Behind The Song: "The Madness" by Nicotine Dolls

17th October 2019 //

Hey everyone!

We started the "Behind The Song" feature out of curiosity.
Curiosity to find out what drove an artist to write a song,
what instruments they've used,
where they recorded the track,
how it compares to their previous material.

We had no clue it would take off and allow us to share exclusive stories you probably won't hear anywhere else.
For today's episode, we invite you to grab a warm beverage and really spend some time reading the lines as well as watching the music video.
Both gave us goosebumps and so being the ones who get to share this piece is an absolute honour.


- Behind The Song -
"The Madness" by Nicotine Dolls


Nicotine Dolls are a four piece from New York City, US.
Their sound settles as Alternative and catches you with personal lyrics, gripping vocals and detailed instrumentals.

Nicotine Dolls are:
Sam Cieri (vocals, guitar)
John Hays (guitar)
John Merritt (bass)
Abel Tabares (drums)

Sam and guitarist John formed the band while on tour with a Broadway show.
After the tour finished, the two spent a year gigging around NYC as "Brea and the Baskets". Once bassist John and drummer Abel joined the band in early 2017, Nicotine Dolls was born.

Playing countless shows in NYC and going on multiple US tours, the band has really honed their craft and is known for energetic and raw live sets, drawing in their listeners with such ease.

After releasing their single "Fake", Nicotine Dolls have now followed up with their rawest track to date, "The Madness".

We feel absolutely honoured to be the ones getting to share the story behind the song with you and we hope that you give the track and the band all the love they deserve.


Here is what Sam told us about "The Madness":

"When I was 11 me and my family moved and I started at a new school in the 6th grade.
On my frist day I wore a t-shirt with a helicopter on it that made the sound of a helicopter when you pressed it. That was the first time I got bullied.
For the next three years I was verbally harassed, beaten up, spit on, thrown down stairs, chased down after school, and brought in front of my entire school just to be hit so hard on the side of my head that they blew out my eardrum.
I went to court three times in three different cases in those three years. I got death threats and ended up finishing my 8th grade year at home.

Those three years created a sort of crack inside me. I have spent a long time covering that crack or ignoring it but it always finds a way to remain just under the surface.
People scare me a lot of the time, I find it almost impossible to trust anyone fully, and I get panic attacks when I catch myself thinking about these things. I feel like a crazy person who just needs to move on but every time I think I have, I find myself gasping for air because I think everyone on the subway car is staring at me.

"The Madness" is about that fear and struggle of some days waking up and knowing that just existing today will be a fight, but that in the end I will be ok and I wanted to share that so if anyone else is where I am they can hear another voice saying you will be ok.

I wrote the song pretty quickly when I played the first chord, there was an unsettled feeling in too, while also having hope in it. From start to end I wrote it in about two hours except for the bridge which I wrote while recording the song almost a year later. There was no rush to record or even show the band the song because I was scared of what people would think. These thoughts and insecurities that are in the song are extremely personal, so I kept the song to myself for a while.

While on our second tour down south we were playing a show and ended up with five minutes remaining in our set. It was a pretty full venue and we had ended the set on a high note. In a split decision I told the crowd and the band that I wanted to play them a song that no on else had heard until then and that the band didn't even know. I started playing with the intention of playing it just me but about a minute in the guys (John Hays, John Merritt and Abel Tabares) started playing along. We finished the song and were all blown away by how great it sounded, no one believed that we hadn't rehearsed the song before.

We put it in the set two more times and each time there was inevitably a few people that would come and talk to us after about how much they related and how they felt a sort of release when they did. I knew then that we had to record it as our next single.


We ended up recording the song at one of our producers Eric Sanderson's (Augustines) studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It took us two days to record the song. I recorded an acoustic pass and we built on top of that, there was no bridge so I just said what was the most literal meaning of the song. The vocals were done in one take because I had the flu and could only sing the song once but I thought there was something honest in that, so that's what we went with. Drums and bass discovered this incredible choppy groove that makes you feel uneasy which was perfect, and John created this guitar part that at times sounds like a glitched synth line.

The ups and downs and dramatic full and bare moments came together to truly show what it's like to have these fears and thoughts and insecurities.

This is our second release so far, the first of which being our single, "Fake". That song was us discovering what our musical language was while lyrically using one simple event to navigate it. It was written about a very bad first date I went on whre myself and the girl I was out with were putting on these fake first date personas, something I think we all do but in this case our personas did not match up. It felt like we let each other down by not being honest with one another. There is a cinematic energy musically that we wanted to introduce, it's a much more lush song at time then "The Madness".

"The Madness" changes narrative from observing and giving judgement to "this is what's going inside me". I think we keep our cinematic tones but whereas "Fake" was directed by the Cohen Brothers, "The Madness" was directed by David Fincher.

I am a big believer in music videos being more than just watching the band lip synch to a song. You have the chance to take the world you've created sonically and expand it visually. We also pride ourselves on making our own videos because we love movies, like LOVE movies. John Hays and myself run OutaLine Productions with our friend and producer Nyssa Grant. We created the studio for the purpose of producing the band's videos as well as creating narrative films all written, directed, edited, etc by us.

This video was shot over two days for a budget of about $100.
The idea was to show what it feels like when I get a panic attack in public, when I get these PTSD flashbacks to middle school. Everything we show in the video has happened to me, both the flashbacks and the present day. I knew we made something worthwile when I played the video back after editing it and found it hard to watch the flashbacks. If anyone ever wanted to know what my head looks and sound like sometimes, this video and this song paint that picture vividly and accurately.

If there is someone who watches the video or hears the song and feels that we've captured what they live with as well, I hope they also see the hope we have put inside this work.

We all have moments of madness and feeling like we are alone when the walls cave in on us but we aren't. There are other people that feel this way and we can all say it's worth getting up every day and fighting through these moments and finding beauty in all the other things around you.
You'll be ok, we all will."


Watch the music video for "The Madness" right here:




- buy "The Madness" -
- stream "The Madness" -



Nicotine Dolls online: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Spotify | YouTube | Instagram





Thank you for your visit!

















Credits // Words (Intro): Vanessa Jetwash | Words (About Song): Sam Cieri | Image: Nicotine Dolls

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