Interview with Mark Vollelunga of Nothing More
On Sunday afternoon, before the penultimate night of their ‘Trust’ tour with Papa Roach, I sat down with guitarist of Nothing More, Mark Vollelunga, to discuss tour, crowd response and the appeal of the breakfast taco. He was an absolute delight to talk to and didn’t seem to mind that this was clearly my first interview!
So you’ve been touring since the start of February in the US?
Yeah, as far as this year goes. That was our headliner, our ‘Truth’ tour, which was awesome. It went extremely well, and I think that was my favourite headliner we’ve ever done so far. There was an overwhelming amount of attendance, response, and like, our set, the way it was all crafted and the production and everything. I was just ecstatic with everything, really proud.
How do UK audiences compare to the US? Do you find them more responsive/less responsive?
It’s actually a little of both. Every time we come over, we have more and more people that know us now and that are fans and that sing along, and the ones that are fans and that get it are, I think, more boisterous than the ones in the US, and more stoked. But the ones that don’t are definitely more reserved, you know, arms folded, and you definitely have to win ‘em over, at first.
That’s interesting – I’ve seen you play once, and had no idea who you were, but I don’t think it took long to win me over at all, it was such an energetic performance.
Well it’s such a loyal crowd, you know, we’re playing for Papa Roach fans on this tour, so everybody’s just ‘I’m ready for Papa Roach, why do I have to sit through this band’ you know, and we’ve played with Stone Sour here, and that was sort of a similar thing, and all the way back with The Pretty Reckless-
Yeah, that’s who I saw you with.
Oh wow, so like five years ago? Damn, that’s awesome.
Yeah, it was great. So obviously you’ve done some headlining and supporting, how do you choose which songs to cut for a supporting set, as your discography grows?
That’s a good question. I feel like, most of the time it’s like we play the hits or whatever, because in general those are, you know, the songs people wanna hear, or if it is a new crowd – well they’re sort of the ‘hits’ because of the format, because it’s an easy catch or whatever. But then there are songs that just go over well, that make deeper cuts, and even live just work very well – like, for instance, tonight we’re playing ‘Christ Copyright’ and there’s kind of like a cool drum intro kind of thing, that Jonny ends up beating on the drums, with the second song we’re doing tonight, so it’s more of a live spectacle and looks cool, and it’s something that, you know, you won’t hear that on the record that way. But live it’s more about the aesthetic.
Are there any songs that surprise you with how well they go over live?
Yeah, I’d say so. Especially, really since this album came out. I never thought ‘Fadein/Fadeout’ would be a fan favourite. It’s obviously a personal favourite, being about my son and my dad, and um, just immediately how many people caught on and seeing people sing it live when we decided to start playing it live was just overwhelming. It’s a really cool, emotional rollercoaster that happens and that actually works, even with a new crowd too.
So that album came out at the end of 2017 – are you working on new music?
It’s all individual at this point. I’m up to maybe ten songs that I’ve sent to our drummer, Ben, that are more just like, guitar ideas. Some of ‘em have lyrics and melodies – more in my head – that I’ve sent to him to slowly start piecing together. He’s programmed some drums, Jonny’s got a bunch of programming ideas, and more lyric and concept things going on as well. We haven’t got into the jam room yet.
So for the writing process you all work individually and then come together?
Exactly, yeah. We’d planned to get together in the fall, we were gonna take the summer off, you know, push the reset button, and catch our breath, but we got offered the ‘Ghost’ tour, which is an incredible opportunity that we’re really excited about, so it just pushes it back basically a couple of months.
Exciting. Taking it back to your 2014 album – I’m always interested as to why bands self-title an album, so why did you choose to do that?
That’s a great question. Honestly, we really felt like, that was kind of us, and it was really showcasing everything that we had been working on with member changes, and this was the second album that Jonny was singing on and it was the first put out on a label. We’d finally gotten signed and it honestly felt right just to be self-titled, it was strong. For a while we debated whether it should be called ‘God Went North,’ the final track on the record, but that might’ve been good in some ways and bad in others just from a marketing perspective, not to get into the weeds. It set the staple – this is us and this is how we want to world to hear us for the first time, basically.
Is there an album that you’re most proud of or are you equally proud of them all individually?
More the latter. More so the song writing on the last record, especially with the accolades and achievements that it accomplished. But you know, I look at our history and I can see where we came from or what we were going through, and there are certain pieces of songs or whatever that I am really proud of and still stoked on, and we recorded that and it’s a moment in time.
What’s it been like touring with Papa Roach? Are they more wild or relaxed?
They’re way more chill, honestly. They’re a lot older and they’ve had a rollercoaster of a ride for sure. Honestly I’m super fortunate just to be able to spend time with them; they’re wise beyond their years and they’ve got a lot of stories to tell. Things to do, things not to do kind of things. Every single one of ‘ems a dad and has a family, or married or onto their second marriage or whatever. Being married and having a son as well I kind of gravitate a lot of the time towards these guys.
You’ve got the family, music’s going great – how would you rate your life out of ten at this moment?
That’s a good one, that’s interesting. I’d honestly probably say like a nine. I’m extremely grateful and extremely blessed to have found my passion, been stoked on it early on, found the right people, you know, I’ve been with Jonny nearly twenty years, and we just stuck to our guns and didn’t give up on each other. We kept pushing even though, you know, life obstacles happen. Like when I was gonna become a dad and we didn’t know if I would have to quite or not be able to tour or anything like that. Fortunately my wife was really adamant about nothing changing and us figuring it out, and obviously this was what I was working for you know, I had ten years or so invested in this, and it being my dream, too, of spreading love through music and just being able to be that light and help people through music.
Yeah, because you and Jonny met in high school, right?
Yeah, Jonny was actually in middle school. A long time ago.
My friends that I’ve known since high school – I often want to kill them, so I’m so impressed.
Trust me, there have been times, oh absolutely. I think Jonny and Dan have wrestled before, and we’ve all gotten into screaming matches with each other, and that’s kind of life. It’s sort of like, in ‘Go To War,’ it’s sort of like, why is it that the ones you love you hurt the most? Cause you’re safe to go to war with them, and you know that at the end of the day you’re gonna be ok. You can see me as I am, my worst and my best, and you know me. It’s the same way for my wife and I. That was the hardest thing – I didn’t understand, I had always just thought that fighting meant wrong and ok things were bad, but that’s wrong. Everybody fights, it’s naïve to think you’re not going to, it’s how you get through it. It’s that fighting with means fighting for. So that’s – I think a lot of people don’t realise that, myself included for sure.
Definitely, we’re told that if it’s love it should be easy, and I think it’s the opposite. And I think you’re right that ‘Go To War’ is such a great narration of that. I was such a fan of the last album, and I always worry when a new album comes out that I’m not gonna like it as much as the last-
If you’ll be let down, sure. I can completely relate, and that’s my fear with other bands too. Is it gonna be the same album, but different songs, and that’s something we keep in mind – we don’t wanna recreate the same thing, and we want it to be everything that we are but continue going, so like the heavier music or, stylistically it becomes more stylised, and emotionally it becomes even more charged or graphic or whatever it needs to, just like the next chapter in a book I guess.
How do you find the balance between progressing and keeping fans happy?
That’s a great question. Honestly it’s just finding that balance of artistic integrity and commercial appeal. You could be like, I’m gonna play as many notes as I possibly can, I’m gonna be silly and weird and think about myself and not think about other people, when it’s finding that balance, and in songwriting it’s asking is this what ten thousand people wanna sing right here, is this what they’re gonna latch onto and hold onto, and does that same phrase give me chills and make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck? Constantly checking each other and ourselves, is this what we’d say here, does this feel right, constantly listening again and again and making it the best we can.
Has there been a memorable moment where you’ve been playing and have seen it really connecting with the crowd?
Yeah, absolutely. Just thinking through our set, it’s really cool to hear – I remember, we were playing at Louder Than Life in Louisville, Kentucky, and there were probably twenty to thirty thousand people at that festival when we were playing. The Stories We Tell Ourselves had just come out and Go To War was being pushed to radio and stuff, and just stopping that last chorus and hearing everybody say ‘screaming’, the crowd screaming ‘screaming at the ones we love’, that was really cool and really did something to my heart for sure.
Amazing. I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but how do you feel about a quickfire round?
Breakfast, lunch or dinner?
Oh what’s your go-to breakfast?
Always eggs, bacon, toast, yeah. Not quite the full English, more the full American. Or breakfast tacos, being from San Antonio, it’s like, put it in a tortilla.
Tea or Coffee?
Mm. Summer or Winter?
Nice middle ground. Noise or silence?
Interesting. Would you rather give gifts or receive them?
Oh always give, for sure.
Thanks so much for answering my questions, it was a pleasure meeting you and I’m really looking forward to the show.
No problem, yeah it should be a lot of fun.