Columbus Alive's Bands to Watch 2020: Nothin'

Kevin J. Elliott

During an interview with Nothin’, an epic John Williams score coming through the house speakers threatens to drown us out. The strings swell, the timpanis roar. It’s full drama — so much so that the music becomes a distraction, eventually mentioned by the band’s songwriter and bassist, Hillary Jones.

“This music is serious,” she said. “We’re a little more simple and relaxed.”

For the sake of describing the unpretentious, undemanding songs of Nothin’, the overwrought, symphonic compositions of John Williams served as the perfect foil. Take, for instance, Nothin’s signature hit, “Rock and Roll,” a song with three chords and an easy, breezy groove. It doesn’t overthink things: “Friday night, all alone/Poodle skirt, ice cream cone/Drive-in movie, empty seat/Love is lame, I’m just a creep,” Jones sings.

The lyrics evoke a bummed-out, slacker ennui that lands its hooks without much urging. Compared to Jones’ previous venture, as one half of sorely missed Pretty Pretty, Nothin’ is anything but punk. To call it more grown-up, though, would deter from the playful juvenilia at the heart of Jones’ songwriting.

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“When it started out I called it ‘anxiety rock,’ because I wasn’t exactly sure what to call it,” Jones said. “It was definitely less edgy than Pretty Pretty, and as a result I decided to tailor things more. To me, it’s just good, old-fashioned rock and roll.”

When Pretty Pretty dissolved, Jones was left with a handful of tunes and nowhere to flesh them out. For Nothin’, she recruited guitarist Aaron Miller, who was also reeling from the break-up of Future Nuns (a Band to Watch in 2018); Ryan Starinsky of the Sidekicks (a Band to Watch in 2015) on drums; and lifelong friend from her high school days in Hillsboro, Ohio, guitarist Carl Adkins, all of whom gave fresh life to her skeletal ideas. It wasn’t long before everyone was contributing, and Nothin’ went from a bedroom solo endeavor to a dynamic pop band.

“Every time there’s a new song, it just kind of unfolds naturally,” Starinsky said. “We’re not trying to do too much. Everyone does their part to hold up the melody. That’s the main thing, the thing that stands out.”

In an attempt to keep it simple (and in a pivot away from punk), Jones was drawn to the twee ’90s jangle of bands like Henry’s Dress and Tiger Trap, as well as ’60s pop groups like the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las.

Though the band just finished recording an album that will hopefully be released in the spring by Bloomington, Indiana, label Let’s Pretend, a few offerings are currently available. Even in that small sample size, Nothin’ is intent on crafting a classic sound. And above all else, something that’s fun. “Honestly, it really doesn’t matter to me what happens,” said Jones about the modest ambitions of Nothin’, “as long as it’s fun to play.”

Indeed, life would be so much better if all bands heeded that same “in the moment” philosophy — the aim to just make “fun rock” or rock fun again.

Ace of Cups

7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25

2619 N. High St., Old North

Columbus Alive's Bands to Watch 2020