Do Nothing frontman Chris Bailey is watching The Terminator for the very first time. In a 2019 packed with milestones, it’s another notable one to add to the bow of a frontman leading one of the most talked-about new bands in the country. Talking is the key part there, carving a distinct new voice in a wave of bands where lyrics are packed with the sort of meaning that jump with everyday observations.
“Some people don’t give a shit about lyrics, they just like songs for the way they sound alone,” mulls Chris, “which is insane! It’s so crazy to me, like watching a film with the sound off.”
There’s a pause. “Like, because The Terminator looks cool and shoots guns then that’s it… not that the script of The Terminator is an example of the best script-writing you should never miss out on, though.”
Do Nothing have a lot to say. A band grafting for years at shows dotted across their hometown of Nottingham, their intoxicating mix of post-punk calls over hip-shaking grooves and immediate hooks has put them well and truly at the front of the pack. The next evolution of being in a band in 2020 and beyond.
“We know what it feels like for no-one to give a shit,” laughs Chris, “but now it seems like people are vaguely into us, which is cool. It means we get to travel about a bit and we’re playing better shows now than we ever were before, which is exactly what you want really.”
With only three singles out in the world, Do Nothing have shown just where their intentions lie. A mix of LCD Soundsystem charm, the bark and bite of Shame, and the wonky-melodic prowess of David Byrne and Talking Heads – it’s unlike anything else going. ‘Gangs’, a hypnotic rush of razor-sharp one-liners and swirling eruptions of fuzz kicks like a modern-day version of ‘Losing My Edge’ while ‘Handshakes’ is a slow-burning bag of tension that blows into a primal release (if only for a moment). Distinctly fresh and, to put it frankly, exciting – it’s a much-needed jolt to the post-punk world that already has heads turning.
“We’ve played in other bands before – we used to play ambient music,” recalls Chris, thinking back to those early days together. For most, bands set off on a path musically and stick (mostly) to it. Do Nothing were well and truly born out of ripping apart everything they’d done before.
“We stopped doing the ambient shit and basically took a break to figure out what we really wanted do and to come back at a different angle. It became a long period trying to figure out what we didn’t like about the old stuff we were making – and basically, well, I just got super bored of that type of music. I don’t really listen to it at all now. This new thing, being a lot more immediate and a lot more angular and stuff, is just a reaction to that, I think. Wanting to be able to say things in a more bold manner and a really direct way.”
Ambient music’s loss is… well… everyone’s gain. Refocused and reborn, Do Nothing swagger with reckless freedom with everything they do. Plucking observations from the world around him, a Do Nothing song is the sort that pulls in every direction with enough memorable lines to tattoo The Statue Of Liberty with. The sort of lines that stick in your head, and you’ll be repeating to mates in the weeks to come.
“I do a lot of quoting things, it’s usually things that my friends say, or I overhear,” explains Chris, pondering the tales and stories that have come to form the bones of Do Nothing. “At some point, it turned into a really natural habit that whenever I hear anything that could go into a song or a lyric, I write it down on my phone – which means I have fucking loads of lists of random phrases and words now on my phone.
“It’s good because when you go to write a song now, I have this massive list of starting points. You can sort-of then weave them together and see how they work and relate to something you want to write about.”
There’s no clear-cut intention when it comes to songwriting, more of a constantly moving pattern driven by instinct and creativity.
“At the moment I’m not finding myself thinking ‘oh, I want to write a song about this’ and then just doing it,” continues Chris. “Usually I’m just playing around with phrases until something presents itself, and then once you see this sort of thread there, you just pull on it. It’s all super thought out though and means things to me. It means things to me in such a personal way that I don’t think anybody will ever benefit from listening to it,” he cracks.
Proof of their undeniable future can be found slap-bang in the live world, as word of mouth spreads and spreads from their intoxicating performances that have ripped apart venues all across the globe. Chris steps into a whole new personality, a mix of late-70s variety performer, modern-day South Londoner and audacious stand-up comedian in one swoop.
“I remember I used to play guitar on stage, and the first time I didn’t, it was terrifying. I just didn’t know what to do with my hands,” he laughs. “I remember that starting to change at a small hometown gig we did, where I had come back from a weekend away where we basically got wasted for three days in a country house or something! I came back for the show and… you know when you’re so hungover that you’re actually more confident in a way because you’re concentrating on how awful you feel so much that everything else doesn’t matter? You’re just a bit of shambles, and you’re a bit more relaxed because of it.
“Anyway, we played the show, and it went really well. It felt like a real turning point. I dunno, it felt like the beginning of the idea that there could be some sort of character I could be on stage. I mean, I’m not really like that in real life! I don’t do anything too mental on stage, but I’m a bit more of a creepy-looking creepy dude, it’s just a little character thing which is a fun road to go down because it means you can experiment and nobody will call you a dickhead!”
It’s a show that needs to be seen to be truly experienced, continuing to evolve and grow as Do Nothing explore and pull in new ground. Live favourite ‘LeBron James’ has already grabbed attention for its instant funky moves, and the future is well and truly open now to whatever Do Nothing want to do. It’s not often that a band sits at a crossroads where any path is possible.
“We’re looking to have some more interesting musical stuff in there to keep people’s attention,” lays out Chris. “We’re expanding that sound because I want to take that simple base level and the shouty vocals and turn it into something more unique. We’ve added some danciness and more funky things to our sound – so the future will be a mix of all of those things. I want to get to a point that has a nice weird melting pot feel I think.”
With an EP on the horizon, Do Nothing are open to anything. Whether that’s interpretation or where they go next, it’s all waiting to be written. What’s undeniable though, is the bolt of feverish energy they now have bottled.
“It’s just nice to have people give a shit really,” smiles Chris. “There is that pressure, but we’ve been writing for so long that we have material to work with, and then after that, it’s just a case of figuring out what we want to do next. Like when we do an actual record, we want it to be a really good thought out thing rather than something we rush out because people suddenly want us to.
“The point of the whole thing, people only really pay attention to what you do if you sort-of, well, do exactly what you want and let it be different to other things that people might expect or want from you. The best thing you can ever do is exactly what you feel like doing.”
Right now, that’s finishing off The Terminator. Expect more firsts to come flying sharpish in 2020.
Taken from the December 2019 / January 2020 issue of Dork, out now.
Words: Jamie Muir