For Kyle Nicolaides, Beware of Darkness’ new single, “Bloodlines,” represents both the low point and high point of his musical career.
“Songwriting and recording is such a mystical process, and it takes you on a journey you don’t even realize you’re on,” Nicolaides says. “We did a demo session for ‘Bloodlines’ in 2017 or late 2016, and it was the most toxic session I’ve been in. The air in the room was poisonous and it seemed like no one wanted to be there. Our engineer was like, I’ve never been in a session like that, it was so dark.
“I started to kind of unravel and I fell into this two- or three-year depression that had been going on for a decade and got bad the past few years. So I basically abandoned the band, I abandoned making music and moved back to Santa Barbara to take care of my mental health.”
He eventually took the song back into the studio with guitarist Jeff Schroeder (Smashing Pumpkins), bassist Mark Stoermer (The Killers) and drummer Jon Safley (CRX, Bleached). It’s out today on Bright Antenna Records and will be part of a new EP.
“It wasn’t until this year that I got healthy and started therapy and took care of all these health problems I had been neglecting that our label rep Braden [Merrick] brought up the idea of revisiting ‘Bloodlines’ and getting Mark from The Killers on it, because Braden managed The Killers back in the day,” Nicolaides says. “I was so depressed that I kept saying ‘no,’ because the thing about depression is like when you don’t think you deserve to live, how do you think you deserve to book a session? You think everything is doomed.
“It’s just wild how a song I wrote that didn’t mean a whole lot to me and I didn’t know what it was about ended up being a session with some of my favorite musicians on the planet and it was the most fun I’ve ever had in the studio.”
Nicolaides released his first album as Beware of Darkness, “Orthodox,” in 2013, followed four years later by “Are You Real?”
“I started out as writing songs and having no regard that anyone was going to hear them, and I think that’s what the first record was,” he says. “It was all over the place, and it worked. I think after touring, the songs became a little bit more cohesive and I think now for the first time I’m able to look at them objectively and ask questions. The new material is the first time since I’m healthy that I’m able to ask what do I really want this to be without regard to success or radio.”
Beware Of Darkness’ guitar-driven, alt-rock sound quickly caught on with listeners and other musicians, as the project was invited to tour with everyone from Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins to AWOL Nation and Jared Leto’s Thirty Seconds to Mars.
“I grew up [listening to] them and they were an important band for my entire life,” Nicolaides says of Soundgarden. “To be able to watch them side stage at the festivals and standing with all their wives and babies and family members, it was just surreal to watch that. There are so many moments where you almost like pinch yourself and think, how the hell did I get here? You think, oh wow, we spent an afternoon and $200 in someone’s garage and recorded a couple songs and it got us here. And that was definitely one of those moments where I couldn’t believe it.”
Hitting the road with Billy Corgan and company was another peak moment.
“It was a gift,” he says of the Smashing Pumpkins tour. “I made friends with Jeff, who obviously I still talk to today and I look up to him so much. And they took care of us. … It seems like everyone had some negative story about Billy or something awful to say about Billy, and our experience was completely opposite. He was the nicest guy to us, and we didn’t have any problems on the tour. The crew took care of us. It’s like we were being taken under their wings. I learned so much from everyone, and again it’s nice to have that level of professionalism that also comes with kindness and to give the time of day to a newer band coming out, that meant the world to us. Especially because I was a mental wreck at the time, so it meant so much.”