Interview: Dylan Walker of Full of Hell and Nicky Palermo and Doyle Martin Talk ‘When No Birds Sang’

Not to wax poetic, but true creatives should surprise you; however, a trick that the best employ is finding ways to twist expectations while not losing the soul of their originality. Take Maryland’s Full Of Hell, who have built a sort of record universe with their own, morphing extreme metal laid atop an impressive array of collaborative albums. Of all their past work, the one that might have snuck up on many—in part due to an end-of-year release, it’s their latest endeavor that stands as their best.

Teaming up with the shoegaze princes in Nothing, When No Birds Sang, out now via Closed Casket Activities, finds a beautiful midpoint that’s one heaping dose of My Bloody Valentine’s wall of bursting sound and a second scoop of Jesu’s ethereal noise. It’s the result of two bands who hate genre labels wanting to create a sonnet of hope amidst horror, of love against hate, and a towering (pun unintended) ode to the absurdity of life. In fact, as all three acknowledge on my call with Full Of Hell’s Dylan Walker and Nothing’s Nicky Palermo and Doyle Martin that the lines of who wrote what surprised each other and would certainly stump fans.

“Before inspiration for music or art or anything,” Walker says, “we talked about bright colors. That was one of the first things we spoke about was just pulling an unassuming kind of grim feel as what we wanted to convey. As the music progressed, we just tried to follow along with that the whole time, and it came all the way down to the finish line, too. We really tried to stick to that. We just wanted to have an unassuming, eerie—almost like Paul Thomas Anderson film—where it’s like you have this uneasy feeling the whole time, and that was something that we really tried to capture.

“There are so many commonalities between how Nicky builds a wall of sound or his approach to electronics,” he continues, “and their songs are unorthodox song structuring. I feel like the ethos of shoegaze is very similar to how we approach music. Plus, everybody in Full Of Hell are huge fans of what Nicky does and fans of the genre that they kind of occupy. My Bloody Valentine is a perfect example of something that kind defies expectation of a shoegaze band. It’s very extreme. (This) was everything we wanted and more from Nothing.”

“I was always a fan of Full of Hell,” Palermo adds, “and we kind of were just on this linear path together, but just had never really made any kind of connection, and as soon as we did, it was one of those easy connecting friendships that just seemed like they were there the whole time that we just hadn’t discovered it yet. the music was secondary almost to just being able to finally be in a room together and being able to face each other in a room, and hook on something. The last thing anyone was ever thinking was, ‘What is this? What is the goal for this?’ It was more along the lines of I got this idea, and then we just built on that, and then it just kind of just got passed around the room, like a high school drum circle with some real bad weed and acid.”

The record tells the story of the tragic “falling man” image from 9/11, and while some may take umbrage at a collective leveraging history for any purpose, not only is the day ingrained in the band members forever, it’s also a personal day and a way for the band to ponder the meaning of life.

“I’ve been obsessed with 9/11,” Palermo says. “It’s my birthday as well, so I’ve been obsessed with it for a really long time. I look at it as a just disastrous, tragic day, like most people, but for some reason I’ve just been really attached to it, but when we were bringing this up, it ended up with a central philosophical question: How much suffering is too much suffering? And we just built backwards from that, and 9/11 itself became this background soundtrack to us writing this fictional tale about John Bradley, who they think is the falling man, and I just went down this rabbit hole of research. He worked at the restaurant Window to the World, so then next thing you know, we’re pulling menus from the restaurant, like old PDFs of the menu, and we’re using that for art, just finding out little things and dropping little Easter eggs.”

“The moment you brought (the idea) up,” Walker shares, “I was just like, ‘Oh, my God, yeah. This is so perfect. It’s so right down the aisle of literally everything that I write about without having to try.’ I just feel like it feels so much in fate and just existential fear, and even bravery, and it’s so easy to tap even into love. I don’t know, imagining your feet on that precipice to me is very terrifying and very beautiful.”

Existentialism is way more powerful because if nothing matters, then everything matters. Was there hope in the record? Walker believes so:

Everything I touch will have that in some way, but there’s something else there that probably explains it.”

“It probably sounds like hope because we were just having fun creating together,” Martin says.

I don’t think we think enough about depressing art still comes from often a place of love, and love of each other, love of creation, and love of putting something in the world that they believe in, and that is naturally a hopeful act, right?

So what do all these collabs mean to Full Of Hell?

“I’m a huge fan of Nothing,” Walker says. “I’m a huge fan of Cloakroom. I was a huge fan of Doyle’s old bands and Nicky’s old bands. Every time we’ve made a collab record since we met the Body, pretty much, it completely alters us. It just injects creativity. It’s like we’re learning from big brothers and picking up something, picking up an approach maybe, or it’s like an exercise that we’re not even used to. Nicky, even something as funny as you getting into the studio and making Spencer feel uncomfortable because he’s so scared of things changing once you’re in there, but literally, that’s so essential to all of this. You can’t just have it laced up 100% in the studio.”

“You’re missing so many opportunities, but you putting him in that situation where he’s not the center of the room, and he just has to deal with it, and then he gets to see how productive it actually is to do that. You made him confront a fear that was limiting him as a musician, and I don’t know. That’s not even something that you’re like, “I’m going to make this guy learn and be a better musician.” That was just you being yourself, and it made Full Of Hell better. We learn so much from every band we work with, and Nothing’s collab is my favorite one.”

When No Birds Sang is available now from Closed Casket Activities. Follow Full of Hell on Facebook and Instagram and Nothing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for future updates.

Photo courtesy of Dustin Cloudin.

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