DOMENIC PALERMO is currently the frontman for Philadelphia shoegaze band Nothing. But many years ago he played the same role in Horror Show, a star-crossed hardcore band that turned from "beloved" to "legendary" (and defunct) after Palermo's two-year prison sentence for stabbing a man during an altercation, and the death of his songwriting partner, Josh Tshirlig.
Horror Show ended sometime in the mid-2000s, and the trauma from all of the above—plus the death of another childhood friend—sent Palermo to a place devoid of not only music but also pretty much anything positive, to hear him tell it.
"During that time, I hardly went and checked out any new music. I was just completely in a really weird space... and didn't really do much at all, creatively," he says. "There were things going on that, at that point, had completely taken over my head, and I wasn't really doing much but just being quite self-destructive, I guess."
By 2011, however, Palermo began to ease back into music, recording a demo called Poshlost under the name Nothing. It contained a song called "B&E," a gauzy, chiming ambler that sounds like the sad-pop pulse of early Death Cab for Cutie draped in My Bloody Valentine's familiar blanket of fuzz.
Up to that point, Palermo had been struggling enough with finding a new musical direction, let alone building a solid band to explore it. "B&E" pointed the way, and when Palermo met guitarist Brandon Setta, he found a kindred spirit to help focus his blurry vision.
"I was still a mess at that point and Brandon's a mess, too, but, y'know, misery loves company," Palermo says. "Since [Tshirlig] had passed, that was just a void that never was able to get filled. Meeting Brandon was very similar to the way we would write. Me and him bang our heads together and we're able to do some pretty cool stuff."
Nothing's new album, Guilty of Everything—released by metal giant Relapse Records—is proof of that. It is heavy but airy, noisy but serene, a well-polished testament to the obscurant possibilities of the electric guitar. Palermo's vocal melodies are pretty but intangible; they feel like they're floating out of reach, just on the other side of Nothing's gentle crunch-pop. This is shoegaze powered by the simmering anger of Palermo's past.
"Life is pretty abrasively beautiful," he says. "From the second that you're pulled out of a state of darkness, you're thrown into this insane cycle of suffering... and then you're always gonna be able to find at least a pinhead full of beauty. That's kind of what we try to do."