PVRIS embrace their new music: “We’ve always kind of been a pop act”
Earlier today, pop-seared darkwave enthusiasts PVRIS released "Hallucinations," their second new tune in as many months. As with the band's previous single, “Death Of Me,” the dynamic song is full of tiny sonic detailing—oscillating guitars, wobbly electronic effects, shimmering percussion—and an explosive chorus, from which deep dance grooves and propulsive beats rain down like confetti.
"Hallucinations" had an interesting piecemeal genesis: Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Lynn Gunn started the song in Los Angeles last year during a co-writing session with Marshmello and Amy Allen and later finished it at a separate session in Nashville with JT Daly. Gunn especially found a kindred spirit in Daly, the frontman for Paper Route who's also co-written songs for K.Flay; in fact, he's become her go-to musical collaborator for this current round of recording.
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The "Hallucinations" video, also released today, is quintessential PVRIS. It includes references to the occult and alien abduction, among other things. ("We wanted to have the video look like a really bad trip," Gunn tells AP.) However, longtime fans will certainly recognize that both "Hallucinations" and "Death Of Me" show off a poppier side of PVRIS. This isn't necessarily a new direction. Instead, it represents the band amplifying different existing elements of their sound—and seamlessly leaning in more to their pop side.
"The drums are a lot tighter," Gunn says of the new music. "They're a lot less reverb-y, but they're still booming. They're still really locked in and heavy-hitting. The guitars are a lot tighter and a lot drier and crunchier. They really, really pop perfectly with the drums. It leads to a lot slicker and a cleaner production, which in my opinion bops a lot more." [Laughs.]
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Gunn assures that more new PVRIS music is "guaranteed" to come within the next year. "It's just a matter of when," she says. "Absolutely within the next year. There's a lot of new stuff coming." As per usual, these songs will demonstrate that trademark PVRIS diversity. "No one song is going to be similar to the other," Gunn says. "So [fans should] keep their ears peeled for a few different flavors."
AP spoke with Gunn as she was heading to the airport to catch a flight to Vienna, Austria, as PVRIS were due to kick off a string of appearances at major festivals.
How did "Hallucinations" come together?
We started this song about a year-and-a-half ago. I was out in L.A. doing a bunch of different writing sessions, and I had this random session with Marshmello and Amy Allen. The session was fine. It was cool. It was good vibes. But we left it and didn't really think anything of the demo or anything. It wasn't really a top-priority song. And then it sat in all of the demo folders for a good year.
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Once we started working with JT a bit more and decided we wanted to finish everything with him, we were going through songs we wanted to finish up, and he picked that one. And I was resistant to it, because it really was put on the back burner. He was like, “Seriously, trust me. We can really transform the song and make it something really cool.” I felt pretty reluctant, but I put my trust in him, because everything else we'd done with him so far came out amazing. We finished it together in Nashville and really put a lot of work into it to bring it to life and elevate it and bring it to what we wanted it to be.
And now it's what it is—and it's one of the main singles, which is really cool. It just goes to show you have to sometimes give things space for them to grow. Or you have to give things a second look sometimes.
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And it's like if you change as a person too—you're in a better mood or a different place—something that one day can seem "Whatever" the next day is like, "What was I missing?"
Absolutely. And I remember being really excited about the lyrics and the melody to the song, but everything else I wasn't really vibing with. JT was very adamant: “We can deconstruct it and redo all the production and bring it to a whole different vibe.” And we did that. Now it feels really good. It's pretty exciting.
So where do you and JT vibe as collaborators then? I was always a fan of Paper Route—I saw them open for Paramore a long time ago, and they blew me away.
I actually didn't process that he was in Paper Route—I think I knew, but I didn't register it. I was jamming Paper Route a lot on one of our first tours ever. I remember driving to the yellow [album cover] record with the wolf on the front of it [2012's The Peace Of Wild Things]. I remember loving that record. I always thought their sound was really cool. They did a really good job of incorporating electronic and organic elements in their music.
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But what really sold me with JT…Before I even went into the studio with him and went into our sessions together, he called me up and wanted to get a little backstory on us, see what we're interested in. He had me send him the playlists, production references, visual references, asked me who my idols were. Just wanted to get into my brain, and then the boys and I's brains. It was so thoughtful; I really appreciated that. That stood out to me. And then when we started working together, it was so effortless, so easy. We have a really good work flow together. It worked out. It's a good pairing.
How long have you worked together? How many songs have the collaborations produced?
We did "Death Of Me" [and] "Hallucinations," and then over the past two, three months or so, I've been going to Nashville every two weeks to track new stuff and work with him. Probably five other tracks as well. So we've been slowly but surely chipping away at them. He's taken two or three of my old demos and flipped them and put a new spin on them, which has been really cool too. I've had demos for about three years that I have really wanted to fully produce, and I'm finally able to hear that happening, which is really cool. Our first session together, and our first actual day in person working together, was honestly about a year ago at this point.
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These two songs had been released so far—how indicative are they of the direction that the forthcoming music you're going to release is taking?
I'd say pretty indicative. Obviously, the production and songs themselves are a lot poppier, but I feel like we've always kind of been a pop act or pop band. The production's painted it into more rock-leaning energies, I guess. This is the first chance we got to undo that and put a new spin on the same elements that make PVRIS what PVRIS is. Those elements are put through a different filter now and a different perspective. It's really fresh and new, and it feels really good.
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As a performer, what's been the most fun anticipating playing these songs live?
It's actually been interesting, ’cause in the last year, year-and-a-half, maybe two years, I was experiencing a lot of vocal problems. And I mean, honest, too, in the last year still was really navigating that in our time off, working with different coaches to try and recondition my voice and strengthen it. So a lot of things that I've wanted to do vocally I wasn't able to do.
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A lot of the writing—especially with "Death Of Me" and "Hallucinations"— the vocal aspect of it and the melodies and the performance really had to be shaped around what my voice was capable of doing. It was like putting things in a box a bit, but it was fun. It was a limitation, but it was something to work around and something to work with rather than getting frustrated by it. It was cool to know, "These were the limitations—what can we do with that?"
That was something I'd thought about even before we started working on new music, when we were just on tours and things really weren't lining up or cooperating with my voice. I was like, "How are we gonna make any music? And, going forward, if this doesn't ever come back—or the power and what I used to have doesn't come back—how are we going to do this? How are we going to play live? How are we going to write music?"
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And my perspective of it is, "Well, we just gotta work with what we have and alter things around if we need to." And that's what we did with "Death Of Me" and "Hallucinations." It's a much lower register, and we had to stack a lot, and we had to do a lot of layering and, again, work around those limitations and find ways to still make it really, really boom.
I feel like that's really exciting, too, because you're making this music and leaning into another aspect of yourself—and especially with this voice too, you're leaning into another aspect of your voice, as well as musically. That's an interesting parallel.
Absolutely, yeah. It was interesting, because we could've looked at it as a challenge or just a sign to quit. And it really wasn't—it was, "OK, how do we work with this? We have to use this instrument differently," in a way.
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As you're surveying these two songs, are there any themes or any interesting lyrical tropes that you're seeing emerge?
"Hallucinations," lyrically… I mean, the very face value aspect is hallucinations, and type of hallucinations you can experience, and personifying that—or turning that into a context relating to a relationship or whatever. But that song encapsulates a perspective I have about the supernatural versus reality versus the physical world, I guess. There's a lot of different perspectives on how those things exist together or whether they do exist together.
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I was reading this book about hallucinations, and one of the key points they brought up was, are hallucinations something that your brain is just creating, something that's not there, that your brain is just bringing forth to you? Or is it something that is there that you don't normally have access to in your brain—kind of altering the perception allowing you to see that? And that's how I feel about a lot of things regarding the supernatural and things of that sort. It was cool to be able to make a song inspired by that.
You worked with Yhellow on the video for "Hallucinations." They've done a lot of really interesting visual things—very surreal, vivid things.
It was the perfect pairing, because I had sent out a really baseline, simple treatment and left a lot of it open for whoever was directing to come in and elevate those and bring in their ideas. And it was the least I've touched a video as far as the ideas. I gave a really basic premise and was like, “OK, I really want to see what people are gonna come up with, with that small guideline.” Theirs just really stood out immediately. And when I saw their reel, it was a no-brainer. It's very otherworldly and abstract and fun.
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When we finally met up with them and had our initial meetings, they were like, “This is our dream video.” A lot of the ideas that we had in it was stuff that they've been dying to do for the longest time, and we seemed like the perfect people to do that with. We were kind of the first people to say yes to what they wanted to do. A lot of their ideas are quirky and weird. I guess a lot of different artists will push back and be like, “Well, we don't want to go that far that way.” Or people are afraid to fully follow through with the weirdness of it. We were totally open to it and vice versa. So it was a good pairing, because we were all fully supportive of everything.
It seems like so many creative pieces are just falling into place really easily right now. Is there anything that you would attribute that to? Is it luck? What are your thoughts on that?
I don't know. I definitely believe the universe puts people in your path to team up with on whatever it is—whether it's a relationship, whether it's a working relationship. I always try and look for those in my life and especially with PVRIS. Whenever I step back, I can always see how people's roles have been played. I don't know if it's luck or if it's the universe pushing people in your path and you have to pick who you want to choose for those things.
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And keeping your mind open, and your eyes open, to identifying those things too and go with it is so important too.
Absolutely. Yeah, just receptiveness in general, all around, is also very important. The second you open up and allow those things energetically to come through, you'll see a lot of paths open up and a lot of people put forward.
What does the rest of the year look like after you get back from Europe?
We get back Sept. 1, and then we rehearse for a week, and then we start up on [a U.S. tour]. We do that for about two weeks. Then, once we finish with that, it'll be going back to the studio with JT and working on new music.
…I think this next chapter is going to be a very fun and exciting one—a lot less dread and doom and stress. [Laughs.]
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You do sound lighter than you did the last time we talked. You definitely seem a little bit more like a weight has been lifted from your voice. And I mean that in a figurative sense, not necessarily literally.
[Laughs.] Totally. No, it feels like that too. Life's always throwing curveballs, and there's always things to work through. But I'm definitely in a better headspace to be working through things that are coming up now.
PVRIS kick off their U.S. fall tour next month with dates and tickets here. They’ll also be dropping an EP Oct. 25 with a full-length slated for 2020. You can check out their latest video for “Hallucinations” below.