Essay: Nicotine Dolls on New Song “After the End,” Social Distancing, and Connection During COVID-19

After the End - Nicotine Dolls
Atwood Magazine invited Sam Cieri, frontman of NYC band (and Atwood artist-to-watch) Nicotine Dolls, to discuss their beautiful new single “After the End,” a loving expression of connection and togetherness that breaches the isolation, separation, and social distancing so many of us are experiencing during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Stream: “After the End” – Nicotine Dolls




Friends have been separated from loved ones and every day has brought more bad news as the world sits inside, waiting for something we cannot see to disappear.

After the End - Nicotine Dolls

After the End – Nicotine Dolls

Back in January we filmed our video for “Should Have Danced,” our own little epic romance movie. We ran through the city and all the crowds trying to capture the human desire for connection and the risk involved in chasing it. The video also ended up being a love letter to NYC as we jumped from one iconic location to the other and all the little beauty spots in between. If you had told me in January that the city we filmed wouldn’t exist 2 months later I wouldn’t have believed you. If you told me that Time Square and the Brooklyn Bridge would be vacant and the busy streets we ran through empty, I would argue your sanity.

Lie to me you say lie to me
Tell your standing just
on the other side of the door
I can’t say those words
Though I want them too
And i know that hurts
But i can promise you

Now it is the first week of April, and I have to wear a face mask and gloves when leaving the house. A walk feels like a risk and the grocery store is filled with very scared people wanting to rush back inside. Friends have been separated from loved ones and every day has brought more bad news as the world sits inside, waiting for something we cannot see to disappear.

For me, this rang true the hardest when I went to visit my girlfriend. I wore all the appropriate safety gear, face mask and gloves. She came outside and we soon realized that we were too afraid to touch each other. The person I love was standing in front of me and I couldn’t hold her.



Nicotine Dolls' Sam Cieri

Nicotine Dolls’ Sam Cieri

The next day I sat and wrote that feeling out, just to hear it I guess. The first verse and chorus was all I had but I posted it to see if anyone could relate. Within the day I had 20 comments and a handful of messages saying how people were relating to the words of this new song. That kind of response showed me that we are all in this isolated boat and I wanted to show people that. To show that we are in this together, though it feels like we have never been more apart. So I finished writing the song that day.

When the end of the world is over
I’ll be waiting on your corner
Bare skin reached out you can breath now
When the end of the world is over
Ill pull you in and i won’t let go
Hold you closer after the end is over

The next day I used my mom’s room as a makeshift studio. Because my stands and gear were back in my apartment all I had was a mic, my acoustic, and a little midi controller. I placed the mic in a drawer to hold it and recorded everything in the 3 hours my mom had let me use the room. Seeing as we couldn’t get into the studio everything else was recorded using the midi controller. I spent a day or two mixing the song, which was only meant to be a demo. I sent it out to the guys (John, Abel, and Merritt) to get a gauge of what they thought and there was a common consensus that the song needed to be released. The guys added their notes and I arranged accordingly, we made this song from a distance, which felt right. The scary part was knowing that we were releasing a song that we didn’t record in a studio, and that I would be mixing/mastering myself. So if it sounded awful, that would be on me. The main thing I chased in this production was tonal honesty. Does the song give an honest sonic representation of what we are all feeling, when I felt that I knew we had something?



Call me twice a day
i need to see your face
To prove that I’m not still asleep
Say these things will pass
Reach right through this glass
right now reality is breaking my heart
You can say I’m scared
because I’m just as scared

And i hope i will know
Where my lips should go

Seeing as though we were doing this quickly and trying to put the idea and raw moment out without over thinking, there was an assumption that we would not be making a video. We didn’t have the normal time or man power that we usually require for our videos. But I knew there was something visually we could do to bring more people into this work. All of our friends, family, and fans were reaching out with their relation to the song, so the idea. Became very obvious. We asked everyone to film themselves in quarantine. They were given a private link to the song and were instructed to do whatever they wanted as long as it had a physical call for connection and a written message to someone they couldn’t be with at this time (friends, family, significant others). We had so many people reach out and send us their stories. Each video was specific and beautiful, it reinforced that this feeling was universal right now.

In the end, however the reception turns out, I am so proud of our community for opening their worlds to show that we are in this together.

I am proud of the band for letting this song happen without overthinking about promotion or timing, or anything other than making the piece and releasing not only for ourselves, but also for everyone in their homes right now waiting for the end to be over so they can finally hold the people they love. I hope that “After the End” will help show someone, somewhere, that they are not alone – and we will all be OK.

When the end of the world is over
I’ll be waiting on your corner
Bare skin reached out you can breath now
When the end of the world is over
Ill pull you in and i won’t let go
Hold you closer after the end is over

— —

Stream: “After the End” – Nicotine Dolls



Nicotine Dolls "in the studio" during quarantine © 2020

Nicotine Dolls FaceTime session during quarantine © 2020

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