What’s Nightly been up to all this time? Well, for the last few weeks, exactly what they usually are.
Ah, mid-May. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping (perhaps a little too arrogantly), and there hangs in the air a strange anticipation for the uncharacteristic summer looming ahead. It feels just like the movies— Contagion, to be frank— and Jonathan Capeci of Nightly is sitting in the backyard of his Nashville home. He’s currently quarantined with what he later tells me is Joey’s dog, who makes a sonic appearance every once in a while as Jon and I sit down to chat about what’s next for Nightly, now that the world’s been turned upside down.
They’re actually faring better than most right now, working on music separately, and are lucky to have been quarantining so strictly that it will soon feel safe to reconvene and share what they’ve been working on with the others. “It’s obviously crazy for everyone,” he tells me, “but we’ve really been lucky just to be able to get so many things done, and try and stay busy and keep our minds off of the sad reality of things.”
For them, creativity has, as far as writing goes, remained relatively unfazed. Much like normal times, the creative spirit “comes and goes in waves. Some days are easier than others”, he reveals, “and some days you’re just like, ‘Wow, I don’t know when this is gonna end’. We honestly have been able to be super productive, but we definitely have off and on days and weeks— one week we’ll just get a ton done, and then another week I’ll be like ‘Man, I can’t get anything done.”
But as always, it’s the surprises that make the best songs, the times you thought you’d be unproductive where you actually produce something to write home about. “I think you never really know when you’re writing songs in general, if it’s going to come out good, or bad, or [if you’re going to] be productive. We’re sort of used to that, and surprisingly, I’ve found that when you have your guard down, you can end up just flowing freely when you’re writing songs. If you’re thinking about a lot of things, it’s easy to overthink things and not get anything, but on certain days when we’ve just not really been trying, something really cool has come out of it.” He doesn’t give me a specific song, and I regret not asking, but I come to safely assume it’s their latest single, “you should probably just hang up”. That song, recorded entirely in quarantine, was a lovely display of creativity despite the fragmentary nature of the writing process and the force of quarantine fruitlessness pressing down on us. It was one of their “productive days”, Jon says, alluding to my previous question.
“It was very early on, probably week two of quarantine. We were just jamming, and we came up with the chord progression. That’s usually how we write. Come up with progression and beats, and then I’ll work on lyrics later, on my own time. That song’s actually about a friend’s situation, a story that he told me about what happened between him and this girl.” Something of an open letter, the lyrics encapsulate the resentment felt when a lost love reaches again after having found solace in the arms of someone else. Not wanting to fall into the same trap again, he discourages his ex-lover from ever calling again, begging her to rethink the decision for everyone’s sake. “I’ve been able to relate to it for sure.”
The ice cream truck plays longingly in the background of my line as it makes its lonely rounds around the block, a bittersweet reminder of summer days past, almost begging us to forget the reality of the current situation. Sounds of chipper birds come through Jon’s line. I regret not asking him if he thinks he and the others would be able to write and release a full song this far into isolation; I’m interested in how the process might differ across the two very different times.
Nightly— a shorthand version of Night, Love You— have been stealing <3s since 2016, and their dedication as artists to sharing their best with the world shone through even then. Lovely, aesthetically pleasing lyrics about riding the waves of romance— the breakneck chase, the highs, the turbulence, and the heartbreak of telling them not to ever call again— are all Nightly’s strong-suits, and each song crafts a delicate and unique, poppy realm that combines both the deliberate and the random for an undeniably catchy body of work.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the trio have all been involved in some form of music from early on. Capeci and cousin Joey Beretta, who formed Nightly with drummer Nick Saitano sometime in late 2016, were, years before, most notably known for Nashville band Dinner And A Suit. “Joey was in band in high school, and I wasn’t really in a band until I was in a band with Joey, but he and I had a couple of things that we started. Nick [Saitano, drums] grew up [in Ohio], separate from us, and he was also in two or three bands.”
Now far removed from pop-rock in every sense, Nightly has brought the three of them together by what could only have been sheer magic, luck, and divine timing. “It was just kind of a thing that worked out where all of our past bands had sort of split, and we had moved to Nashville without knowing Nick. When we met him, we just clicked immediately. It felt like we had lived parallel lives, all three of us, and he was sort of a kindred spirit, and it was just a very natural process of making music as three of us, and so we made a couple of songs and originally we didn’t even know what we were trying to do. We weren’t even trying to make a band. But we really loved the songs and– we made them in October and then sat with them over the holiday break, in November and December, and then January we all just separately were like… ‘Dude we have to do something with these songs. They’re just— they feel too special, not to put out,’ you know?”
I nodded over the phone. These songs were special indeed, and even going back to the band’s original EP, Honest, with standout tracks “XO” and “No Vacancy”, it’s clear Nightly have a penchant for the atmospheric.
“Those first four songs that we had written, Joey and I had written without Nick,” he continues, of the bands origins. “We wrote those in October of 2016, and January of 2017 was when we wanted to put a band together. I met Nick actually in church, and he was a drummer, and I was just like, ‘Dude, this kid’s insane at drums,’ and so we played him the song. It all happened within, probably, two months of when we wrote the couple of songs. Nick’s been with us since the beginning— he played our first ever Nightly show with us.”
Now fresh off a move from Interscope to BMG, the boys are rearing up for a year of unencumbered change and growth, and are excited to finally begin putting emphasis on their own ideas with the full force of a their label’s team behind them. A series of changes team switch-arounds in their last label has led Nightly to where they are now, their new home at BMG, and they’re on the cusp of releasing their latest single, “you should probably just hang up”, the second for the year.
I ask him how the change has been. “BMG is still super fresh, and technically this song we put out Friday is the first song we’ll be releasing with them. But we’re very excited. I think we just got to a point [at Interscope] where the people that we had originally signed with at the label were no longer there, and so we were constantly switching teams at the label. We definitely have a really good relationship with everybody that we worked with over there, but I think for what we were doing, it just wasn’t the best fit right now. The reality of a label is that it’s who you work with, within the label. [Our team at] BMG is very much individually focused on, ‘What do you want to do as a band? What are your ideas?’ and building a strategy around what we want to do, as opposed to, you go in and you have to do XYZ in order for your band and your music to work.”
If there’s one thing Nightly prides themselves on, it’s the hands-on approach they take to executing their clear and precise creative vision. Even asking what music they’re all inspired for Nightly by yields a hazy answer— they’re influenced by so much, but want to sound like them. “We honestly like so much different music amongst the three of us. We traditionally loved bands growing up— we all love The Killers, all love Coldplay, we all love U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers— there’s just so many. Nick for example loves Third Eye Blind, Joey listened to a lot of Mark Kozelek and Red House Painters and shoegaze-ry, sadcore type music. It’s kind of all over the map. And there’s so much good stuff out there right now. I’ve been loving Jeremy Zucker’s most recent record— I think it’s incredible. A lot of people doing super cool things. But I don’t think that we have a lot of things that influence us musically to be like, ‘We wanna sound like XYZ’. We are very focused on sounding like us. And I think the thing that makes us sound like us is that we have so many different musical influences. There’s just so much now, you know what I mean? If you’re ever looking for inspiration, I think it’s a fun time to be in music. Genres just like aren’t really a thing anymore.” What a time to be musically alive, indeed.
Their quest for unique-ness has roots in Jon’s upbringing, and in a way, they owe it to U2 for placing them on that path. “When I saw U2 as a kid, I just felt like it was just a spiritual experience, I was just like, ‘This is so crazy.’ It just had such a powerful effect on me. And I really connected to how, even though they’re obviously one of the biggest bands of all time, each one of them has such an individual personality that comes through musically. The Edge has such a signature guitar sound— it’s so clearly his— and Bono’s vocals are his, but when the four of them come together, that’s what makes the sound. And I love that. I think that that’s always what we strive for [with Nightly].” But they take after U2 in small ways. “We’re definitely not at U2 status yet, but everything that we do, I think is further and further into ‘Oh this sounds like Nightly’, and that’s something we’ve tried to keep in mind when we’re writing songs: is our voice coming through, not just vocally or lyrically, but sonically, as well?”
In some ways, I can tell that, even subconsciously, Jon cares about evoking that same feeling he felt watching U2 on stage growing up. “When we’re playing a set, we think, ‘What are we missing for the next set? What would be sick to have? What would be a cool piece?’ Sometimes it’s we really want another upbeat song. That’s actually how we started “Say Anything Else” on our last EP; we felt like we were missing that moment live. There’s a good amount of things that come from just learning how stuff goes over live. We also get surprised sometimes— sometimes there’ll be a song that we think we’ll just put out but maybe not play… and those are the ones that do well live. We had this slower, stripped-back song, “Younger”, and we never really thought that that would be something that would do well live, but it’s definitely some of our fans’ favorite song.”
Writing their previous single, “the movies” was a dreamy experience. “With that one, we came up with the chords first, and Joey came up with the a guitar part. That was the first thing, and it just automatically felt very dreamy. It felt very much like a scene in a ’90s room or something like that. And I had had the title “the movies” in my phone for a couple of months, and I knew that I wanted to write a song called The movies. We started the track in August and then went on tour in September and wrote the majority of it on the road whenever we had free time. That’s how that one came to be.”
“We have a good buddy Zack, who does a lot of our media stuff, and we knew that with the video for “the movies” we wanted to feel that nostalgic feeling that we were getting across in the song. That’s where we thought of the concept of three people on the phone in separate houses, like talking and yeah, it was super easy. We shot that all at Joe’s house with Zack and we were definitely super hands-on with concepts.”
The ice cream truck starts its song again in full force, and I’m surprised it doesn’t come crashing through my window with the words “Come Outside” on it. The bird chirping on his line gets rowdier by the second, as if to cheer him on. “We do everything ourselves,” he continues. “All of our videos in the last two years, whether it’s “Twenty Something”, or “the movies”— those are all videos that we had the vision for and made ourselves.”
As for what’s next for Nightly, Jon says this: “We have a bunch of songs, we have 10 or 12 songs that are done right now, but we’re still writing. We have so much time and it feels like we’re writing more now than we ever have, so I think we’re just figuring out how we wanna put it out. I don’t necessarily have the answer right now. I know there will be a lot of music coming out in 2020, I just don’t know how it’ll all work— if it’ll turn into an EP, or an album, or both, I don’t know exactly yet. We have the next three songs rolling out, and then we’ll decide after that if we wanna drop an album or another EP and then an album. The good thing is that we have a lot of music right now. We did have a plan before the virus, and we were very strictly sticking to that plan, but we obviously had to change a few things around with touring and stuff; it’s affected a lot of things. We’re taking it in one day at a time right now.”
“One day at a time indeed,” I agree. At this point, it’s the only way.
“you should probably just hang up” is out now via BMG.