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Track-by-Track: Nothing More Guitarist Mark Vollelunga Gets ‘CARNAL’

Nothing More guitarist Mark Vollelunga joins us for a special track-by-track rundown of the band’s new album studio album ‘CARNAL.’



Nothing More, photo by Travis Shinn
Nothing More, photo by Travis Shinn

If any band doesn’t need an introduction, it’s Nothing More. But let’s at least situate where the band is at right now, with the release of their latest record, CARNAL, coming this past Friday, June 28th. The Texas hard rockers have been on fire for most of the last decade. They have become among the most popular and celebrated modern American hard rock acts. This popularity has pole-vaulted them into being one of the most popular rock acts on the American and international touring circuits. They’ll return to the road for a tour with Wage War this summer. Then, they’ll be out in September for the first leg of the “Carnal Tour,” including Set It Off, From Ashes To New, and Post Profit.

Released via Better Noise Music, CARNAL features 15 brand-new tracks. The songs are focused, adventurous, and, above all, intense. This is perhaps the heaviest record they have yet to release. It also includes plenty of soaring and catchy hooks with room for experimentation and innovation. CARNAL was worked on alongside Grammy-nominated producer WZRD BLD, who has worked with Disturbed, Motionless In White, and A Day To Remember. Speaking of Disturbed, frontman David Draiman makes a guest appearance on CARNAL. I Prevail’s Eric V. also turns up.

In a very special feature, Nothing More guitarist Mark Vollelunga joins us today. He takes us through CARNAL track-by-track, with a deep dive into each song on this splendid new album.


“Let me start by saying we wanted to really build the hype and anticipation and start the album off right. ‘Carnal’ leads you up a cliff of heady introspection and into a full-blown assault of a no-thought necessary unique to Nothing More’s rocking riffs. We didn’t want to mess around so we gave everyone what they wanted right away with the album title.

“A little background… this track was sculpted together from fragments of other songs. It was created after we had a full list of album tracks. We originally didn’t think the ‘Run For Your Life’ dreaming motif would be the theme of the intro, but in typical Nothing More fashion we try to have these types of lyrical and musical themes sprinkled throughout our records. When you do this, it helps glue a record together using just the right amount of tasteful repetition.”

2. “HOUSE ON SAND” (feat. Eric V.)

“Into the rocking we go… We wanted to make sure to have a strong banger of a song right out of the gate to kick things off. A really cool thing to note is that we got to collaborate with Cody Quistad of Wage War on this song. We’ve been fans of theirs for a while and timing opened up to make it happen and write a song together. The juices were flowing, and the riff of the song came quickly which led to the heart of the song inspired from Jesus’ house on sand lecture.

“Sometimes the lyrical concept comes first and sometimes it’s the music. In this case, the music made way to us feeling the vibe to come up with the melody and lyrical concept. This theme really felt like it would have a wide range of connectivity and really tug on people’s heartstrings. Each of us personally has been through some really rough times in our lives where we didn’t heed the wisdom of our peers/mentors and have had to suffer the weight of our mistakes. Taking accountability for our actions/choices in life is a tough lesson to learn and to me, it’s the first step toward a rewarding life.

“However, making the vow to live a life of brutal, ruthless honesty is an extremely hard and humbling choice. It isn’t easy and typically it only happens when we have no other choice because every other part of our life has shattered around us. This leads to rock bottom… and it’s been said the only time real change occurs is when we experience rock bottom. Everyone eventually goes through these tough times in their lives where they have to literally build their life again. It’s a very emotional, lonely desperate place and those who have experienced this can hopefully relate to the song and find some solace.

“Fast forward six months, we played some shows with I Prevail and ended up becoming friends. When we were thinking about guest features, they were definitely on our list. I sent Eric all the demos we had for the record so far and he immediately gravitated toward ‘HOUSE ON SAND.’ Once timing made sense Eric recorded his parts and we loved having his voice on such an important song for us.”


“This was our first released single of the album, and it just went #1 in active rock radio across the nation! We couldn’t be prouder of this and are stoked people are connecting to it so much.

“With an eight-stringed massive dirty riff, it showcases some Limp Bizkit Wes Borland vibes while carrying you into an undeniable emotional catchy chorus. Holding onto hope is definitely a different kind of pain and that’s my favourite lyric in the song. So many people can relate to this when they’re hoping for a change for the better in their relationship that simply never comes. This song is that realization.”


“Track four, song three on the album is a no-brainer straightforward rock song. The original lyric of the chorus we had was ‘falling like raindrops.’ We sat with that for a while and definitely realized we could do better so we changed it to ‘angels.’ The lyrical concept stems from the finite nature of life. We all see people come and go so often so it’s definitely a public service announcement to take control of your life and make the most of it.

“I’m so pumped we finally wrote a song that showcases our Muse, Led Zeppelin, Rage Against The Machine, and Queens of the Stone Age influences. We’re all fans of these amazing bands and it’s nice to tip our hat and put our own spin on something that totally came from their styles of rock n’ roll. Plus, the song has a wacky fun guitar solo where I get to go off a bit.”


“It’s rare a song comes along that is so undeniably strong and enjoyable even though it’s so simple; at least for us this is typically quite the hurdle. We tend to go the technical route and overthink riffs, chord changes, parts, and time signatures. It was an awesome feat to accomplish a song we felt encompassed the full spectrum of what Nothing More does and yet remains simple and undeniable; complicating it would only make it worse. It pulls from Foo Fighters’ ‘My Hero’ to Switchfoot’s ‘Meant To Live’ all the while embodying big OG 30 Seconds To Mars vibes.

“‘Freefall’ is a huge anthem and I think will be a fan favourite for years to come. It’s one of those perfect scenarios where the music collides perfectly with the lyrics. I’m so proud of this one and am pumped to hear crowds sing it at the top of their lungs.”


“The original title for this song was ‘Eat What You Kill’ then it shifted to ‘Blame It On The Love’ and then finally to ‘Blame It On The Drugs.’ Sometimes songs go through different transformations. In Nothing More, we always try to make each song as strong as possible. We put them through the wringer. They have to pass lots of tests because we don’t believe in half passing any track on an album. Every song has to be a winner; all killer, no filler.

“The song concept always had the same heartbeat. The focal point is about excuses and blame; about using substances and love to avoid the real issue; self-accountability.”

Nothing More ‘CARNAL’ album artwork

Nothing More ‘CARNAL’ album artwork

7. “HEAD”

“We ended up building upon our past with the other four instrumentals on this record. In the SPIRITS record artwork, we developed all of these different spirit characters/types. Part of these are quadrants where your ‘perception’/spirit resides, head, heart, sight, and sound. We took these key perceptions to further the Nothing More world and sonically describe them.

“This track was actually birthed in 2020 and never saw its purpose fulfilled. It was only until we revisited some jam room riffs on this record that we understood its reason for existing.

“‘Head’ is a stressful instrumental and I mean that in a positive way. It’s an analytical anxiety hypnosis of a sound-base that leads you into the next song, ‘EXISTENTIAL DREAD.’ But before it kicks in we are graced with Alan Watts and he delivers this beautifully poetic lecture on fear and humanity. He explains the carefree aspect of humanity and how important it is to let go and let fear exist outside of yourself.”


“It’s pretty cool when an old flame of a music creation gets a second life. In late 2019 the first existence of this song was created. It was musically heavy and very exciting with having two unique extremely strong groovy melodic riffs. At the time we couldn’t find its lyrical identity and kept failing at writing a strong verse and chorus. So, it just disappeared and went into our scrap pile treasure trunk of unfinished songs/parts.

“Fast forward three years and we found ourselves pulling it out of that chest only to realize how cool and strong of a song it could be. We came back to it with fresh ears, newfound inspiration and discovered a beautifully disastrous concept; existential dread. Much like Peter Pan’s clock alligator analogy death is ever creeping closer and closer. And sometimes this parasitic thought prison will hold all your other thoughts captive making it nearly impossible to do anything else. This is a horrible mental place to be. I believe we crafted a dark, peculiar progressive pop-metal jam and I’m super interested to see how it connects.”

9. “HEART”

“This is the second perception instrumental on the album. It’s a wondrous cerulean dream of a track. The music’s first conception was 20 years ago when I was a music student in college living with (bassist) Dan (Oliver). It was just a really interesting lucid piece of music that almost made it into the self-titled record… That track actually turned into ‘Here’s To The Heartache’ and wrote itself out of that song so it went back to our song lost and found bin.

“When I sat down to think of the possible instrumentals on this record I rediscovered its beauty. I quickly developed a vision for how I wanted to use a specific Alan Watts lecture on the river of life. This speech always struck me, so I definitely wanted to get it into a track for others to be moved by. He articulates life being the river. When you fight against the current you end up going nowhere… so you have to realize you need to flow with life and trust yourself to the water; let it take you downstream. Once you have this lightbulb moment you build a sail to navigate it all and respect the power of the river.

“My favourite moment on the entire record is the climax of this song. It’s what I think entering heaven sounds like. That to me perfectly describes the realization of finding heaven on Earth; presence, being… surrendering yourself to life to be a living vessel for wherever the river sweeps you away to.”


“I may end up repeating myself, but ‘HEART’ sets the stage for ‘DOWN THE RIVER.’ The song concept is the same only now with a simple singer/songwriter lyrical melody. This song might be my favourite on the album too because I truly feel like it’s a perfectly written song. However, it’s written about such a deep philosophical epiphany inspired by our spiritual mascot Alan Watts. It’s amazing when you can dress up a sophisticated idea into a palatable easily digestible pop-rock song. This is a feat I’ll forever be proud of.

“We didn’t know we were trying to accomplish this at the time, but the song just flowed out of all of us. And as soon as we got a glimpse of what it was becoming, we steered it into the above-mentioned familiar waters while maintaining a simple pleasing chord structure and melody.”


“Classic bands/artists that stand the test of time (no pun intended) always have a few timeless songs in their career. This song to me has my prediction to be one of those for us. Given the subject nature, extremely relatable title, and moral this song checks all the boxes. It’s very singer-songwriter-like and was written in that vein too. (Lead singer) Jonny (Hawkins) had come up with the title and melody back in 2020. We tried to see it through for the Spirits album, but it just needed more… time… Couldn’t help myself (laughs).

“So fast forward a couple years… I spent a little time on my own rethinking the musical arrangement of it and had some strong ideas to give us the fuel to have it reach the demo stage. Then we hunkered down and finished the lyrics and music together. We thought it would just be an acoustic tune so we tracked it that way first and then Drew, our producer, pushed us to just see what would happen if we tried it full band. The song churned out super quick and really brought out some old ’90s Fuel and Incubus influences.

“I’m so happy the chorus really soars with an Elton JohnTiny Dancer’ feel. I just felt that was noteworthy because that’s one of those songs that has everyone belting the melody at the top of their lungs when that chorus hits. It’s awesome when something so strong and magical is created; not to mention how positive and mature the lyrical nature is too! My favourite quote is the big central theme, ‘As in nature, as in art, so in grace; it is rough treatment that gives souls, as well as stones, their lustre.’ – Thomas Guthrie

12. “SIGHT”

“The hypnotic trippy melody is the ballast for this ship of an instrumental. I wanted to reinforce this theme that’s used in the next song, ‘STUCK,’ and make an instrumental based around it. Dan and I created this one together and when programming it this sort of weird western creepy rave vibe started making itself known. It was just funny to have an Eastern melody (based on the melodic scale) juxtaposed with some fun unusual tones that are quite different for us.

“I wanted to have Alan Watts illustrate the self-fulfilling prophecy conundrum. This yet again strengthens the core moral heartbeat of the next song, ‘STUCK.’ Lots of times we get in our way and allow ourselves to stay in a shitty comfortable dynamic. This could be a work thing or a relationship thing or really just a life situation thing. Basically, we allow our past to become our future. To quote ourselves, we have to realize that once again we are the jail, and we are the key. This is one of my all-time favourite lyrics of ours.”

13. “STUCK”

“I’m so proud of how brutal and heavy this song is; from the riffs to the guttural screams it’s a gnarly ride. This is quite possibly the heaviest song Nothing More has ever written. It’s always great to write a song for the underdog; a rad pump-up jam for anyone about to go into a competition, fight or challenge.

“We intentionally didn’t write any second verse lyrics because we thought this could be a really cool opportunity to pair up with a hip-hop artist and explore somewhere we haven’t gone in Nothing More land. We had actually been turned onto this new/old genre of phonk by our manager’s son, Lincoln. If you haven’t been exposed to it, please do yourself a favour and check it out. It’s kind of like a mash between metal and hip-hop with really aggressive screamy hip hop rhythms.

“Jonny reached out to one of our favourite phonk artists Sinizter and he was absolutely interested. I’m pretty sure he wrote and recorded all of his parts that are on the song in a day or two because he was so psyched about it. He really took the song to 11 and somehow made it even more aggressive than all of us thought possible. Props to Sinizter and I’m so glad we got to fly him out for the music video we just shot. He’s a good dude and we look forward to doing this live with him whenever we cross paths!”


“This is the final song on CARNAL. We actually considered having ‘GIVE IT TIME’ be the closer, but once the intro to the album started then it made perfect sense to have ‘RUN FOR YOUR LIFE’ wrap up the album.

“Jonny had an idea to write a song with this line in it. We all thought it’d be an awesome idea to say that and have a scary monster riff hit you in the face, and it feels so good, so it was definitely a great idea.

“This song was also one where we completely rewrote most of the song after we decided it wasn’t strong enough. This is annoyingly frustrating, but at the end of the day we’re all so glad we decided to give it a redo. The riff just didn’t have enough monster in it and the verses didn’t feel like they were supporting the concept of the song.

“I’m just mentioning all this to bring people into our creative process and let other writers/musicians know that sometimes your first attempt isn’t necessarily the strongest. It’s hard to let the old parts go because a lot of the time you end up being quite attached. The best thing to realize is that the old version/parts of the song will always be there if your new attempt isn’t as good.

“I definitely also want to give props to Jonny for a great performance on this track too. The chorus melody has him going into the stratosphere ceiling of his range and even gives Chris Cornell a run for his money, God rest his soul. He really did a great job. I also just love how dark and haunting the end of this song is too. It goes through quite the transformation beckoning you into a low-subby trance leaving you with the ‘everything is better with the TV on’ lyric.

“Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could predict what type of journey any of our songs go on… and that makes me proud and happy to stand by everyone in this band because I truly believe we stand on our own with every album we make. They all fall into the rock genre, but they all showcase a fresh progressively different experience than the one you might get from any other radio rock band.”

15. “SOUND”

“This final trippy electronic tune revisits the melodic bridge riff of ‘EXISTENTIAL DREAD’ with a different soundscape. A lot of this was sourced from our jam room recording of this back in late 2019. Goes to show that everything is usable. And once more in typical fashion we revisit another musical motif on the record.

“Jonny put together this instrumental. He did a great job keeping the listener uncomfortable and left in a scary lucid dream-like state created from the previous track. Alan explores this creepy concept of how we need to be scared of holy people and how good people aren’t necessarily holy people; they’re either saints or devils… and sometimes it’s hard to know the difference.

“I hope you enjoy the record and my deep dive synopsis of each song. Thank you for reading and much love.”

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