by Carly Bush
According to incredibly diverse rockers Next to None, they have an advantage in the music business. They’re all fourteen years old and in their first year of high school, yet they’ve already accomplished more than many older musicians have. This is partially through the help of drummer Max Portnoy’s well-renowned father, Mike Portnoy, drummer and backing vocalist of progressive rock/metal act Dream Theater. “It really did give us a head start,” Portnoy says.
The band hopes to be able to complete their high school educations on the road, but they are still uncertain which direction they will take over the next four years. For now, the band is gaining experience performing locally on a very regular basis, such as at The Maingate Nightclub in Allentown, where they will be opening for The Winery Dogs on October 27th.
In February, they will perform on the glamorous luxury Progressive Nation at Sea four-night cruise, a lively and wild musical experience which was founded by Mike Portnoy in 2008. The Norwegian Pearl will set sail in Miami and showcase a vast variety of musical talent which falls under the progressive rock umbrella. Who are Next to None looking forward to sharing the stage with? “We’re really excited to play with acts like Transatlantic and PSMS,” Portnoy says with genuine enthusiasm.
The core structure of Next to None came together when the members were in first grade, most of whom were already immersed in musically inclined families who supported their unusual levels of passion and drive at such a young age. By the time they were in middle school, Portnoy, Ryland Holland, and Kris Rank were certain they wanted to pursue music on a professional level. Enter Thomas Cuce, whose voice—and equally strong passion for music—immediately inspired them. The band was formed and history was made.
“Our process is basically this,” Portnoy explains. “We get together and write random stuff, which [at first] always sounds terrible. But then we find something that works, and work off that.” Next to None keeps amazingly busy and ambitious, at an age when most young musicians are still taking weekly guitar lessons, not performing on travelling cruise ships and living out their dreams already. They play many different instruments, within the band as well as outside of it. Rank, for example, “used to play trumpet, but I quit.” Now he puts all of his focus on honing his skill as a bassist.
Portnoy says that his greatest influence has been his father, from whom he has grown up learning various drumming techniques, and that the highlight of the group’s career so far has been their “mini-tour” throughout Virginia and Georgia, where they developed a wider fanbase and furthered their experience.
Aside from their musical talent, the boys of Next to None support a cause which is near to their hearts. “It’s really nice to be able to volunteer for Music For Good,” Portnoy says, referring to a cancer awareness charity which receives fifty percent of all profits from merchandise purchased on their official website (nexttonone.net).
Just 2013 alone has been an impressive year for the band. This past August, the band performed at That Mag’s Liberty Music Festival. They have high hopes for the next few months, intending to record their first full-length album in early 2014 and hoping it will be out soon. “We’re shooting for January,” Portnoy says. “And we’ve got a three-song EP out now.”