Rosebud Magazine: Nightmares For A Week Get Back To Songwriting Basics

Posted January 9, 2011.  By Happy Kreter.

Nightmares For A Week - Bill Manley, Sean-Paul Pillsworth, Steven Markota

Nightmares For a Week knock it out of the park on their new roots-influence punk rock album, Don't Die

Nightmares For a Week are a band with a name that is instantly recognizable to fans of ‘90s punk rock. The phrase is taken from a line on Jawbreaker’s final album, 1995’s Dear You, widely considered to be one of the most influential albums of the decade. But for listeners unfamiliar with that now classic band, the name Nightmares For a Week might conjure to mind a style of music somewhat more foreboding than the New York State trio’s brand of roots-influenced punk rock.

In spite of the band name and their ominously titled debut full-length Don’t Die, bassist and vocalist Sean Paul Pillsworth says the themes of the band tend to be uplifting.

“The words “Don’t Die” don’t mean don’t literally die, but just don’t let something good die out. If you’re living your life positively, then the good shouldn’t die out,” says Pillsworth.

Nightmares For a Week’s sound does much to support what Pillsworth claims. Don’t Die consists of about two-thirds punk rock with a rootsy feel similar to what Gaslight Anthem has found so much success doing. The other third of the album contains songs with a minor punk influence, and comes off sounding much more like Americana, a style of music increasingly on the playlists of the band members.

“The sound all came together because me and [singer/guitarist] Bill [Manley], we’ve played together for ten years,” explains Pillsworth. “On the punk side, we grew up listening to NOFX and Lagwagon and bands like that. Jawbreaker became a bigger influence, but also bands like Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, and we wrote a song about Townes Van Zant because his catalogue was in heavy rotation while we were writing the record. So that’s how the more rootsy side of the album developed.”

For Pillsworth, Manley, and drummer Steven Markota, the progression to a more down-home style of songwriting is part of the maturation process.

“I spent a while as a songwriter trying to write songs that were difficult, technical, or complex, searching for this new way to blow somebody’s mind, but it came back to why am I doing this? I don’t enjoy listening to music like this,” explains Pillsworth. “Everyone wants to make their mark when they start a band, but then you come full circle, and you just want to write a good song – verse, chorus, have a good message, and play rock n’ roll. There are a lot of similarities between artists [like Townes Van Zant and NOFX].”

But that maturity isn’t limited to the band’s music. Like any good heart-on-his-sleeve artist, Pillsworth’s personal life plays a huge role in his creative approach. Part of that evolution has meant working hard to develop a positive outlook.

“Living more positive in the past year has been one of my goals,” says Pillsworth. “I definitely see the negative things that are going on every day, but I don’t get up in the morning and think that things are terrible. I’m 30 years old, and it seems like I’m more prone to anxiety [than when I was younger]. And I tried drugs and getting clinical help, but then I just had to take control, and say you know what? I’m not going to live like this. I’m not going to think about all the things that could go wrong. You can map out your goals, but if you’re ten days ahead of yourself, it’s impossible to do what you have to do. That reflects a lot on this band. We do things day by day, we have a good relationship, and people seem to like the music we’re making.”

He’s right. The album has gradually started to create a definite buzz, catching the ears of both fans and critics. And for good reason – the songs on Don’t Die are sincere and infectious, marking Nightmares For A Week as a band to watch as they hit the road to spread the word in 2011. With a little more of that positive effort, it could soon be the case that the band will be creating new associations for the phrase Nightmares For A Week.

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