Born Perfect, or at Least Fine: an Interview with Nothing More Bassist Daniel Oliver

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LemonWire caught up with alternative metal band Nothing More’, one the road to promote their new album The Stories We Tell Ourselves. Shortly before their Noblesville concert we sat down with bassist Daniel Oliver. What follows is a transcript of the resulting interview.

Soulfulness isn’t something listeners usually associate with metal. Nothing More, however, is a band with the potential to brake this unfortunate stereotype. With their heartfelt lyrics and passionate vocal work, not to mention their surging bass and guitar work, Nothing More’s star has risen in the past three years.

Sharing the stage with the likes of Breaking Benjamin and Five Finger Death Punch. Nothing More has come a long way from where they were even just a few years ago. Since the release of their self-titled fourth album, Nothing More’s star has done nothing but rise.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 

One thing I’ve gotten from your band’s history is that you guys have really had to struggle to get where you are, did you ever think about giving up?

 

All the time. The way we set it up was that if every year things got better, we’d keep going. We committed to each other year by year. And yeah, there were a lot of hard times. I mean, we were so broke that it was real hard to keep a relationship together. And for a long time, the band did plateau.

Right at the end there, when we self-produced The Few not Fleeting and the self-titled album. And the self-titled record we did a Kickstarter campaign, because even though we were recording it in our living room we just didn’t have the money. we figured that this was it, that was going to be out sign-off to working so hard. That’s one reason that the album is so thick, we just did what we wanted and tried to make the best record possible. We figured “if this doesn’t move the mark and get us the attention we need to really make a living off this then we can leave with our heads held high and hang it up.”

 

So going from there, now that you’re starting to encounter success what’s that like?

 

It’s awesome. But it is different than I thought it would be. Like, this world isn’t as romantic as I thought it would be. It’s not like there are actors and supermodels backstage at each show. But one cool thing is because we struggled for so long, we became good at what we were doing with absolutely nothing. No help, no leverage, no assets, no budget, no anything. And now that we’re here, and we have awesome management, and a budget, and a label, we’re still in the driver’s seat and we can take our efforts and amplify them. It’s just incredible.

 

Speaking of incredible, I’ve been reading a little about your stage show especially the Scorpion Tail. And I just have to ask, where did that come from?

 

That’s a good question. Well, Johnny had this idea about five years ago, he called it DJ’ing the band. Like how a DJ will take recorded audio and manipulate it with pitch bends, stutter edits, and chop and screw. He wanted to do that with a live band. So, he found the plugins to do it, and found this little MIDI controller. We had this jam and he DJ’ed all the music we were making in real time. It was just incredible, but the problem was that it needed some visuals to go with it. So, I told Johnny, “let me build something that really shows this audio off. If the audience is going to hear a big dive bomb, I want them to see you wrestling a huge piece of steel over the ground, or pulling a giant lever.”

So I started building things with a friend of mine, and I didn’t really know where this was going to end up. The Scorpion Tail actually started as a mike stand. But I was also building this crane for Johnny’s drums, that lift him like twelve feet off the ground. So, I combined the ideas.

People tell me that the Scorpion Tail reminds them of the movie Alien. But there are a lot of different design elements. I was really happy with how it turned out, but when I do something artistic, I don’t have any grand plans, I just let it turn out how it will.

 

Moving on to your current release, the Stories We Tell Ourselves, I feel like deception, especially self-deception, is a theme. Care to comment?

 

We feel like self-deception is a big part of life. I mean, how truly can you perceive the world around you, and how truthful can you be about yourself to yourself and how truthful can you be to yourself about others. It’s like when you meet someone who thinks everyone is an asshole. When in truth, they’re the asshole. As a band and as individuals we focus really hard and self-analysis and just finding the truth in everything, even if it proves us wrong. Honestly, you’re better off knowing the truth instead of walking around with a delusion that you’re right.

 

At the risk of veering off into the philosophical, would you say that a lot of the time the stories we tell ourselves mask deeper fears?

 

Absolutely. I think that fear causes the stories we tell ourselves. I think that if you have self-esteem issues or if your suffering from depression or even alcoholism, you have fear. Fear that’s keeping you from your own personal truth. Typically, I think that every person is born perfect or at least fine, like in Christianity we’d call it forgiven or saved. It’s really just the idea of fear that keeps us from realizing that.

 

On that note, I notice there are a lot of audio clips on the album from the lectures of Alan Watts, and I have to ask, what’s your take on his ideas?

 

I love it. Now, remember, our band met in a Christian school and through my twenties up ‘til now, I’ve just totally disassociated myself from that community. Not out of anger, but more like I just lost interest. But what was of value form those experiences, I always kept with me. I am deeply interested in everything that Christianity has to offer, I’m just not interested in organized religion. And Alan Watts, we all had those thoughts and feelings that separated us from the church. he just so perfectly put words to what we felt and tied everything together in a way that’s like “that’s it”. He said what we believe but could never really say. And he presented this message of universal salvation.

 

This is more of a musical question. “Just Say When”, one of the singles from The Stories We Tell Ourselves, really sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to the rest of the album. Particularly since it’s a folky, acoustic piece. Does this represent an effort to broaden Nothing More’s musical pallet, or is it just a one-off experiment?

 

We’re always trying to broaden our musical pallet. But that song, it was song that Mark and Johnny started on their own. I only came to it later. We had it in the batch with all the other songs, and we asked everybody doing pre-production if it fit with the rest of the album. They said that it did. We know that it’s an oddball and the question there is “will it drive off current fans because they just want heavier music or think that it’s stupid?” I don’t think we’ll have a song that traditional again.

 

Turning to more practical matters, what do you feel you do as a bassist?

 

The bass guitar rally is the glue between the rhythm and the treble. And it’s a fun instrument because it gives note values to the guitar. Like if you just hear a guitar with drums, you can’t even tell what the chord changes are. But you throw in a bass and there it is. This has been a really fun band since I’ve joined because they really value the bass. Some bands just want the bass player to stay on the root note, but these guys push me to experiment with effects and interesting basslines. I feel like even personality wise, bass players kind of hold the band together. Like if somebody in a band is a mechanic or a welder, odds are they play bass. My goal as a person and as a bandmate and a musician is to keep these guys together and the band going.

 

What are your thoughts on tonight’s show?

 

I’m excited. Indiana has a strong rock community, more so than Texas. We’ve never done a radio interview in our home town, but when we come up to the Midwest we have like three different stations interview us. I think it’s going to go well here.

 

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