Interview: PVRIS

Photo by Eliot Lee Hazel

Photo by Eliot Lee Hazel

All we knew of PVRIS a few years ago was that they were fresh off a stellar debut release and a three-piece band that was certainly one to watch. Now, PVRIS is an extremely successful alternative band, with a uniqueness to their music that’s lead them to tours with Fall Out Boy, and even taken them as far Coachella. Their most recent release, All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell, is an indie-rock blend of laid-back sounds to in your face instrumentals, existing in perfect harmony, sounding like no other band out there right now which is exactly what we need in today's market. I had the pleasure of speaking to Brian MacDonald [bass, pictured above, left] prior to the start of their headlining tour about PVRIS’ experiences over the last few years, how it’s shaped their songwriting and the contrast of blending the visual appeal of music videos to match the content of their message. 

How’s the tour been going so far?

It’s been great! We had one warm-up show a few weeks ago in L.A., and then we played Coachella these past two weekends which was mind-blowing and amazing. We start the headlining tour today in Reno.

What was the experience of Coachella like? Did you get to catch any of the headlining acts that were playing?

It was awesome, it was a cool experience. It’s one of the biggest festivals to play so we were super honoured to play it. The first weekend we got to stay for the whole weekend, so we got to see artists like Vince Staples, The War on Drugs, The Weeknd - all very diverse, but very good acts.

Coachella itself isn’t just like a music festival - I feel like it’s another world and an experience unto itself. 

It really is. It’s super diverse, so you have all these people coming from different backgrounds of music coming to this one festival to enjoy music which is really cool.

Nothing beats a headlining show, but do you enjoy the festival experience as well?

Yeah, playing in a venue as opposed to playing a festival - there are pros and cons and obvious differences. But I love the festival vibe. I keep going back to it being diverse, you have all these festivals that have rock bands, pop artists - just every form of music in one place, and you get to dive into all of these different things. The vibe’s always great, meeting new people is always great - it’s cool winning over people of different backgrounds - I love playing festivals.

Speaking of festivals, Warped Tour is, of course, ending this year, and PVRIS really got their start on this tour.

It’s definitely a bummer. All of us grew up going to Warped Tour, it was the whole excitement of summer. You’d get up, get your tickets, and go with your friends and that was a big thing. We’re so grateful we were able to play it for a summer. It’s a bummer, but I’m sure it’s not gonna go away completely. The whole two months is gonna go away, but I still feel like there could be a festival in certain markets. It's run its course and everyone that’s been behind it is super proud of what they’ve brought up from the ground from that festival. I’m sure that there’s gonna be other festivals that come up that retain that Warped Tour vibe and have those bands there for kids to see.

Congratulations on the latest record, All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell. I know you guys took some time off between the first and second album, what was different this time around?

When we recorded the first record (White Noise), we recorded it in a small room. This was our debut record, so we were able to do a lot of stuff but it was new to us and nerve-wracking coming into the scene and releasing it. This last album, we had a lot more resources in the way of guitar amps, guitars, pianos, this and that. We had a studio we rented out in Ithaca, New York, it’s called Big Blue North. We had a bunch more resources and we were able to dabble in a lot more, as opposed to the first record where we had more limited resources and we had to work with what we had. On the first record, I recorded bass upside down! It was definitely a nice change of pace for the second album.

It’s nice to do the DIY thing but then have the total package experience as well. I feel like the first record is different, and then the second album is also different and a change,  but still retains the PVRIS sound. How would you say the songwriting has grown?

I feel like it changes through experiences of things going on in our lives personally, as well as while touring. I feel like all three of us go through different points in our lives and what we’re doing, and we incorporate that into the songs and how we bring it to life sonically. I feel like we keep that approach to writing the same because we always have written on the road, in the studio, in AirBnB’s, all that stuff. I feel like it’s experience through travelling and being on the road doing this is what shapes the songs and creates that vibe and new sound. We never go into it like, “we want to sound like this” - it happens organically. That’s how we go about it. Lynn is an amazing writer, she’ll show us ideas and it’s like “how did you even think of doing that?” It’s really cool, all three of us work as a great unit. I feel like it’s always stayed the same songwriting-wise, but with change through experience. 

Having it come organically is what will set you apart as well because forcing it just doesn’t work.

That’s the best way to put it because if you’re forcing it or trying to do what someone else is doing, you’re not being true to your craft and what you do. 

While every band strives for success, PVRIS seems to have gotten very big in a very short time. Is this what you imagined when you first started the band?

Not at all! I remember when we started the band and we wanted to play shows outside of New England and all these things. It was just the dream, to tour, explore, meet new people in different countries, etc. We went in wanting to do this but never expected it to grow this fast. We’re still so grateful, and we’re still the same people when we started the band. We’ll never change or we’ll never let what we’re doing change who we are, in the sense of having an ego. We want to stay genuine to ourselves and to the people around us. We never expected it to get it big this fast. I remember being down in a basement - we just got done rehearsing -  and we were like, “what bands do we want to tour with in the future?” And we were just having fun and making a list. Thirty Seconds to Mars and Fall Out Boy was on that list, and it all came full circle. Having that strive and that drive to be like, “I want this” - and you lose things along the way like friends, relationships, stuff like that. But if you really love what you do for work then you have to let these things go sometimes. We never expected this and we’re very grateful we’re at the spot we’re at right now.  

Like I said, you guys definitely have that originality to the band, and all of the music videos all kind of follow that similar black and white aesthetic. Do you guys feel that the visual is just as important as the music, to have that contrast to tell the story?

Yes, very much so. Lynn is the key person for visuals. If you’re putting something out sonically, you also want to have videos to match that feeling. You have that feeling sonically - a dark, eerie vibe - so matching that with music, it’s very important to keep that aesthetic and that vibe. Lynn is just super on it and our video director Raul Gonzo is the same way. He helps bring the vision to life. It’s very important to keep those just as equal. It’s the product that you put out, so it’s very important that it gets across the way you want it to, visually.

Videos are just distributed differently these days - everyone’s on YouTube, so they’re another great way to get yourself out there and be like “hey, this is what we’re about.”

Absolutely, people paint the picture in their head of what’s going on in their life when they listen to a song. So when you watch the video from the artist, you can be like: this is exactly what I was picturing, this is what I was going through in my life and how I visualized this video to be behind the lyrics and all that. It’s really cool. 

I hate to ask “what’s next?” as you just put out an album and are touring, but what are some of the goals for the band?

The goals are to keep writing music, keep touring - keeping busy, that’s the biggest thing. We’re constantly writing, we’re on the road. Keep writing music and keep touring, doing what we love. That’s the goal, that’s what’s next!

All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell is available now through Rise Records. Click here to stream the album or here to purchase a physical copy.