Story by Jon Garcia
Now three years removed from the world coming to a standstill, there are times when those days feel like a bad dream.
As life has mostly returned to normal, it’s easy to want to move on from that time. Especially in the music scene, where there are more bad memories than good. We were forced to talk about it ad nauseam for years, why rehash what all of us lived through?
But for a band like South Wales’ The Nightmares, who formed in 2018 and were just starting to gain momentum before the shutdown, their debut record will be inextricably linked to the pandemic.
“It’s only in doing these interviews it’s kind of made me realize how much this record is connected to that period and to COVID,” vocalist and guitarist Adam Parslow said. “
would have been a completely different thing if it wasn’t at that time.”
Gaining momentum right before the fall
Rounded out by keyboardist and vocalist Eleanor Coburn, bassist Benjamin Mainwaring, and drummer James Mattock, The Nightmares play self-described “noir pop,” heavily influenced by the likes of The Cure, Alkaline Trio and Interpol among others. Their music is dark, moody, and lush, imbued with a sort of timeless, coming-of-age quality that conjures images of dances at Sunnydale High School.
“All of us I think naturally draw to more dark imagery in any type of media. So it’s just a natural thing for us to create dark imagery to go along with the music,” Parslow said.
Even their formation and discovery of their sound was natural, Parslow and Mainwaring said. The two had known each other for years, playing in various projects in Newport’s local scene, and had many mutual friends with Mattock, who moved to Wales and started working in their local pub.
Parslow was dating his wife, Coburn, at the time and asked if she wanted to join, knowing her talents as a pianist. Initially she refused. Coburn had never played in a band before and told Parslow she’d never play in front of people, but a week or two later she changed her mind.
The sound they developed was never forced, and the five songs that comprise their 2019 debut EP were the first ones they ever wrote.
“We didn’t have a preconception of what we wanted to sound like,” Mainwaring said. “Obviously we all like similar music, so you’re going to end up — at least at first — sounding in the way that the ‘tip of the iceberg bands’ are going to sound. But I don’t think it was anything too thought out or anything. And it sort of developed over the years, then didn’t it? It became what it is now.”
They drew on their love of the macabre, horror movies, Tim Burton, The Addam’s Family and Beetlejuice to help give their music character. Even the drag Parslow and Coburn watch trends more goth and dark, with The Boulet Brothers’ Dragula being a favorite in their household.
Just as important as the music itself is the story it tells. The Nightmares go to great lengths to make sure every photo, video and visual presentation is as captivating as their songs.
“That’s a really important thing for us as a band, is to make the music look as good as it sounds,” Parslow said.
But if the formation of the band and the developing of their sound was relatively painless, the creation of Séance was anything but.
Turning their darkest days into ‘an amazing experience’
Initially, The Nightmares had no aspirations to write and record an album. 2019 saw them embark on their first couple of tours, and the plan for 2020 was to hit the road as much as possible.
Of course, that never happened.
The pandemic cost the band their jobs, except for Coburn who was working on the frontlines of the pandemic in the National Health Service.
“The band obviously, like everyone else’s band, just stopped dead,” Parslow said. “It made us look at the songs we had and we thought, let’s write an album. There’s enough ideas here, seems like we’ve got enough time, there’s nothing happening.”
He and Coburn bought the cheapest home recording setup they could find and taught themselves how to record laptop demos, something neither had done before. It allowed the band to work out ideas and craft songs together, even if it was just emailing files back and forth. Parslow said having that amount of time to be home and write with no distractions really made the record what it is.
“It gave us a lot of time to focus on the music.”
The first demos for the songs were started in March 2020, but due to the length of the lockdowns in the UK, they didn’t get into the studio until April 2021. Writing Séance carried the band through all the different stages of COVID and the world opening back up, really imprinting itself on their memory of those times.
“It was an amazing experience,” he added. “I think it was something that without that… lockdown was pretty difficult on everyone’s mental health, especially with Ellie’s job. It gave us something to kind of escape what was going on and create something which we’re extremely proud of.”
It also galvanized the band to keep going, rather than throw in the towel or take a pause because things weren’t going well.
“We really decided to be more proactive,” Mainwaring said. “I really think that’s something that’s very good about our band. We are very focused and proactive as people. So we were able to push forward.”
Leaning into a sound they’re proud of
In the process of writing their debut album they refined their sound and organically leaned into more influences that didn’t show up on their early material. Even the singles they released in 2020 sound more like stepping stones from the EP to what Séance became.
“I think when people hear the record they’ll hear there’s songs that are heavily influenced by Interpol, and there’s songs that are heavily influenced by Blink 182,” Parslow said. “This band is as much influenced by goth and post-punk as it is by pop punk. You know that’s a huge element of this band, and I think that kind of shines through on the album songs.”
Mainwaring concurred. “On the album we’ve really found a nice place between those two worlds that we wanted to combine.”
It starts from the jump with “It Follows” — their “most punk sounding song so far” — continues with a beautiful ballad between Adam and Ellie from the perspective of a vampire, and closes with “Everything Pretty Changing,” the first time the band has wandered into an almost shoegaze territory.
Lead single “From Above” lodges itself in the listeners brain with an infectious chorus melody oozing with seductive temptation.
“Heartless” starts with a Floodland-inspiredguitar part before oozing into a vocal line that would make any goth briefly consider smiling: “I’m not heartless / I’m just using my heart less.”
But the crux of the song comes later, and informs the type thoughts and feelings the band must have been feeling stuck at home, wishing for better days: “I want to run down the street that I grew up on / I want to lay in the grass behind my old house.”
They even recruited head goth of Southhampton’s Creeper, Will Gould, to lend his voice to the song “Murder Season.” With his talents in mind, they sent Gould a half-baked verse idea and told him to finish it however he wanted. What he recorded in a friend’s bedroom during lockdown became one of the collective favorite songs on the album.
Parslow, Mainwaring and the rest of the band are ready to release Séance to the world and get back on the road. They mention Alkaline Trio, Placebo and Unto Others as bands they would love to share the stage with, noting that even though all those bands have vastly different fanbases, they all share a similar well of influences and have a certain vibe about them.
As far as what, if anything, the band wants people to take away from the record when they give it a listen, their answer is simple:
“I would say I hope people can connect with it in the way we’ve been able to connect with these songs,” Parslow said. “It’s a very honest record, it touches on a lot of deep and personal subjects. It touched on mourning and loved lost, things we’ve gone through in the previous few years.
“I just hope that anyone that listens to it can take away what it’s given us in that respect. It’s really been like a healing process going through this record start to finish from us. I hope people can find that and if they can it will be amazing.”
“In the future i just want people to look back and think, ‘That was a great band. That was a great album,’” Mainwaring adds. “That’s all that really matters for me. We just want to be there for people and, hopefully, we can really help positively influence some people’s lives. That would be success in my eyes personally.”
Séance by The Nightmares is available April 7th, 2023 via Equal Vision Records.
Order the album - HERE