Thinking Out Loud: Nothing More's Jonny Hawkins
The Nothing More frontman on human behaviour, the media and the Aztec language
Jonny Hawkins is the frontman for Texas quartet Nothing More. The band's eponymous sixth studio album was released in 2014. We caught up with the vocalist during the band's most recent UK tour and asked him what was on his mind...
"I’ve been thinking about how important discourse is and how the media frame stories, arguments, and points of view. There are very smart people out there in regards to communication who know to word things in a way that’ll polarise people, while telling half-truths about their opponent. In the US, the biggest problem we have going on right now is a breakdown in communication, because our media is so hijacked by whoever stands to gain from it. For example, there was a young girl on a business show on Fox News, talking with an older businessman. She was a young college student who they considered an idealist; she wanted a movement to get everyone’s college paid for in the US, and get the minimum wage raised. It was a really sad display to watch. The girl had some genuinely good ideas that we should all want: we should all want our country to pay for education, because the more educated we are, the better off we all are. But [the businessman] downplayed the idea by asking her how we’d get the money. She said we could tax the top 1%, just by a tiny amount, but even that would pay for all of these things we’re asking for. And his next question was, 'How are you going to get the money?' at which point, she stopped. He said: 'Listen, these are some of the smartest people in the world. They’re definitely a lot smarter than you and a lot smarter than me, and even if we could tax them, which we can’t because they’ll move their money somewhere or figure out loopholes…' He basically broke down her whole idea and tried to frame her as an idealist who has no pragmatic solutions. But in the media they’ll take it further, and try to turn her into an idiot. Really. She had a great idea, so rather than saying, 'That might not work', we should ask, 'What’s another solution?'"
"One of the most exciting things for me right now is working on the next Nothing More record. I get to be a part of the creative process and do it in the comfort of my apartment. I can make a record that’s going to sound just as good as any record that had loads of money put into it in the 90s or early 2000s. I’m making it in this tiny room because of how good technology has become. It’s made all the musical gear used to record things more available and much cheaper, and I’m really excited about it."
"How do you interact with someone who has a victim mentality? It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot, which goes along with our song Jenny – and I don’t have an answer to this. Everything that happens to them in life is always attributed to either other people doing it to them or the world being against them, and they never put themselves in that equation. [They don’t] consider how they may have caused people to act a certain way, or brought them into a situation. I’ve dealt with a few people in my life that have had this mentality, and when you try to argue with them, you can never win. If you call them out on it and call them on their shit, it gets turned around on you for being either insensitive or [you’re accused of] taking your situation, and the advantages that you have in their eyes, for granted. They don’t connect the changes you make in your own life, and the hard choices you had to make when you really wanted to go the easier route... But if you don’t say anything, they just continue to leech off the situation and do what they want with no consequences. It’ll inevitably blow up, because you can only bottle in things for so long when someone’s living in a way that continues to add pain to your life. You’ll inevitably boil over. At the moment, I feel like you can only distance yourself, which I’m not a fan of doing, because it seems like it’s running away from the problem. But with people with victim mentalities, I think distancing is the only way. I don’t know what else you could do."
"I learned that Aztec culture had no words in their language for snow, because they’d never experienced it. But in Inuit culture, they had about four different words for it because they’d experienced it at different times of the year, in many different forms. They had so much snow that they could subdivide their language into all these words for it, and I think when we talk with people and argue about certain ideas, some languages are better suited to prove certain ideas wrong or right. Language is based on what they believe about the world in the first place; we create words after our experiences. So if I experience the world as a hostile place, that’s what my [words] will be. I think it’s an aspect of being a Westerner, our language has some of that built into it. I think it’s natural to feel pessimistic, or depressed, or to be a fatalist. Our language supports it. Learning about different languages opens you up to different ideas because they don’t subdivide the world they way we do."
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