“You’ve got to know when to leave,” says Wesley Eisold, singer for the semi-legendary Boston hardcore band American Nightmare.
It’s a statement few of the band’s fans would have agreed with in the summer of 2004, when American Nightmare abruptly canceled a tour and then, the following day, broke up. The band had been on a roll, playing wild, packed shows and gaining more attention every day. So the breakup came as a shock to fans, who had seen American Nightmare (which for a time changed its name to Give Up the Ghost because another band already owned the other) grow steadily into a dizzyingly energetic and powerful live entity.
Fans’ feelings aside, Eisold says the breakup was by far the best option. After two stellar, well-received albums (2001’s Background Music and 2003’s We’re Down Til We’re Underground) and countless trips around the country on the road, American Nightmare had hit a slump, and they knew it.
“By the end of the band the first time around, everyone was feeling burned out,” says Eisold. “There were new songs being written, and they were pretty terrible. We’d been on tour nonstop for four years, and it was wearing on everyone. We wanted something more, and trying different things with AN seemed like not the best vehicle.”
Eisold says he feared that if American Nightmare stayed together, it would lose relevance.
“That’s a trap a lot of bands fall into,” he says. “It was getting too far from the impetus of the band. You end up singing about punk or hardcore. I never wanted to do that.”
The band’s members went their separate ways, with Eisold forming a number of bands including XO Skeletons, Some Girls and the gothy, electro-pop solo project he still plays with today, Cold Cave. But the pull of American Nightmare never really dissolved, he says. In 2011, the band decided to give it another shot, and the entire reunion was recorded for a documentary released earlier this month. Eisold says the transition back to American Nightmare from Cold Cave was stark but not particularly difficult.
“Physically, it’s a lot different,” says Eisold of the frenetic power and pace of American Nightmare’s live shows. “I remember walking to the stage for the first show being back. It was like a surge of energy. Thankfully, I can still find that place.”
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Four years on, American Nightmare fans are all asking the same question: Is there a new record in the works? Eisold is blunt about the question, saying nothing has been recorded yet, while hinting at what could be down the road.
“We talk about it. We have some ideas,” he says. “If it’s good, we’ll pursue it. If we feel it won’t live up to our standards for American Nightmare we won’t.”
American Nightmare plays the Rock Stage at Riot Fest on Friday, August 28, at 3:30 p.m.