Let’s chat! Interview with Mark Vollelunga, Nothing More’s guitarist before show in Antwerp

Nothing More @ Trix // FreakMike Photography for CtrlAltMusic

A few weeks ago we had the chance to meet Mark Vollelunga, the talented guitarist of Nothing More before their show at Trix in Antwerp on February 22. Here’s how the conversation went:

First of all, welcome Mark in Antwerp! I heard you are a beer enthusiast so I brought you some Belgian beers, hope you’ll like it.

Mark: Yes indeed! Thank you so much!

You guys have been in the music industry for more than 20 years, have earned 3 grammy nominations, toured around the world, …  That’s really impressive! How did you get together?

Mark: We all met a long time ago, I think in 2001. I met Johnny (Hawkins) at a church camp. We all kind of grew up in the church and we kind of started jamming together then. It was only when Dan (Daniel Oliver – bass player) joined the band in 2005 that we actually started touring. He was the one who told us: ‘guys, we need to play outside of our city’. We were like ‘oh my god, we never had this idea before!’. And to me that is when we became a ‘real’ band and started to actually tour. At that time Johnny (our singer) was our drummer and we went through 3 or 4 different singers and it wasn’t until 2009 that Johnny first sang on ‘The Few Not Fleeting’. From then on I feel like the music is more like the ‘Nothing More’ that you know today, with Johnny at the vocals basically.

Your music often has profound and meaningful lyrics (about topics like mental health, struggles, …). 
How do you collaborate with your bandmates in the songwriting process? Where do you draw inspiration from when writing songs?

Mark: Generally writing a song starts from a concept or a personal experience that one of us had. We all sit together and we have conversations like: ‘that’s an awesome concept’, ‘that’s a strong lyric’ or ‘let’s write a song about this’ and we dive into it. For some of the songs, especially like ‘Jenny‘ and ‘Fade In/Fade Out‘, it can get really personal and emotional. It’s in those conversations that you can pick out like ‘oh that is a strong line’, ‘we should say that’, and then we put that in the song and then it kind of slowly arms itself out. That is was happens lyrically. Sometimes the lyrics happen first and then sometimes the music’s all already done and the lyrics come later, so it just depends.

Personally I can relate to a lot of your music. It has brought me comfort and inspiration during challenging moments in my life.

Mark: Thank you for sharing. We all go through dark times. Our very first album is called ‘Shelter’, because and we wanted our music and our lyrics to be a shelter for others to help those people through those times. That is very important to us. When we write songs we do ask ourselves if ‘this’ is a strong thing that other people are going to latch onto? And will it help them through what they’re going through? Music has impacted us, and those songs have really helped lift us out of those holes. It’s an honor if we can do the same for others.

What do you think makes you special compared to other bands? 

Mark: That’s a great question! I feel like it’s our persistence and our drive to stand out. To not just write cookie-cutter songs. To take more time with our lyrics and intercrafting these stories. Just standing out, being different in the sea of rock bands there are today. It’s important for us to have our own identity.

I guess it’s difficult to find your own identity especially if you’re a new band.

Mark: Yeah true it is difficult to find your own identity. There’s a quote saying that it takes 10.000 hours to become an expert in something and I really do believe that’s true for us. Even early on when we struggled to have a stable vocalist and it wasn’t until Johnny took over vocals that we were like ‘all right this is our sound!’ you know. Along with me developing what the Nothing More guitar rock sound is swell.

What do you want to achieve with making music?

Mark: I feel like I’m becoming redundant but my goal is to help other people through music, through those hard times. And if we can make a living doing so then that’s a success! We are very grateful for all the fans, for all the people that support us so we can support our families. That’s my goal, just continuing doing that.

How do you balance your personal life and your career as a musician, especially as a father and a husband?

Mark: Honestly we just you try to find new connections however you can. Fortunately these days technology’s awesome so we do a lots of FaceTime when I’m on tour. When I’m home I try to do little things for my wife and my son in regards to ordering food or having a surprise here and there, little things like that. It’s not the amount of time that is important, it’s the quality of your time together that is important.

You’re actually on tour with SiM, Siamese and Vukovi, but also with Electric Callboy.

Mark: Today’s actually SiM‘s last show, tomorrow and Saturday we’ll play with Electric Callboy in Germany and then I think it would day off. We haven’t played with Vukovi yet as their first show will be next week and they’ll be on the rest of the headline shows that we have.

How’s it going thus far?

Mark: Great! Communication has been a little harder with SiM as they don’t speak as much English, and right we don’t speak as much Japanese ourselves 😉 But it’s been a ton of fun! They’re all great bands, and it’s exciting to you know be challenged to up your game every night, and then continually put on a good show and keep bringing it.

Touring can be pretty intense, being on the road a few weeks/months how do you guys make sure you stay healthy as a band while touring? 

Mark: Rest and sleep is huge of course, and try to have boundaries with all. I think we’ve been doing this a long time so we kinda know how to do those things. There are nights to party and have fun, but then there are nights where you have to go to bed early because we have to get up early for the next show, we’ve got to be prepared. Lots of vitamins, and lots of water. I definitely recommend the vitamin game! Besides that you gotta try to keep clean, do your laundry whenever you get a chance.

You’ve been playing in Nothing More for more than 20 years now. Do you still get nervous before going on stage? 

Mark: It varies. I feel like if we haven’t played in a while I’ll get the butterflies a lot more just right before the show. But typically there is a little sense of nerves and anxiety honestly almost before every show, just a little bit. But as soon as we hear the first note, as soon as we go out there I’m like ‘I got this!’. The confidence is there and you just cruise.

Is there a specific ritual you do right before a concert?

Mark: Euhm, a shot of whiskey? 😉 Yeah besides that I’ll have some energy drink of some sort and do a lot of stretches. You know me personally as a guitar player I really have to be stretching my fore-arms.
Other than that we do a big holistic chant to Bill Braskey. It’s this fictitious SNL character that’s silly and it’s just funny. It became our chant that we kind of do before every show. We come together, sing that chant and go kick some ass!

Nothing More @ Trix // FreakMike Photography for CtrlAltMusic

A few hours later, it was time for Nothing More to come on stage, and we enjoyed every minute of their show. You can find the photo report of their show at Trix HERE.

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