London noise-rock quartet USA Nails have announced their upcoming album ‘Feel Worse’, out March 22nd 2024. It’s the first album on their new label One Little Independent Records (home to anarcho-punk bands both old and new; Crass, Bad Breeding and more). The band have forged a considerable reputation since their formation in 2013 from their South London base, comprising of members of Kong, Future Of The Left, Blacklisters, Death Pedals and Silent Front.


‘Feel Worse’ explores schadenfreude; the pleasure derived from another person’s misfortune. With this, they use new material to attack austerity and UK authoritarianism, consumer culture (particularly the consumption of quick fix reality TV and hyper-capitalist agendas), youth culture and bullying, and more. They do so with their intense and unmistakable brand of abrasive, chaotic post-hardcore. There’s a raw and uncompromising energy to USA Nails, and ‘Feel Worse’ is their most powerful and vital album to date.


High-energy opener ‘Cathartic Entertainment’ is about the vulnerability and shame profited from by television studios, and the irresistible temptation we as viewers have to feel better about our own lives through the embarrassment of those on screen. “That’s what An Audience of Love refers to” says co-frontman Steve Hodson, “Audiences loving the unease of others. It becomes an uneasy comedy in itself, and almost a cycle of parody. Infidelity and abuse normalised through public shaming almost. Similarly On Computer Screen is about Catfish, another concept that fascinated me. Both the catfished and catfisher would put themselves on global television, again both parties displaying their vulnerability to the world for entertainment purposes.”


Elsewhere on their relentless sixth LP, they explore these themes closer to home. He continues; “Feel Worse and Pack Of Dogs are about laddish culture and schoolyard bullying. As youngsters, we jostle for social positioning and at times it’s at the expense of other people’s well-being. I used to say my teenage years were character building but on reflection I’d probably say they were character destroying, and those who made me feel so small through physical and emotional attacks probably don’t remember, hence the refrain ‘It’s just some words’. Maybe I should just “man up” a bit. There’s a parallel in all of this I guess, and in the fact that I wrote songs about my own experiences, some of them exposing my own vulnerabilities to an audience. Ok, maybe not to the extent of my references but hey, an audience none the less.


Gareth Thomas, the other half of the bands lyric-writing duo, chimes in on post-punk brawler ‘The Sun In The Sands’; “It’s a semi-fictional account of the estate where I live in South London and my feuding neighbours who LOVE to fight, and LOVE to make each other suffer. I recorded my vocals in my flat for this one and was a bit worried they might hear me shouting about them when I was doing it. The Sun in the Sands is the name of a roundabout just across town that I’ve heard on radio traffic reports since I was a kid. It always sounded quite mysterious and otherworldly to me, but I’ve been there as an adult and it’s sadly quite ordinary.”


‘Networking Opportunity’ is a no-wave infused observation of privilege and bias; “Much of the world is presented to us as if it’s a meritocracy, when in actual fact, it’s all nepotism and prejudice. It’s so galling to listen to certain types of comedians, actors and musicians etc complain about how much easier it would be to be brown, or to be a woman, or be gay, when they’ve had by comparison the best of everything. Networking Opportunity is a daydream about watching awful people fail. Incidentally, I condensed the lyrics so much that it’s maybe ended up being the most literal interpretation of the overarching theme of the record.”


Thomas continues; “Beautiful Eyes! is about how we consume culture. Boxsets and Marvel movies have people locked in for hours, but similarly, TikTok and memes facilitate cultural consumption in ever smaller fragments. It’s the latter that I’m more interested in. Technology has democratised comedy to some extent, and I’m fascinated by how many creators of memes and other digital content don’t seek copyright or credit for their work.”


Album closer ‘I Love It When You Succeed’ adds contrast by inverting the theme and ending on something of a high. Thomas says “It’s the first song we’ve ever done where I’ve written the lyrics but Steven has recorded them. I couldn’t get them to sound right in my voice, but thankfully Steve nailed it. This number takes the theme of the album and flips it upside down. I have so many amazing friends who are out there, doing things, achieving things, and I love it. I get pleasure from their pleasure. I’m intensely jealous too though, don’t get me wrong.”


These tracks are critical and unrelenting, conveying their message amidst an auditory assault of crushing distortion, that adds a palpable weight to the material. ‘Feel Worse’ represents anger as a great motivator, there’s a purging within fury of its delivery. USA Nails astutely scold the culture of divisive, toxic political rhetoric, and working people being turned on each other as a distraction tactic.


Early USA Nails releases were put out by labels like Smalltown America, a DIY label based in Northern Ireland. Later they would work with legendary Midwest experimental rock label SKiN GRAFT Records, champions of Melt Banana, Shellac, Dazzling Killmen, Koenjihyakkei, Brise-Glace, Cheer-Accident, US Maple, Denison/Kimball Trio and more. They’ve contributed to the Too Pure Singles Club, alongside DZ Deathrays, JOHN, Drahla, Paul Draper, and infinitely more. In 2022 they released a split with Psychic Graveyard (ex-Doomsday Student/Chinese Stars) on SKiN GRAFT and Box Records (the label started by Matt Baty, frontman of PigsX7).


The band have toured with Sub-Pop’s Metz and UK noise-rock legends Mclusky. They have completed numerous US and European headline stints, as well as supporting the likes of Future Of The Left, Mission Of Burma, No Age, Cocaine Piss, Viagra Boys, Hey Colossus and Unsane.


Over the years, out of necessity more than anything, USA Nails honed their skills off-stage as well as on. Like many jobbing musicians they learned design, videography, screenprinting and more to keep costs down while promoting their DIY releases. As such, what they’ve mastered on the go has become part of their daily lives. Drummer Tom Brewins has gone on to create music videos for the likes of JOHN, Goat, PETBRICK (ex-Sepultura and Big Lad) and more. Gareth Thomas did the same for the likes of Enablers, as well as appearing as a session guitarist for their friends Los Bitchos. Dan Holloway creates artwork and merch for a number of bands including Pile and Big Lad among others. Matt Reid, the drummer on their first three albums, continues to design all the artwork for the band. All this and more has become as much a part of the creative process for them as making the music.

2 november 2023
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