"I’m so excited to move forward and show people what else I can do, not stay in a box" - nothing,nowhere.
Recently nothing,nowhere., also known as Joe Mulherin, released 'Nightmare', a fun and fast-paced rock song that shows off a different side to his songwriting, along with some brilliant motorcycle revving.
We caught up with Joe to talk about the song, what's been inspiring him lately and what we can expect from him for the rest of 2020.
How did ‘Nightmare’ first come about? It feels like it’s drawing on a lot of fun, surprising sources of inspiration…
Says nothing,nowhere.: “First of all, I want to say that it feels so good to have that song out finally! I got in my head and did so much worrying, because I know that it’s so different than anything I’ve ever really put out. But at the same time, I feel like it was a necessary step for me. Music for me is, I just love experimenting and testing the waters, just having fun with it. And if I keep making the same song in different ways, over and over and over again, there’s no fun in that, you know? I feel like ‘Nightmare’ came from, essentially, when I was watching too much of Prince’s film Purple Rain. I would be watching it a lot with the sound off and just watching the scenes, immersing myself in it. I was staying up really late every night, and I don’t know, I came up with the guitar riff and the rest just kind of wrote itself. I was imagining myself as some kind of renegade in the ‘80s, on Miami Beach or something! To me, that’s what’s fun about music: immersing yourself in these different characters and scenarios. I’m really proud, and really happy, that people actually seem to be into it! That’s surprising to me. I guess it’s always surprising to me, but yeah, I’m happy it’s out there in the world now.”
Is it liberating to take on a different persona or alter ego like that sometimes, similarly to how you did with the kind of vampire character on ‘Bloodlust’?
“Definitely, it keeps it fresh too. Music is a lot of things to me but it’s also an escape, a way for me to occupy a different space and get out of my head for a second, or take my thoughts that are so heavy and put them in a safer space, if that makes sense. A character can be that. It’s almost like a coping mechanism for me.”
How did you find making the video, as well? It was so different, that ‘80s Miami Vice kind of vibe, and a new tone for you visually…
“I think it gets kind of exhausting taking yourself so seriously all the time, and I just wanted to have fun with it, you know? You look at bands like blink-182 and all the videos they used to do, and it’s just fun. It’s being with your friends and having a good time. I think it’s important to show people all these different sides of yourself. Especially with people who listen to my music, I know that a lot of them are going through their own things. Mental health awareness is kind of a through-line topic throughout all of the nothing,nowhere. community, so it’s important to show a different side of me and go, ‘I’m not always this brooding character, lurking in the shadows’. I’m a human being with emotions, and it’s important to have fun sometimes. I think ‘Nightmare’, especially the video, is just about exactly that. I can honestly say that the day we filmed it was one of the best days I’d had in a while, because I could just let loose and be myself.”
Do you think Johnny Malibu from the video may have another life after this?
“I think so! He’s on the run from the law right now, probably, hanging out in some shady clubs as we speak. But I don’t think that’s the end of Johnny Malibu. I guess we’ll see…”
You tweeted a little while back that you’ve got a lot of stuff to say and to prove at this point - what are the biggest things that factor into that, for you?
“Yeah, for sure. I was one of the first people to occupy this sort of scene coming out of SoundCloud, this sort of sound. I was the first one to sign to a major label from that scene, and there was a feeling in the early days, like back in 2015, of adventure and exploration through making new types of music. I think that, that type of sound and SoundCloud, it blew up and became mainstream, and started to get stale. I just want to be the person to take it into a new realm, and I know I’m sitting on a body of songs right now - that no one else has heard - and they’re the kind of songs that no one else is doing. I just want to show people that I can be as versatile as I want to be. I want to open up doors and show other musicians that it’s okay to step out of your comfort zone, and not just do that, but take a leap out of your comfort zone. I’m so excited to move forward and show people what else I can do, not stay in a box. I think a lot of people who don’t necessarily know nothing,nowhere go, ‘Oh, he’s that emo rap guy’, and I never want to be that guy. I just want to be, ‘nothing,nowhere., that musician who can occupy any space that he wants to’. I think 2020 is going to be a very different year, and I’m excited for it.”
What kind of stuff have you been trying out so far?
“I can say that, if I was to drop an album right now with all of the songs I’ve been sitting on, not a single one of those songs are in the same genre. Every single song I have right now that’s unreleased is a different genre. So, if people think they know what’s coming next, it brings me a lot of joy to know that they have absolutely no idea! I think people are in for a treat.”
Have you encountered any pushback to that progression as yet? It feels like often, especially from the industry side of things, there’s a tendency to go, ‘Stick in your lane, stick to what’s been working’…
“I’ve definitely had remarks from people saying, ‘Oh, well if you release this rock song here and it’s the first thing that people hear from you, they’re going to think that you’re this type of artist,’ or, ‘If you release this hardcore song, people will think you’re a hardcore band’. And my response to that is, people can think whatever they want about me, I just want to put out good music, put out different kinds of music. That’s the whole point of nothing,nowhere., to not be able to be branded or put into a certain box. If I had a genre, I would hope that the genre would be ‘genreless’, you know? I think moving forward, it’s going to be more apparent than ever. Is it going to throw people off and will some people be confused? I’m sure. But it’s going to be different, and are a lot of people doing what I’m doing right now? I don’t think so. So I guess we’ll see.”
It’s hard to generalise over a large body of work, but what kind of stuff have you been preoccupied with, lyrically, over some of the new music?
“I think I’m still in a way, recovering from 2018, when I had to step away from music and cancel tours, kind of go soul-searching. That was a traumatic experience, and a lot of people have been through traumatic experiences. Most of what I’m writing now is kind of reconciling with that, pretty much just exploring that and saying, ‘it’s okay to not be okay’. When I started nothing,nowhere., so much of my lyrical material was about nostalgia and growing up, dealing with depression, and so much has happening since then. Now I’m grappling with expectations that I put on myself and expectations from others, I’m grappling with touring, and a whole new world that I’ve never occupied before. There’s a different level of stress to that. So, I think even if I don’t try to, when I sit down to write nowadays, a lot of it is about finding my space and trying to find peace in such a chaotic and ever-changing lifestyle, of being a musician who’s moving forward and whose career is growing. That’s kind of where I’m at now, and what I’ve been writing about too."
It’s so easy to see the world in terms of ‘everything’s great’ or ‘things are terrible’, but the truth for most people is somewhere in between.
“Right, and there’s almost a part of me too that’s like, maybe people can’t relate. I get in my head and it’s like, ‘Oh well, you’re a musician and there are all these expectations with touring and fans…’ But at the same time, I think people can relate in their own ways. Being overwhelmed is a pretty universal human emotion, and ‘overwhelmed’ seems to have been my emotion of choice lately!”
On the subject of touring, you have your world tour coming up later in the year - has it been cool to take a slightly different approach to that, right through to sustainable catering and doing meditation in meet and greets? Like, if you can’t be at home, the next best thing is to bring a version of home on the road…
“Totally, I’m really excited for this tour because it feels like me. It does feel like we’re bringing home on the road. Doing these meditation clinics at each show, I meditate every single day on tour, and to be able to do it with supporters and fans that come out is a really cool thing. I think there are a lot of unique things we’re doing for this tour coming up so that, it feels like there’s more purpose to it. Not that there ever wasn’t a purpose to touring, but it just feels right. We’re partnering with organisations to reduce our impact and tour green, and we’re also partnering with No Evil Foods to provide vegan food to these meditation clinics we’re doing. It feels really rewarding to be able to take these things that I love and be able to share them with people coming out to these shows. I think it’s going to be a really special experience all round.”
Do you reckon you’ll be dropping a larger body of work or album at some point over the year, as well as stand-alone songs?
“There’s definitely going to be a full-length album coming this year. It’s weird to think that I didn’t release one in 2019, but there will be one this year, and I have a lot of songs for it, am still always recording. This is my favourite body of work yet, and I’m excited to just keep dropping. Only time will tell, I’m just gonna keep dropping the songs and see when the album comes out.”
And to round off, what kind of music’s been exciting or inspiring you outside the world of nothing,nowhere. lately?
“I’ve been listening to a band from Leeds actually, Higher Power. I’m really into them, and then there are bigger bands like The 1975 who I always come back to, and some older bands I’ll always be into - I’ve been listening to a lot of this old screamo band Saetia lately. It’s just so overwhelming, there’s so much music and I’m surrounded by music constantly! That’s not a bad thing, though. My ears are open, I’m listening to anything and anything that comes by."