NAILS California hardcore crew NAILS have been cultivating their presence in the scene for a number of years. With third album ‘you will never be one of us’ and a new label behind them, it’s a record that’s shaping up to be on one the year’s most talked about. Frontman and founder Todd Jones tells Darren J. Sadler about its creation.
want to tour with Napalm Death, Full Of Hell, Hatebreed, Behemoth and Terror. Not all at once of course, but if we could ever play with those bands, that’d be fucking tight. I just want to play shows and rage!” So speaks Todd Jones – frontman and founding member of Californian powerhouse Nails. Lofty ambitions of mainstream success and rock star lifestyles are not on the cards for the Oxnard State trio – not because of lack of talent or drive, but because Nails are realists, lifers and a band who care more about their songs than the latest fashion in musical trends. Could Nails play with any of said bands? Well if the stars align (or in reality, if Booking Agents exchange emails), all of the above would be feasible. You see, Nails have slowly and steadfastly been proving themselves in the underground for a number of years, and their latest opus ‘You Will Never Be One Of Us’ continues to see their momentum continue to rise. “It’s my favourite Nails album,” beams Todd, speaking to Down For Life. “Not because it’s our newest, but because when we started this band, this record most encompasses the sound I heard in my head when originally thinking of what I wanted Nails to sound like. Third full-lengths are generally very important milestones in bands careers and I think ‘You Will Never Be One Of Us’ is going to be extremely important in ours.” Indeed, ‘You Will Never Be One Of Us’ is important. It signals a new relationship with Nuclear Blast records (Slayer, Behemoth, Death Angel, Soulfly et al) and will no doubt open up the band to new audiences across the globe as a consequence. Eagle-eyed internet warriors would have seen over the past few months the release of two rather tasty brutal numbers (the title track and ‘Savage Intolerance’ accordingly) both accompanied by equally visually violent and dark videos to boot. Both are great indications of the direction and importance of Nails’ pummelling musical approach, which is stamped all over the entire album. And it’s a sound that Todd and his cohorts - bassist John Gianelli, and drummer Taylor Young, who also plays guitar with his brother Colin in Twitching Tongues - have developed over the course of their career. And with most songs again clocking in on average at the oneminute mark, it’s rather a condensed approach.
The black sheep of the family however is closer ‘They Come Crawling Back’, which, at eightminutes, is almost as long as the rest of the album combined. “I don’t see [that song] as a curveball,” reasons Todd when asked about that songs inclusion. “I think it fits us in context of the albums sound, and vibe. It’s angry. It might not be as lean as some of the other tracks but it makes sense. I like fast shit more than slow stuff, but yeah, I love that song.” Written as four piece alongside former guitarist Andy Saba who resigned from active duty late last year, ‘You Will Never Be One Of Us’ is the product of simple ambitions. “[Our ambition was to] just to make a record we liked,” explains Todd, who once played guitars for the legendary Terror. “We wanted to add some chunk to it that was absent on ‘Abandon All Life’. Also some more grinding material. Generally, when an album process is started, the end result is much different than what you pictured it to be from the beginning. You just have to go where the music takes you. If you force it to be a certain way, it’ll not be organic and that’s something that is easy to hear very quickly.”
ike its predecessors 2013’s ‘Abandon All Life’ and their 2010 debut ‘Unsilent Death’ (both released on Southern Lord), Nails enlisted Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou to produce. Travelling across the country to work at his GodCity Studios in Salem, Massachusetts, the hardcore legend certainly has left his stamp over the final product. The recording was an experience that Todd describes the experience as both “awesome” and “easy”. “Kurt has helped shaped our sound and also makes it very easy for us in the studio. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time so I enjoy hanging with him and also like his production so... it’s a great fit for us.” He continues: “Kurt is an excellent conversationalist so sometimes we would get off track and spend more time just hanging out than we should’ve but that’s not such a bad thing. “I’ll give you some insight into Kurt’s studio. It’s a two-story building (and a basement) where the first story is where his studio is, and then the 2nd is the living space. Kurt used to occupy the living space but recently moved out and turned it into a place where bands could potentially stay, so
we were staying in the studio which made things extremely convenient. We’d wake up, roll out of bed, and start tracking. “I think that we were so comfortable this time around that it almost felt too comfortable. I was stressing out about the fact that I wasn’t stressing out [laughs]! It almost seemed like we weren’t making an album.” Beneath the Jef ‘Leviathan’ Whitehead artwork (“I showed Jef the lyrics to the song and he did his thing; he killed it. Leviathan’s ‘Scar Sighted’ is one of my favourite albums of this decade, if not ever”), is an album that is born in realism, nihilism and negativity. For Todd, there are two particular stand-outs: “The title track because that song is basically the song I wanted to have the band write since we started. [The second] is ‘Made To Make You Fail’ because that’s the closest we’ll get to sounding like ‘Reign In Blood’.” The title track points its fingers at bandwagoners and sycophants who, believes Todd, dilute the lifers in the metal and hardcore scenes. He has previously remarked: “It’s about people who try to latch onto something you’ve been doing and dedicated yourself to and making a mockery out of it. For every person who has dedicated themselves to punk or metal, there’s five people who’ll attach themselves to the same thing with a tenth of the dedication you have and they truly don’t belong and if these leeches had any self-awareness, they would know that they didn’t belong. These people aren’t interested in growing and learning, but to using something for themselves in a disingenuous way.” And then there’s the song ‘Life Is A Death Sentence’. Does Todd really feel that way? “Sometimes I feel that way, yeah,” he says. “People have to face life, it’s not like you can just flip a switch and turn it off for a while. Choose to be responsible and handle your business or choose to be a piece of shit. Either way, you’re probably doing something you don’t want to do. There’s no such thing as freewill. We are forced to deal with life. That’s just a fact - sometimes, life is definitely a death sentence.” By the time you read this, the album will be out and Nails will hit the UK later this year including an appearance at the Damnation Festival in the Autumn. Whatever happens after that, Todd remains grateful for anything else that may come their way. “I try not to think of the future too much. Whatever happens, happens,” he concludes. “We’re just excited we have people who like our band and want to see us. I wanna extend all gratitude to anyone who is down with Nails. We’ll be here for you.” And amen to that. ‘YOU WILL NEVER BE ONE OF US’ IS OUT NOW ON NUCLEAR BLAST
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