Texas Rawk – Mark Volleunga of Nothing More

nothing more

Over the past year, San Antonio rock outfit Nothing More has impressed audiences with their eclectic hard rock sound. Their self titled album (debut for Eleven Seven and fifth album overall) have made waves throughout the music community and have yet to slow down since.

Known more on the DIY circuit around their home state of Texas, the band has slowly built a steady following that gradually became a force to be reckoned with.

We would go out to the West Coast, go to LA, go up to the Northeast a few times, but no sort of normal real tour. It’s all DIY,” explained guitarist Mark Volleunga.

Photo Credit: Bright Music Photography (via Facebook)

Photo Credit: Bright Music Photography (via Facebook)

Coming out the state of Texas, which has historically produced bands such as Pantera and Drowning Pool, Nothing More spawned out of a San Antonio music scene that had the pride of their music scene but had to fight to get ahead. This paid off in the long haul but Volleunga had his own concerns about where his home scene is nowadays.

Texas in general has always had an attitude to do it as they wanted to and being different. We’re definitely of that mindset to tell it like it is through our music and be proud of that. I would definitely say that it’s true for the major of the state and the major of the bands that come out of there. It is a huge fricken place. I think it’s just as big as the UK, but the cities are so sparse. Just going from San Antonio to El Paso there’s 500 miles and there are literally one or two cities that are actually like cities that have more than a couple thousand people.

Surprisingly enough, none of us are fans of the San Antonio music scene right now. I’ll totally call it out…I think a lot of it has to do with not having a current rock station. The station there only plays classic rock pretty much – nothing new past 2006. That’s not any one person’s fault. It’s all corporate. They have a playlist they have to stick to because they do what they’re told. It’s really sad because I think it affects kids making a band. They’re not exposed to rock on the radio. Especially with us coming from there, we never thought we could get on the radio because it was impossible. It was surprising when radio was so important and other stations played cool shit.

The actual scene there is kind of metal and Tejano. There’s nothing exciting happening. I’m sure there are bands that I don’t know about that are doing something cool there but I haven’t heard them. The majority of the city hasn’t.

Photo Credit: Sarah Carmody Photos (via Facebook)

Photo Credit: Sarah Carmody Photos (via Facebook)

He elaborated on the origins of Nothing More and how they transitioned from being a regional DIY act to a signed band with a larger recording label like Eleven Seven.

Our singer Jonny [Hawkins], who used to be our drummer – I’ve been with him for 15 years and have been touring for the past ten years, right when Dan [Oliver] joined the band.

We’ve been around for a while. We have a lot of material. A lot of it we discontinued, mainly because it was just a different singer. We just wanted to keep it special for those who have it.

Basically we focused on our region, more Texas and Louisiana, and slowly but surely grew our fan base, matured as artists and we always wanted to partner with a label, mainly because it’s the next step to reach more people. So we had been trying this whole time but we’re definitely thankful things happened the way it did.”

“Otherwise we wouldn’t have been at the right spot for people to hear us for the first time and for us to be where we are as artists, as far as maturing our sound.

nothing more bass

Musically, their sound is anything but your standard rock music heard today. Their sound focuses on the rhythm section, where drumming and bass guitars play a huge role within their sound and stands out greatly.

We’re definitely not just a rock band. We try to in all genres of music, just take the path of a sponge – soak up all that’s good and interesting, from electronica to black metal. There are a lot of cool things that all of the genres do, but a lot of the times we find ourselves…’that was really cool but the rest of the song was lame…’ or something like that. So we kind of had been inspired to make every song cool all the way through and have dynamics, of course, up and down. That’s how it’s always been I guess when we first started the band. We tried to challenge ourselves musically and put our own spin with our take on rock,” he said.

Aside from their music, he spoke about the band’s odd sounding name and how they made it stick with audiences everywhere.

For a long time, we couldn’t settle on a name. So we were kind of nameless. I remember Johnny being over at my place and we had joked about being Nothing. Then he had the idea of ‘what if it’s Nothing More?’ Then we went into a conversation about going to shows and always being it so cool. They were normal people like us. They would talk to us. It would be cool. They wouldn’t have an ego. They wouldn’t be a dick. That’s the worst thing that could happen – when you look up to your heroes, you meet them and then they’re a dick; or they’re too good to talk to you. It was always been what Nothing More meant. We’re nothing more than normal guys. We’re normal dudes who want to connect with everybody there. We all love music. That’s why you’re here so we’re not any better. We’re just people.

Photo Credit: Bright Music Photography (via Facebook)

Photo Credit: Bright Music Photography (via Facebook)

Volleunga talked about each member’s musical origins and how it helped shape their sound. “I did go to University of Texas in San Antonio and I studied classical guitar for a couple of years. I actually dropped out when we decided to go full time and decided there is no Plan B – just make Plan A work. Dan, our bass player, moved to Nashville and went to Belmont University and went there for a couple of years and studied music. Jonny, right out of high school started doing the band thing full time. He was involved in drum line for two years, so he’s got that background training.

One tune in particular that stuck out was “Mr. MTV,” which pays tribute to the one time music television channel’s ties to a popular tune. Volleunga explains, “Definitely a throwback touched on Dire Straits. When I definitely first started playing music videos and now it’s no more.”

It is kind of funny how a lot of this generation doesn’t see that. They’ve never heard that song before. That was kind of shocking and funny to me. But I think it’s almost better because it means something special. When they do find out, they go ‘oh holy crap! Look at that.’

It’s funny I remember seeing a few postings from people saying ‘MTV is playing your song!’ It’s like ‘What? How are they playing our song….ohhh they’re just playing the Dire Straits melody and you thought it was us. That’s crazy!

While fans have slowly been introduced to their music, they have quickly learned how they have been the odd band out on most tours, with their sound often in left field compared to their touring mates on each bill.

We’ve always worked on our live show and invested in that over time. Doing the DIY circuit, you really realize how we can get people to come back to the show when they don’t know your songs or when they’re seeing you for the first time. You really have to put on a show. So there are a few certain elements that we’ve been polishing and working on over the last ten years, like now with this intricate bass solo thing that we do, along with drum breakdowns to where we’re all jamming on some drums. So we feel like we can cater to almost any crowd, like playing with Killswitch Engage or with The Pretty Reckless, which we just did a tour with them in the UK.

This earned them slots on bigger events, such as Knotfest in 2014. They have attracted other larger band’s attention along the way and instantly turning them into fans.

We were definitely happy to be there. It was a bit of a dust fest. It was so much dirt and dust in the air from everybody having a real good time, which is always good but not so good for your lung cavity. I do remember hacking quite a bit.

It was really cool to once again be part of that and with all of the other awesome bands on the bill. I got to catch Atreyu. I like them and they’ve got that reunion show. They’re back at it.

He also spoke about all of the attention Nothing More has generated over the past year from larger bands and getting personally asked to join their tours.

It’s definitely crazy. When you hear people like Vinnie Paul or Jesse [Leach] from Killswitch [Engage] or anybody like that, who are all great human beings and our heroes and peers now – that’s a crazy thing and has changed in a matter of a year. So yes we definitely are surprised and definitely honored to have gone on the rocket ship and be where we’re at.

One person they toured with and became a fan was Vinnie Paul of Hellyeah, where they toured together across the United States, and also their first experience on an arena sized tour.

It was amazing. There’s really something different about an arena tour compared to a club tour. It’s great the amount of people but the connection is a little different because the people in the front row are 20 feet away. It’s a different strategy. You have to play up if you will, not down because everybody else is right there in front of you, and kind of exaggerating your stage presence helps a lot too, which is easier to do when you have a bigger stage to do it. So that was a blast. I will always have a better time if I have more room. Typically at club shows, I’m having to dodge Johnny and try not to nail him with my headstock.

So far, so good? “Kind of. He’s not very aware of his surroundings ever – so always looking out for him,” he added, with a chuckle.

By Rei Nishimoto