It’s been quite some time since PVRIS have released a studio album, but with the wait finally coming to an end with the release of All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell on Friday, and having been on tour with The Amity Affliction, Wall of Sound nabbed some time to chat with vocalist Lynn Gunn about the upcoming album and even the ghosts that haunted the studio.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell. What was it that inspired you to announce the album in the way that you did, with the use of secret letters that went out to some of your fans?
Lynn: I think right now is a period where a lot of artists are going really above and beyond, and out of the way to announce their records or songs or whatever they’re putting out and I was thinking that it’s really great and it’s really testing people’s creativity and I wanted to do that but also be very interactive with the fans and just go directly to them. A lot of artists were sending people the locations and just expanding outwards, whereas with the postcards, we wanted to be very direct and go immediately to our core fans and it was kinda just to get people talking. I just tried to put myself in their shoes and I think if I rolled up home one day and I found a letter from my favourite band and it was very cryptic and it was sent directly to me, I would be freaking the fuck out. I really wanted to give that reaction to people. The record in general is very visually inspired by the Victorian Era and turn of the century stuff so it was very cool to be able to take the funeral cards from that era and also incorporate that as well.
It was definitely a creative way to get the word out there, and by going directly to the fans as well. Did the letters entail any hints or clues as to what your album is going to be about?
Lynn: Yeah! So it had the album title written on it and I don’t think anybody realised that. Some people picked up on it, but we put an Emily Dickinson poem at the bottom of the card and the last line in the poem is what we based our album title off of and some people picked up on that, but others didn’t. We also had printed the date that Heaven got released because there’s a birth date and then a death date on the cards. The death date or where the death date should have been, we did a rebirth date instead and that’s the day we announced Heaven and the day that we also announced the record coming out. So we’d placed the information there but we didn’t specify what that was, so it was cool to have put the answers right in front of people but they might not have known it yet.
What a cool way to be able to let the fans try to figure it out and speculate different ideas!
Lynn: Yeah, I think it was a really cool collaborative thing amongst them as fans and just people who are interested in our band because it gets people talking and they start communicating with each other and I think that’s one of the coolest parts about it is being able to create that and set those things up.
So you’ve said that you recorded this album in a converted cathedral which you later found out was haunted. Where did you manage to find such an interesting place and what was that experience like for you guys?
Lynn: It was… A lot of different experiences. We found out that the church was haunted after we booked it. We just really wanted a peaceful and isolated environment to do the record so we were super Upstate New York, just kind of up in the mountains in a really small town. That in itself was kind of interesting since we were very isolated for 2-3 months. The church was this beautiful converted cathedral and we had so many resources this time around, with a much bigger environment and more instruments to create the record which I think really translates into the music. It’s a much bigger sound and much more open and atmospheric than I think our first record was.
That’s great! I have to ask though, did you have any experiences with ghosts or anything while you were there?
Lynn: Yeah! I mean, whatever was there wasn’t anything crazy, malicious or negative at all. It was like… There would be a lot of cold spots all the time and the control room would be very cold a lot of the time, and we’d hear footsteps in the other room and nobody would be there but they were pretty harmless. One of the last two weeks we were there, our engineer and I started to form some experiments and try to trap some ghosts and we actually had some really weird stuff happen. We set up a dart board one time and we also set up ping pong balls on top of candle sticks and when we came back, the ping pong balls would be moved off the candle sticks and darts would be thrown on the dart board. It was pretty crazy stuff. We didn’t tell anybody else about it so we made sure no one was tampering with our little experiments. There was definitely something there.
Oh my god, I’m glad it was harmless though!
Lynn: Yeah it was totally harmless but it was definitely listening and it was definitely aware that we were there [laughs] which was kind of unsettling.
I can imagine! You’ve also mentioned that the record was inspired by the late 1800’s Emily Dickinson, with the poems, visuals, and concepts, so can you tell me a bit more about that?
Lynn: Over the past 3 years we’ve been over in Europe a lot and we’ve been in London a lot, and I really felt very emotionally connected to it for some reason and just was really really inspired by it, and the atmospheres. It’s something I started following and researching a lot more and just kind of dived into. Everything from the movies on it and movies that took place in that era to photography books on it, and it was just a very personal thing at the time and once things started coming together for All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, when we were up recording in the church, it was from the early 1900’s, and the old town was from the mid 1800’s, so everything around us was from that era as well. It was a very natural thing to follow that theme visually and so it was always at the back of my mind of something that I wanted to incorporate into the name but didn’t fully know how it would translate or if it would come across the right way. It was really cool to be working with our director for our music videos, Raul Gonzo — he really helped find that nice middle ground and way to have those themes translate properly into something that’s representative towards the music and compliment it just as much.
That’s really great to hear. Do you think the videos represent the 1800’s and that era as well?
Lynn: I wouldn’t say they represent it, but they are definitely inspired by that era aesthetically.
Of course. So with your video for What’s Wrong? was that filmed nearby where you recorded or was it inspired by where you recorded at all?
Lynn: Yeah so I think the environment we were in with creating the record, and over the past 3 years, it’s inspired a lot of visuals — but the video for What’s Wrong? was actually filmed in an old castle from again, the same era of the 1800’s and it used to be a lot of things over the course of time, but it was an old castle called Preston Castle up in Northern California. It was very very haunted.
It looked absolutely beautiful in the video. Did you have any experiences with ghosts here as well, since it’s so haunted?
Lynn: A couple of us had some weird things happen! One of the first shots of the day, we were upstairs on one of the top floors that was one of the floors which used to be a boys or mens reformatory institute or something — I forgot what it was specifically — but it had a lot of people living there and on the top floor is where all the beds were and the first shot of the day, I was walking down one of the halls and looked directly down the hallway into one of the dormitories and there was a blue ball, smack dab in the middle of the room, lined up perfectly in the hallway and I went into the room and just kind of explored it and I kicked the ball around and I found out later that evening that there’s I guess a little ghost boy up there. His name is Billy and he kicks the ball around and will set it into certain places, so that was pretty creepy. Then there was another point when we were filming and we had these prosthetics over our eyes for the very ending of it and I was waiting out in one of the hallways with two other people and I was sat down in a chair, couldn’t see anything, and was really relying on other people to help me around, and I was sitting outside one of the rooms we were filming in, waiting to go in and I felt somebody kind of grab my shoulder and I thought it was either Alex (Babinski) or Brian (MacDonald), so I looked over and was kinda like “Oh hey!” and the two people sitting in the hallway with me were like “Who are you talking to..?” and I said “Oh I thought it was Brian and Alex?” and they were like “Nope.. It’s just us in the room with you…” So something had grabbed my shoulder.
At least all the ghosts have been harmless, that’s a good thing!
Lynn: Well hopefully! [laughs]
So your debut album was thematically associated with spiritualism. Does that theme continue into this release or do you find that you’ve shifted with your approach to lyricism and themes?
Lynn: I think subconsciously I’m always kind of going off this theme and building around it but I think with this record I really tried to make an effort to just go with the flow and just write what felt best and the most natural and just try to be a lot more direct and straightforward and not base many things off metaphors. I still really wanted to keep it visual and leave in specific details to kind of paint a slight picture but it’s definitely I feel like, a lot more direct than White Noise was and it’s not laced in as many metaphors and I guess masks if you will. There are definitely a lot of themes in very subtle ways. Like there are a lot of dualities existing on it and this is something that happens subconsciously too, is a lot of lines that correspond with other lines from different songs and lots of subtleties in that way so there’s definitely a very loose theme but it’s only if you pay attention to it. I guess the word choices were a lot more direct than White Noise but it’s still very vague in a sense.
You recently toured with The Amity Affliction and Beartooth back in June. How did you find the crowds?
Lynn: Yeah, it’s been crazy seeing how much the support has grown over two years. We were in Australia two years ago and it was pretty crazy then, so having been back and having seen it now, it’s definitely exceeded expectations which was really cool. The bill that we were on was really quite heavy so we weren’t expecting people to be so receptive to us, so it was a nice surprise.
Just one final question — Can we expect a headliner tour once the album has been released?
Lynn: Absolutely! Obviously we have a lot of ground to cover everywhere so it’s really just scheduling wise but we’re working on it! It’s definitely on the cards for sure.
Interview by Heather McNab
PVRIS are set to release All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell on August 25th via Warner Music Australia. Pre-order your copy right here
You’ll need this Codeword for something special later this week… keep an eye out for it!