At the end of the cycle for ‘All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell’ Lynn Gunn felt defeated. “I felt disappointed in myself and was excited just to have time off to re-evaluate things,” she admits.
After the runaway success of their debut album ‘White Noise’, ‘All We Know Of Heaven…’ took all that promise and expanded on it. Flecked with colour and confidence, the record found new extremes for the band to explore and continued their march to the top. From the outside, PVRIS continued to drench themselves in success.
Behind the spotlight though, “I had a lot of vocal issues the whole tour cycle for the last record. Having to deal with that while you’re touring is difficult. I felt like I couldn’t fully deliver what I wanted to or perform how I wanted to. I’m incredibly hard on myself, so that doesn’t make any of those situations easier for me ever. I was pretty bummed to still not be in the place that I wanted to finish.”
The album, raw, vulnerable and dealing with emotional turbulence in real-time, saw Lynn share thoughts and fears she was still working through. “It helped to be sharing it,” she starts, “but at the same time, those vocal issues meant it was really hard to be present during our performances. I couldn’t fully dive in with the crowd, and you feel like you can’t have that equal exchange with everyone. I got really in my head about it and found it hard to connect for a while. I had to evaluate my relationship with performing because it can be very stressful and high pressured, and that just built up over time and took its toll.”
This isn’t a story about giving up, though. Sure, “a lot of things just didn’t go as planned,” but the band were determined to get it right. “We felt like we needed to take a step back, start over and rebuild things. We wanted to take another crack at it.” Lynn might have ended the touring cycle for ‘All We Know Of Heaven…’ down, but she knew she wasn’t out. “I was very excited to have time off to start working on new music.”
“I’ve taken zero breaks since that cycle ended,” she grins. “Things have been very hectic, very scattered and crazy, but it’s been good. We’ve been very productive.” So, business as usual then.
There’s been meeting with labels in London, New York and LA, writing sessions on both sides of the US as they explore new collaborations and dealings with real life, wherever possible. Health issues have been dealt with; their team has recalibrated, and they’ve moved to a major label. “It was a whirlwind of a year off. But at the same time, it was good. As busy and as hectic as it was, I feel like I was able to tap into some calmness. It felt good to recharge.”
You can hear that in the first deep breathes of comeback single ‘Death of Me’. A song Lynn wrote when she was “interested in somebody that I felt could potentially hurt me emotionally. I’ve been right on that edge with somebody, and it feels like they could break my heart, or it could be the complete opposite and be great. And I want to take that risk. That’s how I step into most things. Relationships, creative endeavours or anything, I always want to step in fully. I never want to hold back. I’ll dive in and deal with it later. It’s an all or nothing mentality that only bites me in the butt sometimes. It might be something in an artist’s brain where, when you when you’re close to danger or any emotional chaos, there’s excitement ‘cos you know even if this gets completely messed up, I can make something out of it.”
That new energy is also there in the excitable stomp of ‘Hallucinations’. Written two years ago, around the same time as ‘Death Of Me’, it was initially pushed to one side as nothing special until they teamed up with producer JT Taylor who was adamant about bringing it back and working on it some more. “I put blind faith in us bringing it to something that I felt excited about,” and it paid off.
Inspired by a book on hallucinations that was given to her by a fan, the song explores the divide between belief in spirituality and science. “There’s a hard line between the two and people aren’t open to considering the fact they might be co-existing. They don’t need to be completely separate. That book pulled that thought out of me further because, with hallucinations, there’s the belief that they’re your brain recreating something that’s not there. But there’s the alternative theory that your brain is tuning in to something that you can’t see in any other situation. I like the dichotomy of well, which one is it? That’s how I feel about a lot of things to do with the supernatural and the occult.”
These two glimpses of chapter three still sound like PVRIS, razor-sharp and laced with glistening grit, but there are new horizons in every direction. Their first two albums saw them treading through the darkness, looking out. These songs dance with the light. They’re focused on things the band enjoy. We don’t want to alarm anyone, but they’re fun.
And that seems to be driving force behind this era. PVRIS have always told stories with their music and the videos. Little hints to a wider world alongside loose threads to pull at, follow and tie together. On the surface, the video for ‘Death Of Me’ is the same. Serpents and forbidden fruit aren’t the only nods to Eden while the focus has shifted from straight lines and imposing architecture to something a lot more earthy, grounded and communal. Put your pinboards away, though.
“There are a lot of references to the occult, divination and Tarot in the video. Those are things that have influenced me and bring me a lot of joy. It felt cool to feature those things in a video.” And that’s all there is to it. “I feel like a part of me has been seen now. I haven’t felt scared to share it before, but I didn’t feel ready. I’ll try to find ways to incorporate them in the future, where it feels appropriate, but I don’t want to box us in or limit things.”
Keeping things open is something PVRIS are keen to do this time around. The video for ‘Death of Me’ kept changing but “that’s one of the things where you have to roll with the punches. Any weird circumstance or limitations, you have to lean into that.”
It’s why they’re not rushing into album three. “I say we have about five solidified, guaranteed songs we want to want to release over the next year but we’re still putting an album together.” Lynn can’t say what the plan is, “I don’t want to make any promises just yet, but we’re planning to release a lot of music this year. Whatever form that is, I can’t say. We’re just trying to get the best songs we can. We want to push to improve and push to get better and better. I think there’s a lot of really great songs in the works, but I want to keep pushing it as much as possible. We’re trying to find a good balance of releasing music but also taking our time with it. We have enough in our back pocket right now to be sprinkling it out while we’re still working on more stuff.”
PVRIS always had a vision for their band. Right now, though, it’s in a state of flux. And that’s just fine with Lynn, Alex and Brian. They want their band to stand for “anything, as long as you just do it proudly and feel good about it. And like, don’t be an asshole,” grins Lynn before pausing. “We’re just not focusing on that right now. We’re focusing on making good music, putting it out and having fun with it. Hopefully, if people can take something from that, if they can have fun with us, that’s all that matters.”
Taken from the September issue of Upset. PVRIS play Reading & Leeds this weekend (23rd-25th August).