Interview: Pierce The Veil’s Vic Fuentes on recording their “eclectic” third album

April 2, 2012
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Pierce The Veil are hard at work on album No. 3—their first for Fearless Records—at David Bendeth's studio, House Of Loud, in New Jersey. Frontman Vic Fuentes checked in after a few weeks in the studio, just after the band finished drum and bass. “We’ve been moving pretty quickly, but there’s a lot to do,” he says of the full-length, which he says the band are “shooting to put it out hopefully right around Warped Tour.”

You’re working with producers Dan [Korneff] and Kato [Khandwala]. What made them stand out? Why did you guys want to work there? And with them in particular?
I heard a [record from a] friend’s band, Mayday Parade [2009's Anywhere But Here]; I think Dan mixed it. It sounded amazing. I was doing a lot of research on producers and trying to see who we liked, and I liked everything about that record, so I hit up Dan and Kato. Well, first I got a lot of advice from our friends’ bands who’ve recorded with them, because that’s the best way to really get an impression, from people who have actually spent months with them. Everyone was just raving about them, saying they’re such cool dudes and obviously very talented. That was kind of what brought us to them—just from past works and from word of mouth being super positive.

That’s how most things work: You get recommendations from your friends. That’s the best recommendation right there. What are the producers bringing to the music? What advice are they giving you? How are they helping you shape the record?
For all our records, we’ve always wanted a producer to really step up and be bold enough to have an opinion and really put a little input in. A lot of times, we get in our own world and after a while, the songs—we play them so many times—we need somebody we trust to give us a little outside perspective. They’re definitely doing that for us.

We did a ton of pre-production on these songs. I’ve always wanted to do [this] for a record, spend a lot of time before we actually record it. We set up two separate studios: one just for practicing, where we’re all just in a big circle and everything was mic’d up and we had a PA and we could record anything we do. Then we had another room with the drums set up and ready to go. Everything was ready to go to actually lay down for the record. So we would jam out a song for a couple days and then once Mike [Fuentes] was ready to play drums, we would move to the other room and lay them down. It was a real cool process.

We went song-by-song like that. On the last record [2010's Selfish Machines], Mike did all his drums for the entire record in one day, and it was kind of a nightmare. This is cool to actually really focus on the songs.

It definitely sounds like it’s a lot more precise. Even though you’re moving fast, it definitely sounds not as rushed.
We’re still rushed, but if you give me a year to write a record, I’ll spend that entire year doing it, because I feel like my work is never done. I feel like they could always be better, but at some point you have to cut me off.

When you talked to us for the Most Anticipated issue late last year, you said you thought Pierce The Veil might write a pop record, but instead the music was coming out a little more aggressive. So what happened? What was the result? What is the new music sounding like?
It’s still a pretty eclectic mix. We always like to incorporate a bit of our roots, which is really fast punk, technical thrash stuff. That’s always our bread and butter, [stuff that’s] really fun for us to do. Then, we like to branch out and challenge ourselves. We have one song on the record that’s all piano, and we’re trying not to put any guitars on it. We’re trying to challenge ourselves and do some new stuff, but at the same time, we always try and make the record sound like one whole, and not like eight different bands. I think with every record, we get a little closer to what we want. There’s a good amount of heavier songs, but heavy for us is not really [heavy]; we’re not a metal band or anything. We have our own version of heaviness.

That’s another challenge—to make a coherent record with different styles.
Yeah. It was kind of cool, because we had a lot of songs written. We’ve been writing for almost a year now, so we had a ton of songs, and when we got in there, we had a lot to work with, so that definitely helped make a coherent record. We pick our favorites out of probably like 50 songs or something like that. We were able to narrow it down to the best of the best. We’re pretty happy with the little skeleton we have right now.

How many songs were you guys writing? You said you guys wrote a ton of music.
Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve never even counted them. My hard drive is just lists and lists of stuff that I’ve done over the last year. We wrote on the road; we wrote while we were in Europe; we rented a cabin for a while and did stuff [there]. There was a lot that went into this record, a lot of thought. I think that’s really going to show on the record. It’s going to come out cool.

Of the songs that are making the record, are there any lyrical themes popping up?
I try not to really go with any sort of concept or anything like that.  Some bands are very political; some bands only write about love. Our band is always about what has recently happened, whatever is happening in our families, in our lives, our relationships, our tours and our friends. Whatever is weighing heavy in our minds is going to come out. It’s just been expansive of the past couple years and those will all be very honest and present in the record.

I know you guys wrote last summer in a cabin. I imagine from then until now—it’s almost summer again—it would be amazing how much things can change in your life, even in that short amount of time.
Absolutely. A lot has happened. I can’t wait to let a lot of it out and get it out there.

Besides the piano song, are there any curveballs or stylistic changes that you think will surprise fans?
At this point, I don’t know. I think a lot could still happen between now and the end. I always tell the producer, “If there was one record where you wanted to try anything—like you wanted to take a risk and do something crazy—do it on this record.” We don’t have any fucking rules about what the song has to be. We don’t have the type of label or people who are trying to force us to do one thing. We’re very lucky to be in that situation and just be totally free. We’re just going to be trying tons of cool stuff. The way we look at it, as long as we’re entertained by what we’re doing, that’s what matters. I don’t think it matters having a verse/chorus/verse/chorus, “here comes the bridge” and stuff like that. It’s just more about the feel.

What else do you want people to know about the record?
We just want everybody to know we’re not taking any crazy curves or anything. We’re just always pushing ourselves as hard as we can to make something…I don’t know, it’s hard to describe here. We hope they know how important [the music] all is to us, and how important it is to make something that we’re so proud of and can’t wait to share with them. We really have a close relationship with our fans and there’s kids coming to the studio dropping off letters and food and candy for us here and supporting us even while we’re in the studio. We really can’t wait to release something new and get out there and see those faces again.

And it sounds like you guys are kind of on a continuum. This record seems like it’s a logical progression from the last one.
Yeah, I think I’ve said a million times that our band will never stop progressing or pushing ourselves. A lot of bands have their own sound and put it out every time. I can respect that, but at the same time, I’m more into bands that are always changing and trying new things and accepting the fact there’s always room for personal improvement and setting goals for yourself and trying to do better at what you do. We’re songwriters, and I would love to keep doing this. When I look back when I was a kid, I laugh at the old songs I used to make. That’s kind of how we look at it.

And you can push yourself forward without losing the core of what you are. That’s what a lot of people forget.
As long as you stay very honest and soulful with what you do—that’s what Mike’s dad has always taught us. It keeps us very grounded. You can tell when a lot of bands just go through the motions and try to cater to other people, and that’s just not the way to do it. alt

Written by AltPress