Newest album release from Berlin based darkwave band Night Nail on Metropolis Records. Night Nail has been criminally overlooked during discussions of top acts in the modern darkscene. Their sound has always trended more towards the abstract and grimier underbelly of darkwave music. They are travelers, country to country, moving between labels, lean and hungry on untamed sonic ground. This follow up to the 2020 EP March to Autumn is another chapter is another bold shift in story and complexion. Adding Pete Burn (Kill Shelter) for mixing and mastering brings a cool gun metal sheen that highlights the passion in their narrative.
Brandon Robert: composition, vocals, guitars, bass guitars, keyboards, midi, and drum programming
Justin Deaktivere: composition, guitars, saxophone, keyboards, midi, and drum programming
Valentina Veil – additional instruments and voices
NIGHT NAIL – Fates Explained – From the title track this album has a wonderful shimmer effect from layered instruments. A hidden waterfall of slushy darkgaze guitars to peer through at the mysteries beneath. Brandon‘s rich dreamy baritone has a Mark Sandman quality that highlights the surrealism of the music. Valentina has an expanded vocal presence which is always a good thing. The range of this record is really impressive. In a time of short story singles “Fate Explained” is a complex winding novel. Track 4 Cells shifts gears into a dark glam which could have been a lost B side from “Hunky Dory“. Track 5 “Madness and Foul” features a bouncy gothjazz bassline Mick Karn would delight at. I really enjoy the way these songs demand engagement. This isn’t music to talk over in the club and not absorb. This is music shared with loved ones in a small gathering with a bottle of red. A soundtrack to a discussion that matters.
I only have one complaint, which feels hypocritical after praising them for not staying in one lane and exploring new sounds. I kept waiting for that distinct Justin sax solo to charge forward in a song and it never came. As someone who lives for slutty muted Saxaphone in darkscene music I hope it makes a return in the next record 😉
Interview With Night Nail :
Ken: It’s been 3 years since your last full-length release. What has been the biggest change to both your sound and inspiration?
Night Nail : Thank you, Ken, for this opportunity to talk with you! Congratulations to you and Sound and Shadows for building a successful, inclusive, supportive, darkwave community within Facebook and the blog. It is hard to be objective about the ‘changes’ we made in our process or notice the things we did differently. Having the experience of making the previous records, “March To Autumn” and “LA Demons,” definitely helped make this album. Also, being in an ‘extended’ lockdown for over 3 years due to the pandemic, due to family needs, jobs, etc, Night Nail was not able to tour, as much, as I wanted to, but, this also helped. I was envious of my friends’ bands touring after COVID lockdowns and having success with it. I know people really needed to get out to see live music, again. I was frustrated. Add a long, wet, dreary Berlin winter to that equation and there is not much else to do but record music. Also, I listened to my inner voice which said to continue to be forward-thinking and bigger picture, about it all. That voice promised me that the rewards of having a fresh, new album, singles, and music videos would far outweigh playing loads of shows, post-pandemic. That voice was largely right for us, because, in honing our skills, learning from our mistakes, and learning what we really wanted for ourselves, musically, that ‘harder’ choice, to stay home and make the music even better, paid off. We also applied for a grant with our demos and were selected by a grant called Initiative Music in Germany which funded the recording, videos, mastering, promotions, and the vinyl release. After that, we got signed to Metropolis Records.
Ken: I am an enormous fan of mixing/mastering producer Pete Burns of Kill Shelter. What was working with him like? What did he bring to the sound of this record?
Night Nail: Pete Burns is talented beyond measure. More than that, he is a person with huge integrity. He doesn’t shy away from challenging projects, like Night Nail. I admit that I initially had some pretty wild ideas about what the album should sound like and close friends who listened to the early demos of “Fates Explained,” kinda thought I had lost my mind. I think Pete Burns may have felt that, too. I don’t know. But, we had committed to the album. Pete performed his magic rituals over the production, so to speak, and employed his skills in production to make the mixes coherent and powerful. He added additional instruments when we needed them and really stepped it up; especially with bass guitar. There were a lot of gaps that needed filling. We talked a lot more about inspiration BEFORE mixing “Fates Explained” and we discovered we both had an appreciation for the rhythm section for Japan’s “Quiet Life” and the ensemble, harmony section of Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Ocean Rain.” Those two albums set the stage for the dialogue. In the end, this record came out exactly as it needed to be. For me, this is the pinnacle for Night Nail and our best work.
Ken: The title “Fates Explained” conjures a bold image. To wrap logic around portents of the future. How did this title tie together the threads of these songs?
Night Nail: I tracked most of “Fates Explained” on my MacBook at home with the help of Justin Deaktivere, Ilija Gavrilenko, Valentina Veil, and Pete Burns. Everyone pitched in. I know ‘albums’ as art pieces are relics of the past and the single-song, digital downloads are popular. For me, in refusing to give up on this concept of the ‘album’ and writing each song with loose connections to each other, I push the music closer in the direction, that I love. I can only make music that I love, at this point in my life. The title for the album is literally something that came to me in a dream. In that dream, I find a mirrored version of myself, lost in Berlin. I know that over time all mirrors break and return to sand. To prevent it, I began to sell my music as a spiritual remedy in a liquid form to treat the illnesses of the robotic-like humans. I am confronted by many versions of myself. The dream ends with me inventing a new identity and a way to finally escape the city through a specific wavelength of neutrinos generated from sunlight. When I woke up from this dream, I realized that ‘fate’ is really just me, being scared, and fatalistic, but adaptive. It was intense. All the songs on the album were tracked with this dream in mind.
Ken: Valentina has achieved great personal success with VV and the Void. What does she feel is her greatest contribution to this album? Do the two of you find ease in creating art together?
Valentina: I have always loved how Brandon’s voice and mine work together. I’d say my greatest contribution to Night Nail was on an early song called, “Never Dream”. It was also our first collaboration right at the beginning of our relationship so I find it very special both professionally and emotionally. We worked a lot together in the last few years and I am always happy when Brandon comes out of our home studio asking me to listen to a new track and add something to it. I consider it a privilege to see how every song develops and be included in the process. It’s wonderful and inspiring to have him around and to have the opportunity to contribute to Night Nail songs. The way I contribute happens in a very natural and casual way. I listen to the track and then I tell him, “I hear this synth, here, I hear this guitar on this part, there,” and then, I add whatever I feel and Brandon keeps whatever he likes. He often asks me to add some vocals but despite being a singer-songwriter myself, I much prefer contributing by playing synths, beats, or guitars as I usually hear notes that don’t necessarily need a voice but an instrument. On the latest album, I particularly loved playing guitar on “Pull Off” in the second part of the song and I also adore the backing vocals I got to add on the first single “Narcoleptic Dream Catcher.” They add a bit of soul to the song and make it even more of an ‘ear-worm’ track, I’d say. We both inspire each other a lot and yes, I think we find ease in creating art together. Whether it is a song, or a video, or a graphic project we work as a team respecting each other aesthetic view.”
Ken: Are you heading out on the road to support Fates Explained? Where are you looking forward to playing?
Night Nail: Yes, we planning to tour the EU, UK, and the US. The dates are being planned. I am looking forward to playing anywhere I haven’t played yet, the East Coast, in particular. We would also be willing to go to South America, Central America, Asia, Australia, and ANYWHERE where an opportunity presents itself to perform, live, and, of course, where our passports/visas are accepted.
Ken: You made a change to the legendary, darkscene, label Metropolis Records. What will that mean for the future of Night Nail?
Night Nail: I guess it depends on how this record does. I am honored to be on Metropolis Records. I had my eye on their label for many years now. They are doing a great job with promoting and releasing our music and we are even starting to get into bigger alternative music charts. “Narcoleptic Dream Catcher,” our first single, has landed on the ‘Top 5’ on the Deutsche Alternative Charts. This is a new for us. There is a sense I get from the music business nowadays that the record label will ONLY augment and support you as much as you demonstrate a willingness to work for yourself. For me, the work that befalls the artist today is massive. We wear every hat, do we not? (ie recording, mixing, producing, selling music, shipping vinyl, promoting, music video production, music video editing, acting, directing, promoting, touring, roadie, managing, etc.) It is all done with a painstaking effort, but, well worth it. We are unabashedly, willing participants in our ‘FATES