Four score and at least six albums ago (that’s studio recorded albums¹), the Nothing More clan had a dream! A gleaming vision of a local headlining show with crowd surfing, sing-alongs, and a huge fuck-off drum set on stage! At this show, blessed be the music snobs, the lip singers, the head bobbers and the booty shakers who proudly braved the sticky dive bars and tagged photos of themselves holding pots and pans² in the front row! For thine is the Kingdom of Tunes, NoMo fans unite!³
Since the dive bar days, Nothing More has done far more than pack local venues. After touring The Few Not Fleeting for several years, they ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to record their next studio album. The result was a self-titled album that caught the attention of Better Noise/Eleven Seven Music Group. Since signing with the label/management company, they’ve headlined several tours with sold out shows, shared the stage with larger than life bands at massive festivals and arenas all over the world, and even scored three Grammy nominations for the 2018 Grammy Awards.
When the Grammy nominees were announced, media outlets all over the world raced to cover the story. In the rock categories there were three nominations for a band called Nothing More. For best rock performance and best rock song, the single “Go To War” was nominated and for best rock album the band’s latest release The Stories We Tell Ourselves. As they reported the list of nominees, many journalists, bloggers, and music snobs did a double take at the band named Nothing More. Just who in the living fuck are Nothing More and what the hell are they doing on the nominee list?
Heads spun like a poltergeist during an exorcism as the majority of media outlets scrambled to figure out just who in the hell is this band from San Antonio, Texas. Many journalists and bloggers turned to Wikipedia for answers but quickly encountered a road block – “an eleven year gap left completely unexplained” in the “History” section of their page. Since they couldn’t find any easy answers in less than 1.2 seconds from a Google search, Nothing More quickly became “the Grammy-nominated band nobody’s heard of”. If no one knows about them, how in the hell have they managed to sell out shows during headlining tours, get hundreds of thousands of people to like and follow them on social media, and obtain millions of views for their music videos?
As awards night got closer, mainstream land still struggled to make sense out of Nothing More and how this “grassroots” band managed to score three Grammy nominations in a single year. Explanations ranged from industry veteran Allen Kovac successfully pitching the band’s latest album to other big wigs in mainstream to guitar-based music fading so much in popularity that the very distinction between the mainstream and underground rock scenes is virtually meaningless. Therefore, if you are not an established brand and/or have lots of album sales, you stand a snowballs chance in hell of getting any sort of recognition. Oh, and by the way, rock is apparently dead even though many of us “grassroots” rock fans never got the memo on that one.
Despite how logical the explanation, every damn one of them fails to consider the band’s talent and the high quality music they produce. If their music sucked, they wouldn’t have sold out shows, hundreds of thousands of loyal fans (many of whom have been following them for over a decade), and they sure as hell wouldn’t have Allen Kovac and the Better Noise/Eleven Seven Music Group on their side! Yes, believe it or not, Nothing More IS a fucking talented, hard-working band that produces music lots of people want to listen to AND actually pay for! Have a listen to one or several of their albums (be it the self-titled, The Few Not Fleeting, The Stories We Tell Ourselves, or any of the other old school NoMo albums for that matter) and you will begin to understand why so many people connect to their music.
If you need more of an explanation than that, this is your lucky day! Let’s have a closer listen (and a look) at the very album that caused all this Grammy kerfuffle, The Stories We Tell Ourselves.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Most of us have been listening to music our entire lives. While there have been songs we like and bands we love, we don’t always find a song (let alone an entire album) that we can connect to. Maybe you like the catchy beat of a song but can’t really understand what in the world the artist is saying. Regardless, you purchase the song because of its catchy beat and nothing else. Time passes and you forget you have the catchy tune in your music library.
Then along comes a band who releases an album that has been at the top of your favorites list and on repeat for weeks. As you listen to the album, you find yourself not only connecting to its songs but self-reflecting on those very connections. Soon, you find other fans that have formed the same connections to the music and you all start to share your experiences on social media. Comments turn into discussions, discussions into group therapy, group therapy into self-healing.
The Stories We Tell Ourselves is one of those rare albums that has not only caused many of its listeners to connect to its songs but to self-reflect on those very connections. Read any of the comments on the band’s Facebook page relating to this album and you will see the countless number of people sharing their connections with Nothing More’s music. The comments then turn into discussions, the discussions into a group therapy session.
NOTHING about this album is hypothetical. Every component, from the album title to its singles, to Allan Watts’ words of wisdom and the front cover art all illustrate the very real life experiences shared on this record. We will discuss specific songs in a bit, but first, here’s a life experience relating to the album title itself.
A story I’ve told myself…over and over again
One day your mouth tells your ears “Oh, I’m no good at drawing. Even a kindergartner has better skills than I do!” The ears listened, sent the message to the mind, and the mind started to believe that these statements were true. That new fact started to dictate your actions and overall state of mind about drawing. Eventually, road blocks and fears formed in the mind that prevented you from ever attempting to draw anything again.
This is a simple example of a story I’ve been telling myself for years. The times I have tried to overcome that self-fulfilling prophecy, I look at what’s been drawn on a piece of printer paper, tell myself it looks terrible, wad the paper up and throw it in the recycle bin. As a result, the road blocks become larger and the fear of failure a bit more intense thanks in part by the steady “I can’t do this” perspective.
One way for me to get better at drawing is to practice. No matter how hideous the stick figure, single story house, twig grass, and broccoli flower tree, I need to look at the drawing from a different perspective. While I will certainly not become a Monet overnight, I must remind myself that I will get better at it. As the cliché saying goes “Practice makes perfect.” Just because it’s not a masterpiece on the first try doesn’t mean I should give up – “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” With enough hard work and dedication, the single story house will become a cute little cottage from a fairy tale and the broccoli flower tree a massive three-hundred year old oak with a swing tied to one of its lower branches.
What are some of the stories you’ve told yourself over the years? Have any outside influences affected your perspective on that story? If so, what were those perspectives and how did they influence them? Do feel free to leave a story or two in a comment.
While you are thinking about what story (or stories) come to mind, let’s have a closer look at some of the main stories presented within the songs on this album. Keep mind this is NOT every single story or perspective portrayed on the album. If you would like to discover more of them after reading this discussion or want to dive further into the ones we do discuss, feel free to check out their music videos and/or stream the entire album on Spotify, Amazon Prime, iTunes, or whichever streaming service you prefer (click here for a full listing).
We begin with the first single, “Do you really want it?”. When something bad happens in life, our first instinct is to blame things outside of our control, whether that’s the actions or words of another person or the situation itself. Rarely do we point the finger at ourselves first if at all. Since the amount of control we have over other people and their actions is very little, what we do have control over is ourselves and our actions. So rather than blame other things around us, we need to focus on what we can change – ourselves. Even if that change is a little bit, it will still make a world of difference. Once you change yourself, other things around you will change but only if you really want that change to occur – “we can change it all if you really want it”.
“Let ‘Em Burn”
It’s the 2016 presidential elections in the United States, a time many of us wish to forget and especially not repeat. Much of the nation was not happy with the main choices for president – either a thief or a chaotic, foul-mouthed, self-absorbed billionaire. Bitter arguments between the left and right factions were a regular scene on many social media platforms. Arguments got so heated, a war of words and images broke out causing massive public discourse. The nation was split three ways – red team versus blue team versus no team at all. Each side loved to feed off of each other to steer the popular vote – “fear the left, fear the right, money is power and power decides”. When Election Day arrived, many of us held our noses, closed our eyes, and choose one of the main candidates. Others decided to vote for a third party candidate or not at all – “sick of this shit, sick of these lies, they all deny, deny, deny”. By the end of it all, many of us were ready to just say to hell with it and let it all burn to the ground so we can start over again – “we gotta burn it down so we can build it back”.
Even though this song addresses feelings towards an outside event, an Allan Watts sound bite at the beginning of the song brings the issue towards the self. Our reaction towards evil things in this world must not overstep itself. Watts warns that “we are going to terminate our race in a mutual massacre of scapegoats.” He then asks “‘who’s deceiving who? Who’s fooling who?’” and replies harshly with, “Well, you’re deceiving yourself. Everybody takes the short cuts. Everybody plays tricks. Everybody has an element of duplicity…and deception.” Damn that burns!
A Story of Love
Several of the songs off of this album including “Go To War”, “Just Say When”, “The Great Divorce” and “Still in Love” are in reference to the end of a long, committed relationship. On one side of the spectrum there’s “Go To War”, the angriest of the lot, and on the other side there’s “Just Say When”, the bittersweet realization that a significant other is not the one you’re supposed to end up with. On the outside, things seemed to be going very well, but back at home things are struggling. This is how the war begins.
“Go To War”
Whether a relationship is long term or short lived, trust is at its foundation. As that trust erodes, the need for control grows. Eventually the argument on both sides becomes circular to the point to where it spirals out of control. That spiral escalates into all-out war where you are “screaming at the ones you love” and forgetting who you can trust. Each side arms themselves with the wrongs that have been done, naming them off one by one, feeling justified in their respective argument. Beer bottles get smashed, hair gets pulled, punches get thrown, and fingers still point at opposing sides. When the dust settles, each side realizes that no one is safe from this fight and the war sadly comes to a bloody end. Check out the complete bar fight in the music video below.
“Just Say When”
Every relationship has its ups and downs – couples fight and then they work it out. Then you get to a point in the relationship where you realize that this wasn’t meant to be despite each side’s best efforts to keep things afloat. Even though the flame burned brightly, it also burned too quickly and you realize you’re no longer on the same page with the other person. This realization is nicely captured in the music video for this single. Set in an airport terminal, a place of transition, a young man with a photo sets out to track down a young woman. Eventually, the two find each other and innocently start dancing. When they realize they are not in sync with each other, the man drops to the ground in exhaustion and the woman runs away with tears in her eyes. Check out the music video below.
“Fade In/Fade Out”
The final track on the album tells a story of a father passing his legacy onto his son. When the lyric video for “Fade In/Fade Out” was released a few days before Father’s Day, it reminded us all to not take life, and especially loved ones for granted. Tell your loved ones how much you love them. Check off those bucket list items you have always wanted to do. Record that family history before those who still know the stories are gone from this world. Never leave words or feelings left unsaid. Keep those fires burning for generations to come – don’t let it be too late or you will regret it for the rest of your life.
Nothing More than great rock
Despite what the critics say about Nothing More’s music, people DO actually know about them and care enough to support the band. Those people become fans. The fans start relating and connecting to their music. When other fans find the same connection to a song, comments turn into discussions, discussions into a big group therapy session, therapy into self-healing. Not only is their music great, it means something to a lot of people. It has passion, it has soul, it has heart, and all of its intricate parts come together to create something familiar but very unique from everything else out there.
So, if you like brands that make music purely to just sell it, then Nothing More is not the band for you. If you want true artists that haven’t forgotten why music is made in the first place, then by all means dive right in and check out some NoMo music on their official website. Fair warning, there is a very high probability you will like what you hear. If that’s the case, come join some of the group therapy sessions on their Facebook page and check out one (or several) of their live shows coming to a city/town near you.
1. When I say at least six studio recorded albums, I am referring to the following Nothing More releases:
– Waiting On Rain EP
– Save You/Save Me
– The Few Not Fleeting
– Self Titled Album
– The Stories We Tell Ourselves
2. From Pots and Pans to The Scorpion Tail – Nothing More’s live shows have always been known for the portion of the set we fans like to call the intricate drum solo. This instrumental intermission involves the entire band banging on just about anything they possibly can. Some of the noise-making items include The Tay-Tay Man Can, pots and pans, construction hats with symbols attached to them, trash cans, cow bells, massive drums on stands usually on either side of the stage, the revolving bass guitar, The Drum Tron, and The Scorpion Tail. Examples of some of the old school items are provided below. All photos were taken by the author. The first three were taken during a NoMo show at Sam’s Burger Joint in San Antonio, Texas during the summer of 2009 and the fourth in February 2018 during a show at Emo’s in Austin, Texas.
3. The opening paragraph to this article is inspired by one of the best intros to “Fat Kid” the author has heard to date. This intro was proudly recited by Daniel Oliver during Nothing More’s set at MELODYFEST 2011 in San Antonio, Texas. A transcript of said intro is provided below.
Four score and seven meals ago I had a dream! I had a gleaming vision of a land where the Yoo-hoo flows like honey, where the slow shall be fast, and the geeks shall inherit the earth! In this dream, blessed be the belt breakers, the mouth breathers, the booty shakers and the diet fakers! For thine is the Kingdom of Heaven, fat kids unite! – Daniel Oliver, MELODYFEST 2011, San Antonio, TX0