Interview: Nothing More
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:23:19
Nothing More stand on the cusp of superstardom. They are the next rock band, and they deserve it. They’ve done it on their own terms too. Their debut single “This Is The Time (Ballast)” just went to #1 at Active Rock radio. However, it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their stunning self-titled full-length debut album. The record twists and turns through a variety of emotions and sounds before culminating on an utterly cathartic climax. This is one of the most important albums you’ll hear all year.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Nothing More singer Jonny Hawkins talks the album and so much more.
It feels like there's a cohesive vision for Nothing More. What's your take on it as a whole?
That's a tricky question because I could go down a bunch of different rabbit holes. We put a lot of heart and soul into the progression of the album and the flow. As a whole—basically what it is to us—it's a collection of experiences over the course of about four or five years. There's some heartbreak, some loss, some struggle, and some hope through it all. We put those experiences into all of the songs you hear. We had to put them in an order. Once we put them in the correct order and started connecting and gluing them all together, it felt like the first half of the album covered a lot of issues that felt very "watery", if that makes sense. You start on the "Ocean Floor", and you go into "This Is The Time (Ballast)". Ballast is stuff they use in submarines to make you sink to the bottom. It plays along with our metaphor for a lot of the songs at the album's beginning—which deal with struggles of learning how to let go. The more we were holding on to some of those things, the more they were causing us to sink emotionally like in "This Is the Time (Ballast)". You're holding on to grudges and whatnot. As we progress through the record, the themes get a little bit fierier. The whole concept of transitioning from water to fire is an idea we got from a biblical reference. Since we all grew up in the church and knew the Bible like the back of our hands because of our experiences, there was always this symbolism of the baptism of water and the baptism of fire. Water was a turning point, symbolizing new life, just like the birth of a new baby. The symbolism of fire was after you had this new birth or these new eyes you're seeing through right now. The baptism of fire was the day-to-day refining and hammering process of walking down the path you're now walking. We took that approach with the concept of the whole record.
What inspired that? Did you approach everything with that story or picture in mind? The album is as visual as it is auditory.
That's really cool to hear. It's what we were really hoping for. We have a lot of influences from different artists. The ones who really stick out to us with their lyrics are artists like Thrice and Ben Folds. Those two come to mind right now. What we always liked about Ben Folds is he had a lot of songs that he would use personal names for. It's sort of like what we did with "Jenny". He'd tell these stories in a way that you felt like you were a part of them. Thrice would take a slightly different approach. They'd paint pictures in a way that was like you were reading a book. It's almost like high-end literature. Subconsciously, we combined some of our influences in that regard. We wanted to be poetic, but really make it a story at the same time. At the end of the day, I think stories are the most powerful and relatable things you can communicate because people can relate to them more.
The lyrics and the music both contribute to that storytelling.
Maybe we did our jobs! That's great [Laughs].
What's the story behind "Pyre"?
It's cool you asked about that. That was inspired by the whole journey of the record. In many ways, it was like the evolution of our thought process and also the evolution our lives went through. "Pyre" is after "Jenny", which goes into "God Went North". Those three songs are back-to-back for a reason. They really tell the story of our thought process and how some events played out in my life with my sister who was going through a very difficult time mentally and also with some hard drug addiction. It was happening at the same time my mom was passing away from cancer and hanging for dear life to help my sister through the process. Simultaneously, I was going through my own calibration of my world view and what I thought about life. I was about 20- or 21-years-old when a lot of this was going down. I was starting to think on my own and ask a lot of questions. I was going back to a blank slate in my head of what I believed because I was born into what my parents believed like anyone else is. I wanted to see what I thought as a new adult myself. I was restructuring my beliefs. At the same time, my mom was going the other direction. I was getting less religious, and she was getting more religious as she was getting closer towards death. It was a weird separation process. "Pyre" was something I felt solace in. Alan Watts was someone who basically said a lot of things that I was thinking, but I couldn't quite put them into words yet on my own. He put it so eloquently into words that I wanted to take some of his lectures I had been listening to and create a narrative that reflected some of my own thoughts going through that time of my life.
What else tends to influence you outside of music?
We love being influenced and inspired by things outside of music, mainly movies. A great movie is always an incredibly powerful thing. We love a lot of Stanley Kubrick films like A Clockwork Orange. Then, there's The Fountain and Tree of Life. I actually used some of those visuals in a lyric video for "If I Were". We also love a lot of philosophers. I love a guy named Sam Harris. He's more of a scientist. I'd also say Eckhart Tolle. We also love visual arts. If you go to our Instagram or Facebook, we post a lot of art posts from a variety of different visual artists. I get a lot of my content from a web site called www.ThisIsColossal.com. It's an amazing resource for these artists who do incredible things. As a band, it's not only our job to share our music, but to also share a lot of other art that inspires us. We may know about it because we're so immersed in it, but a lot of other people may not know about it. We find it to cool to share and bring that to the surface.
If you were to compare the new album to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
That's a good question! One movie that comes to mind obviously is The Fountain. I used part of it in that lyric video, and it felt in line with some of the themes on our record. It's not a very "entertaining" movie. It's not something you're going to walk away from going, "Oh yeah, I laughed, and I cried". It's very deep. If you watched it with an open mind, you're going to leave thinking. It has a lot of the same emotional qualities as far as the struggle in it goes. Maybe there's a little bit of The Joker's philosophy from The Dark Knight. There are some quotes from that which definitely resonate with some of the things we feel in "Friendly Fire" and other songs. I'd almost have to get back to you on this question after looking at a bunch of movies I've seen [Laughs].
Where did "Friendly Fire" come from?
Basically, I had a falling out with my cousin a few years ago. There are people who like to talk about others behind their backs because it makes them a feel a certain way. I think it gives them a sense of power they may not otherwise feel in their everyday lives. Some get addicted to that. I love my cousin. We were good friends growing up. At some point, her, I would call it an addiction, to gossip spread to me even though we were on good terms. We loved each other, but it got to the point where I had Nothing More fans sending me messages worrying about me since they were getting this weird information from her. She was much more religious just like other parts of my life. She was really concerned with morals and their view of morals whether it comes to smoking weed or just having a drink. It's a big deal to someone who's really religious. She started talking behind my back. It turned into me having to defend myself in a very awkward situation where we could've talked face-to-face if she had an issue with me. The song is about those kinds of people who are too cowardly to talk to your face, but they'll talk all day behind your back. They're addicted to it because it gives them a high and they get off on spreading information without you being there to defend yourself and give the other side of the story. She's not my enemy. She's someone I grew up with and loved. That's why it's called "Friendly Fire".
What artists shaped you?
Maynard James Keenan of Tool was always a huge influence. Tool as a whole is massive. I was a drummer before I was a singer so Danny was very important. The reason Maynard and Tool stick out is I grew up listening to a lot of Christian music since that's all I was allowed to listen to as a kid. There's no doubt that there are some good artists in that world. For the most part, I'm not into it. I went over to my friend's house once, and I put on his headphones. He had Ænima on. I remember being in the room by myself listening to it. It was so powerful in terms of the mood and how dark it was that it literally scared me like a scary movie does. It had that much of an impact on me. I literally threw the headphones on the ground like, "Woah, what was I just listening to?" It was so powerful and dark that it took me to this weird place. It almost intrigued me. It was like the movie Pan's Labyrinth. There was this creepy feeling, but something was drawing me further down the rabbit hole. Maynard was a huge influence as a singer, but it's really the whole band. Rage Against the Machine was also a huge influence because of the sheer passion and angst. They were conscience of social issues, things going on in the world, and things they felt nobody else was talking about. It's the combination of the psychological and deeper layered progressive thing with Tool mixed with the socially conscience activist side of Rage were a huge influence.
Have you heard Nothing More?
Check out our Feature on "Why Nothing More Is Important to Rock Music" here!