Hailing from Boston, PVRIS are one of the years most talked about bands. When the band made their Brighton debut supporting Lower Than Atlantic, BN1’s Gary Marlowe headed down to Concorde 2 to meet up with front woman Lynn Gunn and keyboard/bass player Brian MacDonald.
Every so often a new band comes along and – seemingly from out of nowhere – creates a huge buzz. You only have to look at what’s been happening on Twitter to realise that you’re one of those bands. Has that surprised you, after all, you’re third on the bill and you’re the one’s everyone’s talking about? Lynn: We’ve seen it growing little by little, so for us it’s not as drastic as perhaps it is for other people.
This is the penultimate date of the UK tour, you must be really pleased with how it’s gone and by the reaction to the band and your music? Brian: It’s been a little overwhelming for us. It’s not something you can ever really plan for. Lynn: It’s been crazy! We wanted it to be successful, but we didn’t think it would have this much momentum, this fast! We’re super-proud of the record and hoped other people would love it too. The response has been insane. We definitely weren’t expecting it!
Thinking back to when you were preparing to come over, what did you expect when you boarded the plane? Lynn: A cool country and some cool shows! But it’s exceeded that in every aspect. Brian: It’s our first time over here, too, so we really didn’t know what to expect. Lynn: We’ve played Canada before and Brian and I have been to Japan with A Loss For Words. Brian: None of us had been to Europe before.
What have you enjoyed most about being in the UK? Brian: I really like the food over here. We love the Sunday roasts! And having beans with breakfast! Lynn: I love the architecture and the atmosphere.
Have you had any time to see much of Brighton? Lynn: Only a little bit. We just had time for a quick walk around. The irony of touring is you don’t get any time to be a tourist. From what we saw, I like Brighton a lot. It reminds me a little bit of LA.
As a very young band, who is helping you on your career journey? Do you have a mentor? Lynn: Our manager, Matty Arsenault. He’s been with us since the beginning. He’s toured for like 10 years or so with A Loss For Words, so he’s taught us all his ways. Brian: He wanted us to learn from the mistakes he made touring. Lynn: And personally, I’ve been mentored by Blake Harnage who did our record.
You’re from Lowell, Massachusetts, which is also where Moxie, one of the earliest soft drinks produced in America was created… Lynn: It’s gross!
As a result of widespread brand advertising, the name “moxie” found itself in the English language, meaning “courage, daring, or spirit”. Having been listening to your album for a couple of weeks now, the word spirit resonated well as so many of the tracks have a ghostly reference to them. Is that just coincidence, or do you guys just have a deep fascination for the paranormal? Lynn: A little bit of both. I know I always feel inspired writing about that kind of stuff. I use it as a metaphor for what I’m actually trying to say. But all three of us are equally interested in the paranormal, in the dark stuff.
Your album is impressive as a body of work – with strong songs and a quickly identifiable sound. Was that something you set out to do? Lynn: No, not at all. I think it’s something that just happened subconsciously. We’re all into different genres of music and we take a lot of influence from heavier stuff as well as from pop music.
“Dark electro-pop” was one way you described it… Lynn: Yeah. I told you we’re into dark stuff!
But more recently, you refined it to “Dynamic, dark and moody” Lynn: For sure. It’s dynamic and I think it can blend into a lot of different spaces.
Musically, the album sounds fantastic, with lots of layers to it… Lynn: Thank you! We’d been trying to incorporate electronic stuff for a long time, but we didn’t have the balls to do it. When we started working with Blake he said “Just do it and focus on making the best songs you can possibly make.” So that’s what we did.
You recorded the album in Florida with Blake Harnage, producing. He’s not someone I’d heard of before, why did you choose him and what did he bring to the music? Lynn: I used to be a fan of his band Versa – they had a lot of cool programming and kind of orchestral stuff in their music. And I knew Blake was the one who did the programming. I didn’t know how to do it, but wanted to incorporate it into our music, so when I saw them play in our home town three or four years ago I went up to him after the show and told him I was trying to make my own music and asked him what kind of programs he would suggest. He gave me some to download and he gave me his email. We’ve kept in contact ever since and eventually became texting buddies, sending songs back and forth all the time. So when he found out we were ready to do the record he was like “Yo, let’s do this!”
It sounds like it was meant to be… Lynn: Yeah it was. We recorded it in his house at Port St, Lucie.
Unlike a lot of rock bands, there’s lots of complexity in your music, layers of keyboards that start appearing after a few listens, but what really impressed me was the huge drum sound you’ve got – but none of you play drums! So who’s drumming with you on tour? Brian: She can drum! She’s really good! Lynn: Our touring drummer is our friend Justin Nace, who is from Philadelphia. On the record we had this guy Chris Kamrada who is a friend of Blake’s. We recorded the drums in Blake’s living room. A lot of the drum sounds are blended with electronic sounds.
How easy is it to replicate that onstage? Lynn: It’s not hard at all!
These days of course the music is only one part of what it’s about. A band’s visual image is all-important and I have to say you’ve got a strong look. Is the PVRIS signature black and white aesthetic down to Lynn? Brian: She has such a great mind. Usually she’s thinking a step ahead of everyone, especially when it comes to how things should look. Lynn: I’m still not content with it. I like to have control and I always have an issue with anything we didn’t design ourselves.
Looking ahead, you’re off to Europe next, before returning to play Slam Dunk, but you’ve also just been added to the Reading and Leeds bill, that must be quite a thrill. Lynn: Yeah, it’s crazy!
Have you had much opportunity to play to big audiences? Brian: The biggest audiences we’ve played to so far was on the Warped Tour, but in terms of people just coming to see us it was when we played Self Help – there were a couple of thousand there.
Is it more daunting playing to a bigger or smaller audience? Lynn: I have more trouble playing smaller shows. Brian: I’m the opposite, I love the connection with the crowd that you only get in small venues.