Wesley Eisold is a musician, poet, and author based in LA. He is a founding member of the influential Boston hardcore band American Nightmare, and records under the name Cold Cave. He also runs the publishing house Heartworm Press.
(Photo Credit: Travis Shinn)
“How I Got Away”
Everything changes. Especially vanguards that people romanticize. What I’m saying is, American Nightmare could never exist in the modern world so we stay in our own corner and do what we want, when we want and how we want. When we broke up originally, it was because our band was growing in popularity and things started feeling sticky. Corporate tours sponsored by alcohol and stomach ulcers. Weird ethics stretching you from your shared flats to being surrounded by all you loathe about music. Maybe the only charm of the band was that it was built to implode. Deep in my heart, I wanted to destroy the world, not be embraced by it. I think that’s the main surface difference I notice between bands now and then.
On the cover of Dedicated… is a picture of the late Boston poet Anne Sexton on vacation in Italy on the island of Capri. Anne, of course, spent her life battling depression and bipolar disorder and sadly lost the war to suicide at the age of 45 in 1974. As a poet from Boston at age 44 who knows what it feels like to smile in a photograph in a futile attempt to normalize and outrun yourself… I feel a deep connection with her work and how she tried. I think a lot of people who connect with my music are trying.
The first songs on AN records fit some mold of fast, anthemic, and built for shows. “Protest Song #00,” “(We Are), Love American,” “The World Is Blue,” and now: “How I Got Away.” This one Brian Masek wrote is in that lineage, but the riffs are darker than they’ve been in the past. I love the Motorhead, Discharge, and Poison Idea influence.
In the end I sing:
This town could have any name
Heaven or Hell or
Broken Angel Wing
You can only be so wrong for so long
Sultana was the name of the steamboat that exploded on the Mississippi River in 1865, killing over a thousand people. I haven’t fully got away yet but I’m trying. There was a time when I didn’t. This song is a plea for redemption both gained and unattained. It’s about that same war Anne fought and how the balance is so easily tipped. Ultimately we all hope for peace. I think people who say they regret nothing are so full of regret that the mere admittance of it would cripple them. There is strength in regret. I regret how little I cared about myself for most of my life. That’s what this is against.
This one’s for me. It’s exactly what I want to hear from a punk song. Starting with a cheap drum machine and exploding from there. It’s certainly different than any of our other songs but still has everything good about AN. Violent and all caution thrown. I love how progressive and boneheaded it is at the same time. Like an Oi! song from the cyber, kinetic, zero-fuck, kiss-it-all-goodbye future. It’s almost not even a song. I wrote this one and sent Masek a phone recording of me playing a single string on an acoustic guitar to him of how it would go. Love how he added the Cro-Mags-esque turnaround riff to it. For me it was one of those beautiful moments you live for as a lyricist when the words just fall from some holy nowhere and the whole thing takes about five minutes and you feel fully satisfied for a while.
For our last few releases we’ve been recording live to tape at our drummer Alex Garcia-Rivera’s all analog studio in Boston called Mystic Valley. We’ve actually never made a digital recording. I think it suits us to strip all down and just play the songs. It’s another way our instinct is to recoil from whatever else others are doing. When we released our self-titled LP in 2018, the whole idea was a postmodern approach to our brand of hardcore. Minimal, primitive to the point of almost nothing. And that idea carried over to the songwriting ala: here is a hardcore record by American Nightmare. It was actually the most thought-out record we’d made, but the accuracy didn’t always land. This song encompasses all I ever wanted to achieve with this band and sums up that approach. I also love Alex’s subtle hi-hat changes on this that keeps the song in mania.
Stooges worship via Laughing Hyenas. Time to exit the fun house. Masek and I wrote this song sans bassline and didn’t know how that would turn out. Thankfully Josh filled it in naturally. The verse lyrics were written stream of consciousness, flying down a page in no real order kinda cut-up influenced and from a list of words I had wanted to eventually use somewhere, so thought to use them here. The paper hung in the studio looked like this:
FUCK MY SOUL
LOW ON HIGH STREET
A KISS FROM ABOVE
To make new American Nightmare music, we have to tune out everything for a few reasons. We have to do it for ourselves or there’s no point. We know people have emotional ties to our earlier music from formative years where only music gets you through. Can’t abandon that but can’t stay in it too deep either because we already made the choice to continue and so that’s what this is… likely our favorite song from the EP. Just love how it keeps revving up at the end with Masek and Jim Carroll’s guitars. It’s hole-in-the-wall good and about not settling for anything ever. I want real love or nothing at all.
“PRAYING HANDS ON FIRE”
People take and curse and do what they can to trip you up from their own unlimited well of insecurity. Then they appear years later for favors. A smile with a knife. That’s what we’re talking about here. Praying Hands was the working title for the EP before it took form. I was listening to this demo on repeat and my partner Amy and I were talking. Somehow in the conversation she said, “I don’t know you. I don’t owe you.” That’s the Detroit in her. Loved the simplicity in that and how applicable it is to everyday life so may as well hammer it in.
Masek sent about 10 ideas that could have been on this EP. This one was immediate and really showcases how stylish and great of a guitarist he is. Playing like Dr. Know and this song is very Bad Brains x Negative Approach, continuing with his Greg Ginn guitar solos he first threw out on our song “Life Support.”
Everything AN seems so cyclical in hindsight and hammered by subconscious. How we really feel. I wondered when making this record if it would be the last. Our first release was four songs as is this new one. Our only upcoming shows are in Boston and then Portland, Maine, where our first show ever was. Maybe that will be it. Also we had never made a 10” and wanted to. We don’t know if or where we fit in, which is exactly where we are comfortable. We could take it all or leave it all. Future/no future. That’s the polarizing part of this band that’s been constant and relatable. Keeping the dream alive but knowing it’s only a dream. This is dedicated to the next world…