Following a hand injury that made it almost impossible to play music, the NYC artist draws inspiration from frustration with the first single from his forthcoming EP
Last year was not excellent for Manny Nomikos. After a hand injury required 18 stitches, the Brooklyn artist, who makes music under the moniker Ilithios, faced upsetting news from a doctor who informed him that while he’ll still be able to work, he probably wouldn’t be able to play music the same way.
Unfortunately, the doctor’s prediction proved to be true. Following several rounds of physical therapy, Manny was still unable to accomplish some simple tasks—let alone really play the guitar—and in the midst of preparing for LP2, he found himself grappling with feelings of doubt, anger and helplessness as he found himself unable to properly pursue his passion and suddenly facing significant personal problems set against an already grim backdrop of global crises and catastrophes.
However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in working with the music community here it’s that NYC artists are resilient—by nature and by necessity. So rather than throw in his pick, Manny got by with some help from his friends, building a live band with Ana Becker (of Catty/Habibi/Fruit and Flowers) Julie Rozansky (Tree River, Fuck You Tammy) Justin Gonzalez (Slalomville) Ben Reynolds (Drummers can Achieve), while wrestling inspiration from his immense frustration, harnessing the emotions resulting from his setbacks and transforming them into song.
The resulting work: “Do Your Worst,” a new song that I’m thrilled to premiere here!
“‘Do Your Worst’ was a couple things to me, but mostly it felt like an expression of the desensitization to all the problems that come one after another,” Manny told me over email. “I wanted to create a sound to the emotional numbness that that is felt when you reach a point of so many things are going wrong in my life (or the world) that nothing bothers me anymore.“
That said, music is never the waving of a white flag. No matter the emotions in which it’s rooted, art is always an action, a song a statement.
In that context, “Do Your Worst” isn’t about surrender in the sense of hopelessness, but more as an embracing of uncertainty, a laugh in the face of failure and fate. This isn’t a song of despair, but defiance; not about giving up, but giving in. And, ultimately, moving forward.
“It’s a sorta resignation in failure that you respond, oh you think that can hurt me more? Do your worst. (does that make sense? [no]). Just imagine the detention scene in The Breakfast Club where Judd Nelson keeps getting more and more detention… it’s like he knows his whole summer is fucked, but he just keeps saying ‘eat my shorts,'” Manny shared. “Though the song does offer some hope in the music side with some glimpses of surface-level cheerfulness through the guitars and all, but then it all comes crashing down in the end… drums that build and build by Carlos Minchillo, and a Jeff Berner guitar solo that sorta feels like it’s ripping its own heart out. So ya, you know, a fun song.”
In addition to the single, Manny released an accompanying visualizer/lyric video (above) featuring three emotionally evocative, though up for interpretation, animated scenes that, in ambitious fashion, the artist designed and created himself.
“I had no budget for a video but wanted to find a way to create images that capture three vibes from the song that I felt were there… And I can draw so I thought why not try pixel art, how hard can it be? Well, actually, incredibly hard. The three scenes show a person in the city listening to music on their phone by the side of the road. The next scene is taken from a memory of my wife feeding seagulls on a ferry in Greece. A sorta optimistic and hopeful scene. And the third scene is a person isolated in nature looking through a text convo. I didn’t have a solid thought on what that convo was meant to imply or be, but i figure the vibe can sorta dictate what each person takes from it.”
“Do Your Worst” is the first of five songs on the artists forthcoming self-released EP Panic, slated for release in early June (pre-order it now!), and follows a steady stream of releases, including a reinterpretation of “Unglued” (originally by NYC band and Manny’s Totally Real Records labelmates The Planes); a cassette collab with Amsterdam-based Athenian LOGOUT; a single and set of remixes raising money for the AAPI Community Fund; and, most notably, his absolutely gorgeous debut album Florist.(Watch the music video for “Leave The Country,” featuring Manny’s Catty bandmate Rosie Slater here.) And in case you need extra incentive to snap up the new record, or a past one, Manny will be donating all proceeds from Panic and Florist to the Lilith Fund, the oldest Texas abortion fund, through the end of the month.
With “Do Your Worst,” Manny just might be at his best. And even if he’s not able to play music like he used to, well, I’m absolutely in love with the music he’s making now.
Follow Ilithios at @ilithiosnyc, buy music on Bandcamp and add songs to your Spotify playlists!
Feature image (provided by the artist): Jen Meller