Af­ter a decade of toil­ing, Noth­ing More are fi­nally ready to hit the big time. But they’ve had to suf­fer some hard­ships along the way

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: THEA DE GALLIER

The Texan four­some ex­plain why they’ve fought for recog­ni­tion, and how it feels to break out of the base­ments and bars.


et­ting a record deal isn’t the point that you’ve made it.

It’s when the work be­gins.”

That piece of ad­vice has al­ways stuck with Noth­ing More’s Jonny Hawkins. Eleven years of hard toil on the dive bar cir­cuit and work­ing all man­ner of odd jobs to keep a roof over his head fi­nally paid off in 2014 when

Eleven Seven Mu­sic, home to Möt­ley Crüe, Papa Roach and Five Fin­ger Death Punch, signed his band and set them up for great things. First came their self-ti­tled fourth record, and now they’re build­ing on their plat­form with the bom­bas­tic The Sto­ries We Tell Our­selves. Jonny is re­flec­tive about their long quest for recog­ni­tion.

“We made a com­mit­ment to each other when we were young,” he says. “We made a pact – you can ac­tu­ally see the scars on our arms. Some dude way back in the early 1900s went to Africa and in or­der to be ac­cepted into this tribe, he had to have all these scars on his arms be­cause in their cul­ture they’d hurt them­selves and then fill the open wound with ash or some­thing. We kind of got that idea from there and ran with it. We did this burn on our arms with the back of a knife over a hot stove. We agreed that side jobs were fine, but we knew that if any of us got other jobs we were in­vested in… a real job where there was re­spon­si­bil­ity and com­mit­ment… it would threaten the amount of en­ergy that we could pour into the band. So we agreed not to have any plan Bs in the back­ground.”

This all-or-noth­ing ded­i­ca­tion is typ­i­cal of Jonny. His band’s live shows are more per­for­mance art than gig, with the cen­ter­piece be­ing bas­sist Dan Oliver’s in­ven­tion, ‘The Bassi­na­tor’. Dan, Jonny ex­plains, learned to weld on one of his side jobs, and built a con­trap­tion to hold the bass so he and gui­tarist Mark Vol­lelunga can play it to­gether “like a pi­ano”. Jonny, of­ten shirt­less and bare­foot, then joins in on a drum. The mu­sic it­self is im­pres­sive enough, with its seam­less tran­si­tions from nu metal to alt-rock to an­themic pop cho­ruses, but Jonny was de­ter­mined that, be­fore their record deal, Noth­ing More would never be just an­other band pass­ing through small venues with­out de­mand­ing at­ten­tion.

“The live per­for­mances re­ally sprung up out of ne­ces­sity be­cause we didn’t have a la­bel and we weren’t play­ing any shows with any kind of pro­file – it was dive bars or places where peo­ple weren’t there to see the mu­sic, they were just there to drink,” he ex­plains.

The stag­ing and per­for­mance ideas are taken from real-life ex­pe­ri­ences; Jonny’s spell in a march­ing band at school gave him the idea of play­ing the ex­tra drum on­stage, and

Dan and Mark got the idea for The Bassi­na­tor while work­ing a night­shift at UPS load­ing boxes onto a plane.

The Eleven Seven deal, and re­lease of their 2014 self-ti­tled al­bum, was when Noth­ing More be­gan re­ally mak­ing waves in our world. Tours with US rock ra­dio gi­ants such as Five Fin­ger Death Punch, Halestorm and Shine­down fol­lowed, and the pres­sure to im­press be­came more in­tense.

“Tour­ing was pretty good for the most part. It was a huge step up from what we were do­ing be­fore,” Jonny re­mem­bers. “We were noth­ing but grate­ful and thank­ful to all the bands. A lot of times, we had very short sets on tours like that, so we just had a mo­ment to re­ally grab peo­ple’s at­ten­tion. It was a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult than we thought, how quickly we had to sound­check and set up and get ready for those large au­di­ences.”

Then, sud­denly, ev­ery­thing went quiet. When the high of tour­ing ended, the band were thrust back into the real world, and Jonny’s per­sonal life be­gan fall­ing apart.

“We were home get­ting our lives in or­der af­ter hav­ing been gone for so long,” he says. “A lot of the songs on this record are about heart­break and strug­gle. When I got home af­ter three years of in­tense tour­ing, I went through a divorce of an eight-year re­la­tion­ship. It was pretty tough; it’s for the best and we’re both in a much hap­pier place, but I had to get ev­ery­thing in or­der and get my life back. It was a pain­ful process but I came out a stronger hap­pier and bet­ter per­son, so a lot of that went into this record.”

As well as chan­nelling his emo­tions into the lyrics, Jonny was also de­ter­mined to de­liver the goods and build on the suc­cess of their last al­bum.

“This record was a pretty chal­leng­ing one; it’s our sopho­more re­lease in re­gards to the world hear­ing us and it be­ing on a la­bel, so there was a lot more pres­sure this time around,” he ad­mits. “Most of that is self-cre­ated. I’m my own worst critic. I think that’ll cre­ate good re­sults, but it’s also rid­dled with anx­i­ety and panic at­tacks. You get huge mo­ments of self-doubt where you’re like, ‘This is all shit!’. Then you get other mo­ments like, ‘This is go­ing to change the world!’”

Jonny’s tenac­ity and hon­esty as a song­writer em­anates from ev­ery track. There’s the call-to-ac­tion of Do You Re­ally Want It, whose grooves sit some­where be­tween In­cubus and the Beastie Boys; the Deftones-re­call­ing glitchy fuzz of Rip­ping Me Apart and The Great Divorce; the griev­ing howl of Still In Love; and even an acous­tic bal­lad, Just Say When, which isn’t miles away from early Fall Out Boy. On paper, it sounds like a schiz­o­phrenic hop through op­pos­ing gen­res, but the fin­ished re­sult is so co­he­sive, it’s like Noth­ing More have cre­ated a genre all their own.

As for what’s next, Jonny is cagey. “I try not to give too many ideas away be­cause I want it to be a sur­prise,” he says con­spir­a­to­ri­ally.

Right now, he’s rev­el­ling in the al­bum’s crit­i­cal suc­cess, and the band are back on the tour­ing cir­cuit, with Euro­pean dates sched­uled through­out Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, and Ja­pan and Aus­tralia on the cards af­ter that. The young friends who spent a decade ply­ing their craft and hon­our­ing their prom­ise are fi­nally prov­ing that they were al­ways bet­ter than tiny crowds and base­ment venues. It’s a good job they made that pact not to get ‘real jobs’ af­ter all, be­cause rock would have missed out on a truly ex­cit­ing band.

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