The talented Texans of Nothing More have established themselves has major hard rockers thanks to ferocious albums, “The Stories We Tell Ourselves” rising to the top of the charts last winter. We met with his guitarist, Mark Vollelunga, when the band opened for Bullet For My Valentine at Casino De Paris.
Would you define music as your occupation or as something you “need” to do?
Mark Vollelunga (guitar): Both. Sometimes I feel like this is what I was meant to do, and I’m happy that I can do this every day. You can either work to live or live to work, and most of the time I feel like I live to work because I am passionate about music and it fills some sort of hole or whatever. I know music has changed me and got me through some hard times, and I know it’s awesome to be able to have other people experiment that. But being a musician can also be a stressful job. I have a wife and a five-year-old son, and I’m really missing them a lot right now.
Can it be a burden?
Mark: Sometimes. This may be a stretch, but I feel like artists are sort of modern prophets in that they are carrying a lot of weight in their message. A lot of the time, old prophets weren’t accepted in their home because they were laughed out. I wouldn’t say that’s the case, but take my son: all he sees is that I’m not there. I tell him how important my job is, but all he knows is that sometimes he can’t see daddy.
Would you say musicians have a duty to get messages across or they can just make music for fun?
Mark: I think it’s a duty but if it wasn’t fun, I don’t think I would be doing it. I do believe this is what I’m meant to do. It brings a lot of purpose to my life to carry these messages and get them to other people, but it could go either way.
Would you consider getting involved into politics and support such or such candidate?
Mark: No way. There are a lot of people who go door to door and say: “Here’s my truth, believe it”. I think that’s offensive. Who are you to say that? You don’t know anything about me. Why do you think that I should accept what you’re saying? I am who I am based on my experiences, what I’ve come to learn about this world and come to learn about all my own truths. So it’s fucked up to come and tell me that my truth is incorrect, and I should believe yours instead. I could never do that. I think music is more about sharing stories and sharing truth through connection and relatability. I think that’s the only way to really speak truth.
Would you say that social unrest makes for great art?
Mark: I think I would agree with that. Not that all art must come from a bad place, but the best stories are the ones that are the most conflictual. I think they are typically those we as people gravitate towards because the greater the unrest the greater the victory.
Now that’s an apt transition to your first single, “Go To War”! It immediately gets you! What’s the secret to create hits like that?
Mark: That’s a great question! Sometimes it’s nothing that can be described correctly. Other times it’s a lyric, a sound or a collection of all those things. In that case, I think it works because we captured a great performance from Jonny. It’s neat how the song starts just with the vocals, and he has a cool tone to his voice. Then there’s just a cool story about the twists of war and it can sometimes happen in your own relationship. What I was going for – and that maybe made it across – was that it is safe to go to war with the ones you love. A lot of the times people say you hurt the ones you love the most. It’s because you’re able to! I’m able to be myself with you, you’re able to see the worst of me and at the end of the day that’s OK: we’re still going to be together. That message may not be clear sometimes because it kind of sounds like a failed relationship, but maybe some people see it too.
Do you feel it when you stumble upon a song that effective?
Mark: Definitely. But I think anybody can tell! It’s like we can all agree on what great songs and songs that have changed people are: they are catchy and have good music and lyrics. I definitely feel like in my career – and through listening to music for nearly thirty years – I kind of aligned myself with the frequencies and been able to understand, order and translate them in order to create that hopeful response.
Would you say your relationship to music has changed from the moment you started your career to the rise of Nothing More?
Mark: That’s a great question. I do I feel like I understand it more than I ever now that I have had the opportunity to learn about it and see it change me as well as others. At the same time, I still have the same relationship to music as to when I started because I still need it to live.
Is it frustrating that it took this long for Nothing More to get big?
Mark: Sometimes it was because there were definitely low points where we had to fire members of the band who we were really good friends with because we saw there was no way we could go any further with them. There were moments we weren’t sure who our next singer was going to be, but we figured it out and Johnny took over the mic.
You must have been through tough times. How do you protect yourself from criticism?
Mark: There’s always going to be people talking shit. If they don’t like our music, that’s OK. I know I feel that way about other artists. But how do I protect myself from that? I guess by accepting there’s going to be good and there’s going to be bad, and you can’t have one without the other. In regards to mental health, I’m stoke that we were able to do the campaign #IKnowJenny on the last record. I think it helped a lot of people and hopefully it gave weight to the words “mental illness”. It’s not a big stigma. If you’re sick, treat yourself. I don’t think that therapy of any sort should ever be a negative thing!
We guess you’re all going to be back in the studio soon. Is there pressure to match your previous record?
Mark: There’s always some pressure! I’m not too worried about it. If we’re told something is not good enough, we’ll just go back to the drawing board and keep working on it. But you have no way of knowing what your next idea will be, so we always try things.
What would be the most surprising song we would find on your phone?
Mark: I haven’t listened to it yet, but I downloaded Toto’s cover of Weezer! (laughs) I also love Alanis Morrisette.
And lastly, as our media is called “RockUrLife”, what rocks your life Mark?
Mark: My wife rocks my life, for sure. We’re in the middle of buying a house for the first time so it’s kind of rocking my life at the moment. Black Peaks’ last album is also rocking my life. It really impressed me!