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Hurts so good 

Nightmare of You scares up its own imprint

Brandon Reilly either has a paralyzing fear of pain or he enjoys it so much that he actively seeks to prolong it. The Nightmare of You frontman is currently nursing a swollen jaw -- the after-effects of an operation to remove impacted wisdom teeth, a procedure that most sane people would have undergone at the first sign of trouble. Not Reilly. "My teeth had been hurting for two years," a Vicodin-pumped Reilly admits over Instant Messenger, only a day removed from the emergency surgery. "[The pain] was everything I thought it could be."

Reilly has made a habit of delaying the inevitable. His previous band, emo outfit the Movielife, soldiered on for six years despite Reilly's claim that even from the start there was little common musical ground between the members. The band's dynamics only deteriorated when its emo-factory record company, Drive-Thru, put the group on the road for 10 months out of the year. "Our label [situation] was hell on earth," says Reilly. "Once we signed with them, it was all downhill." Granted, no label, according to Reilly, would have been able to help the members of Movielife bridge their musical differences, which ultimately (and some would say very belatedly) led to their breakup in 2003.

While all of the members have pursued different projects in the aftermath of the split, it is Reilly who has arguably made the boldest break from his past. The former Movielife guitarist now takes on lead vocals with Nightmare of You, which suits him surprisingly well. With Joseph McCaffrey on guitar, Ryan Heil on bass, and Sammy Siegler on drums, Nightmare of You's broadened musical template flaunts the most modest of connections to Reilly's emo roots while simultaneously exploring the shimmering guitar work of the Smiths and even the crunching power pop of Squeeze. "We are a pop band," says Reilly, when pressed to capture Nightmare's sound in a few words.

One listen to Nightmare of You's debut album and it becomes quite apparent that Reilly's definition of "pop" is more expansive than most. Reilly keeps some of emo's familiar, self-lacerating romanticism ("Now I want to be buried in your back yard/And when the flowers grow just know you're still in my heart"), but just as often turns the clichéd angst on its head ("I'm in a bad way every passing day/So where do we go from here, I'll say/You're a shining star you'll do great in L.A."). But Reilly is also smart enough to realize that some undeniably massive choruses were hidden beneath the tinny guitar crunch that became synonymous with the Drive-Thru artist stable. He employs them to stunning effect throughout Nightmare's debut, albeit with guitar lines of echoing clarity as opposed to the processed, layered din that characterized his previous band's work.

The sonic leap is all the more impressive considering Nightmare of You will release the album Sept. 13 on its very own imprint, The Bevonshire Label. Although Warner fronted the band a bit of money, the album was done "on the cheap" in a garage in Los Angeles' Korea town with an untested producer, Jason Lader. Despite Reilly's claims of a shoestring budget, the album boasts a remarkably lush, full sound. "I know," says Reilly. "Our producer happens to be an amazing undiscovered talent." Reilly probably wouldn't mind if one of Warner's many labels eventually added Nightmare of You to its official roster, but for the moment, he'll gladly labor outside of the immediate purview of a major label. After all, what's pleasure without the pain?

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