The career trajectory of Nashville-based alt-pop band Nightly should be included in a “How-to” guide for any up-and-coming artist/band. The group, made up of Jonathan Capeci, Nicholas Sainato, and Joey Beretta, worked their way up from the go-to opening act to the middle lines of festival lineups and mid-tier venue headliners in just a few years’ time. They did it by, almost immediately after the release of their debut album night, love you in early 2020, releasing a healthy string of authentic, relatable, and, overall, rock-solid singles that managed to satisfy their existing fanbase while, simultaneously, attracting a whole new crop of listeners to be a part of their journey.
Elsewhere, the relationships they have fostered with similar acts such as joan, whom Capeci shares multiple songwriting credits with for their upcoming debut album, as well as Nashville tastemakers like Kane Brown, have only furthered their reach. Their new single “radiohead,” out now, is just the start of what will be an explosive year for the trio.
Late last year, on their 13-show headline tour across the US, Nightly premiered the unreleased song “I wish you loved me,” which later became a single. The song, while perfectly acceptable, felt safe compared to previous releases such as “on your sleeve,” “hate my favorite band,” and “Amnesia,” their newest collaboration with electronic artist ayokay. It was unclear if this was the direction they have headed in for their new record or simply just an end-of-the-year parting gift to fans.
They came roaring back with the new song “radiohead,” an ambitious return to form. The track, which serves as the lead single off an upcoming album, is instantly captivating, dark, and complex. All necessary characteristics for a song that shares the namesake of a band etched in legend for their decades of captivating, dark, and complex work.
“There wasn’t too much science behind it,” said Capeci, who, as to be expected, delivers a standout vocal performance on the track. “There are a few slower things on the album, but I’d say 80% is high energy, fast, dance songs. We felt like ‘radiohead’ was the perfect introduction to the album… to do something that has the same message of the album, but is the beginning of the crescendo. Where it starts small before it gets big.”
Previous tracks like “I’ve got so much to tell you” and “younger” saw the band explore deep sadness and grief, but with “radiohead,” they dip their toes into darkness. The second verse in particular oozes with a newfound sense of danger… higher emotional stakes: “God only knows how hard I’ve tried / To write it all down / Spell it out / Let you read my mind.” Lyrically and musically, everything is slightly subdued, meant to draw the listener in. Each bar is given the chance to breathe and be taken into consideration. It is, arguably, their most adventurous track yet.
A song of this magnitude calls the band’s identity into question. Are they heading in a more adult-contemporary direction? Are they a YA-geared pop band that can flex their musical versatility? Capeci sees things from a broader perspective. “I think people like to categorize bands,” he said. “’Are you alternative? Are you pop?’ I think more so, nowadays, people just like music. They like what they like. It doesn’t matter what genre. I think, for us, we’ve never steered towards a specific, ‘Oh, we’re going for Radio Disney fans,’ or whatever, it’s just ‘Hey, this is the music we’re making and it’s for anyone who wants to listen to it.’”
How We Got Here
The success of songs like “Twenty Something” and “the movies” would have, for most groups, caused them to consider staying in the same lane musically. However, the band’s output of eleven songs (seven solo, three features, and a duet) released between album night, love you in 2020, and “radiohead” could not have been more varied. Tracks such as “lover/loner,” “a million little pieces” with singer/songwriter Fleurie, and “hate my favorite band” all felt like individual puzzle pieces. They use Tik Tok as an effective way to generate buzz for new material, creating simple yet purposeful content with nothing to distract from the music itself.
“I think it’s just hitting people with the right song at the right time,” said Capeci, on why certain songs connect. “We write from the perspective of what is going on in our lives, so we think of music kind of like a journal entry. Sometimes you look back and read the journal and think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I was feeling that.’ I think it’s just based on if other people are going through the same thing that you’re going through, or have gone through it and can relate to it.”
Their fall headline tour was a clear indicator that what they’re doing is working. New songs like “dirty white chucks” and “on your sleeve” were received just as well, if not more favorably, than older staples like “this time last year” and “Miss You Like Hell,” by crowds with an overwhelming amount of first-time Nightly show attendees. “This was definitely the first tour we realized it was a lot of new fans who like to hear the newer songs,” said Sainato. “It wasn’t like, a new fan wanting to hear ‘XO,’ it was new fans who had been listening to us since COVID, or just post-COVID. We really realized it even onstage… just seeing the crowd’s reaction and what they were interested in hearing. Even our energy and what we wanted to play. It felt like a nice step in the next direction.”
Onto 2023… A Record Year
After spending a large chunk of 2022 on the road as the opening act for the alt-rock band The Midnight and on their own headline run, Nightly was primed and ready for the opportunity of a lifetime during Super Bowl weekend in Glendale, AZ this past February. They were included on a bill alongside country star and friend Kane Brown and pop staple Imagine Dragons, playing to an audience of nearly 18,000. Beretta and Sainato felt comfortable, with the latter expressing more fear of playing to a room of 150 vs a room of thousands. “It was a surprisingly easy thing to do,” said Beretta, who used the experience to consider the band’s material going forward. “We had a good reception from the crowd, and it was a lot of fun. After that it’s like… we want to be a stadium band. So how do we translate that to the songs we’re writing now?”
Nightly is, has been, and seemingly always will be a band that shows as much love to their fans, new or old, as their fans do for them. “We are grateful no matter what age group, demographic, sexual preference, or race,” said Capeci, who is, along with Sainato and Beretta, sure that their next chapter is their best yet. “We’re finishing this album and making it the best thing we’ve done to date. I guess ‘best’ is relative, but, for us, it feels the most ‘together’ we’ve ever felt as a band.”
You can stream “radiohead” and the rest of Nightly’s discography on Spotify: