For Urban Cone — four high-school friends from a Stockholm suburb — creating irresistibly catchy, emotionally resonant music that has the potential to connect with fans all over the world is all they’ve ever wanted. Formed in 2010, Urban Cone has enjoyed substantial success in their native Sweden with their debut album, 2013’s Our Youth, and 2015’s Polaroid Memories, which was also released in the U.S. The band’s sound — feel-good, indie electro-pop — earned them positive praise from such tastemaker outlets as Brooklyn Vegan, VICE/Thump, Idolator, and Stereogum. Urban Cone toured Europe with fellow Swedish rising star Tove Lo and the U.S. with The Griswolds.
It was during their summer U.S. tour that Urban Cone began coming up with ideas for their upcoming third album, which will be released by Interscope Records/Universal Sweden. Vocalist/keyboardist Rasmus Flyckt and vocalist/bassist Emil Gustafsson had written and produced Urban Cone’s music themselves and this time they wanted to take a different approach. The songs on the new album are anchored by harder, hip-hop-influenced beats and funky guitars, while retaining those sparkling melodies that Swedish music-makers seem to conjure up so effortlessly.
After playing the song that would become their new single, the funk-ified “Old School,” for their American manager they knew they were onto something with their new sound. “It opened our eyes to realizing, ‘Oh yeah, we can do things completely differently,’” says Rasmus. “We didn’t have to stay in this one box.” “We thought, ‘Wow, we can do whatever we want with this,’” Emil says. Once Emil and Rasmus had several demos recorded, they sent them to keyboardist Jacob Sjöberg and guitarist Tim Formgren, who recalls: “We were blown away when we heard the songs for the first time. It was like something had happened between Rasmus and Emil and they’d been hiding it from us until now.” Adds Jacob: “The songs sounded like something we’d always wanted to do but never really had a chance to explore.”
Emil and Rasmus describe the new songs as more personal than anything they’ve written to date. Many of them relate to the album’s main theme, which explores the idea of happiness, why it's so elusive, and why we don't know it when we have it. ”With the first two albums, we didn't tell people what the songs were about, because we wanted the audiences to have their own story for what they could be about,” Emil says. “But ever since then, we’ve felt like it's really important for us to tell people what we think in a different way.”
Urban Cone’s newfound lyrical transparency is a direct result of the bonded friendship these four young men enjoy. “I feel like we’ve never been closer as a group,” says Rasmus. “Everyone has been going through difficult things, like ending long-term relationships, and we’ve been writing songs during this time. We've had a dialogue, and I think that you can hear that in our new lyrics. We have opened up a lot. We want every song to matter. On our last album, you can hear that we're friends. On this new one, you can hear that we’re family.”
Within a few months of forming Nightly, singer Jonathan Capeci and guitarist Joey Beretta came up with “XO”: a bittersweet breakup anthem built on bright beats and powerful melody. Pennsylvania-bred cousins who bought matching Fender Squier Stratocasters as kids, Capeci and Beretta earned some positive early feedback on the track, and quickly uploaded “XO” to their SoundCloud page.
“We figured that, as a no-name band putting something out on our own, it would be a huge feat to get 100,000 plays in a month,” Capeci recalls. Instead, “XO” surpassed that number nearly overnight and hit a million plays within weeks, generating major buzz for the Nashville-based band’s guitar-fueled take on electronic alt-pop. Nightly soon began hosting showcases in their garage and ultimately inked a deal with Interscope Records, who are now set to release the band’s debut honest EP.
With their name translating as ’night, love you in textspeak, Nightly match their inventively textured sound with a guileless approach to lyric-writing. “It’s easy to hide behind clever lyric writing without really getting to the truth of the emotion. We try to stay away from that,” says Capeci. “We want our songwriting to be conversational, and to be real and open about relationships and love.”
On “XO,” that confessional spirit manifests in a breezy meditation on vulnerability and self-preservation. “‘XO’ is about being half-heartedly in a relationship, and how that usually does more damage than good,” explains Capeci, whose soulful vocals instill the song with a dreamy melancholy. “It’s about the kind of situation where you’re holding back to protect yourself, but it just ends up screwing things up worse and hurting both people involved.”
Produced by Keith Varon, Nightly’s honest EP explores troubled romance of all kinds. With its soaring vocals, propulsive synth, and sprawling guitar work, “No Vacancy” looks at the isolation that comes with lack of emotional availability. On “Talk to Me”—a track written in collaboration with producer Bill Lefler (Ingrid Michaelson, Dashboard Confessional, Gym Class Heroes)—heavy grooves and cascading guitar lines converge to offer up one the EP’s more lighthearted moments. “That one’s about getting attention from someone you really shouldn’t be getting attention from, based on their relationship status,” Capeci points out. And on “Honest,” Nightly fuse fierce guitar tones, hard-hitting rhythms, and warped vocal effects to capture the romantic frustration at the heart of the lyrics. “‘Honest’ is about a relationship where you and that person were on fire together, and then they move on to someone else and completely change their personality,” says Capeci. “It’s saying, ‘What we had wasn’t perfect, but at least we were honest with each other.’”
Throughout the EP, Nightly’s deftly crafted melodies amp up the raw emotion infused into each track. Such ingenuity in merging pure feeling with sophisticated songcraft comes from a near lifetime of devotion to music, partly shaped by Beretta’s musical household. “My dad played guitar and my mom’s a great singer, and my mom’s dad played the organ like crazy,” says Beretta, who grew up on the James Taylor and Cream records his father often spun at home. After getting their hands on those matching Strats, the cousins took their first step toward a shared lifelong dream of playing in a rock band. “I got a blue guitar and Jon got a black one and we were just like, ‘We’re gonna be in a band together forever!’” says Beretta, who—a year older than Capeci—was 13 at the time.
The following year, Beretta started playing in bands, landing gigs in bowling alleys or “really anywhere that would let us play.” Meanwhile, Capeci began experimenting with songwriting at age 15, and joined his first band with Beretta at 17. Although both headed off to college, the foray into higher education was short-lived. “I dropped out after about a year and Jon left a year later, because clearly we were meant to do the band thing,” Beretta says.
Capeci and Beretta soon moved to Nashville, where they formed Nightly in 2015. With a vision of bringing an urban feel to the quintessential rock-band dynamic, they quickly carved out a sound all their own. “With one of the first songs we ever wrote for the band, I just had this feeling like, ‘I’ve never heard anything like this before,’” says Beretta. Continuing in a rhythm-driven but guitar-centric vein, they eventually created “XO,” which fast made its way into rotation on Nashville’s ALT 98.3 in addition to gaining massive attention online.
As Nightly amassed a following, the two began developing a live show featuring a stunning light display created by Beretta. Rounded out by Stevie Cunsolo on synth/keys and Nicholas Sainato on drums the live show taps into Beretta’s intricately designed display to help transport each audience into Nightly’s own fully realized world—a mission that extends to every element of the band, including their artwork.
Now at work on their full-length debut, Capeci and Beretta note that Nightly endlessly delivers that same electric feeling of first picking up the guitar back in middle school. “I’m always surprised by what comes out of writing sessions, I’m always so happy about what we come up with,” says Beretta. “I feel like a kid every single time—there’s always something to be excited about.” That ever-renewing passion feeds directly into the emotional core of the band, adds Capeci. “I’d love for our music to be something that people listen to when they’re out driving alone at night, something that becomes part of the soundtrack of their lives,” he says. “There’s nothing like connecting with a song and feeling like the person who wrote it understands exactly what you’re going through, and I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than giving that feeling to other people.”
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