Quick Chord: Lehigh Valley teens storm onto the metal scene with prog rock outfit Next to None
Coopersburg resident Max Portnoy grew up watching his father, Mike Portnoy, provide percussion for progressive metal band Dream Theater. He recalled touring with the band at an early age and watching his father from behind the drum kit. School became a predominant part of Max’s life during non-summer months, but music – particularly the drums – already had a hold of him and it wasn’t going to let go.
“I basically lived on the tour bus,” Portnoy said. “It was really inspiring and what got me into music and wanting to do it for myself. It was always a given that I wanted to play drums. I’d watch my dad play the drum kit and I used to just hit things.”
Portnoy, now 16, has graduated from just hitting things to manning his own kit as drummer of the metal band Next to None. He and childhood friends Kris Rank (16, bass) and Ryland Holland (17, guitar) grew up listening to the same types of music, bouncing bands like Slipknot and Between the Buried and Me off each other as they explored the heavier side of rock ‘n’ roll.
Thomas Cuce (17, vocals/keyboard) was added to the mix after his appreciation for prog became apparent through his Dream Theater fandom, and the four like-minded teens began writing and playing live together in 2013. They entered the studio a year later to record a three-song EP that features the lead single “Fortune Cookie” and released a video for the song with cameos from Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider, WWE superstar and Fozzy lead singer Chris Jericho, metal band Anthrax and hosts of VH1’s “That Metal Show.” Next to None went back into the studio soon after to record their debut full-length, “A Light in the Dark,” which was released this past summer on InsideOut Records.
“Recording your first album is one of the greatest things in the world and hearing the mixes for the first time was so much fun,” Portnoy said. “I’m so thankful to share this with my best friends. I couldn’t be with a better group of people. Everything that’s happening right now is just awesome.”
Portnoy said he and the other members of Next to None were nervous about putting themselves out there because they weren’t sure if anyone was going to take them seriously or support them. To their surprise, they’re receiving messages from people around the world who appreciate their music. The response may be due to the level of work the teens puts into their craft. Portnoy used to go to a performing arts school that allowed him to focus on drumming, but as the band’s demands on his time increased he began to explore alternatives.
“We’ve been getting so many tours that I’ve been missing a lot of school, but I’m starting to get home schooled now and its really great,” Portnoy said. “I can bang out three days of work in one day if I know I’m missing three days of school. It was really hectic when I had school. It is doable, but I just think the home schooling path is a lot easier for me.”
The members of under-18 progressive metal band Next to None are juggling the demands and hardships of high school life with a burgeoning career in the music industry, but their willingness to adapt their schooling while playing shows multiple states away from their home base in the Lehigh Valley is an extension of the same work ethic that drove the four-piece to release both an EP and full-length within two years of their formation. As for what’s next for Next to None, the band is playing a run of East Coast dates in December, including Dec. 11 and Dec. 19 at Bull Shooter’s Saloon in Philadelphia.
For more information, visit Facebook.com/NextToNoneBand.