OTwo Interviews: The Nagging Doubts

Image Credit: The Nagging Doubts

Isabella Ambrosio talks to the up-and-coming Australian act, The Nagging Doubts, who have already hit the ground running.

Hailing from Sydney, Australia, The Nagging Doubts have only recently graduated from secondary school and are already under the wing by ex-Lemonheads drummer Nic Dalton. They released their debut EP through Half A Cow, Dalton’s label imprint. This relationship has led them to work with critically acclaimed producer Wayne Connolly. With impressive backing support, The Nagging Doubts is an act worth getting to know. And especially for fans of Joy Division and Go Betweens. Sitting down with the rising act, I got to get to know the artist behind the music. I began by asking Gabriel Jessop-Smith and Joe Wilks to introduce themselves:

Gabriel Jessop-Smith: I’m twenty years old, and I play guitar in the band. I was forced through the piano when I was in primary school. I eventually gave that up for the clarinet, which I gave up for the drums, before picking up the guitar. I now wish I kept up the piano… I think I got hooked on music through my mum, who would blast The Slits and XTC in the kitchen when I was little. I used to dig through her record collection and look at the artwork.

Joe Wilks: I’m nineteen years old. I sing and play guitar in the band. Music has been a huge thing for me since I was about thirteen I’d say. A lot of the passion has come from Mum and Dad playing records around the house. Some standouts growing up would be Dexy’s, Bob Dylan, Television and the Ramones. I never really learnt to play any instrument formally, my Dad just taught me in little half-hour sessions until I got the hang of some chords and then barre chords and so on. To this day that’s all I can really do. I was never really a singer either, I used to write a lot of lyrics and also did some rapping back in the day. I first sang to a few of the tracks on the ‘Deug Lane’ EP but the focus was always on the lyrics. Ultimately, I think the biggest influence on me that not only pushed me to make music but also taught me how good it could be and blew my little mind when I was younger, would be Lou and The Velvet Underground. I don’t listen to them too much anymore cause I beat the tracks to death but they’ll always hold a special place. 

Your music has an array of influences from multiple genres, artists and time periods - who are you inspired by and tell me about the impact that has on your music.

Jessop-Smith: As a band, we all bring something to the table. There’s no clear artistic director, and everyone’s tastes are apparent in their playstyles. Someone told me the other day that it’s like we took all the best stuff from the 80’s to the 00’s – and I’d like to agree with him. It's impossible to do the list of influences justice, I think I'm influenced by whatever I'm listening to at the time. Personally, I’d say Radiohead, the Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Go-Betweens have weighed heavily on what I write.

Wilks: I’d add to the Velvet’s with The Replacements, Pavement, You Am I, Fontaines D.C., The Rolling Blackouts and Duster. 

The track 'Marine' is a personal favourite of mine. Talk to me about the process of writing and recording that song.

Wilks: I wrote that song just after finishing High School and for me it represents a huge transition into another type of life. It’s definitely hopeful and almost ecstatic but it also has a mournful aspect to it that I think comes from the feeling of being totally out of control and kissing goodbye to a life of certainty and stability. I remember playing the chords and trying to work out vocal melodies for it on my acoustic with Tom (O' Rourke - Percussion) at Pretty Beach on the NSW Central Coast on the way back from a little trip to Newcastle. We were both very excited about it and actually ended up recording it at the Grove Studios not too far from that beach. 

Give me a crash course on 'Autocalm' - what do you want listeners to know before diving into the EP? 

Jessop-Smith: I think the EP is going to be characterised by a lot of ‘light and shade’ to steal Jimmy Page’s line. It’s been a highly tumultuous couple of years since leaving high school, not to mention COVID. There have been big highs and big lows, and we want to reflect both sides of the coin. Music definitely isn’t a false ‘happy-go-lucky’ escapism thing for us, I think we’re interested in exploring some of the more dimly lit parts of the human experience.

Where do you see yourselves as a band in 5 years? What are your aspirations, no matter how big or small?

Jessop-Smith: That’s a very hard question. I don’t think anyone has any idea about what’s going to happen in the next five years. Personally, if we record some great music that’s different, and that we can be proud of, I’ll be happy. Also, I want to meet Ed O’Brien.

‘Autocalm’ is due in 2021 with the two singles, Berlin and Marine.