The year is 1930. A candle is lit in church to illuminate the choir’s sheet music. The candle gets knocked over, the church burns to the ground with a woman inside, and along with it a town withers as massive sky-blackening storms threaten to swallow the earth whole. The inhabitants barely hang onto hope, wondering if the God they’ve been praying to has turned its back on them and left them behind... Welcome to A Town Named Nowhere.
On first glance, the Dust Bowl might as well be a galaxy away from 21st-century Long Island, New York. And if this milieu, immortalized in the work of John Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie, seems like an incongruous setting for an album by a band with post-hardcore roots, Crash The Calm is poised to remind us that time and space can only contain the imagination as much as one allows. A Town Named Nowhere, the Long Island quintet’s new full-length album, transports the listener to the drought-stricken Southwest of the 1930s with an all-consuming vividness that rivals the scope of an epic period-piece film or great literary classic.
Pushing far beyond conventional notions of the “concept album” as we know it, Crash The Calm captures timeless, universal struggle—between humankind and nature, between people and each other, between the individual and one’s own conscience, between grief and perseverance—within a musically sumptuous diorama that’s as lavishly constructed as the storyline co-founding guitarists Brian Dowling and Pat Smith scripted to serve as the music’s foundation.
Over a series of peaks and valleys that do the post-hardcore tradition proud while pointing to its future, A Town Named Nowhere centers on the conflict between Clifford—husband-survivor of Eleanor, who perished in the blaze of St. Catherine’s—and the church pastor—Eleanor’s father who is himself no stranger to loss, having survived the death of his wife in the Spanish flu epidemic years prior.
A self-described “history nerd,” Dowling was inspired by the feeling that the “soil that we’d planted underneath our feet had just gone dead” when he and Smith found themselves holding the reins after the band’s other three members had to part ways in 2018. And, in a bold artistic move that gives you a sense of what makes Crash The Calm tick, Smith and Dowling responded to the biggest challenge they’d ever faced as a band by aiming for an achievement more musically ambitious than they’d ever tried.
What better, then, than taking-on one of the biggest catastrophes in American history? As if that wasn’t enough, Dowling and Smith decided to tell the story from an author’s perspective, with a rich tapestry of townspeople all taking turns as narrator at various points throughout the songs.
Indeed, with A Town Named Nowhere, Crash The Calm hasn't merely brought a fictitious town to life, but instead created an entire world out of sound. The insistent, chiming guitars that close-out “Devils,” for example, are as ominous as the visual of church bells ringing out across a desolated landscape. The songs, grouped together into three “chapters” of the story, cover vast musical terrain, from the mournful slow-burn of “The Night St. Catherine’s Fell” to the oddly dour and anthemic “My Nowhere,” to the recurring shout-along chorus of “We all / we all / come from nothing and nowhere” to the brilliant, unexpected twist the band puts on pop-punk at the very end with album closer “Past and Present.”
“One of the main themes of the whole album,” Smith explains, ”is losing everything and re-growing from nothing, which is where we drew this idea of ‘nowhere,’ where everything is destroyed and everything is gone. It’s all about the battle to overcome that barren-ness and re-growing new life. It was really important to us to drive that aspect home.”
Adds Dowling: “Life moves on whether you’re onboard or not. Eventually, new things just grow around whatever was lost.”
“Of course,” Smith continues, “we went through it as a band first. We felt like our whole world was caving in on itself, but then we found ourselves in a situation where practically everyone on earth was able to relate in this much bigger, more dramatic way, and all of a sudden the music made sense on a scale we hadn’t imagined.”
“Pandemic aside,” Dowling offers, “there’s always going to be something, some kind of upheaval that’s going to make you feel this way. I’ve looked a lot at history, which of course has all these cycles of destruction, but this happens in everyone’s life. It could be something that looks totally ordinary on paper, like a job change—if you think about it, it was just the idea of our careers in music being over that put us in this really apocalyptic frame of mind—or it could be a real-life catastrophe. And if things are getting back to normal for you after all the recent upheaval, guess what? There’s something else around the corner.”
“We don’t say that to be pessimistic,” says Smith. “We say that as a reminder that there is still light through the darkness. The world we created in A Town Named Nowhere is incredibly bleak, but there’s also a ton of beauty in there too. I mean, I can’t imagine the strength people had to have to get through the Dust Bowl, how serious they had to be about living. That’s incredibly inspiring to us. So we wanted to make sure that was all there in the music—the bleakness, the beauty, the willpower. I mean, before we faced our biggest challenge as a band, we couldn’t have imagined that we would put something out with this many colors. It took something like that to bring it out of us.”
Imagine the brooding, introspective sprawl of millennial classics like Circa Survive’s Juturna or Thrice’s The Alchemy Index crossed with the songcraft and grandeur of The Wall and that’ll give you some sense for the kind of journey A Town Named Nowhere takes you on. And, since we’re not talking about a band that cuts corners here, the album will be packaged as a trilogy of EPs, each released separately with its own artwork and all adding up to form a handsome showpiece for the physical representation of the album in full.
In addition to the visually stunning short film that serves as the video for “Devils,” listeners will also be able to take an immersive dive into Nowhere via the album’s namesake video game. Built on Epic’s Unreal Engine 4, the game will be available for PC/Mac and downloadable on Steam and the band’s Website. Enter the town and search for various relics of Nowhere before the dust storms engulf you; clues from the record help guide the way.
We are the soulless ghosts, the ones that remain…