I discovered PVRIS (pronounced Paris) during Warped Tour in 2014 where I saw them on one of the smaller stages. I remember thinking, “Girl vocalist, hell yeah!” and instantly falling in love. (Much love to the dudes in the band, too!) Lynn Gunn fronts the Massachusetts-based group, alongside Alex Babinski and Brian MacDonald. Originally starting out with a metalcore sound, the trio has grown over the past years and have established their sound to be more electronic and pop. Super comparable to Paramore and Chvrches, but super different and unique at the same time! There is so much to love about this band.
Their first studio album, White Noise, was PVRIS’s breakthrough album, and is what jump started their music career. It was released in late 2014 and included the single, “St. Patrick.” That song was the first song I ever heard from PVRIS, and I actually think it is still my “Most Played” song on iTunes. This album was the first huge platform where Lynn showcased her powerhouse vocals and Alex got to show off his jagged riffs, and Brian, his dark basslines. The most accurate word I can think of to describe PVRIS and their musical performance is powerful.
Their latest release is their second studio album called, All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell, and it was just released this past Aug. It has already made a huge impact and I think it was the perfect selection of songs to showcase their growth from White Noise. While White Noise was more pop punk, AWKOFAWNOH is more on the pop, indie/alternative, synth spectrum. Lynn’s voice has gotten more distinguishing and fiery and the whole band has executed this album in an extremely polished fashion. The talent is just unreal, and the hard work that was put into it is undeniable. The stand-out tracks of this album for me are, “Anyone Else,” “Heaven,” and, “No Mercy,” but you’ll just have to listen for yourself and decide on your own favorites!
I had the chance of talking with Lynn Gunn about the writing and recording album, some music videos PVRIS has recently released, their upcoming tour with Lights, and more! Check it out below.
How is your day going?
My day’s going good. We are in Salt Lake, and we’re on the last show of our tour with Muse and 30 Seconds To Mars. It’s a nice, bittersweet day.
How was that tour?
It’s been great. We played Red Rock about two night ago and that was a pretty surreal experience, and yeah we’ve done some crazy shows. It’s the biggest tour we’ve been on, for sure.
Congratulations on the new album! I just wanted to talk about the title. It’s super unique.
Thank you! Yeah, it comes from an Emily Dickinson poem. And when we were finishing up music videos, I was just looking up different poems and I was watching a TED Talk one day and this woman had quoted the poem and I thought it was really beautiful, so that’s kind of how it came about. It kind of fell in my lap, in a way.
Oh wow! Do you listen to a lot TED Talks? I love them!
Not so much anymore. I definitely did, but when we’re on the road it’s kind of hard to watch TV and we got bummy internet. I wanna get back into it.
I have to know all about this haunted church that it was recorded in. What was that like and what made you decide to record it there?
We found out it was haunted after we booked it. So, it was kind of a surprise to us. There’s nothing crazy going on there the whole time. Whatever was there wasn’t a dark spirit or anything. We’d hear a lot of footsteps walking around in room that people weren’t in, and there was a lot of cold spots all the time. We’d hear people come down stairs into the basement, and we would turn and look, and no one would be there. One of the last weeks we were there, we decided to set up little experiments and ghost traps with ping pong balls and chess tables, and we actually had a couple things happen!
Did that affect you recording there? Did it scare you at all?
No, not at all. We actually forgot about it after a while. The studio and the owners and the house we were staying at had a cozy and welcoming vibe, so we spaced out and forgot about it.
I know that 45 songs were written for this album. Was it hard making the decision on which songs would make it?
Yeah, it was really tricky. Some of them were full songs, and some of them were just an intro, verse, chorus, and then the rest of the structure had to be sorted out. But we really just went off what we were vibing with the most in the moment, and whatever we were connecting with. I think we narrowed it to around 20 songs, and then we were building around those for a while. And then once we had to narrow it down even more, we really went with whatever we thought resonated the most with what we were going through at the time. We kind of just let it sort itself out, in a way.
Will we hear any of the scrapped songs in the future?
It depends. I think some of them would have to be reworked a bit. I definitely want to have a lot of them heard in some way or another, so it’s just finding the proper way to put it out.
What was the whole writing and recording process like?
The writing and recording process go hand-in-hand. The producer we worked with on this record, we also worked with on our first record. Our system this time was really just kind of going in the moment and really rolling with your ideas at the time. I think a lot of producers will compartmentalize what you’re working on from day-to-day, and really structure it out. Our producer, Blake (Harnage), was very open energy and natural, and whatever we wanted to work on on a certain day, we’ll work on. He really utilized our energy the best way he can. There’s no rhyme or reason or pressure, and I think you get the best ideas out that way. But other than that, a lot of the writing was also done on the road and when we were off tour in between of touring off of White Noise. It was a work in progress up until the very end of recording.
I know there are a lot of obvious differences between this album and White Noise, but how would you describe the main differences, or maybe your favorite?
It’s kind of hard to fully make it out, just because we’re so involved with it. I think it’s hard to look from an outside perspective to see the differences, but I think one thing that is very noticeable, even from our point of view, is I think the sound is much bigger, organic, and natural. I think that had to do with where we recorded it. It was a giant church, so it was a very big, wide open space. We used a lot of new instruments that we never had the opportunity to try out before, so there’s a lot of freedom and a lot of space on it naturally from that environment, and that translated over into the sound of the record.
What are your personal, favorite lyrics off the album?
That’s tricky! I haven’t thought about that. Um, I can tell you my favorite song. I don’t know about my favorite lyric yet.
Okay, that’ll do!
[Laughs] Wait, I gotta think about this! Um, okay I think I know my favorite lyric now. There’s two that stand out for me. I don’t know if they’ll really stick out to anyone else, I think it’s just the stories behind them that I relate to. One is from the song, “Separate,” and the lyric is, “Little mirrors at your bedside/They’re just my size/Place them back/Behind my eyes/Give them life,” and I paid a little tribute to one of my favorite TV shows with that, and it was a really really subtle reference. So that, for me, was a big one.
Then I think my second favorite lyric would be from “Nola 1,” and that one would be, “On the porch the ceiling’s painted baby blue/Dressed to the nines just like the sky in early afternoon.” It was kind of a play on this superstition that they have in New Orleans with a lot of old houses, they would paint the top of the porches baby blue to trick spirits into thinking it was the daytime, and we wrote that song down there. So I really loved that one for that reason.
Aw, I love that. It’s really sentimental.
Yeah, I don’t think people would pick up on that or really know it unless I said it. So that, for me, really makes it its own thing.
My favorite song off the album is “Anyone Else,” and you have a music video out for it. Can you talk about the song and the video concept a bit?
Yeah! That’s my favorite song off the record, for sure. That song was one of the first songs we started off the record. We started it I think fall of 2015, and the first verse and the second verse were written about a year or two apart. I first started it when I broke up with my first love and it was that crazy feeling of feeling like you weren’t going to belong with anyone else, or love anybody else ever. And then fast forward it to the next year, the perspective was totally different and I was just reflecting on the toxicity and the possessiveness of that relationship, and how unhealthy it was. It was that liberating moment where you claim yourself back and you really don’t belong to anyone but your own self. That was a big song for me. And there was something really magical with the sound of it. Once we had that harp part at the end of it, it officially became my favorite song. It makes me feel some crazy shit.
Was that your first time using the harp?
Yeah! We had this really talented harp player come in for a couple days in the studio, and the whole time I was pulling up old Waterhouse paintings and everything that the harp really made me think of. Just diving into a bunch of cool visuals, and that kind of translated over into the video for it. That was a really fun video to shoot and one of my favorites so far.
Another video I want to talk about is for the song, “Winter.” It’s actually a visualette. What made you decide on that type of video?
The visualettes were kind of spur of the moment. Our schedules were kind of crazy at the time when those songs were coming out, and we really needed visuals for them but we didn’t have time to put a proper video together. But I will say, with the, “Winter,” one specifically, we had filmed a full video for it that had nothing to do with the visualette, and it wasn’t what we wanted it to be and we weren’t fully sold on it, and weren’t fully proud. We had a lot of other content for it, but it wasn’t ready yet. So that was just a visual for people to follow along with it.
The whole vibe of it was really powerful, though! You went with your gut.
That good! Yeah, our gut was telling us to give a little breadcrumb, but not the whole thing just yet! So hopefully we’ll get to put the full thing out once we get enough of the right footage for it.
So, it was recently announced that PVRIS will be featured on the upcoming Tegan and Sara compilation record and you’ll be covering, “Are You Ten Years Ago.” How do you feel about that song selection and who decided on it?
They selected the songs for everybody, but I was actually really stoked we were picked for, “Are You Ten Years Ago,” because it has a very dark and moody energy to it. But rhythmically, it’s kind of chaotic and almost panicky. So it was fun to try and strip that back and give it a much more straightforward energy to it. And I got to co-produce it so it was cool to be really involved with that. I’m really excited for everyone to hear it.
Nice! Yeah, I always love when bands cover other bands.
Yeah and it’s fun cause it’s still the song but it’s a very different interpretation of it with different energy, but I think it will have the same effect.
So, I feel like PVRIS has been non-stop for years. How has it been seeing the world while doing what you love?
It’s been great, but it’s been very crazy and takes a toll on you mentally and physically. Especially this past summer has been one of the craziest we’ve had. We’ve been in between touring with Muse and 30 Seconds, and then doing press and promo for the record, playing festivals, filming videos, getting all the visual content together for this record, pretty much non-stop. But it’s so worth it and amazing and we’re really proud of everything we’ve done.
I think Lights is the perfect support for this tour especially. Are you a fan?
Oh, absolutely! When I was in high school, I went to see her in Boston and I didn’t really listen to her too much and I was going along with a friend, and I was blown away by her show and how incredible she was live. It’s so different from her recording. Then the next record she put out, Siberia, she did another tour and I had gone again to see her and it was just as phenomenal, and yeah it felt right. We actually got to meet a few months ago, and a little bit before then as well, and she has a really great energy and great vibe. I’m very excited.
What is your favorite song to perform?
My favorite song to perform is not on our setlist just yet! I don’t want to give away too much but it’s definitely one of the songs off our new record. I think there’s a top three right now, so over the next few weeks I will be able to see what’s the favorite.
What are your plans for after the tour?
After the U.S. portion, we go straight over to the U.K. and Europe, and we’ll be there for about a month. And then after that I think we have about a month off, and then we will be announcing some more tour dates. So lots and lots of touring and then hopefully we will be able to work on more music and videos and just do everything all over again, forever.
Before we end this, I just wanted to mention you actually, about two or three years ago, you stuck a laminate on me and snuck me into your show in New Jersey.
Yeah, so thanks for that!
Oh my God, of course, you’re welcome! Oh my God, that’s so funny. Was that at Starland?
That’s so funny, well it’s good to chat with you again!
[Laughs] You too! Well, good luck on the tour!
Thank you so much, Rachael!
PVRIS will be performing at Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Oct. 9 and Terminal 5 in Manhattan on Oct. 10. Their album All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell is available now. Visit pvris.com for more info