Barely out of high school, Next To None, a Lehigh Valley-based band, kicks off tour in Allentown
You might think that a band with a legendary last name attached to one of the members might have an unfair advantage in breaking out, and landing instant recognition.
If you’re Max Portnoy, you’ll argue against such allegations.
Max, who is the son of ex-Dream Theater/Adrenaline Mob and current Winery Dogs drummer Mike Portnoy, and his Lehigh Valley-based band, Next To None, are coming up the hard way – even with a “boost” from Max’s famous father. Next To None, of which all members are under 18, recently released its full-length debut disc in “A Light In The Dark” (produced by Mike Portnoy, released on the esteemed Inside Out label) and is tackling the road to musical immortality the old-fashioned way by sweating it out on the road. Max, who like his dad, is an incredible drummer, extols the virtues of his band’s organic origins.
“The songs we write are 100 percent natural,” explains Max Portnoy of his band’s progressive yet melodically accessible sound. “We aren’t forcing ourselves to do odd time signatures or anything; it’s something we developed over time. I guess, as we matured, we began to add all that stuff naturally and it was super comfortable and easy for us.”
Even more impressive, these guys started on their journey together four years ago. One might wonder if Portnoy considers himself and his fellow musicians prodigies?
“We’re just a couple of kids writing music for fun but, everyone in this band is super talented,” he said. “Every day we see each other we keep getting better and better quickly. I hope one day we can be like one of those bands like Rush or Dream Theater that people look up to because of how talented they are.”
Next To None, in addition to drummer Portnoy, is comprised of vocalist/keyboardist Thomas Cruce, bassist Kris Rank, and Ryland Holland on guitar. It makes perfect sense these guys would create music together when you hear of their nearly lifelong connection.
“I’ve been friends with Kris since first grade, and I persuaded him to play the guitar,” Portnoy said. “I would always invite him over and we would just jam on drums and guitar and annoy everybody in the house, but we had fun thinking we were the next Metallica. I still have recordings of us and a music video we created from back then.”
Friendships with Holland and Cruce would follow, leading the bunch to eventually get out and play live around the band’s hometown of Coopersburg.
“Our first show ever was at an ice cream shop called The Inside Scoop,” says Portnoy. “After about a month of playing covers at local venues, Thomas and I began hanging out away from the band, and he became one of my best friends. At that point I decided that we should start writing originals. Thomas and I started writing and our first song which was called ‘Internalize,’ and is on our first EP. Kris switched to bass, and the four of us went on to become Next To None.”
For Portnoy, who lists Slipknot as his biggest influence, the “prog-rock” tendencies of Next To None came a little later in the process of the band finding its sound.
“We were originally going to be more mainstream, like an Alter Bridge sound but as we progressed I became more interested in the more intricate, technical side of music and played around with odd time signatures and different riffs,” he said. “We like to offer different things, like on this album there’s a ballad called ‘A Lonely Walk,’ with great piano parts and melodies in the arrangement.”
The East Coast tour kicked off in Allentown and takes the band the length of Virginia to Connecticut. It’s not hard to imagine this band playing to crowds even farther beyond its home base and their sound catching on to a wider audience.
“We plan on touring as much as we can, with as many musicians as we can,” Portnoy said. “Hopefully, we can successfully promote this album for the next year and then we can begin to work on our next album. Once high school is over, I plan on putting all my time and effort into making sure Next To None is successful. I’m almost positive the rest of the band is on the same page and we can assure you Next To None won’t die out.”
Mark is a Northeast Pennsylvania based music journalist who’s enjoyed interviewing legends like members of Iron Maiden, The E-Street Band and Hall & Oates, right down to the garage band next door — intrigued by a great musical story on any level.