What Is The Price? An interview with USA Nails ahead of the release of ‘Shame Spiral’

(Photo Credit: Eddie Halliday)

It’s the weekend of Carefully Planned Festival in Manchester and I’ve just dragged three quarters of USA Nails out of some downstairs bar in the Northern Quarter. Drinks are dutifully swigged, apart from guitarist Gareth Thomas who just walks out with beverage in hand (as do I – though mine is a tiny can of rocket fuel, stashed in my back pocket the whole time). Whilst drummer Matt Reid is up the road watching Leeds noise-makers Irk, the remainders of the quartet hang back to discuss Greggs, Toby Carvery, Paul McCartney, Starbucks, Brexit (Greggs-it) and Gareth attempting to find a midpoint between Munky from Korn and Graham Coxon in his guitar tone*
*(unfortunately this didn’t make the cut, but you can listen to the full interview on DUGA 3 here).

As is becoming the natural order these days, any band interviewed for Birthday Cake For Breakfast has to have some affiliation with Paul Riddlesworth, a.k.a. the head honcho at Too Pure. USA Nails are no different, with the London based foursome going on to release an exclusive 7” through the Too Pure Singles Club in December 2016.

At the time of interview, details of their Too Pure release were still scarce, though the trio did speak highly of their shopping trip around the warehouse of Beggars Group and its vast back catalogue that they were able to have for nowt.

I’ve got loads of things in my flat now that I don’t need… but I like. I like having all the Pixies records. I don’t need ‘em, but I like having them.” Says frontman Steven Hodson.
It’s great to be associated…” Adds Gareth (following a boast that he already owns the back catalogue on tape and CD). “When you look back at all the stuff they’ve done in the past, they’ve put out some proper legendary artists. I know the Singles Club is kind of a different entity to what Too Pure used to be, but you know – we’ve still got the same label on our records. If it’s good enough for PJ Harvey, it’s good enough for me.”

It’s been a real pleasure actually, to be asked…  Sorry, my mind’s gone a bit blank on that one.” Says bassist Daniel Holloway with a spaced out chuckle as the others laugh. The drink’s kicked in!
They made us go to Abbey Road as well, which was good.” Adds Gareth with the save. “It was just like being in The Beatles. Except they wouldn’t let us in ‘cus we arrived early. We thought we could lord it up in the canteen, have beans and jacket potato next to Paul Simon, but they wouldn’t let us in…”
We had to go to the café round the corner.” Smirks Daniel.

The raucous ‘Stuck For Inspiration’/’Oven Degreaser Lisawas indeed mastered at Abbey Road, notable by the band for being done by the same chap working on the remastering of old PiL records as well as a host of other “big boy stuff”.
“It was just a bit weird to be treated like we’re an actual band.” Says Gareth of the experience.

To make matters weirder and push further within the USA Nails camp of being treated like an “actual band”, Oven Degreaser Lisa had its premiere on BBC Radio 6 Music care of tastemaker Marc Riley. An exciting prospect for any band, surely?

I dunno. I didn’t really know it was happening.” Deadpans Steven as the others laugh, Gareth agreeing. Listeners across the country and beyond were privy to the single’s first outing at the same time as USA Nails by the sounds of it, with it only becoming common knowledge amongst the quartet when it was shared via their group chat on Facebook.
(“Oh right, I’ll listen to that when I get in while I’m eating a kebab.” – Laughs Steven at the realisation.)

My fifteen year old self was beaming when that happened.” Says Daniel. “It was really nice. Yeah, my sister was totally over the moon  – so that’s always nice as well.

In their impending Too Pure release, USA Nails were looking at their first batch of new songs following the release of full length ‘No Pleasurein late 2015. The songs themselves were recorded in the same sessions for third full length ‘Shame Spiral’, the follow up to No Pleasure. With a wealth of songs already on the table for the impending LP, the band were content to lose two songs from the tracklisting to put on the 7” with Too Pure, as Gareth comments with a laugh.
We couldn’t really be bothered to write any new songs…

One of ‘em we didn’t really like very much, but now we do!” Adds Steven. The three men than have an internal discussion on the merits of the two songs, with Gareth and Steven disagreeing as to which one comes out on top.
Marc Riley didn’t play the other one though did he?” Asks Gareth, jokingly. That’s that then. Steven even suggests that the two songs used were the best newly recorded songs up to that point, meaning the best songs from the album were shelved?

They’re not the best ones, there’s way better ones… “ Laughs Steven, clarifying. ”They’re kind of like the last album, I think. They’d fit on the last album, whereas the rest of the songs on the new album are a bit weirder. Not weird, but weird-er.”

Shame Spiral, to be released on June 16th 2017 through French DIY label Bigout Records and upcoming Southern label Hominid Sounds, was put together in four days last June with Wayne Adams at Bear Bites Horse Studio. Two days were spent recording, whilst two days were spent on mixing, with the odd return here and there for vocals and such (“We don’t like pratting about” – Steven). The East London studio, which has also recently played host to the likes of Death Pedals, Shitwife and Palehorse, generated an intense addition to the USA Nails oeuvre.

Matt got angry, because he was too hot.” Smiles Steven.
This is the last time we’re recording in the summer.” Adds Gareth impersonating Matt, with Steven quick to join in.
I don’t care if you can hear that fucking fan on the recording, that fan needs to be turned on… He got really pink and angry.
He looked like the guy from the Megabus.” Laughs Gareth, before the impressions are swiftly bought to a halt in fairness to the absent Matt.

On the topic of the actual material itself, you can stream Shame Spiral in full on the Hominid Sounds Bandcamp now (get on ‘Prepare Prepare’ – holy hell!). Back in October, however, not much was really known about the album other than that the quartet had been in the studio. Even the style of the material coming out of these sessions was still up for debate. Something they couldn’t quite put their collective finger on, with Steven claiming songs aren’t quite as “song-y” as on No Pleasure, Gareth disagreeing and Daniel suggesting the newer songs are more punk.

Elements of it are sort of more straight forward and more simple – structurally maybe – but the constituent parts are actually a little more focused and a little more thought out.” Suggests Gareth. “Maybe the way that we’ve written these has been a bit different. It’s not wildly different – it’s still us – but I think we’ve just changed. We’ve mixed it up a little bit, I think – just moved forward from the last record.
We’re knee deep in doing something else as well, another release. So yeah – that’s good.” Confirms Steven.

Prolific as ever, as well as tours of Europe and gearing up for their own LP release and an exclusive 7“ single through Too Pure, USA Nails were also due to release another exclusive from another upcoming Southern independent label – No Iguana Records. Originally scheduled for Spring of this year through the 7” exclusive print ran by the Vincent family (Lee Vincent, formerly of Pulled Apart By Horses), it now appears that we’ve been gifted these songs via another out of date format – cassette tapes (via Sad Tapes Records). The no frills DIY label focuses on small batches of cassette tape releases, run as another side project of Steven and Daniel, and has initially put out the aforementioned USA Nails release as well as the new Dead Arms EP.

We’re doing the recordings ourselves.” Confirms Gareth. “It’s kind of a bit of an experiment, really. It was just an opportunity to try something new. I think it’s gonna have quite a different feel to it, but I’m quite excited about trying to do something a bit different.
It will sound worse than any of the stuff we’ve done.” Says Steven, quick to clarify as the others laugh. “Not song-wise, but we’re recording it on this tape four-track I bought off ebay.”

Sell Sell Sell’, the six track EP, was recorded by Steven at Rooz Rehearsal Rooms and at his humble abode using a state of the art Yamaha MM30 cassette recorder.
…We’re writing to the format, d’you know what I mean?“ Says Gareth. “I think we’re all bearing in mind that it has to be more stripped down, because there’s gonna be less mics, it’s gonna be a lower fidelity recording.”

At the time of interview, songs such as ‘University Home’ and ‘The Robots’ had only been heard live, given the band’s penchant for packing sets full of the next album’s material (“We’re in a weird cycle, when our album comes out we don’t play it live” – Steven). Over the coming week, chances are you’ll be reading lots of reviews for Shame Spiral (maybe you’ll even write one yourself!) Back in the car park where we’re finishing up the interview however, no one has a clue what to expect.

Marc Riley likes…some of it.” Shrugs Gareth.

Like what you see? Why not stick around and check out the other articles and interviews!
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