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Nicotine Dolls

September 22

8:00 pm

$25 ADV / $28 DOS

Doors at 7PM

RSVP on Facebook

Nicotine Dolls make the kind of music you can’t hide from. The storytelling is front-and-center, beckoning your attention like a dusty old novel you can’t put down until the last page. The vocals are gritty and honest, holding nothing back in fits of joy, regret, and sadness similar to a phone call from one of your best friends at 3am. The instrumentation is equally punchy and nuanced, grafting rafter-reaching hooks on top of rich soundscapes. The moment the New York alternative quartet—Sam Cieri [vocals], John Hays [guitar], John Merritt [bass], and Abel Tabares [drums]—plug in, it’s as if a rush of collective emotion floods through the speakers.

After generating over 20 million total streams and consistently selling out shows, the group tell their story as a means to encourage you to live yours on their 2023 EP, How Do You Love Me [Nettwerk Music Group].

“I went through a process of overcoming these situations in the songs,” admits Sam. “The second we send them out, I’ve dealt with them. Now, they’re for you. I just want to properly represent where I’ve been and create a space for you to feel anything you want to feel. That’s my ambition.”

Nicotine Dolls officially emerged in 2019 at the crossroads between its members’ respective paths. As the story goes, Sam met John Hays in 2015 during a Broadway tour. “I ended up there because I was getting evicted from my apartment, and my friend told me to try musical theater since you get a consistent paycheck, he recalls. They instantly became best friends.

By this time, Sam’s journey had already twisted and turned from “leaving high school to be a musician, living in motels, playing Las Vegas, going to South Florida, and amassing all of these crazy ass stories. Nevertheless, his newfound musical bond with Hays eventually attracted Merritt and Abel to the fold. The guys gained traction with the likes of “Should Have Danced,” generating over 1 million Spotify streams and counting. Meanwhile, 2021’s Sex,Addiction, and Everyone Else. housed fan favorites such as “Hands” and “If I Come Home.” In 2022, “Till We Both Say” gathered 2 million-plus Spotify streams, while Sam’s audition on America’s Got Talent went viral (despite opting not to appear on the show!).

Impressively, they attracted north of 1.1 million followers on TikTok as well.

During 2023, they pieced together what would become How Do You Love Me.

“The goal was to try to not sound like anything else,” he goes on. “It didn’t matter if what we were doing was ‘proper’. It mattered if it felt good. I hear music as sporadic sounds that I can see. That’s what I wanted the record to have. We disregarded the attempts to fit into a playlist. It’s taken a very long time to understand that Nicotine Dolls simply sound like Nicotine Dolls, and it’s something we’re confident in.”

Clean guitar creaks beneath Sam’s husky delivery on the opener and lead single “How Do You Love Me.” Eventually, the track reaches heavenly heights lifted even higher by a soaring saxophone solo, slick bass line, and the towering refrain, “Figure it out, write it all down, so I don’t forget how do you love me right now?”

“To me, the song is someone having a manic episode,” he reveals. “If I had a song like this when I was going through what I was in my early twenties, I wouldn’t have felt so alone. In terms of the subject, I don’t understand how and why the people around me choose to be around me. I’m saying, ‘I don’t get it because I have all of these flaws. Explain it to me’. It’s so personal and scary to share, but it needed to be the first step out. It pushes us into a place we’d never been sonically or lyrically.”

The feedback of a radio dial flickering between stations gives way to the kinetic “Slip.” With a driving rhythm and upbeat refrain, it crashes right into an unpredictable, yet undeniable refrain.

“It’s the feeling of being at a party with your ex,” he reveals. “You look at each other, know you shouldn’t get together, but you both threw common sense out the window 15 minutes ago. No negative thoughts enter your head. It’s fun, sly, and coy.”

The story continues on “Real House” with its cinematic crescendo. “This is the same relationship,” he goes on. “I love her very much, but she deserves a very real thing. The first line was a bummer, ‘We were playing house until the rent went up,’ but the rest of the song poured out of it.”

Then, there’s “30 Somehow.” The stark soundscape underlines heart-wrenching emotional lyrics as he outlines a turning point in his life.

“It’s about me in my thirties,” he notes. “It’s not good, it’s not bad, but it is the oldest I’ve ever been. I was thinking about my life. My dad and I don’t talk anymore because of his drinking. He has cancer, and my grandma has cancer. I’m still not where I want to be professionally. However, I’m becoming more aware and appreciative as to how incredible my mom is. I appreciate my sister and niece. Here are the negative things and here are the positive things. I didn’t think I’d live to be thirty, but I’m romanticizing a long life.”

In the end, you won’t be able to turn away from Nicotine Dolls.

“The music is uncomplicated and unpretentious,” he leaves off. “It’s also unapologetically romantic. It’s just life.”

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