Proving good things come to those who wait, Do Nothing are finally about to drop their debut album ‘Snake Sideways’. Check out new track ‘Amoeba’ and read our latest Dork Playlist cover feature now.
Words: Ali Shutler.
Cover photo: Patrick Gunning.
Rejoice. Do Nothing have announced their long-awaited debut album. Following a pair of brilliant, personality-driven EPs (2021’s ‘Glueland’ and 2020’s ‘Zero Dollar Bill’), ‘Snake Sideways’ is out on 30th June, and comes ahead of a mammoth headline tour of the UK and Europe. Oh, and according to vocalist Chris Bailey, it was a fucking nightmare to write.
Do Nothing started writing music together a decade ago, shortly after the four members left school, and had a singular goal: to be in a band. With that one ticked off the ol’ bucket list by way of playing their first gig, Do Nothing set their sights on loftier, less tangible goals.
“We just want to do the best thing possible,” says Chris. On Debut EP’ Zero Dollar Bill’, that was elastic post-punk that paired ferocity with smirking quips, while ‘Glueland’ was murkier and atmospheric. ‘Snake Sideways’ is “quite different” to what’s come before, but it’s just as exciting, even if Chris reckons “people might be surprised by how mellow a lot of it is though.”
“There was a deliberate shift between the first EP and the second, so we could end up here,” he explains, calling the album “the next logical step” in Do Nothing’s evolution. “It’s definitely not come out of nowhere,” he promises.
For years, the band had a loose vision for what their debut album would be. In 2021, Chris told us, “I want ours to be a statement in itself, rather than just be a representation of our early years,” but he laughs when we bring that up today.
“Naturally, things never end up like you imagined they would,” he explains. “Writing this album has made us accept that sometimes, you don’t have complete control over everything.”
Sitting down to bring their vision to life, Chris found that things didn’t come as easily as they had in the past. “I became overly self-critical. I felt like I was letting the rest of the band down,” he says. Things only got worse as well. “I started worrying that if I couldn’t write the album, the band would end. I’ve been a guy in a band since I left school, and without it, I’d have to rely on just being a person.”
“It’s a common trait with anxiety; the fact you’re freaking out freaks you out more,” he explains. Instead of glossing over his struggles, he decided to explore those messy, complicated feelings. “Not everything is perfect right away. You need to put the work in,” he says. The result is a record that’s intricate, messy and beautiful.
Embracing the struggle, ‘Snake Sideways’ lives in those areas of frenzied thinking, says Chris. “A lot of it is to do with aspirations, where you place your self-worth and me telling myself it’ll be ok,” he continues, explaining how he wrote a bulk of the lyrics when he was at his worst with his mental health. They’re “more earnest and less jovial” than previous releases, but there’s still humour throughout the record. “It’s just more glib and poking fun at yourself,” he says.
“Writing this album has made us accept that sometimes, you don’t have complete control over everything”Chris Bailey
Despite “horrible” moments writing the album and questions about identity and self-worth, the end result is deliberately positive.
“I didn’t want to wallow. I was definitely conscious of making sure that none of the songs were ‘poor me’,” Chris continues. “They don’t just dwell on a shit feeling; it’s more about finding a way through.”
Despite the very specific pressures that come from trying to write a debut album, Do Nothing’s ‘Snake Sideways’ is never self-indulgent. “The thing I try and above everything else is, make sure there’s room in the songs for people to see themselves,” says Chris. “Just because it’s inspired by something super personal, it doesn’t mean it can’t resonate with others. I’ve found that if you have a problem that’s freaking you out, you quickly realise loads of other people have gone through something similar.”
Take new single ‘Amoeba’. “It doesn’t come across as the dourest one, but it’s about being at the complete bottom of the barrel, with no energy to do anything.”
Written after Chris moved in with his partner, he would often find himself “laying on the sofa, feeling like a piece of shit while she went out to be a productive member of society.” Being bombarded with news articles on TV and online that were out to deliberately antagonise certainly didn’t help matters either.
“Annoyance is basically a commodity nowadays,” he explains. “People will try and wind others up because that gets them interactions. The point, a lot of the time, is to get a rise out of you. How do you respond to that?” he asks. At first, it was blind rage, but that didn’t lead to anything productive. Eventually, he just stopped caring, “but that’s not helpful either,” he explains. “You don’t want to be numb. You don’t want to stop participating.”
“Annoyance is basically a commodity nowadays”Chris Bailey
Ultimately, the song is about “trying to find positivity in things.” As the album explores, it’s always better to try something than not. “It’s not an album about not doing anything. The songs are a way of wrestling with each difficult thing. They all have a sense of comforting yourself or giving yourself permission to accept you have problems.”
Musically, Do Nothing’s debut album takes heavy inspiration from the rough and ready music of Tom Waits. “Some songs on the album are swung, which is something a lot of post-punk bands stay away from. They opt for things being straight, fast and repetitive instead,” said Chris, adding that electronic bands like Underworld also influenced them. The result is something intricate, confident and sure of itself. “I certainly didn’t feel ballsy at the time,” admits Chris, who’s avoiding thinking about the album but starting work on what comes next.
“My favourite records are ones that you keep coming back to. Lots of albums are just chunks of immediate stuff, and that’s great, but we wanted more,” he adds.
Do Nothing’s first full-length follows in the footsteps of Yard Act, PVA, Jockstrap, and Fontaines D.C. – bands who take influence from the resurgent post-punk scene but aren’t afraid of trying something new. “I think we’re maybe less a part of that scene now,” admits Chris. “When we started out, we’d constantly be sharing bills with other post-punk bands, and all of us were making something that sort of belonged in a box together.
“At some point, though, you all have to wander out on your own. Everybody goes and makes their own thing of it. It’s been long enough since that initial post-punk crest that now is the time people will really start wiggling off in different directions, which is cool and exciting. The important thing is not to die with the wave.”
Later this year, Do Nothing head out on tour to bring ‘Snake Sideways’ to life.
The band have had to recruit a fifth member to play the new songs live while Chris is feeling “apprehensive” about headlining big ol’ shows at London’s Koko and Nottingham’s Rock City.
“We headlined Islington Assembly Hall in 2021, and being in a grand hall like that just worked. We like the idea of these grand affairs. People have obviously been waiting a while for the album, so it feels only right we do a big thing to celebrate. We might as well take a swing at it and try our best to make a great evening out of it. If it works, it’ll be great. So why not give it a go?” ■
Do Nothing’s album ‘Snake Sideways’ is out on 30th June. Their new single ‘Amoeba’ is out now. Follow Dork Playlist on Spotify here.