Kingston, New York's very own trio Nightmares For a Week used influences of growing up in Kingston to record a stellar full-length album, Civilian War, which was released on March 26 via Broken English Records and on CD and vinyl format from Suburban Home Records. Staff interviewers Christopher and Samantha Barrett sat with Bill Manley and Sean-Paul Pillsworth to talk about the new album, on growing up and plans for the band.
Sean Paul Pillsworth: I play bass and I sing sometimes, poorly.
Bill Manley: I play guitar and sing a lot of times, I try my best.
Pillsworth: Steve (Markota) our drummer, he actually runs a pretty successful screen printing company called Boneshaker and that‚??s where he is or he would be here (with us). Steve plays drums. He wouldn't say anything anyways, he would be way back here (points at the corner of the room).
He just kinds of observes, he's the observant one. What is the inspiration for the name Nightmares for a Week?
Manley: Let‚??s move on. Just kidding.
Pillsworth: We played in bands for 12 years together and there was a break in a band we were in. For a long time and we started (thinking about) this band. Bill had a lot of ideas for songs. He would put them in my mailbox, on CDs. It was just acoustic shit on Garage Band which was funny because we would hang out until four in the morning talking about the band, being like this is going to be so awesome. But nothing would get done. Then at eight in the morning, I would have a CD in my mailbox of a song and I would be like, OK cool. Until we got a bunch of songs together and we started to begin to get a little more serious (about the band), to actually practice and we should get a name. I remember you (points to Manley) were looking on the internet, looking up names but they were like these clich√©(names), remember that!
Manley: I just remember every good name that we thought up was taken, which is clich√© in itself. Which kinds of ties into itself. Especially for bands to name themselves after a band's song, there‚??s a lot of bands like that. This is more internally like a lyric, but it might as well been a lyric of a song because that‚??s one of the lyrics on Dear You. Everybody knows it and it's instantly recognizable for better or for worse. We put a lot of thought into different source for names but this was the name that all of us agreed on. Jawbreaker is a big influence to a lot of people, I'm sure.
Pillsworth: When we started the band I remember when Dear You came out I was 15.
Manley: And I was 13.
Pillsworth: It was what it was and people didn't really like it and some people say (it) about our name. You take a lyric from their most popular album, so that‚??s what we did. We‚??re not called fireman.
Manley: There‚??s a fire hole.
Pillsworth: There‚??s a firehouse.
Manley: Also, there‚??s a lot of bands when they start out, they are serious about what they‚??re doing but they kind of brand themselves as a way to play shows. There was a lot of thought but wasn't that much thought into it. It was kind of just a name we all agreed upon.
Pillsworth: When we started we didn't think we were going to do anything when we started this band. We thought we were going to play this local dive bar a lot and we were going to drink a lot of cheap beer and just play cool songs. For some reason, the first thing that happened was the EP got reviewed by Alternative Press in the magazine and we were like "WHY?" We didn't know why. Oh well, I guess we were definitely Nightmares For a Week. I‚??ve always loved the name. We definitely have shown up at a couple of venues, and one particular venue I can think of was very scary, like kind of back woods, and it was good we played the music that we do. When we showed up our name was Nightmares For a Week and we came in and wearing flannel shirts and looking like shit. The girl said (in a southern accent) "I thought y'all was like, a metal band."
Pillsworth: AHH‚?¶ NO.
Manley: It was like a country bar, ya know.
Pillsworth: She goes: "You guys looks like a bunch of hippies."
They thought you were going to play Satan Songs?
Pillsworth: She was like "where are you from?" and of course you know there‚??s no real hippies and we say Kingston, NY. She says: "I don't know where that is" and of course the one spot right next to Kingston is Woodstock, NY which never hosted a Woodstock concert but as soon as Woodstock came out I was like AHH Fuck!
Manley: I guess we are hippies, Ya know.
Pillsworth: We'll pull out some hacky sacks and start kicking them around.
You got Civilian War (which came out March 26th). What went into writing this LP?
Pillsworth: A lot. I think it was written and rewritten. After we did Don't Die, there was a lot of playing of it and when it came time to say "alright it‚??s time to do another record," we were going to do it again with the label we were on. Then when we were waiting to get through to all the whatever, mumbo jumbo, to get money to record it, or get it crowd funded, or how do we do this. Between that, we were writing and that went south so let‚??s do something. So we hook up with Vinnie at Paper and Plastick and we did the Nightmares Split which I think held things over. Those two songs were going to be used for the full length but they were gone so we had to write more songs. Then it got delayed again, then we had no idea how we were going to put it out or what we were going to do. We had a record and then found options. We had 18 ideas and I think out of the 10 songs that were on it, the last four songs were written two or three weeks before we went into the studio. Now we look back we have five or six songs for another record ready to go. Some of the songs I had dated from voice memos or demos that we recorded right after Don't Die. A handful of the songs are as new as four months.
So just like you said, a few weeks before recording the ideas kept flowing?
Pillsworth: Yeah there was something about the last minute. I became obsessed with putting out a record with 10 songs. I wanted to do 10 songs I don't know why. It was the obsessive compulsive thing. We had all these songs but what's the best 10. Then at the last minute I wrote this song which is not normal for the band. and we write more of a song and bill was like were going to do that one and i was like ah I don't think we should do that so then my song ended going towards the end of the record. I guess writing this record was part of it was pretty organic to nightmares and part of it was just spontaneous but i think it all came out pretty consistent. I‚??m thrilled with the way it came out.
Yeah it sounds cohesive definitely, I enjoy it. It didn't reflect that it took two weeks to get about half the songs together.
Manley: The song that Sean Paul is referring to, it‚??s the first Nightmares' song which he pretty much sings the whole song. I really have to kick him in the ass to do it. He doesn't realize his own talent, you know what i mean? You have to pull it out of him. As far as the record, There isn't really a cohesive theme.
There‚??s not supposed to be?
Manley: I mean I know there‚??s not supposed to be. But sometimes subconsciously it just comes out. Lyrically, this record is a lot more cohesive than the last record. As far as the lyrics on this record, a lot of it has to deal with coming to terms with being an adult. I think this is for me personally, and I can speak for Sean too, because his song lyrics are very literal. A lot of it deals with how the world is now as a growing adult, Sean Paul has a growing family, having jobs and struggling with that in juxtaposition to being young and youthful. There‚??s songs on this record of being young and careless and reckless, doing whatever the fuck you want and there's really no repercussion to the outside world. And then there are songs on more of a serious, realistic, view of the world. Kind of like youth vs. the real world. How you see it; not how you used to see it.
You drew out a Venn diagram and you see where it overlaps?
Manley: Yeah, I mean it wasn't a conscious way. It just turned out that way having been able to listen to the record a bunch of times you kind of look at it and it ++ balances itself out it kind of makes you who you are you grow up and become a man or a woman a lot of that has to do with your youth with the reality you face with the now. Lyrically I think it‚??s a better record, musically I think it‚??s a better record and were excited for people to hear it.
Did you use more instruments than usual on Civilian War?
Manley: There‚??s more going on than A Flood Tomorrow, but not that much more. The only thing that we really added, I mean, I play guitar too, there isn't much lead lines going on; the album actually had two brothers who played keys really well which are good friends of ours. We had asked them to play keys on the record and they did pretty much every song. That fills up a lot of space for a three-piece band, I would rather have a key lead line than a guitar lead line. They did their thing. because on "Don't Die" there was a lot of extra instrumentation where with this one we were trying to go for a live feel, in addition to the keyboards. The keyboards are not really at the forefront, it adds another texture to what we're doing. Then at some parts they are doing their own thing. If we could get one of those guys to play with us fulltime it would be great. We've been trying but I don‚??t know. One of them is a family man so…
Pillsworth: I think the other one will play certain shows, I don't think certain show we will need it.
Your main thing is you'll play as a three-piece but maybe you'll have the keys come along.
Manley and Pillsworth: Yeah!
Pillsworth: We have been lucky enough to be able to play all these cool places. I didn't think this band was going to do anything but just have fun. And that‚??s what we are doing right now. We're a little bigger than that. We play in the sweatiest basements with the most psyched people.in the world, and then we have played in theaters and that‚??s bizarre. That would be a place where it would be nice to have somebody to play keys. There's always something awkward with any band, you will always say yes to shows because you want to play shows. But you get there and you're like oh shit - this is what's happening right now. I think we can stand up as a three-piece and do whatever song from whatever record. Yeah, it would be cool to show up and have someone play keys, doing something else.
Manley: We grappled for a long time about adding another guitar player. This is the first band I‚??ve ever played in with just me playing guitar and singing, so it was a little hard to adapt. It was always easy to want to get another guitar player, it would take some strain off of me, but at the same time, the more we played we would pull off the three-piece thing. If there were any more additions to the band, it would be a keys player. Which kind of manifested onto our new record.
Pillsworth: Keys player who would always say "Yes!" We can't deal with another opinion in this band.
Manley: If we can find a keys player to play shows with us, we would totally do it. We are a three-piece at heart, a keyboard player would be welcomed.
Pillsworth: We‚??ll see what happens.
Fun segue. You're talking about how you guys were starting off and not sure about what you are going to end up doing. Now you guys are at your third label and you kind of segue to Suburban Home and Virgil. How did that come about?
Pillsworth: Virgil was introduced to us years ago. Right after the EP came out, I didn't know what we were going to do for our first full-length. We were going to fund it ourselves. A lot of our friends who were in bands were like why don't you try this, or try this, or try this. Somebody said Suburban Home, I have been ordering from Suburban Home since I was 16. I was like ahh, no, that would be impossible! That‚??s like Fat Wreck Chords. When I was growing up and getting into the scene, in the mid to late 90s. Suburban Home, Fat Wreck Chords - that was the dream. To think that I met people who are on those labels or the owner of Suburban Home, that‚??s incredible! I talked to Virgil and he is a super nice guy who had already heard the band. That‚??s insane. With this record, it came time for the vinyl option he was more than willing and happy to do it. We were like OK let‚??s do it! We know that there are politics with vinyl pressings. We saw it with Paper and Plastick. I dunno what these labels are doing! I don't have any clue. It‚??s not a band's business really. We're happy enough when somebody comes to us and says we're going to put out your product. If you say that, I‚??m fine. That‚??s great. I don't really care about release dates, I think it‚??s the labels fault when they say it‚??s coming out on this date when they know they can't do it, and I think that‚??s their fault. To me when they say they're going to put out your new record I think they should say that. We‚??re going to put out the new Nightmares record!
When it comes out, it comes out?
Pillsworth: When is it going to be? They should write when the vinyl comes in. That would solve it all, wouldn't it? Nobody would be pissed. The first fest we ever played I was sitting at a table with a couple of people who owned indie labels. One was speaking poorly about another one - I‚??m never going to name names on this - but it was over mailorder stuff. To me, I was like is this 1995 mailorder. I thought we were in the digital age, we're getting loud about mailorder, who is getting shit in the mail. The last thing I got in the mail was like Lagwagon‚??s Double Plaidinum, and it came with a Fat Wreck Chord sticker. I was like sweet and I put it on my shitty car and that was like three weeks late but I didn't care. This is awesome! Virgil has always been very positive. Honestly, the test presses came in on time the record will be out on time.
Manley: It says a lot about him.
Pillsworth: There‚??s a lot of politics to everything. I‚??m not going to not stand up for him. I don‚??t know everything that happens to anybody but all I can say is that Virgil…
He‚??s worked well with you so far?
Pillsworth: Absolutely everything that he has put out. I love it! John Naclerio who owns Nada Studios, we have been going to them. I have recorded with John since 1996. I was at his wedding.
It‚??s hard to say no, if you have known them for a while, if it‚??s a good relationship you can't really say no to that.
Manley: it‚??s good to know, your true friends will tell you if it‚??s shit or not. We're not a rich band, we don‚??t have a lot of money. We didn't do a Kickstarter to make this record possible. But luckily we knew John, we have always sent him demos. And pretty much nine times out of ten, we're going to record with John. So we send him shit just to send it. If we're not recording it (with him) we'll send him demos for an outside opinion. We have been sending him demos for this record since last year and he came to us. We don't really have a lot of money, like I said before, but he believed in the demo so much he was willing to have us down.
It helped to have someone who was involved in recording.
Manley: He sat in the corner and was willing to work with us. We are lucky to have people who believe in what we're doing and at our court.
And to reaching out to you to help you out.
Manley: We are luckier that way. As we said before, we didn't plan on having it work that way.
Pillsworth: Making a second record wasn't even like, it‚??s a weird thing we made an EP, a record, two 7-inches, then we made another 7-inch, then we made another record. That‚??s a crazy concept. It‚??s all based on what started as us sitting in a hot summer, daydreaming about starting another band after other bands have fallen through. As a side note, we're also not hiring a PR company on this record, the artwork was done by our friend Ryan as a subtle difference.
Manley: It‚??s very DIY in that aspect. It's being put out with the help of everybody we know in the community that we're in. Obviously, Virgil‚??s from Colorado, but besides that everything is very Upstate New York, Hudson Valley oriented. Its feels good doing it that way.
Pillsworth: We're promoting it ourselves and we made friends that way…and I read (sites like) Punknews and there‚??s a lot of places that like our band. Instead of giving somebody a $1000 of our money to contact people we already know.
Or just contact people yourselves…
Manley and Pillsworth: YEAH!
Pillsworth: Let‚??s reach out and talk to people that we know. Ya know. Not to be clich√© but isn't this all supposed to be - if you're in a punk band or whatever is punk or whatever we are - isn't it supposed to be a community? We need to hire somebody for $1000 to email your friend to do an interview. that concept is very weird to me. the internet‚??s so huge, why are we paying people to promote it? It seems like you put out this record, if it's good then you‚??re going to do something to make sure people to hear it. it should just grow by itself.
You just want to worry about the record and what went into it and not anything else is really needed to surround in terms of that. It will promote itself.
Manley: Yeah it speaks for itself. That‚??s all that we can have faith in.
Pillsworth: We're a working class band. we can't afford to go on the road anymore like in the bands we used to be in, going on the road six-to-eight months out of the year.
I was actually going to segue to that. What are your touring plans for 2013?
Pillsworth: We're going to do everything we can, if we can make it to California somehow, we'll make it there. Wherever we can feasibly go, we'll go. But this is not a band, there is no rush to make everybody go buy this record NOW. So that the first week sales can reflect on what? On us? So that I can print it out and hang it on my wall. It's a record.
You need the gold on your wall, man.
Pillsworth: We can always make it to the Fest, we‚??ll make it to Montreal for Pouzza Fest. if the Canadian border can let me through this year. They think I‚??m a criminal, for some reason. The small tours we can do or the bigger tours we can do, it‚??s all just, again, we got older and we got to live life. We're going to do what we can do but if there‚??s a demand and people want to see a show. It‚??s not a money thing its more or less, this is where it‚??s happening and this is who wants to see the band. Let‚??s do it! We used to go on tour back in the day in a band that was on a label that was funded by a major. Got $15,000 to make a record, got a $30,000 budget and then we're in a van traveling around, opening for a band on a major label and nobody cared, nobody gave a shit.
You want to avoid that. You'd rather play to a group of 30 to 40 people who care more so than 1000 people who don't.
Pillsworth: Who doesn't want to do that. I think we're the living testimony on you can do that. It is worthy enough that you guys are interviewing us and that people want to read it.
Tell them how you feel and don't hold back.
Pillsworth: That‚??s it. We‚??re going to do this this, I would be 50 years old and still play in this band if people still want to hear it. I‚??m not going to stress myself out. That‚??s stress, paying people and all that bullshit, screw it.
So goals of 2013, is not paying people to promote your record and don‚??t over tour. Any other goals?
Manley: We're going to play as much as we can. We live or die by that.
Pillsworth: I think my wife would think I overplay.
Manley: It depends on who you will talk to. There‚??s very few shows we have turned down. Nobody has ever asked us to play in California.
Is that one goal play in California this year?
Manley: We never had to face the decision on saying no to that show.
Pillsworth: We never said no.
Manley: We have never been asked to play in Nebraska so, we never had to huddle up and say can we do this show in Nebraska, that‚??s never comes up.
Is that the challenge now? We dare you to ask us to play Nebraska?
Manley: What I‚??m saying is that we do as much as we can within our means, it doesn't matter man. We‚??re going to be writing and playing the same shit. We're old enough to really care about whether we're going to be accepted. That‚??s fucking out the window, man. It doesn't matter, we're still going to be doing the same shit.
Goal is wherever you want us to play then ask us to play, your cousin's Bar mitzvah in Alaska.
Pillsworth: That‚??s great!
For Sarah Palin?
Pillsworth: If I can go to her house and see Russia, I will go play it.
I‚??ll get on that right away. I‚??ll email her publicist. I won't charge you, I promise.
Pillsworth: This year, Nightmares for a Week we want to play Sarah Palin's house. Inauguration for the new Pope, Pope Francis, who is very Humble.