A lot of bands struggle before hitting it big. Quite common are tales of playing in empty bars for beer money, of cutting a demo and attempting to get it in the hands of someone (anyone!) with the clout to make something happen. Many bands don’t make it. Others struggle for several years before finally catching their big break.
Nothing More did so for nearly a decade.
“At some point or another, we all get that feeling,” bassist Daniel Oliver said on a recent phone call. “You’re nearing your 30s and getting counsel from friends and family. Sometimes, you’re like, ‘hey, I can’t pay my bills anymore,’ and there were definitely some of those moments, but you’re always going to go through obstacles.”
Nothing More, which opens for Papa Roach on Saturday night at Revention Music Center, is no stranger to those obstacles. The San Antonio-based outfit unofficially began in the late '90s when Jonny Hawkins and Mark Vollelunga bonded over a shared love of music at church camp. Nothing More officially formed in 2003 and Oliver joined as bassist the following year.
The band played local gigs and recorded independently for a few years, but by 2008, Nothing More was on the verge of being, well, nothing more. Hawkins admittedly struggled with depression, and the band – plagued by in-fighting and lineup changes – was at a crossroads.
Hell, even when Nothing More got some good news, things went sideways. In 2008, Nothing More won a “battle of the bands” contest. However, between the time of winning the contest and having to perform as part of a showcase (and, in turn, collecting the prize money and instruments they had won), Nothing More lost its lead singer and guitarist. Hawkins then stepped up to serve as lead vocalist, and the “battle of the bands” showcase totally flopped.
“That was definitely a depressing moment,” Vollelunga said of the disappointing showcase. “We had this massive hill to climb, and we weren’t quite ready to give up.”
Nothing More, down to perhaps its last chance, turned its focus inward. Band members rallied around one another for one last independent, crowd-funded recording, which they hoped would lead to a record deal. That record, a self-titled effort, did just that, and Nothing More got picked up by Eleven Seven Music, which re-released the album in 2014.
Nothing’s More self-titled re-release peaked at No. 33 on the Billboard Top 200, and the band’s follow-up – last year’s The Stories We Tell Ourselves – debuted to critical and commercial acclaim. Not only did the album chart inside the Billboard Top 15, it was nominated for three Grammy Awards.
“To get to the point of getting nominated for a Grammy, that was really rewarding,” Oliver said. “We just kept on pushing and going through the tough times. It was scary, for sure. Even now, it’s hard, being away from loved ones and family. It would certainly be easier for them if we were home, if we had a 9-5 job. But we are prophets of encouragement and positivity, and we believe in what we’re doing.”
So, too, does Papa Roach. The band, one of the biggest in mainstream rock over the past 20 years, was once a struggling band itself. But thanks to the supernova that was “Last Resort,” coupled by subsequent hit after hits, Papa Roach has since moved millions of records and become mainstream rock radio mainstays.
Nothing More and Papa Roach met while playing the festival circuit and struck up a friendship. When it came time to designate an opener for its latest tours, Papa Roach looked to Nothing More.
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“It’s life-changing, to be able to tour with a band like Papa Roach,” said Vollelunga, the band’s guitarist. “Every stage is big now and everything sounds good. It feels like our plan is really taking off. For a couple years, it felt like maybe we weren’t getting off the ground, and then we were hitting the trees a bit. Now, everything is soaring.”
Taking flight took quite a while, but for Nothing More, it was more than worth the struggle.
“We’ve certainly learned a lot about commitment, which has taught us a lot about patience,” Vollelunga said. “We know how to weather a storm. If you truly love something, you stick with something, through good times and bad. This band has certainly given us proof of that. It’s changed us a lot.”
Papa Roach’s and Nothing More’s show is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 12 at Revention Music Center, 520 Texas. For information, call 713-230-1600 or visit reventionmusiccenter.com. $38-$63, plus fees.