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All there is and Nothing More: Interview with Jonny Hawkins

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Having already conquered the festival circuit and preparing to release their self-titled album, San Antonio’s Nothing More have made quick work of rousing the masses. From their cerebral lyrical content, experimental and alternative sonic development, and their stellar unified live performance, this quirky quartet have perked ears and attracted eyes from coast to coast. Fronting this eclectic ensemble is Jonny Hawkins and his piercing pipes that vocalize the anthems of indignation, upheaval and revolution found on the band’s eponymously titled album. On June 22, we got to talk to Hawkins about song development, personal investments, and a secret uncovered.

So, there are 15 songs on the album. Why so much material?
Well, online we actually have 17. The physical copy that we’re selling has 15, and if you get it on iTunes there are 17 tracks, two bonus tracks. So, even longer than you thought! (laughs) Basically, when we started working on the record we were independent, there was no label involved. We didn’t even have an agent, it was just us and our manager, Will. Basically, we moved into a house together to work on about 60 song ideas that we had complied over the course of a few years. Ranging from a lot of different lie experiences that we had all gone through. So we weeded that down to about 20 songs and from those 20 we weeded it down to17 and even then we couldn’t find it in ourselves to let go of any of them because they all had such a special place in our hearts. Since we weren’t on a label and we were doing it all on our own we said,”Why don’t we just release a long record?”

Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Kind of like asking someone to pick their favorite child. (laughs) If I had to…I think…I don’t know they’re all different, but I think “Jenny,” that one and “God Went North” are the most personal to me. Then, as far as a song that, if I were someone else, I guess I would pick one to listen to all the time…Gah, that is tough! I really like ”I’ll Be Ok” as well.

Were there any songs that were especially difficult to write or record?
“Here’s To The Heartache” was kind of difficult to finish. I don’t know why. It was more I the tail end o that song. I guess when we wrote it the core bone structure of it was just very…it was very much a ballad and being a kind of aggressive hard rock band, to get a ballad right is kind of challenging. You want it to be the best that it can be for what it its, but you also want it to not stray so far from who you are as a band by being too sentimental or too soft.

“Sex & Lies” is definitely not too sentimental. What’s the story there?
Yeah. With a lot of the songs the stories behind them are either a direct experience that one of us in the band has had or that all of us have had in different way and we write the lyrics in a way that incorporates all of our stories. This song was kind of about an experience that two of our friends had had and our drummer Paul….There were elements of stories in each line like, “In a backroom on your backside. I’m backstabbed as you backslide.” That is a literal reference to one of our best friends who got cheated on in a room right next to him at a party by his girlfriend of few months. So, it’s more like an anthem for all these people that we know in our lives, and its an anthem for people who are on the blunt end of that exchange who have some anger to let out. (laughs)

You guys are going out on tour with Sleepwave in August. How did that come together?
Yeah. It’s really exciting! We’re all huge Underoath fans. So, our management caught wind that Spencer, the lead singer for Underoath, had this new project called Sleepwave and they thought it would be a great fit. We had no idea that they even existed, or were happening, and when they told us we were flipping s**t. We were really excited! We decided to team up with them in August and that was going to kind of guide us into the biggest tour we’ve been on yet. It’s going to be our first arena tour with Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat and Hellyeah. So, all in all, not only is it going to be big and tons of energy, its going to be a lot of great bands for a very good value.

Where did the name “We Are Not Machines” come from?
That’s actually a lyric out of our song “Christ Copyright” and basically…I don’t know. It felt like we were going through all these different ideas for names for the tour and I guess stuck out to us out of all the ideas was the lyric from that song The whole lyrics was inspired, in the context of that song, it’s trying to get people to see past the arbitrary lines that we draw to put people into groups and put people into stereotypes, religious ideologies, political ideologies and really kind of see to the heart of where people are coming from, not so much the dividing lines…It just felt right. I could talk about for a really long time, but it honestly just felt right for this tour.

What is one thing you would want people to walk with after hearing the album?
I would say the biggest most common thing that we’d all like people to walk away with would e a sense of inspiration and rejuvenation. What I mean is the same feeling that I get when I listen to bands that inspire me. Like I was just listening the other day to this underground hip hop artist named Brother Ali. My drummer Paul turned me onto him, and it’s like every lyric that drips out of his mouth and the way that he delivers his lyrics, you can tell that it’s real. You can tell that this guy’s been through some s**t. When I listen to his music, it’s like I have this sense of energy. I’m like, ‘I didn’t drink an energy drink. I didn’t eat a bunch of food. I didn’t work out. I just had these words go into my eardrums and somehow I feel like I can conquer the world in this moment.’ It’s really, to me, just this amazing phenomenon; that experience that, as a band, we just want to do that exact same thing for other people. That’s the thing that has gotten us through a lot of hard times, and also inspired us to rise above certain situations in our lives and pay it forward.

You can keep up with Nothing More on Facebook and find their dates with Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat and Hellyeah here. Curious about the new album? Check out the review on Unsung Melody. Also, check out our previous conversation with Hawkins about Nothing More’s origins and influences. These guys are gaining momentum fast and you don’t want miss what the rest of 2014 has in store for them!