New Music


Bad Nerves: “Rock ‘n’ roll has gotten so stale and formulaic…”

Vocalist Bobby Nerves talks Bad Nerves’ big year, and why rock is desperately in need of a shake up

Having spent years bubbling under the radar playing pub shows to a handful of punters, Essex punks Bad Nerves were primed for a breakthrough in 2023. 

With their garage rock inspired 2020 self-titled debut steadily making its way into the ears of industry tastemakers, their power-pop melodies and bombastic swagger caught the attention of Sussex duo Royal Blood. Hopping on a tour bus and venturing across America together, the domino effect struck after playing the biggest shows of their career. A year later, Bad Nerves have become rock’s hottest ticket.

Supporting everyone from The Darkness and The Hives to Nothing But Thieves and The Struts, the five-piece are seemingly unstoppable. Dubbed “the best band in England right now” by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, their highly anticipated second album Still Nervous is driven by the sound and spirit of their frenetic live show. 

On a mission to make guitar music interesting again, channelling the melody of 80s punk and the adrenaline-fuelled spirit pioneered by artists like IDLES and Fontaines D.C., there are no gimmicks here. Ballsy, unpredictable, and laden with raspy refrains sure to get lodged in your brain, Bad Nerves are merging the snarling no-mess ethos of CBGB luminaries with the strut of alt-rock giants, whipping up a chaotic sonic cocktail sure to take the rock world by storm. 

A sound that feels equally at home in arenas and sweatbox 100-capacity rooms, ahead of the band’s forthcoming album release show at London’s The Garage and their appearance at Reading & Leeds festival, we caught up with frontman Bobby Nerves to learn more about his rise to the top of the rock scene.


It’s impossible to talk about Bad Nerves’ sound without talking about the punk scene, do you remember when you first discovered the sound and style of that genre?

Will [Phillipson, guitar] texted me at Christmas in 2015 to say that we should start a band together. I thought we would do something like Refused, because I always wanted to be in a band like that, but he wasn’t too keen on the idea. He sent me a couple of albums, Radioactivity’s debut record, and Blood Visions by Jay Reatard. I knew classic punk music, but the whole garage-punk and power-pop thing was new to me.

I love the adrenaline of metal, and I love pop, and this felt like a marriage of that melody and chaos. That was when it clicked, and I got hooked on that sound. After that I became hooked on classic punk bands like The Clash and Ramones. I revisited all the classic punk albums, and it all made way more sense. I love all sorts of music, but there’s something about a fast-paced track with an undeniable hook.

Melody is a massive part of Bad Nerves’ sound, and great hooks and toplines are what drive this band. Where do you think your appreciation of a solid hook comes from?

That probably comes from childhood. My mum was a secondary school music teacher, but she was really into musicals. She used to take my brother and I to see musicals, and there’s footage of me at the beginning of the ‘Dreaming’ video dancing along to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The melodic side of music was drilled into me from a young age, and my dad would play all sorts of music in the car when we were driving to school, from Bowie to Meat Loaf.

Up until Will showed me those albums, I hadn’t found the right music to go with my instinct for melody. I play drums and guitar, and the patterns are easy. I could start writing that sort of music straightaway, because the principles of it are simple. You can make it more complicated as you go along, but all you need are three chords and a fast drumbeat. Fortunately, because I’ve been playing drums for so long, I could write on top of that immediately. It’s so much fun.


2023 was a huge year for Bad Nerves, taking the step up from playing tiny clubs to being on everyone’s radar in the rock scene. How quickly did it feel as though it snowballed?

We’re still fully in the whirlwind of the last eight months. We went to America with Royal Blood in September 2023, and since then we’ve barely been home. It’s crazy to think how we’ve evolved in our live performance since then, because we feel like a different band. Often, you need a band like Royal Blood to give you an opportunity, and we’re so grateful that they took the risk. Touring America as a relatively unknown band is tough, but fortunately we had signed to an American label, so they helped us make it happen. 

That was the catalyst, and we haven’t stopped since. We stepped off the tour bus on 23 December after being on the road with The Darkness, and we went straight into the studio with our producer. I slept in the studio until 25 January because we needed to get the album done, and then we went to Abbey Road to master it. The last couple of years have been crazy, but we’ve grown more in the last eight months than we have in the last eight years.

How did you go about piecing together a new record within that hectic schedule, then?

Because we had so many touring commitments, I basically did this new record on my own, whereas the first one was born from the band jamming together. I spent so much time trying to make the songs as good as they could be, because that’s the one thing that will keep a band going. You need to have good songs, so I spent the best part of two years trying to perfect them. 

When we headed out with Royal Blood, I was on the tour bus constantly trying to refine the lyrics. A lot of time is spent listening and feeling things out, but the more you do that, the further away you stray from the initial intuition that guided you. You can end up getting tangled in this songwriting web, and it becomes a bit impossible. There were four or five songs that I was still figuring out the structures for in January 2024, so every single minute of the writing process counted. It was pretty intense.

Coming from the self-titled record, and looking towards album two, what vision did you have in mind for Still Nervous

For me, trying to plan too much is almost detrimental. If you go into the studio with pre-planned ideas of what you’re going to make, that can get in the way of whatever comes out naturally. Most of my favourite songs on this album came from me being fed up with trying to write Bad Nerves songs and just writing whatever I wanted. If we went in riding off the expectation of the first album, it would choke the creative process. 

Writing to a brief – whether it’s the brief of what people expect or your own ideas – means that you’re not writing freely. If we did that, we’d have never arrived at a song like ‘Antidote’. When I wrote that, I was angry, and I wanted to write something that no one would physically be able to play. It was ridiculous, but I did it without any worry of it sounding like a Bad Nerves song. Once you take those shackles off your mind, you just start thinking, ‘What do I want to hear, and what do I think sounds cool?’. Trusting your own instinct is the best thing you can do.


Both Bad Nerves records were recorded in a garage with your friend Mike Curtis. Having had sessions with other producers in the past, do you think it pays to have someone in that room who understands you not only as musicians, but as people? 

That is the most important thing you can do. Mike is one of my best friends, and we paid him very little to do our first record. Most people don’t really care if your mixing is great, they care if your songs are great, so honestly, I don’t think bands even need a producer. If you’re going to work with somebody though, it should be someone you trust.

Being close friends with Mike has made a huge difference to us. For any young people starting a band, if you’ve got a friend who can’t play an instrument, get them to start recording. If they learn to be an engineer, you’ll have somebody who can record you for basically nothing. When you start a band, you will have no money for a long time, so it helps to work with somebody that you are close to. That’s not to say you can’t make a great record with a producer that you’ve hired, because of course you can. There are a lot of incredible producers out there, but it’s going to cost you a pretty penny. Unless your parents are rich, you don’t have that kind of money when you start a band.

When you look at most bands coming up in the scene now, there’s nearly always a big picture vision. There’s a focus on costumes, make-up, cinematography, world-building, and narratives… but when it comes to Bad Nerves, it’s all about simply having great songs. Is that the most important thing a band can have?

For me, absolutely. There are loads of bands doing great stuff from a visual perspective, but often the songs don’t quite connect with me. Everyone has different tastes, and music is subjective, but for me the songs are lacking in a lot of places. You can watch the most amazing music video, but if you don’t remember the song, what’s the point? I’ve listened to whole albums and couldn’t remember any of it at the end because the melody is severely lacking. There are no hooks that make you want to hit repeat, and a lot of modern rock music is scared of cheesiness.

The best hooks normally have some element of cheesiness to them, and if you dress up the music in a cool way, cheese is acceptable. Every single Bad Nerves melody is cheesy, but I don’t care about anything anywhere near as much as I care about the music. If we focused on visuals the way other bands do, maybe we would be the biggest band on the planet right now. It’s not that we don’t care about it, our time is just spent trying to be a great live band, trying to write good songs, and trying to stay alive.

You’ve got your album release show – and your biggest headline show to date – coming up at The Garage, which is obviously a landmark London venue…

We’re experimenting with playing all our songs now, which is weird because even if we do that, our set only just reaches an hour. We’re trying to figure out how to play for that long, and how to make sure it doesn’t get boring. This music is great, but I don’t really want to watch any band for longer than an hour. After an hour, jumping around in the pit isn’t so much fun anymore. When all your songs are at the same sort of pace, you have to find new ways to keep it interesting, but luckily on this new album we have a few different tracks.

Coming from a run of support slots, we need to get into a different mindset, because playing to a room of 600 people who are specifically there to see you play is a different kind of pressure than playing to 5,000 people who love Nothing But Thieves or The Hives. You want to be good at every gig, but you especially don’t want to let your own fans down. We’re trying to get as good as we can, and I’m trying to figure out how to sing as well as I can every single night. I can’t wait for that gig; it’s going to be great.


Knowing that you spent so many years driving to tiny towns to play for a handful of people in a bar, how does it feel to finally see your hard work paying off?

It’s crazy. I love these songs, and I always have. You have to love what you’re producing, or you probably shouldn’t put it out, but now there are other people who connect with that music in the same way. It’s overwhelming, and it’s emotional to know that other people are sitting down to listen to this thing you made. It makes playing live to your own crowd such a buzz. We played Dingwalls in Camden at the end of January, and the energy was insane. Everyone in the room was feeding off the same sound, and there’s an energy in the air that you can’t touch, you can’t see, but you can feel. When you’re playing to 5,000 people who don’t know who you are, you have to create that energy, but when the crowd is invested – it’s in the air. In those moments, time stops. It’s magic.

Are you hoping Bad Nerves can knock down the door for other high-energy punk bands to take on the rock scene without any gimmicks?

We never planned to be in this position, and we never thought we’d get this far. To be putting a second record out knowing that people give a sh*t about the band is more than we could ever have asked, but if we can inspire other people to start bands, that would be incredible. Rock ‘n’ roll has gotten so stale and formulaic, and we need more fast, fresh bands to liven it up. I love rock music, but there aren’t many rock bands around right now that I love. The aggressive energy that Ramones, The Clash, and that original wave of punk had drew you in whether you knew the songs or not, and that seems to be lacking now. It can be done, because bands like The Hives have been doing it for over 25 years, but not enough bands are doing it. We need more bands in this scene, because I don’t think any other type of music is more exciting.

Bad Nerves play The Garage in London on 8 June, before supporting Nothing But Thieves at Cardiff Castle on 19 June and playing Reading & Leeds festival in August. Find tickets here

Still Nervous is out now, available to buy and stream here