Formed in 2012 by singer/LGBTQ activist Lynn Gunn, alt-rock trio PVRIS (pronounced “Paris”) blend dreamy electronica with dark, beat-heavy rock, and have returned with their brand new album, All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, which dropped on August 4th via Rise.
In our new interview, lead singer Lynn Gunn discusses the making of All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, ghosts, coming out, and more!
While recording All We Know of Heaven, what kind of conflict was there in creating an album your fans will love but also coming up with an album that you’re happy with?
I think there’s a bit of pressure, but our intention with this record was to keep our expectations the same as with White Noise in terms of just focusing on taking risks, and being in the moment, and following our own tastes and our inner compasses and seeing what felt good and natural. We didn’t want to try to force or curate anything for any specific type of person or audience.
You wrote a large portion of the songs on the new album while on the road in support of White Noise. What kind of difficultly did you face in terms of taking on the year-old subjects you wrote about and reflecting on them in the present?
I mean it was actually just that. A lot of the songs that we had selected for the record were written during the White Noise touring cycle, with a lot of them being just the intro, verse, chorus and then the rest was kind of left unresolved and incomplete. So the second verse, bridges, etc, weren’t written until we got into the studio which was like a year and a half later, so there’s a lot of reflection.
There’s a few songs on the record where the first verse and the second verse were written either like a year or two apart and have very receptive contrasts.
That sounds really last-minute, probably with vocals especially, and recording it that late.
I guess so. It was more about wanting it to feel relevant and getting it to be the best that it could be, and make it feel the most natural that it could be.
With the last few records, we worked with Blake Harnage, and our system with him is kind of all over the place where there’s no real structure or timeframe, it’s really just whatever we feel like working on.
With that kind of environment, were you able to deflate some of the pressure of writing/recording?
I think so. I think it deflated a lot of pressure because it just eliminates the cloud over your head that you need to get something done on a certain day or in a certain timeframe. And I think a lot of times when you structure out what you’re creating, it doesn’t make sense to us, and it’s just about whatever we felt inspired to do that day, whether it was vocals, production, or instruments..
You guys actually ended up writing around 45 songs for the new album. What was the process like in terms of selecting songs that appear on the final tracklist?
There weren’t like a complete 45 songs, just bits and pieces, but just enough skeletons to lay down the framework.
To pick them we spent a lot of time the first couple weeks going through and we kind of we actually narrowed it down to about twenty songs throughout the whole process and we kind of worked on all twenty of them the whole time we were recording and it was really just like I mentioned before whatever day we felt like working on it, and we just followed that.
The same thing from song to song as well and at the end we just we just kind of based it off of which songs we had finished the most and which songs resonated with us the most.
So tell me about the supposedly haunted church by you guys recorded the new album in.
Yes! So it was a church built in the early 1900s, and there were some spirits there for sure. We didn’t notice anything until the last couple of weeks, but now that I’m looking back we definitely noticed something when we first arrive. There were always cold spots, and you could always kind of hear people walking around or footsteps going downstairs into the basement.
But during the last few weeks we were there it was when the most things happened.
Our engineer had a little workstation in the basement to do a lot of editing, and he was down there almost every day, and the last two weeks he kept hearing people coming down the stairs and he would turn and look and think it was us and nobody would be there. So, he and I eventually set up these little investigations where we didn’t tell anybody else in the studio that we were doing it but we set up ping-pong balls on top of candlestick holders and we hid them throughout the basement and we would tell the spirit to the move the ball and every single time the ball would be moved or the candlestick would be moved or something else would be on top of the candlestick instead of the ping-pong ball. It definitely knew what it was doing, but it didn’t seem like anything malicious, but just playful and knew we were there.
There was another time when I was throwing darts and I jokingly said ‘all right, if anything is here help me get three bullseyes in a row’, and I threw the dart and nothing happened. I went upstairs for an hour and I would look down into the basement and the whole time I’m there nobody had gone down there, but I went back downstairs into the basement and as I looked at the dart board there were three darts in the bullseye.
White Noise dealt heavily with themes of alienation, loss, and depression, and was considerably dark. What kind of themes did you focus on this time around?
I think it has the same feelings as White Noise, but amplified by a lot, and it talks about the issues head-on. Looking back and reflecting on White Noise compared to this record, the inspiration and just the things I went through were much heavier this time around and it made everything on White Noise seem really juvenile.
Between this album and White Noise, we’ve endured the rise of Trump. Did those events ignite anything in you to fight back in a lyrical sense?
Everything involving Trump happened after we wrote the lyrics, so nothing was drawn from the election unfortunately. But I think when it comes down to it, everybody is facing fear, and there’s a lot of uncertainty, anger, and sadness, and this record touches on those emotions perfectly, it’s just a much more internalized perspective, but either way it maybe resonates with that in some way.
I love the album artwork. It’s very minimalistic.
How did the concept come about?
There was a lot of trial and error with the album art. I originally wanted to use an old Victorian photography of post-mortem photography, but there was a lot of debate as to whether that was a little too dark and we kind of all agreed that it might not be the most marketable album cover (laughs).
We decided we wanted all three of us on the cover, but I was really opposed to it and I wanted to make sure that if the three of us weren’t on the cover that it was something that wasn’t as direct. I definitely wanted to set the mood and just to leave it open-ended at the same time. So just keep it in a super minimal space that you don’t really know what it is or where it is was kind of the point of it because it’s a very subtle theme for the record but it’s like starting to come up through the woodwork where it’s like being stuck in between contrasts, and being stuck in a weird paradox, kind of like an ambiguous setting in an ambiguous perspective and circumstance, so I think the album cover matches that pretty well.
You co-produced the album, right?
I wouldn’t say co-produced, but a bit of production here and there. I’d really love to fully co-produce the next album, if not produce a good chunk of it.
What was it like to not only perform on the record but also be involved on the production side of things?
It was really cool. I’ve learned so much working with Blake and I owe everything I’ve learned to him. It was really great this time around to be able to speak his language a bit and really hone in on things that I’ve wanted to create because I had a better understanding of it and I understood the dialogue and the language better, along with knowing how to navigate that on own as far as demos and writing songs from scratch.
Let’s go back to the letter you wrote for Billboard’s Pride Month which I found to be really inspiring and impactful. What made you want to come out by leaving a letter on your mom’s pillow and leaving for your first ever tour?
Yeah, I don’t know. As far as coming out to my family, I really didn’t want to have to tell them. With my friend, it was such a natural thing where I didn’t even have to say anything, I just started dating a girl and that’s what it was and nobody asked any questions.
I felt the same way toward my family where I felt that I really shouldn’t have to explain myself to them and I should just be accepted no matter what, and so I felt really weird about confronting them about it because I couldn’t do it face-to-face, and I really wanted to make sure I could say everything I wanted to say, and so I did that through the letter because that was the easiest way for me. But I think it was actually kind of cool looking back on it because it was that in itself just writing that letter and expressing that was liberating but also just leaving for my first ever tour and kind of running away from everything was very liberating and freeing in a way.
What efforts have you guys made to ensure that your shows are a safe space for fans?
We just teamed up with an organization called the Ally Coalition, and they work with artists to promote LGBTQ equality. And what we’re doing on this tour is a percentage of each ticket goes to the Ally Coalition.
What will be happening at a lot of our upcoming shows will be local organizations, whether it’s an LGBTQ centre, or a youth centre, etc, will come out to the shows and set up a tent by the merch booth and they can talk to fans and answer any questions, and give our fans the tools to see how they can help in those cities.
It’s still a work in progress, but they’ve been great and really hands-on and very informative with us and just great at communicating with us about what’s going on in the world and allowing us to understand it, and just providing us with the tools to help. It’s been really cool, and I’m really excited to keep exploring that with them.
Do you think that gay and queer musicians are generally under-represented.
To an extent, yeah, I think there still needs to be a lot more representation in general, not just in music. There just needs to be more visibility, and I think that’s something that’s going to be changing in the next few years and in the next decade or so.
Buy All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell here.