Editors’ Notes "This record's been such a strange, strange ordeal. I mean, every record we've always done, it has some kind of tragic story with it," vocalist/guitarist Domenic Palermo tells Apple Music about his Philadelphia-based band Nothing's fourth album. "And this one I wasn't expecting to kind of have that, but lo and behold, here we are: The globe is on fire right now." Inspired by a 2019 New York Times photo of a black hole, The Great Dismal is a 10-track odyssey set for the end of the world. "You can't ignore what's going on anywhere," says Palermo. "The world has this like apocalyptic vibe. There's not a lot of uplifting things to keep your eyes on at this point." It's a dominant theme throughout the record, whether in the Alex G-featuring "April Ha Ha," which marvels at trying to escape the inescapable, or in "Ask the Rust," a reminder that the past is never far behind. It's echoed in the album's sonics, which toggle between Nothing's eerie slowcore tendencies and a constant onslaught of shoegazey squall: Where the opening track's grim beauty is aided by cellist/violinist Shelley Weiss and harpist Mary Lattimore, Cloakroom's Doyle Martin adds atmospheric guitar layers to songs like the fuzzed-out "Famine Asylum" and sprawling "In Blueberry Memories." Here, Palermo meditates on our existence while guiding us through each track of The Great Dismal.

A Fabricated Life
“I had that song written and I didn't really know exactly how I was going to approach it, whether I wanted to make it a heavier song or keep it more acoustic-sounding. I finally just leaned in on it—like the way it is now, kind of like a Jackson Pollock painting of guitar tones, like really abstract, wanting to create this wall of sound. Just this mixture of guitars and string sounds, and then adding Mary Lattimore's harp, and putting a weird treatment of delays and reverbs on it. And then adding Shelley Weiss is just unbelievable. It turned into more of a cinematic thing. Everyone fought with me about putting it as track one, but for me it was really important to set the pace of the record, because the whole record feels cinematic anyway.”

Say Less
“It's funny because 'Fabricated' is about being born into a body that you had no control over and then dealing with those circumstances and everything that comes with that. It constitutes exactly what you're going to do in your life. It's everything. To go in with something like that to basically rolling into a song where it's like, ‘I don't really have anything to say about any of this, I don't really care to think about it anymore’—it's kind of a quick on/off switch between the two. The music kind of reflects that same thing.”

April Ha Ha
“I’m a big fan of Alex G. We had plans to have him come in the studio and do some guitar work with me and maybe even write a song together. He's so self-conscious. He's just like me about vocals. He hates the way he sounds just the same as I do. So he was like, 'Oh, man. I don't want to do a vocal thing.' I was like, 'Look, man. You have to. I'm not giving you a choice. I have this part for you and I think it's great; you have to hear you singing these words.' And he did it and we were all really happy with it. I love it because it's just like it really just creeps up on you, and if you don't really understand what's there or don't know, it's a pleasant surprise.”

Catch a Fade
“It’s about dealing with the need to create and the need to do what you need to do to survive. This song is really special for me because it was the one song that was a demo that Doyle had, and that was our first attempt at writing together. To me, it really shows. He sent me this really lo-fi demo of this track, and it was real direct, a really beautiful vocal melody, and just a clean song all the way through. Me and Kyle [Kimball, drummer] flew to Indiana to kind of massage some of the stuff we had and then work on a couple of things that he had, and we were able to at least get the one track done. We just reworked it from the ground up.”

Famine Asylum
“This is our call to Nothing fans that we're writing the best version of Nothing songs yet still. The song is about what people are starting to see now, and just that humanity has really stacked the odds against itself. It's kind of getting easier to see now where the blame for everything that's happening is, and that there could be a peacefulness in extinction in some cases. And then, it's a fine line of sounding like a psychopath and just being realistic. But there's a lot of Dr. Strangelove tied up into that song, which really speaks to exactly what I'm saying, just in a less poetic way.”

Bernie Sanders
“I wanted to show what this band is capable of doing—kind of let loose a little bit. Just not be so hung up on what I think I need to do and what I think people want me to do, which is kind of a cruel thing musicians go through that's not really ever spoken about. It's just there's this bar to clear and then there's these critics and there's a lot of the things that just weigh on your decisions on what you want to do. It's sad because I feel like we lose a lot of important things because of that. The OG 'Bernie Sanders' demo was real strange. When I got the secondary demo down, people were just like, 'This is absolutely going to be the highlight of this record.' I stuck with it, and when we were recording with Will [Yip, producer], I finally became a believer in it. It's just nice to take yourself out on that limb and not injure yourself fatally.”

In Blueberry Memories
“I've never done anything as detailed as this and as precise. This thing just became like a symbiote, you know what I mean? Like, it attached itself to me. And, like I said, in the process of achieving this courage to get past the self-doubt. [2018's] Dance on the Blacktop did great, but it felt like a linear move to me in a lot of senses. I feel like we just got comfortable making what we thought was a Nothing record. And with that, there's just a lot of things that I was fighting against. Everything I'm doing on this has just been so calculated so that at the end of the day, if this blew up in my face and it was just a complete disaster, then I could say to myself, 'Well, you did everything that you could, and you made the record that you wanted to make.' For me, that would be like any way that this comes across is going to be a success to me, and myself, just knowing that I did what I wanted to do, being a person that wasn't really supposed to be in this position that I'm in right now, making this music and stuff. Every day is a win for me because I don't feel like I was meant to be here at all.”

Blue Mecca
“This song really sets the tone. If you didn't feel like the record had a cinematic feel to it, I think that this one really nailed it. The song's about my dad and kind of going through this point in time when he was trying to rehabilitate himself and he chose the route of going through Christianity and it really not being the best way for him to deal with what he was dealing with inside, which was years of PTSD, two tours of Vietnam, drug addiction, bad DNA—a lot of things that religion wasn't just going to help. There needed to be some other help, and it wasn't there. It kind of created its own storm.”

Just a Story
“This song is literally just about the day that John Lennon was killed, essentially. For some reason, when we were in the studio, we were just sitting there and there was all these Beatles posters all over the wall, because Studio 4 [outside of Philadelphia] has done work with John Lennon and The Beatles before. Just being in those same walls for five weeks with all this, the ghost of all these people moving through the studio. It was just this reoccurring thing with John Lennon.”

Ask the Rust
“The song itself is about the readjustment factor of coming home from that time I spent [in prison] and to this day just still having dreams about being there. You kind of think that you're past something but your past isn't always done with you. I think that rings true in these dreams that I have, where I wake up and I did something wrong and I'm back in prison again. I'm saying goodbye to people, and there's this crushing feeling inside my stomach. Like I fucked everything up. And then, I'm back again. To me, that's why this record is so important in general. That's what this whole thing entails. It wasn't about me 10 years ago writing Guilty of Everything and just seeing all these things that were such a potent factor in my life and how we've addressed them and we're good to go. No, it doesn't work like that. And I see that now. It's how you use them to move forward that is the key. It's not about getting past them. It's about learning to live with them.”


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