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Let Go & Slide Away: An Interview with Domenic Palermo of Nothing

27 April 2024

All photos by James Broscheid

Make no bones about it, the phrase coined in the UK during the early nineties that labelled the shoegaze movement as “the scene that celebrates itself” can unashamedly be conveyed over to this year’s Slide Away Festival as “the festival that celebrates itself.” The genre has had a resurgence in popularity since 2010 and is relishing in this second wave of interest with reformations of everyone from Ride to Slowdive. There is perhaps no bigger champion of this indie/alternative sub-genre than Nothing’s Domenic Palermo.
At the forefront of shoegaze’s revival, Palermo formed Nothing in Philadelphia in 2010 and self-released several EPs before signing to Relapse Records, a label known more for its metal, hardcore, and experimental output. The band released their first record, Guilty of Everything, in 2014 followed by their sophomore effort, Tired of Tomorrow, in 2016. Nothing’s third full-length, Dance on the Blacktop, was released in 2018, and 2020 saw the band release their fourth studio album, The Great Dismal. Honing their sound since the band’s inception, Nothing settles firmly within several aspects of the genre; heavily-effected guitars with plenty of distortion, obscured, ethereal vocals, staggering volume, and plenty of feedback.
On the tenth anniversary of Nothing’s debut album, Domenic wanted to create something to not only commemorate the decade since Guilty of Everything’s release but to also honor the genre of music that inspired the band’s creation in the first place.
The Slide Away Festival had a couple of objectives. One, to be a celebration of an all-encompassing genre to include the artists who form soundscapes in the most distinct of ways, and two, be a conduit that bridges the gap between the diverse cast of boundary pushing pioneers of yesterday with the genre bending torch-bearers of today. With dates in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles, Slide Away captured the true essence of what festivals could and should be.
While other festivals are consumed with Tik Tok influencers, Instagram models, long lines for everything from food to parking, technical difficulties, and impossible schedules, Slide Away shifts the focus back to the music and the fans that are passionate about it. If the L.A. edition of the event is any indication, Slide Away has tapped into something truly unique. The Belasco hosted the west coast version of the fest several weeks after the inaugural performance in Philadelphia and was not only a celebration of the music but also its evolution. Comprised of locals Film School with their post-punk leanings, the distorted overdrive of Chicago’s Astrobrite and heavy shoegaze hosts Nothing the roster also featured newcomers such as Glare from Texas with their dizzying repetition, San Francisco’s Tanukichan and their contrasting dream pop textures, local experimental popsters Peel Dream Magazine & L.A. jangle gazers Mo Dotti, the Slide Away Festival found a perfect blend of genre veterans and exploratory spirit of youth.
Ultimately and as equally important, Slide Away harnessed shared social values such as diversity and inclusion both on stage with a majority of the bands featuring women and in the audience with a crowd of variegated races, generations, and genders. Nothing’s set proving the grandest salute to these principles at the evening’s conclusion. The band playing the entirety of Guilty Of Everything while introducing a slew of guests throughout including Christian Castillo (Gluch), Alvin Carillo (Luster), Nicholas Bassett (Whirr), and Kyle Kimball (Night Sins, ex-Nothing). Closing their set with “Downward Years To Come”, both Palmero and Doyle were accompanied by Blackwater Holylight’s Mikala Mayhew, Eliese Dorsay and Sunny Faris that really emphasized the communal spirit of the festival. Likewise in Philadelphia where the festival featured collaborations with past members Kimball (drums, 2013-2022), Mike Bachich (drums, 2011-2012), Richie Roxas (bass, 2012-2013), Chris Betts (bass, 2013), Tony Rossi (drums, 2012-2013), Bassett (bass, 2013-2018), Josh Jancewicz (bass, 2011-2012), and producer Jeff Ziegler who engineered the band’s debut LP and has recorded with other notables like The War On Drugs and Kurt Vile.
For an inaugural run, the Los Angeles edition of Slide Away went off without a hitch. The schedule was clear and concise with bands on and off stage on time, (a logistic basically unheard of for a festival, let alone its first running), artists were diverse and wide-ranging for a homogenous genre, movement inside the venue was unhindered allowing for a variety of vantage points, and technical issues were non-existent. The perfect festival? Undoubtably yes.

Huge thanks to Onaje McDowelle and Duncan Will at Orienteer for the coordination effort and to Nicky for making the time to chat before the festival in Los Angeles.

R.I.P. Graeme Naysmith

(Conversation starts about a podcast appearance from a couple years ago)

Domenic Palermo: I remember that. That was one of those podcasts where you’re just like, “These people have no idea what is going on!”

James Broscheid: “Is it over yet?”

DP: (Both laughing) When I heard someone say that they didn’t like the Smashing Pumpkins or barely listened to them I thought, “What am I on here right now for?” (More laughing). You know what I mean? Really confusing.

JB: Those were the days of alternative acts taking over commercial radio (even though they were featured on college stations prior to that in here in states). Smashing Pumpkins, along with Nirvana, I found myself really into. Then “alternative radio” succumbed to Spin Doctors and other undesirables (Domenic agrees, laughing). I saw Smashing Pumpkins in 1993 on the Siamese Dream tour and lo and behold they had a band from Oxford, UK called Swervedriver opening up who I had never heard of at the time. This was in Cleveland and I was completely blown away. Between Swervedriver and The Big Takeover, my tastes have dramatically improved! Catherine Wheel, Pale Saints, My Bloody Valentine … all these bands that were so new to me that I never heard of …

DP: Yeah, amazing!

JB: I have a lot to thank Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins for!

DP: Same! For me, I was listening to a lot of shoegaze stuff for a long time. I had the luxury of having a really tapped-in family who were always really cool. My sister was the metalhead listening to stuff like Sepultura and Slayer. My mom was a beatnik so she really into the folk stuff and had (Bob) Dylan and Vashti Bunyan and stuff like that.

JB: Nice!

DP: She took a turn in the eighties and started listening to a lot of post-punk, goth stuff. She was really into The Cure and Siouxie (and the Banshees). Then my brother was the punk rocker who transitioned into brit pop and shoegaze. So, I was infected really early with everything.

JB: Getting all angles.

Mo Dotti

DP: Yup. When we started doing the Nothing stuff, a big thing for me was that we were going to do what the Pumpkins kind of did and take this shoegaze stuff and try to put a spin on it to where it is more accessible to the average person and make it rock a bit. Try and get some of the energy I had back then out of my system. Now, I’m washed up and old now (relating, James laughs). That was the original plan back then.

JB: This wasn’t anything I jotted down but do you think Nothing helped resurrect and revitalize shoegaze as a genre?

DP: (Pauses) Yes (laughs)! I don’t have a problem saying it at this point anymore. It’s not very often we get the credit just by existence. So I take the luxury of doing it myself sometimes but yeah, we’re absolutely responsible for all this shit I think. It was a slow point in the 2000s and out of curiosity coming into a lot of this shit. Coming into that era in the 2000s with stuff like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Asobi Seksu, A Place To Bury Strangers and Ringo Deathstarr were the only ones carrying that torch. I would go out and see those guys as well as the touring bands like Swervedriver. All those bands that were coming to the states in the 2000s and playing to two hundred kids. I’ve seen Mojave 3 in Philly in maybe 2008 or 2007 or something and there were three people in the room. I was just in awe by them. At that time it was dead so when we started Nothing in 2010 to 2012 it was like we walked into a place where no one really understood what we were doing. We didn’t really fit in anywhere we went. We didn’t get ushered in by any kind of shoegaze because no one really cared about it anyway and we were always a little weird for the punk shows but we just did our thing. After we did Guilty Of Everything something clicked and we started to see a lot of cloning of what we were doing but worse versions of it (both laugh). We hadn’t really got our shit figured out either. We were playing live, and everything was a fucking mess, we didn’t really know what we were doing … me mainly. My vocals sucked and you couldn’t hear anything, but we were just making it as loud as possible … being ignorant. It started to pick up and obviously now it’s in a place of confusion. Seeing all these bands getting huge with streaming numbers and you hear that cringe-worthy word “shoegaze” along with them.

JB: I was reluctant to throw that word out there at you (laughs)!

DP: We just had an article come out today in Q Magazine and I can’t even read this shit. Not because they did anything wrong but you have to talk about it the right way, using certain words. It’s hard because you feel embarrassed for yourself! It’s cool that people care about it but at the same time, goddamn this is corny as fuck (James laughs)!

JB: Well yeah, bands like Nothing have shoegaze elements to them, but the real trick is to do your own shit with it (Domenic agrees). That’s what I love and that’s what I want to cover. It’s the derivative stuff of repeating what’s already taken place, that gets old. There’s certainly worse things out there to listen to but challenge me. Be daring. I’d rather hear bands like yours and Hotline TNT, Soft Kill

DP: Great band! I love Hotline TNT. They’re playing here tonight actually but we have to leave for rehearsal in a little while so we’re not going to catch them. We got to see Glixen who is another band I love. A young band out of Arizona that we had on the Slide Away Fest in Philly but they happened to be out here. We rolled into their show like a bunch of degenerates, drunk as hell. Tomorrow night Cold Gawd and this band Kraus are another couple of young shoegaze bands that are doing cool shit. We’re going to go check them out. What’s really cool about it now is that there is this really flourishing thing. I didn’t have any old heads that showed us any love. I have been on my own mission this whole time, figuring it out myself. So I’m trying to be a good old head now to try and be that person that I didn’t have then. Going out and showing support to these kids. They’re the reason it’s able to happen so I’ve reached this point in my life where I need to give back and give that kind of support I never had. So I’m trying to do as much as I can and that’s what is cool about the Slide Away Festival is bridging that generational gap. Doing the shit I wish was there when I started out basically.

Gina Negrini of Mo Dotti

JB: I think what you’re doing now was the catalyst for the pioneers like Slowdive and Ride to come back better than ever.

DP: And I love Slowdive. Like I said, I had seen Mojave 3 and that shit had gotten me through so much stuff but even then I’ll never get the credit but I think we were a big reason for them (Slowdive) coming back around I think.

JB: Mojave 3 were great too. I was living in Cleveland at the time of their existence, and I followed them all over the Midwest and into Canada when they toured. I mean, Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell, and Ian McCuthcheon?

DP: Yeah, sign me up right?

JB: The nicest people too.

DP: Yeah, for sure!

JB: I should probably get to my questions about the festival. I know you’re crammed for time.

DP: I’m sorry I fucked up yesterday. It’s been a whirlwind. It’s one thing performing at this fest but I’m also operating it. There are so many spinning gears. Today I missed another interview on a podcast with B-Real of Cypress Hill too. I’m already like, “What the hell am I doing talking to B-Real for?” So this is crazy! But I missed that too, so I called to tell him sorry. I’m just fucking everything up!

JB: Your PR team were great. They rolled with the punches. First, it’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since the release of Guilty Of Everything. Can you reflect on this last decade as far as the band’s beginnings to what you’ve achieved so far?

DP: It’s a trip to me man to be still standing here to be honest. I know it’s a cliché thing to say but I didn’t think I was going to make it this far. I’ve always been a little bit of a wild boy. In the ten years of Nothing it feels like a lifetime of pain and what I’ve put myself through in this short decade is unbelievable. ERs and hospitals and taking really bad care of myself mentally and physically, drugs, booze … you name it. To be standing here ten years after this shit is a bit of a trip to be honest. Looking back at it is like a blur. It still feels like it wasn’t that long ago. There’s been so many changes! We’ve gone through fucking twenty-five members of this band up to this point. The line-up is constantly changing and I’m just finally locking in with the crew that we have now, and this is my favorite little squad that we have now. We sound the best that we ever have. I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to look back at it on a linear scale. It’s kind of a mush at this point and we’re still here! Now, it’s what’s next? We managed to swing around to where shoegaze is popular again, so we’ve been around and haven’t made a corny record yet. One that you look back and are embarrassed about it. Everything still feels the same. It’s rare I think because we’ve built ourselves into a position where we play in front of a couple thousand kids at shows which is fucking great. We never really had a big break or anything like that. We’re just consistently here. “Can’t get rid of us!” type of behavior. So, ten years, five years, even one year … I’m just here still. I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing, and I feel like I’m finally coming to a place where I am giving back a little bit which feels good. And I’m pretty happy for once I think with everything. For now!

JB: That’s good to hear.

Peel Dream Magazine

DP: We’ll see (James laughs). I’m skeptical.

JB: Yeah, I’m the same way. One day you’re feeling great and the next could be the shittiest of your life (Domenic agrees). The last three decades for me have been full of ups and extreme downs. At some point I wouldn’t mind talking to you about your life’s journey. I know you’ve spent time in prison and you’re shining a light on a need for prison reform. I would love to talk about and get some exposure for that.

DP: Yeah! Anytime. I’m still trying to do as much as I can with that stuff. The system is just so fucked up at this point and in Philadelphia especially. Where I grew up, everyone was on probation. All my friends, myself, everyone was always on probation it felt like. There’s a reason for that. The revolving door system in Philly is just so fucked up. Like it’s set up to fail and just stay that way. It’s all bullshit too. I have friends that have been on probation for fifteen years now just because they’re caught on a weed charge when they were sixteen. The system is set up to where you miss an interview, and they give you three more years. Just fucking crazy. That goes for everybody. The white kids are suffering just as much as the black kids. It’s just equally fucked up in Philly. There’s no bias, everybody is suffering … it’s just a wild city.

JB: I was going to ask if it was race-driven but it doesn’t sound like it.

DP: Everywhere else it absolutely is but Philly is a unique place. I think Philly is a majority black city anyway but the neighborhood where I grew up in Kensington is all poor. Poor Irish, poor Italian, poor Puerto Rican, poor black and everyone was jammed together. My high school was a 90% black school and that’s just the way Philly is. Everyone is getting fucked. The system is set up to crush kids and keep them in that box. There are some people doing some cool shit trying to fix it but it’s not an easy thing.

JB: Maybe this ties into it but I saw the anniversary edition of Guilty Of Everything came out with two bonus tracks covering Big Star (“Holocaust”) and Concrete Blonde (“Joey”). What are the back stories on those two covers? Were they forgotten about?

DP: Those two have been around and nobody ever gave a shit about them. We had them around and thought let’s just get them out. Two crushers like the saddest songs ever. “Joey” by Concrete Blonde … I remember my mom playing that song in the house when I was a kid. I remember thinking, “Goddamn, this is just a sad song!” Then getting older and understanding it more and feeling like Joey myself a lot of the time (both laugh)! It really hit home. We recorded that around the time we went on this long six-week European tour and we were drinking so much. A six-week tour where we went to Russia for the first time on that tour. I went through my Instagram after coming home and going through the archive of all the stories and every night it was shots and chugging bottles. I thought, “Goddammit, this is crazy. It’s amazing any of us are still alive!” I had to cut a video for this Joey song so let me pull all this footage of us just drinking just from this tour and splice it all together. On this surface when you’re watching it, it looks like a good time but when you slap them together in a continuous form and see just how much is going on and throw that track over top it suddenly becomes this most depressing looking thing ever. I thought, “This is just perfect!” There’s only been three thousand views. There was no press release, I cut the video myself and threw it on YouTube. It has just been sitting there. The song is so fucking sad and then obviously “Holocaust”, the title alone …

JB: This is not going to be a nice, cheery song.

DP: (Laughing) There’s no way this is going to turn into a good thing.

JB: Yeah, you know what you’re walking into.

DP: Yes, and there’s lines like “Your mother’s dead” in the song. I get it, it’s a little dramatic but me and Doyle (Martin, guitarist – JB), have been wanting to do that cover for a really long time. We cut it awhile ago and just sat on it forever. I always wanted to get a cover of that song released.

JB: I listened to it last night and thought, “Holy shit, this is as sad as the original.” (Domenic agrees) “Joey” too. I haven’t seen the video yet though.

DP: You’ve gotta check it out. It’s buried but you’ll find it.

JB: Did you get much feedback on it?

DP: You know, I should probably repost it. I usually let sleeping dogs lie but the people that did see it fucked with it heavy. I feel like it deserves a little more attention. I was thoroughly impressed with my own work on that one (both laugh). It’s just so depressing watching us do that to ourselves.

JB: Moving on to Slide Away, I’m assuming that is named after the Verve song?

DP: Yes sir. A lot of people were like, “Is it Oasis? Is it Verve? Which one is it?” For me, it was the Verve song. I also have “Slide Away” Oasis lyrics tattooed on my arm too which is funny. I don’t know, I don’t care but when I came up with the festival, I obviously knew both those songs are great fucking songs and I knew people would be like, “Which song is it?” It was more for the Verve song. It’s a shoegaze fest you know?

JB: I remember when the festival was announced and I thought, “It’s gotta be after that Verve song!” Definitely one of my favorite songs by them, hands down.

DP: Me too. That album is just … That’s a band I’ve seen a couple times too and they were so good but both times I almost fell asleep while I was at the show. They were both sit-down shows. Both times I was literally falling asleep by the end of the set but those are my favorite records. I’m such a Richard Ashcroft fan since forever but fuck, they get boring after awhile watching them live though!

JB: I saw them three times and one time was without Nick McCabe when he had enough of touring in 1998 and left the band. They were horrible on that occasion. Generic Britpop.

DP: I’m sure Richard Ashcroft is such a pleasure to be around all the time.

JB: Yeah, I bet. The first time I saw them they played “Slide Away” and I was in heaven (Domenic agrees). Last time was in Las Vegas when they got back together and toured for Forth and I just parked myself in front of Nick McCabe the whole night.

DP: Yeah! That’s the way to be right?

JB: Yup, melt my face off please!

Scott Cortez of Astrobrite

DP: Yeah. Brilliant fucking band. One day I hope to be able to put this together, but they’ll probably see this interview and say, “Fuck you, I ain’t doing it!” but one day I would love to get to the position where I could book a band like that. That’s what the goal is for this. We sold out two 1,500 capacity rooms for this year and next year I’m trying to move to a 3,000-capacity room. Increase and get a bigger budget so I can start calling in some of the UK stuff. We also have ideas about maybe actually moving the fest to the UK on some occasions. We want to keep it pretty mobile and base ourselves in a place where it’s more accessible to bring back some obscure bands that may be in the area and don’t really do this but maybe they will since it’s in their city. We’re looking at New York and we’re looking at London, but I also want to keep it in Philly as a consistent thing. We’re all over the place but kind of figuring it out step by step.

JB: How did the idea originate for the festival?

DP: Like I said, I wanted to create that community and I also wanted to put a flag in the ground for Nothing too. The media has never been unkind to us. All the records are well-received, and everybody takes care of us well but at the same time we’ve never been taken care of in a way, we’ve been pushed. It’s very much like, “Okay, we address that you exist and you’re good”, but that’s as far as it goes. We get missed or not mentioned a lot when it comes to this genre and for me, I’m a firm believer in if you want something done you have to do it yourself. I knew that by putting this together it would cement my place where Nothing deserves to be in the realm of this scene and this music. In the process of doing that, I’m able to complete this cross-generational thing and give the community something they deserve as well. That’s kind of how this started in theory. I linked up with our agent and our manager and said, “Let’s fucking do this!” I also can’t be touring every year to pay the bills; I need to put this energy into something else. This made sense to me to do. So now I am neck-deep in it. When I start to get cooking on something I can’t stop! I go crazy so now I’m trying to make everything bigger and do bigger things.

JB: I think between what you did in Philadelphia and what you’re doing in Los Angeles, you really hit on what a festival should be (Domenic agrees). I never really got into the 3-day; hundreds of bands bullshit they’ve been for decades. The last festival I went to was 2003 Coachella to primarily see Iggy and The Stooges reunite after 30 years.

DP: Yeah, it’s like a fucking nightmare (James agrees). We’ve played those types of festivals and its always great money but it’s you ran your route, hospitality kind of sucks, no one knows what the fuck is going on, it’s like a factory/conveyor belt type of system and that’s what we wanted to get away from too. You have these big companies throwing millions of dollars at these festivals, paying these bands and you end up with a festival of a hundred bands. You’re given a flyer you can’t even read what the fuck is going on …

JB: Yeah, no kidding. You have to decide on one band or another because they’re both playing at the same time on different stages.

DP: That’s what we wanted to stay away from. We wanted to bring back a nice, curated fest that’s an enjoyable time to be at where you can have a conversation with a stranger and know that you’re in the right place. That’s what we completed and the cross-generational thing, it was a dice roll. We did Philly and the first two rows were the most diverse crowd of age, race, and gender. It was insane. It looked like a corporate ad for bringing in one color and one gender of every person. I thought, “We actually did this. We did it the right way and this is fucking beautiful!” And it felt good. It didn’t feel forced, and everyone had a really great time. We kept it affordable, and we had to speak to every band personally saying, “Look, this isn’t going to be the craziest payday. You have to have faith in this and what it could do for you.” Everybody was so keen on wanting to make it work with me and we created something really fucking beautiful. I need to try and keep it like that, like at any cost. Which is hard as you increase, and you have to have partners and that’s what is scary for me. It’s a new place for me in general. I’m going to stick to my guns and try to keep it the way it needs to be. We did a $35 ticket for eight bands. You don’t see that very often.

Melissa Arpin of Astrobrite

JB: You NEVER see that. Not even for one band most shows.

DP: Yeah, and it wasn’t a cluster fuck. Everybody’s name is the same size on the flyer. There’re so many details that we tried to keep there, it’s stuff that you learn from doing this for so long. What’s important like keeping the bill diverse as well. Sticking to the genre and let it get wider a little bit to keep it interesting. Making sure you’re getting enough female musicians in there and people of color. There’s so many people doing things that I want to make sure everything is thought of along the way and being as careful as possible. Like I said, I get addicted to this shit and I want to do everything the best possible way I can so I’m kind of a little psychotic (James laughs).

JB: Sounds like an East-coaster!

DP: (Laughs) Yeah, exactly! I definitely make myself go crazy which is why I drink so much.

JB: You mention cross-generations and getting more women involved which made me think of a chat I just had with Mary Timony (Helium and Ex Hex) …

DP: Oh, awesome!

JB: We talked about women in music as she has been around in various forms for over three decades and she said back in the ‘90s it was all male, all the time.

DP: And it still is. It’s still male-dominated. You’re seeing a lot of things change but a lot of the stuff you see changed is for the way it looks on paper. Meanwhile, behind the scenes where I am you see that not a lot has changed. When we did the L.A. bill, the bill is like 80% women actually. It’s crazy because I haven’t seen a single person talk about this fest and diversity. I spent a lot of time making sure … and I’m not looking for flowers for it don’t get me wrong, but it’s also crazy that no one mentions that when they talk about it. This is a female-dominated festival for L.A. and it wasn’t purposely done like that either. I picked the bands that I love and it just kind of ended up that way. When you look at it you think, “This is fucking sick! I did the right thing here!” (James agrees).


JB: And that was Mary’s point as she is seeing more girls and women getting involved in music. I’ll always support an artist if the music hits me, no problem there. I told her I thought it was still heavily dominated by men and she didn’t see it that way. Especially because of the internet and how anyone can create and release music on their own now. Like Mo Dotti! I can’t wait to see them.

DP: They’re so good. I’ve been such a fan of them since the very beginning. I try to keep my ear to the streets. It gets harder as you get older to try and chase down some of this shit but being in the business too makes it a little easier. I got my connections. I have my young people who make sure I don’t turn into a boomer (both laugh)! It’s getting hard these days though, watching everything you say … I don’t want to turn into a boomer yet. It’ll happen eventually I’m sure (more laughter). It probably already is, this is a boomer call right now! I’m glad she feels that way but from my perspective this industry is over-dominated by men still. I see a lot of girls getting pushed around still, the same old bullshit but it’s definitely approaching a better way nowadays, I think.

JB: I hope so. Everything going on in San Francisco that I try and champion may be the solution. I just love what is going on up there. People playing in each other’s bands, it’s just this huge community with phenomenal music. I’m seeing a lot of women-fronted bands and tons of female involvement that I wish would spread everywhere else. We need the diversity so I’m happy to see Slide Away chipping at that.

DP: Yeah, that’s going to be a goal moving forward always. There’s too much to showcase so why not do that? Why not make that work and like I said, these are artists I actually listen to so it’s easy for me.

JB: How did you go about selecting the artists playing in Philly and L.A?

DP: If I show you the document I have you’d be like, “What the fuck is going on?” (James laughs). Its got like a thousand bands listed and we just dissected it by narrowing it down and narrowing it down. Then we started checking for availability. From there we again narrowed it down and checked for more availability before narrowing it down further. Then we sent offers and narrowed it down again and this is where we landed at. Again, these are people putting faith into this on the strength of us saying we’re trying to do this and they rolled the dice with us. Especially me, I’m not necessarily the sanest person when you look at my profile. These people are like, “Oh, the guy from Nothing is putting together a fest” or “Oh, it’s the guy covered in blood laying on the floor and breaking his guitar over things.” It’s not the easiest sell but people took the ride with us and now we showed what we did – we made this really beautiful, special event and now we have the validity to move forward and make it even better. I’m hoping that’s the case anyway.

Film School

JB: I think if you pulled of an event in London, it will be very well-received over there (Domenic agrees). When you initially said it I thought, “Wow, I could see Emma Anderson from Lush play this! Maybe Breathless!” Anderson put out a stellar solo record last year.

DP: Oh, I love it. The Lush records are forever embedded in my soul. There’re so many things I want to get into like who I want to get on this thing. It’s good though because that gives me a lot of room to work with and a constant balancing act of getting that bigger act in there but also, I want to impress people by showing them things they may not know about. For me, I emailed Scott (Cortez) from Astrobrite and Loveliescrushing off their Bandcamp, just a cold email. “Yo, what’s going on? This is Nicky from Nothing and I don’t know if you’ll understand this or even read this, but Loveliescrushing was one of the most important releases! The record got me through terrible times. I’m doing this festival, and I would love to come you play it.” Scott emailed me back the next day and said, “Yeah! I’d love to do it! Do you think my other band could play too?” I replied, “You talking about Astrobrite?” He responded, “Yeah!” and I said, “Abso-fucking-lutely dude!” (James laughs). YES! Are you fucking kidding me? I just got off the phone with him and talk to him every day now. I love him.

JB: I remember back in the early 2000s when I went on tour with Scenic and Breathless from the UK …

DP: Oh, cool!

JB: They did a West Coast run and I remember listening to Crush by Astrobrite quite a bit. Had never seen them live so I’m pretty psyched for this festival.

DP: You’re going to have a fun time. And Loveliescrushing for me was like a pinnacle moment. I was sitting side of stage watching them play this beautiful, ambient set and then looked out over the crowd and saw teenagers, old heads, all locked in – not a single person on their phone. Scott got off stage and said, “I think we fucking sucked. I think people hated us!” I said, “You just melted everyone’s brains away! You don’t even understand what you just did!” Now, there’s 1,500 people watching Loveliescrushing which should have been happening the whole time during their existence. But now it has happened. That, to me, is more important than anything. They deserve that and they have for thirty years. To see it happen now, I feel like I did what I was supposed to do.

JB: Scott has been doing some really good stuff throughout his career. I love Star. (Domenic agrees) That’s some pretty obscure stuff.

DP: We’ve got some pretty good stuff that we’re cooking on that I think you’ll be pretty excited about. I would probably have to go off record to tell you about. There’s some stuff that I’m cooking on that is potentially for me, mind-blowing. It’s some pretty obscure stuff that you thought you would probably never see again. That’s the goal.

JB: If you got Catherine Wheel back, you’d be the shit in my book.

DP: I’ve had conversations with them already but they’re a little all over the place right now I think. That’s one for sure that I’ll continue to try and massage. Also, a lot of these people I talk to the first time, like I said, they don’t know me from a can of paint and take what I’m trying to say with a grain of salt but now, it’s a little different. Now when I step to somebody it’s like, “Yo, what’s up? You want to get this going or what?” Now I have something to show and that was the goal of this year. So I think I’ll have some more success with stuff (bookings). One act is going to be confirmed for next year and they were one of the ones saying, “I don’t think I could get this together, everybody’s a mess.” They came to the show in Philly and we had a conversation mid-way through the show and they were like, “Yeah, we’re ready to do this next year!” (James laughs) I was like, “Yeah, I fucking told you. Now do you believe me?” (Both laugh).

JB: Join a festival about the music for a change (Domenic agrees). How did Philly go overall?

DP: A magical day. On top of the festival being great it was the 10th anniversary of Guilty (Of Everything) and that record is very much based in Philly. Everything I was writing about was my time growing up in Philly and so being there, sharing this record ten years later and still being on this Earth defied a lot of odds being able to play on that stage. Fighting through all this shit just to be there. It was the best fuck you to the world I could ever have in the most positive sense. I’m not supposed to be doing what I’m doing, like I wasn’t built to do this. I had to pull this out of thin air. I love to defy odds. I love bashing the universe. That’s what I’m here for. It’s to destroy the universe in a ball of chaos (laughs).

Greg Bertens of Film School

JB: You’ve been through the ringer for sure.

DP: Yeah, and I’ll continue to do that. That’s the role I’ve been given but I’ve come full circle and understand myself a lot more. I’m not a masochist or anything but I’m fully aware of what’s at my doorstep at this point. I know what’s coming and I know it’s going to be bad but I’m ready always for it now. That’s just the way I move now.

JB: Be surprised when it’s good for once.

DP: Yeah! That’s more or less the thing!

JB: Between my wife and myself, that’s pretty much how we’ve approached things since 2009. That was the year I didn’t think I was going to live through. There have been other years since as well.

DP: But you made it.

JB: Made it. Still think about it all the time.

DP: That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? (James agrees) I take that energy and run with it. That’s what makes me feel indestructible because I know it’s there. I know it’s a possibility and I expect it to be like that a lot of the time. I take it. That’s all I’ve been doing is pushing through walls since I was a kid. So, I continue to do that. I can be bruised and battered, can barely walk, or barely close my hands or bend my knees but I’m still fucking here you know? That’s what it is and I’m still doing the right thing for the most part, I think.

JB: So Slide Away is definitely something that will carry over every year?

DP: Yeah, that’s the plan.

JB: Great news.

DP: I put a lot of my eggs into this basket. Like I said, I’m a glutton for punishment and I’m ready to do the work on it. I have to get to writing a Nothing record as well. This is definitely a lot more work than I expected but I’m going to try and double the size of the rooms next year which means I’m going to have to double my team. We worked way too hard for a three-person team on this. A three-person team trying to get this done was fucking insane but we care about what we’re doing and that’s the difference. If you care about what you’re doing and you have good people around you, you can do whatever you want to do.


JB: What is on the horizon for Nothing?

DP: We are demoing some stuff now and taking it day-by-day. I want to get this shit over with and then re-evaluate some things. We put a lot of work into this and it’s going to slowly coast down. We didn’t make any money on this shit basically. We kept the tickets so cheap that we knew we weren’t going to make money. We probably lost a little bit to be honest. I spent money in areas to make it special. We took a 30% cut of Nothing even playing these shows to make it work. Don’t tell the rest of the band that (James laughs). The payday is going to be little light for them (both laugh). This year was about getting it done and making it the right way and putting the imprint on the world of what Slide Away can do. So now that this is coasting down, I’m going to turn back to Nothing again and try to write a record while shoegaze is still big and maybe even make a couple bucks. You know, make a hit record or go viral … whatever the fuck.

JB: Go gold (both laugh).

DP: It would be cool to make a little more money to be honest.

JB: Nothing has been steadily building momentum, hasn’t it?

DP: Yeah, we do good, but we could always get better.

JB: The Great Dismal was a phenomenal record if you ask me.

DP: Thank you. That’s probably my favorite one.

JB: Mine too. It shows progression from where you started. Whether it’s pigeon-holed as shoegaze or not. Trying different things.

DP: Obviously at this point you probably understand that I’m a little bit of a rolling stone. I don’t like to stay stagnant. Jail time kind of shook that right out me. I try to keep things moving. I think if you’re not trying to change the sound or develop it, what are you really doing? For better or for worse, I’ll continue to keep that kind of mindset. Always working with different musicians on the record kind of helps too. You’ve got Zach (Jones, drums) and Doyle (Martin, guitar) and Bobb Bruno (bass, ex Best Coast), playing in this band now. They all bring a different element to this that Nothing has never seen before. When I start writing and we write together, things are naturally going to take a different shape. Everybody knows what Nothing’s foundation is, so they put their take on it. We’ll guide this to continually progress a little bit, for better or for worse. I guess.

Domenic Palermo of Nothing

JB: I’ll have people ask, “What are listening to? Or what do they sound like?” I reply, “Have you ever heard of a genre called ‘shoegaze’?” I always get a cocked head like a dog followed by, “Huh?” (Domenic laughs). I’ll put on “Bernie Sanders” and watch their expression change to, “What the hell is this?”

DP: (Laughs) Chaos! That’s what has always made me fall in love with the genre, being a chaotic person, shoegaze to me is like controlled chaos. That’s kind of what I am. I’m a walking ball of controlled chaos!

To keep tabs on all things Slide Away, visit the festival’s website and sign up for future alerts.

Check out this year’s roster of bands and have a listen here:

Film School
Mint Field
Mo Dotti
Peel Dream Magazine
They Are Gutting A Body Of Water