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The Nils

The Nils - Sell Out Young - 12

Sell Out Young - 12" EP
Psyche Industry - 1985

Michael Panontin
The Nils were chronic underachievers, with their gifted singer/guitarist Alex Soria meeting an early drug-tainted death in 2004 at the age of 39. Hatched in the south-shore Montreal suburb of St-Hubert as far back as 1978 - this when the precocious Alex was a mere 12 years old! - the Nils issued the five-song Now cassette in 1982, as well as songs on the BYO compilation Something to Believe In and Psyche Industry's excellent Primitive Air Raid collection. But without a proper manager to shill the band's obvious talent and in a city with an anemic indie infrastructure, the Nils soon found themselves overshadowed by label-mates the Asexuals and by the Replacements and Husker Du south of the border. As Alex's older brother and guitarist Carlos Soria recalls in the Montreal Mirror, "We never had a proper manager. Nobody ever approached us for anything like that. The Asexuals, 39 Steps, all these bands had people working for them. We always thought, 'Fuck, this isn't fair.'"

Luckily the Nils had befriended the Doroschuk brothers of Men Without Hats, who were obviously flush with cash from the success of their dance-floor filler 'Safety Dance' (#3 U.S.) and who had agreed to co-sign a $3,500 loan for the recording of this EP. The band had wanted Ivan Doroschuk to produce Sell Out Young, but instead had to settle for brother Stefan. Carlos (in the Montreal Mirror): "We wanted Ivan to produce it because of his pop sensibilities. We wanted to be on the radio...At the time we bitched about it, but in hindsight that was a pretty good record. And it helped us a lot." With Stefan at the controls and Ivan on occasional keyboards, Sell Out Young is indeed a pop/punk gem, cutting the typically taut, acerbic guitar of eighties punk with poppier hooks and punchy melodies. The relatively benign 'Freedom' could have even been a hit on post-grunge rock radio, while the punk-lite of 'Fountains' seems to hint at the emo-world to come.

Riding on the success, critically at least, of Sell Out Young, the band signed with Profile subsidiary Rock Hotel and released the hugely popular Chris Spedding-produced The Nils LP, suddenly finding themselves touring the U.S. with the Godfathers, with the likes of Bob Mould and Paul Westerberg showing up at their gigs. But despite the LP's popularity (upwards of 50,000 copies were ultimately shifted), the rug was viciously pulled out from under the boys when Profile abruptly called them home right in the middle of the tour. (Carlos in the Montreal Mirror: "Just like that. We were devastated. We had to drive all the way back to Montreal, and let me tell you, that was the most silent trip anyone has ever been on. The beginning of the end, that day.")

And it really was. Not long after, the Nils were through, with the brothers spiralling into a world of drugs and crappy jobs. Alex would manage to record an EP, Mala Leche, in 1999 with his new band Chino, but that was about it for the Sorias. By 2004, with the brothers reduced to schlepping around boxes for a kosher food company (that ultimately closed without paying them), a clearly disenchanted Alex ran into the path of an oncoming train and one of Montreal's finer musical talents was snuffed out forever.

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