Feature: Nicotine Dolls’ ‘How Do You Love Me’ EP is the Soundtrack to a Soul Unleashed & Exposed

Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve
Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve
Nicotine Dolls’ Sam Cieri takes us track-by-track through the band’s bold, brooding, and utterly breathtaking sophomore EP ‘How Do You Love Me,’ an intimate, emotionally charged eruption of raw vulnerability and unfiltered humanity channeled through an alternative lens.
Stream: “How Do You Love Me” – Nicotine Dolls




How do you love me right now?

New York City’s Nicotine Dolls have never shied away from life’s darker corners, finding solace through emotional exorcism – singing aloud the words most of us would rather leave unsaid. Still, nothing could have prepared fans of the band for the breathtaking onslaught of heavy feeling and feverish reckoning in their sophomore EP. Anchored by one of the most painful questions of all, How Do You Love Me is bold, brooding, and utterly breathtaking: A visceral, emotionally charged eruption of raw vulnerability and unfiltered humanity channeled through an alternative lens.

How Do You Love Me - Nicotine Dolls
How Do You Love Me – Nicotine Dolls
I make all the jokes and run from cracks
That are visible only to you react
With a long breath and worried eyes that justify
When I haven’t heard a thing you said
Cause I’ve been talking about the sounds in my head
That I never asked once about you or how you’ve been
And it’s no surprise that my friends
Aare harder and harder to come by
That look in your eyes
Shows I’ve made it about me like I do every time
I need to figure it out, write it all down
so I don’t forget how

How do you love me right now?
I wouldn’t love me right now.
How do you love me right now?

Released December 8, 2023 via Nettwerk Music Group, How Do You Love Me is the soundtrack to a soul unleashed and exposed. The long-awaited follow-up to 2021’s three-track Sex, Addiction, and Everyone Else. EP (which premiered on Atwood Magazine) sees an invigorated Nicotine Dolls empowered and in their element – crafting a musical experience that is equal parts cinematic and achingly intimate.

Ever since they debuted five long years ago, the four-piece of Sam Cieri (vocals), John Hays (guitar), John Merritt (bass), and Abel Tabares (drums) have had a special, relatively singular talent for magnifying life’s little moments into grandiose eruptions of sound, color, and feeling: From the anxious, urgent rush of 2019’s “The Madness” (still a personal favorite to this day) and the electric hope and regret fueling 2020’s delightfully infectious “Should Have Danced,” to the emotional turmoil at the core of “Burning a Good Thing” and the unapologetic passion and intensity behind “Upset the Neighbors,” Nicotine Dolls have never failed to take our breath away. Polished yet raw, at once explosive and impressively controlled, it’s no wonder Atwood Magazine previously dubbed them “a 21st Century indie rock band we should all be very, very excited about.”

Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve
Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve



How Do You Love Me arrives in the wake of a slew of standalone singles released over the past two years (including the semi-viral “What Makes You Sad”) as Nicotine Dolls honed their sound and their craft, figuring out who they wanted to be and how they ultimately wanted to sound.

“I am a fan of doing the songs that we don’t have,” frontman Sam Cieri tells Atwood Magazine. “That means a song tends to stay out of the mix if we believe it’s redundant.” A self-described over-thinker with perfectionist tendencies, Cieri has in the past held back on releasing certain Nicotine Dolls songs, and these four nearly suffered the same fate.

“Originally this EP wasn’t something we were going to do, as we’ve been working on an LP for a while as well,” he explains. “My issue is I can’t not put stuff together, so after putting ‘How Do You Love Me’ together, I just kept adding songs to a playlist, and we all loved the four that are currently on this EP, so we just decided to make it.”

“The more I do this, the more I realize being precious about when and how with music is pointless; if you have something you want to share, just do it – and that’s what we did! We liked these four and we put them out.”

Cieri candidly describes the EP as tracking his own journey from age 29 into 30. The name comes from the lead single and title track, which encapsulates so much of what these songs are saying – “which is that I am a flawed person trying their best, but possibly falling short.”

“The goal with this project was to try to not sound like anything else,” Cieri says. “It didn’t matter if what we were doing was ‘proper.’ It mattered if it felt good. I hear music as sporadic sounds that I can see. That’s what I wanted the record to have. We disregarded the attempts to fit into a playlist. It’s taken a very long time to understand that Nicotine Dolls simply sound like Nicotine Dolls, and it’s something we’re confident in.”

Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve
Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve

Digging even deeper, Cieri hopes this EP shows how he and his bandmates are growing as storytellers “both in the songwriting and the production.”

“Each piece of work we put out should challenge us as well as our audience. If we are just giving you what you expect or what we feel comfortable doing, then we are failing ourselves and you.”

It’s no wonder, then, that Nicotine Dolls keep blowing our minds. The EP’s eruptive title track sets the scene as a spirited beacon of inner turmoil and emotional unrest.

“‘How Do You Love Me’ is my personal favorite I’ve ever written,” Cieri smiles. “It does everything it wants to do in a way that is fully us. From the writing to the production, through to the video, it’s exactly what I wanted to say – and that is so rare to achieve this personally.”

“The entire third verse is my favorite verse I’ve ever written,” he continues. “It breaks my heart, but also is in this pocket that makes me smile… I don’t know, it’s a good representation of my brain, that verse.”

Narcissistic paranoia, that just means that I annoy ya
And the contacts in my phone are really more than I know
And the ones I want to talk to
are usually “busy” and “at home”
Suicidal kamikaze becomes less charming as I’m talking
I’m trying to see why you pick up when it’s me
How do you… How do you love me right now?




Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve
Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve

If “How Do You Love Me” is the beating heart of this EP, then the record’s middle two songs – the soaring anthem “SLIP” and the heart-on-sleeve power ballad “Real House” – are the muscle: Each one is a fireball of passion and pain, expressing another side of Nicotine Dolls’ artistry and chemistry.

The charismatic “SLIP” is a fun, fast-paced fever dream about slipping back into toxic routines with an ex. “When you break up with someone but find yourselves continuing to wake up in their bed, it should show as early signs of addiction,” Cieri says. “Physical connection is something that can grab two people and turn them into soup. I was in a situation where my ex and I had very responsibly chosen to be friends.”

Amateurs,” he chuckles. “Quickly we found that certain looks were deadly. This roundabout of ‘we can’t’ and ‘we can’t….again’ is a rollercoaster we couldn’t get off, mostly because we didn’t want to. I wanted to write something that felt like that, something cheeky and driving. It sounds like the feeling of catching her smiling with that one eyebrow raised from across the room, and you give in with little to no difficulty. Things could go wrong, and most likely they will. But this isn’t about things going wrong, it’s that very exciting, tingling, tension filled moments before that reality sets in.”

“If you think of that one person you find yourself turning to soup in front of looking at you from across the room at a house party you will know what this song sounds like.”

If we slip then into your arms I’ll
Fall and kick this habit that harms all
All of the missed nights in your bedroom
We play pretend who’s the one to kill the light
If we slip I’ll give it up for you
Every inch of fame and fortune
What I wish goes right out the window
Hear the crescendo, I give in to your eyes




Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve
Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve

Cieri’s second-favorite song comes at the EP’s end, with the cathartic acoustic ballad “30 Somehow.”

“It’s a bookmark song I will always look at and know exactly where I was mentally and physically,” he explains. “The opening line was one that popped out and instantly made me cry. ‘Find me a father who will stick around, one that won’t drown in the morning with bourbon and god.’ That one’s rough.”

Not all too late to try and figure it out
Get it all down on paper, the things that I want
All I’m trying to do is figure it out (not too late to try)
Over 30 somehow (not too late to try)
Here longer than I thought (not too late to try)
Cracks have expired, my room has gone tired
From holding me up, barely holding me up
I’m balanced, I’m nervous, everything’s hurting
From holding me up, barely holding me up
Maybe I should let it fall
Down, down (maybe I should let it fall)
Maybe I should let it fall
Down, down (maybe I should let it fall)

Not all too late to try and figure it out,” Cieri goes on to sing in the shiver-inducing chorus of “30 Somehow.” “Get it all down on paper, the things that I want. All I’m trying to do is figure it out. Over 30 somehow, here longer than I thought.” It’s a spellbinding confessional – the kind that makes a room instantly quiet as we come to understand him, and bear the full weight of what he’s saying through this song.

And while there is indeed a darkness to Nicotine Doll’s musical identity, this final track is ultimately all about expunging that darkness and recommitting yourself to soak up – and bask in – life’s light.




Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve
Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve



All told, How Do You Love Me is an irresistible, intoxicating fifteen minute exploration of life’s duality.

On the one hand, Nicotine Dolls’ brutally honest lyrics expose human imperfection and fragility, whilst on the other their radiant, roaring sound showcases our inner, unrelenting passions and limitless unbridled energies. Their music is, quite literally, a fever we can’t sweat out: A rush of blood to the head and the heart, and food for a worn and wary soul.

“I have said and felt everything I have needed to with these songs, so beyond their release I don’t think I have any control over how it will affect or not affect people,” Cieri shares. “My hope is the same with any of our releases in that it makes you feel something. The depth or target of that feeling is in the listeners’ hands, as it fully belongs to them now.”

Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve
Nicotine Dolls © Hannah Greve



Nicotine Dolls blaze a path that is unequivocally their own, with Cieri balancing haunting whispers with shuddering howls throughout.

Whether you’re taken by the flood of emotion in his singing or the dynamic, seismic depth of his and his bandmates’ performance, there is no denying the tremendous talent and potential of Nicotine Dolls. Experience their full record via our below stream, and peek inside How Do You Love Me with Atwood Magazine as Sam Cieri takes us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of his band’s latest EP!

— —

:: stream/purchase How Do You Love Me here ::
:: connect with Nicotine Dolls here ::
Stream: ‘How Do You Love Me’ – Nicotine Dolls



:: Inside How Do You Love Me ::

How Do You Love Me - Nicotine Dolls

— —

On the EP

Looking through these five songs is the easiest way for me to explain to someone what the last two years of my life has been. There are themes consistent with self-realization, emotional ambition, and awareness of who and where I am at this point. Minimalism vs maximalism is another aspect of the musical properties throughout this EP. Allowing myself to fully indulge in stuffing every corner with sound, while also learning to be okay with the more stripped and revealing moments.

How Do You Love Me

I had some issues socially growing up. Kids pretending to be my friend so they can publicly humiliate me. It got bad and left a decent amount of scar tissue that I still have not been able to shake. Trusting people in general is not something I do lightly and believing that those around actually like me is difficult. My flaws are always present to me and I find myself to paranoid to trust that anyone can see beyond them. This is one of the songs I wrote very quickly and it broke my heart to hear back for the first time. There is a bit of self defeat in it. Structurally I wanted it to be one big build into mania. What does it sound like when I have a full internal spiral, the ups and downs and inevitable crash. I hope that there is hope to find in the song. Maybe it’s buried in there and someone will be able to point it out to me.



SLIP

When you break up with someone but find yourselves continuing to wake up in their bed it should show as early signs of addiction. Physical connection is something that can grab two people and turn them into soup. I was in a situation where my ex and I had very responsibly chosen to be friends. Amateurs. Quickly we found that certain looks were deadly. This round about of “we can’t” and “we can’t….again” is a rollercoaster we couldn’t get off, mostly because we didn’t want to. I wanted to write something that felt like that, something cheeky and driving. It sounds like the feeling of catching her smiling with that one eyebrow raised from across the room and you give in with little to no difficulty. Things could go wrong, and most likely they will. But this isn’t about things going wrong, it’s that very exciting, tingling, tension filled moments before that reality sets in. If you think of that one person you find yourself turning to soup in front of looking at you from across the room at a house party you will know what this song sounds like.



Real House

Being in love with someone and being able to be with them are obvious and brutal dichotomies. This song came about when I found myself in a false realty me and the person I was with had created. We had tried to make things work in a real way. We were together for a few years and things fell apart. After that we would find our way back to each other and in those moments it would go beyond the physical. We would allow ourselves to fully embrace to fantasy. The fantasy where all our still prevalent issues didn’t exist or didn’t matter. We could create little pockets of perfect afternoons watching tv on the couch. Then inevitably one of us would go home and the facade would break and it would hurt. This was constant and addicting. In the song I put it through the set design of feeling like we were on a TV set. The lights go down and it’s all perfect but then they come up, someone yells cut, and it’s over. Masochistically I chose to be ok with living in the false reality but I knew she needed to move on and find the thing that she deserved which is someone who can love her and create a real life with her with no pretenses or hesitation.



30 Somehow

I sat down on my 30th birthday and wanted to take a snapshot of where I was and what was happening around me. Seeing my sister becoming an incredible mother to my niece. Gaining an ever-growing appreciation for my mom and how she single-handedly gave us the most loving home anyone would want, learning how hard she worked to achieve that. On the flip me and my dad stopped talking and my grandmother whom I love so much was diagnosed with cancer. These events and realizations in my family coincided with my own personal revelations of attempting to find joy and peace and failing more than I would like. I turned 30 and my life isn’t where I thought it would be. The song is not only a very personal timestamp of my life but also a call to myself that it’s ok that things aren’t perfect. It’s ok to be in a constant state of figuring things out and that it’s never too late to keep going. There are broken sonic elements in the recording that sound like scattered memories all tied together by a simplistic arrangement that aims to give space for emotional dynamics.

— —

:: stream/purchase How Do You Love Me here ::
:: connect with Nicotine Dolls here ::



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How Do You Love Me - Nicotine Dolls

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Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
? © Hannah Greve

:: Stream Nicotine Dolls ::



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