of the album ‘I Cannot Drink Enough’ is one that holds the appeal of vocalist Steve, as he summed up “– because it’s the most honest lyric that I’ve ever written. I think it’s the most different song that we’ve written as a band. It doesn’t sound like any of our other songs; it’s quite a departure I think. It’s very delayed, like Gareth doesn’t really play traditional – it’s all just delayed notes going nuts…[to Matt] and you just play really fast all the way through, and I just talk in the middle for ages.”
“But it’s framed within the context of a fairly simple punk song, I think” noted Gareth, with Steve adding “It’s not that discordant…we’re usually quite discordant, and there’s a lot of talking in it. I like that one”
Enquiring about how the album has been received thus far, the question was greeted with typical tongue in cheek responses, with Steve grinning as he replied “Don’t know. Not asked ’em. They seem to be nodding along…”
“We’ve had loads of Facebook likes, does that mean anything?” smiled Matt.
“Not a lot of people know the old songs – It’s all just songs innit, to them?” nodded Steve “We don’t have a fan base I don’t think”
But humour aside, No Pleasure really is a superb step up from the band. Their latest installment of noise-rock mingling with krautrock will likely appear favourably in end of year polls and the like. As we enter the closing months of the year, and with the album launch closing in, the four-piece will soon be jetting off around Europe – an idea that’s proved very favourably in the camp, judging by their previous antics in Europe earlier in the year. “I wanna go back to Brussels ‘cus it was mental,” beamed Steve “There was women pouring champagne in our mouths while we were playing, and falling on to Gareth’s amp – then he put his shoulder out”
“Yeah, we caught that bit on film actually. You can see a guy completely body check me out of shot, then I sort of stumble back on – I had to Mel Gibson my shoulder back in” laughed Gareth.
As well as dislocated shoulders and champagne showers in Brussels, there were also unexpected, mind bending tribal drum circles and other amusements. “…we had an amazing experience last year. We didn’t expect any of it, then we got there and the gigs were busy…” confirmed Matt “People were great, you get tre’t like royalty. You get good food”
Gareth laughed, quick to note “We’re not flaming…We do still wanna play shows in the UK…After we played the first show of the last European tour, Matt was like ‘we are not touring the UK ever again, we’re only touring Europe from now on. This is much better, this is too good”
“It’s a lad’s holiday as well. That’s pretty much what it is. It’s an excuse for us to lose our minds and piss the bed” laughed Matt.
“100% accurate” nodded Gareth.
No Pleasure is available to pre-order now, with all kinds of vinyl/T-shirt bundles to sweeten the deal. To hear the interview in full, click the image below: