This morning The Bloody Nerve shared the brand new film for their latest song Hard, Hard Winter, exclusively to MetalTalk readers. The song is Act 3, Episode 1 of their organically developing concept album All Blood, No Treasure, which is being released, rather uniquely, in a four-series Netflix-style approach.
The film Hard, Hard Winter seeps in a dark atmosphere and wonderfully shows the vocal skills of Laurie Ann Layne (think Beth Hart, with even more sassiness and attitude) and the impressive 6-string Strat style of guitarist/vocalist Stacey Blood. MetalTalk’s Steve Ritchie [shamefully late to The Bloody Nerve party] spoke to the pair from their studio in Nashville.
It’s always thrilling and exciting to come across something new that excites. If your first listen to this band is the first 21 seconds of Hard, Hard Winter, then when Laurie’s vocal kicks in, you are sucked in, and then you can have immense fun, like I did, catching up.
When Laurie sings, “just to survive this winter”, the emphasis and phrasing on ‘survive’ is just emotionally compelling. “The song is really desperate,” Stacey says. “It’s one of those getting down to the very bottom of the basement, you know, total rock bottom, and she just really gets that desperation across really well. The lyrical content lends itself to it as well.”
As the song develops, the sound of Stacey’s Stratocaster in the first solo is wonderfully bluesy hard rock. But, with headphones on, you can hear two other different but complementary guitar parts in each ear. It is one of those really special and wonderful easter egg moments, and something they obviously thought long, deep and hard about.
“I’m definitely a Strat guy,” Stacey says. “I started as a Les Paul guy, and then I was a Telecaster guy, and then, as they say, I finally saw the light. You go Strat, and it’s hard to go back from there. But working with the Strat, it’s always inspiring. You always get those really crystal clear transient-type sounds to work with in the recordings. Looking back on rock ‘n’ roll history, there’s so much to draw from and so many techniques and styles you can just implement.”
“When we’re mixing,” Laurie says, “we definitely wanted to come through with panning of all those different sounds.”
Listening to Stacey play on this track, I wondered if his inspirations were Robin Trower or other such British greats. “I probably say Gilmour is my number one, but this always changes. We can have this talk six months from now, and it will be something different. I’m very much a fan of Robbie Robertson from The Band. I’ve always loved his stuff. Just his approach. Rory Gallagher is another one that I’m a big fan of. Phil Collen from Def Leppard made me want to play the guitar once upon a time. I was young. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be Joe Elliott or Phil Collen. So I just smash them together and try to do a little bit of everything. If I could, I would do all of that and maybe throw a little Jimmy page in there too.”
Laurie especially shines on the songs released so far. Her phrasing is just wonderful to listen to, especially how she is able to change this as the mood of the song dictates. “I had been singing for quite a long time before I met Stacey,” Laurie says. “I had been working on some solo stuff, but once Stacey and I started working together, I had to up my game. The lyrics and the music required me to give it my all and to go above and beyond. As much as I can, I just push, and I really wanted to express what we were feeling in how the lyrics were written. The tracks really deserved that.”
The team element fires in. “It was the same with me, too,” Stacey says. “As a vocalist, I mean, she’s loud. She doesn’t really need a microphone. You should see her live without a microphone. As a vocalist, I had to really reach down because if you’re gonna blend with that [nods at Lauirie] and be heard with that [nods at Laurie], you have to really take a different approach. I reached down and found something new out of necessity.
“But I also think with our recordings and our productions, everything is really spacious. We really don’t do the whole brick wall construction site-sounding stuff that’s just in your face, every note. Everything jammed in there. We like to keep it a little spacious and warm so that you can hear these things. Because everything that we put in there really matters. We try not to throw things in just for the sake of doing it.”
That is why listening to this music on headphones is a must for me, as the extra elements and extra depth can be intoxicating. Hard, Hard Winter, as you move through the phases of the song, finishes on an epic one-minute fadeout. The first playthrough reminds me of listening to the early ’80s Dio album as a youngster and turning the volume up as the tracks fade to pick out those hard-to-hear nuggets.
On Hard Hard Winter, as it fades, Laurie screams and cries, and her vocal tones are goosebump-inducing. “I’m glad you noticed the fade out,” Stacey says. “These days, you’re not allowed to have fadeouts. So, well, we’re gonna do a fadeout anyway.” Laurie agrees. “We don’t go by what anyone’s doing,” she says.
“I always enjoyed fadeouts,” Stacey says, “because there’s just a little something that you feel as it’s going out. Little things that you start to notice because your ear picks up on different things as volumes go down. Also, when there’s a little bit of decay, when volumes are going down too, there’s a little bit of de-tuning that happens. There’s a little dissonance that your ear picks up on. That’s always noticed on orchestral things like at the end of John Williams things, those last notes. You hear those things decay, and there’s something a little different.”
The film was shot in their hometown, “about a couple blocks away from our house,” Laurie says. “We found this really cool place called The Station. It was a fashion brand factory, some kind of jeans. It’s so awesome inside with these windows that are broken out and everything in these rooms. It looks like a gymnastics studio or kind of like a gym. We tried to mess with the lights and give it this mood to create that cold, moody vibe.”
The angled light through the large windows when Stacey is playing is wonderfully atmospheric. “To us, that was really special,” Laurie says.
“That was really special to get it at the right time of day to get the right light,” Stacey says. “That song just made me feel like that late afternoon around five PM during the winter when it gets dark early, and it just leaves everybody flat all the time. So I think we wanted to capture a little of that feeling.”
The little black tablets that get cut up look like the vitamin pills that my wife makes me take every morning, I say, getting worried.
“There’s actually a lot going on in the video,” Stacey says. “Some things we didn’t even pick up on until it was done. You will notice we’re never in the same shot together, so there’s a little easter egg right there. There are little things, if you watch it, to pick up on that kind of explain what’s going on. But the black pills and so much nihilism that’s about these days, when you start adding in the winter attitude of everything, then it’s hard to get the white pills going.”
With Hard, Hard Winter, we are now at the start of Act 3 in a four-part release plan. Unlike an album, where you may record in a set period and release in stages, this is an organic and always growing and changing project. That idea also presents challenges.
“When the pandemic hit, we knew we had to think out of the box,” Laurie says, “and how we wanted to release the music. We knew everything was going to be done differently. How are we going to do this? We figured we’d give it a shot to release it in instalments like a Netflix series would be released. Acts in episodes, keep going and give all the songs their space. So far, it seems to be working okay.”
“It is,” Stacey agrees. “I mean, there’s production challenges because it’s hard to produce songs two years apart and make them sound like they go on the same album. A lot of things change. Your vision changes, your ideas change all of a sudden, and you don’t like the way you mixed that back then.”
It is a properly evolving concept. “That’s right,” Laurie says. “We don’t even know what the name of Act 4 will be yet. We are already working on material, but we’re not sure of the name.”
“Usually, we’re working on the next couple of acts while we’re releasing one,” Stacey says. “We try to stay ahead as much as possible. Then it’s just the process. The good thing is that you don’t have somebody breathing down your neck for deadlines, and you’re not watching the clock on the wall. But the bad thing is that also you don’t have anybody breathing down your neck, and you’re not watching the clock on the wall.”
If you like Hard, Hard Winter, then the next step is to listen to the first track released, A Million Arms. Then, like me, you are on a journey. The opening scream from Laurie, then the track rocks you back, and you are away on a story, a journey.
“The concept pretty much starts right in the middle of chaos, and there is no leaning up,” Stacey says. “It’s just like you wake up and bang, you’re in it. Then it’s almost disorienting. Act one is trying to sort out what the hell is going on.”
“It’s smack in the face of reality,” Laurie says. “Boom. Here you are. Although it’s been kind of creeping up for a while, it seems it comes across that way.”
“It always made me think of Richie’s [Russo] drum,” Stacey says. “The way he hits that drum fill at the beginning. It’s like a swat team banging on your door and then the cry of terror.”
“The screams of terror,” Laurie says, “seemed appropriate.”
The solo here has a wonderful rolling bass line underneath, I say, and then you find out The Bloody Nerve’s background. “That’s Bobby Blood,” Laurie says. “A lifelong bass player.”
As you run through the tracks, Act 1 (Retrograde), Episode 2, What’s It Say (About You) is built around a fantastic riff, and that’s the first track in the whole piece where you have the dual vocal together. That works especially well with the chorus. I love the way both their vocals kind of mesh together. “It’s nice when we get to sing songs together,” Laurie says. “People seem to like that.”
“It blends really well,” Stacey says. “We never know how we’re gonna approach it. Sometimes we’ll try a song with me singing, sometimes with Laurie singing.”
“Whatever is best for the song,” Laurie says.
“A lot of that could have to do with key and intensity,” Stacey says. “Usually, a song that’s really, really intense will be a Laurie song for sure. Then you probably hear the types of songs, and it depends on the character. Our voices play different characters in this too. So when you see the Roads video, there are obviously three different characters [the angel, propagandist and the Devil]. You have all three things going on. I mean, it’s not your kind of network television after school for the kiddies, you know.”
Act 1, Episode 3, Roads, has layers and layers of attitude in the vocals from Laurie. “That is the first song, in my opinion, that starts to lay out where everything is cooling down and simmering down into what the atmosphere and what this whole thing is gonna be sounding like,” Stacey says of the overall developing concept. “The concept of the arc of the story is like the honeymoon period with this thing that is descended upon everybody. Trying to make it good and find the utility and benefit of it, and it’s just leaving you cold. You’re trying to be down with the cause and all of the slogan-ing and all of those things that people try to coalesce into. Almost like the overbearing mother situation.”
All Blood, No Treasure showcases Stacey’s great vocals. “I love the baseline in the chorus of that song,” Stacey says. “This is why we have Bobby Blood [Stacey’s father] as the bass player in the band. He worked out in Hollywood from ’66 until about ’74. He had quite the run out there playing with all kinds of people. He has tons of experience and is always great to lean on when a song needs the right part.”
Stacey says that the song is “just high energy, and I think that one is just full-on angst. We’ve seen what the real deal is, and it doesn’t look good. I think it’s a very authoritarian feeling oppressive song lyrically and in our approach.”
Doin’ All Day has lovely layered vocals from the pair and a great outro with a really moody solo. “We had a great time doing that,” Laurie says. “Especially I love the creative part, like behind the scenes, like photos and the videos and creating the wardrobe. That was really fun for me. I enjoyed that.”
“There is a video. “We actually shot that in our barn in the back,” Stacey says. “She made the wardrobe and everything, and yeah, we have a great time doing this stuff, you know, we kind of just put in everything. I think what’s fun about doing a concept album like this is that there’s a context, and when you work within a context, it’s a whole lot of fun. You kind of know where you’re going, and we’re always right in step with each other in vision anyway. So that’s always easy. You know, there’s never any black eyes or anything going on creatively.”
“We’re always looking to explore new options,” Laurie says, “and new ways of doing things. But we like to stay creative and keep pushing that for sure.”
The superb Doin’ All Day marks the halfway point of the album. “In this particular part, we are probably reaching down and finding out how to free ourselves,” Stacey says. “You know, you always end up with that moment. When you’re here, I want to be there. And you know, what does that take in the mind?”
“Kind of like an un-programming,” says Laurie.
“It is kind of like un-programming,” Stacey agrees. “How do we deprogram? How do we get back to some kind of humanity? It’s a subconscious loop that’s going on in the mind. The truth, the way out, but you’ve developed this second mind that tells you no, you don’t. This is what’s true.”
“You’re in a good place,” Laurie says. “You’re safe.”
There we are, halfway through the conceptual four-part series. Can music work this way? Well, yes, but then I jumped on The Bloody Nerve a couple of years after their debut track and had immense fun catching up in what is basically the first half of a double album release.
Perhaps that’s my issue and something I need to sort out in my head, and maybe MetalTalk needs to address its attitude to ‘single’ releases. If you are into it, are you happy to wait a few months for the next track? It’s a conundrum, and I don’t have those answers.
But there is no doubt that The Bloody Nerve are bloody brilliant. For the purists, there is great news. “Richie Russo, our drummer, is cutting this week,” Stacey says. “He uses Obituary Studios. Thanks, you guys. Some of the songs from Act 4 are getting mixed up. I would think, hopefully, by the end of the year, we can be digging into Act 4 already.
“Things are going a little quicker now than they were for Acts 1 and 2. We were trying to figure it out. There is no manual for this. Nobody’s ever done something like this before where you release something over a long period of time. There’s been parts one and two of albums, but there hasn’t just been a stream of consciousness going on for years. You have to stay with that. So I think we’re getting better at it. We’ve made a few mistakes, rectified those, and we’re learning. It’s definitely a learning experience. We’re learning a lot.”
And a tour? “That’s the plan,” Laurie says. “We would definitely like to do that.”
“We’re thinking of building a 40-foot wall,” Stacey says, laughing. “I would say we’re looking at 2024, definitely wanting to come out to the UK, and we’re working on that right now. Our original thought is to play the whole album from beginning to end and lay it all out like that. That’s what we’re thinking of. Maybe some live-streaming performances until then. We’re throwing some ideas around.”
Live shows? It bloody can’t come quick enough.
Great song! I hope they can get over to the UK soon. Looking forward to hearing more.