This post was originally published in The Aquarian Weekly.
It’s been a bullish six years for Pierce The Veil. The quartet released three studio albums and has toured tirelessly around the globe since their 2007 aptly titled debut, A Flair For The Dramatic.
Together, Vic (vocals/guitar), Mike (drums), Tony Perry (lead guitar) and Jaime Preciado (bassist/backup vocals) have ventured into a rock rendezvous to boot. And they’re not stopping. Pierce The Veil released their second full-length studio album, Selfish Machines, in 2010, and are currently touring in support of their third, perhaps most celebrated record, Collide With The Sky, which marks the band’s inaugural major label release on Fearless Records, this past July.
Recorded right in New Jersey’s backyard, Collide With The Sky was born in Elmwood Park at producer David Bendeth’s House Of Loud studio. The album stays true to Pierce The Veil’s classification of post-hardcore, as the music builds on a number of different subgenres and sounds. For example, the track “Bulls In The Bronx” opens with heavy, hard drums and grimy guitars, but then progressively channels the Spanish guitar. During the break of the song, it sounds like Rodrigo y Gabriela’s figuratively ill-behaved puppy ran all over Pierce The Veil’s musical lawn. But no one’s calling the authorities, because it just works.
“Tangled In The Great Escape,” featuring Jason Butler of Let Live, is a melodic fusion of rock guitars, but the vocals ride shotgun while the still palpable instruments coast in the backseat. Every now and again the guitars and pretty pianos peer up-front to change the radio station, though.
On Pierce The Veil’s records, Vic Fuentes is a deep, emotionally fueled vocalist. Some may even perceive his vocals as whiny, but that’s just the way of the gutsy gun. But, in reality, Fuentes is just a soft-spoken dude who speaks from the heart. When asked about what inspires his lyrics, he points to deeply painful realities, such as teenage suicide and an ex-girlfriend’s breast cancer diagnosis.
And while some rock stars inevitably become jaded and disingenuous, there’s a particular flair about Fuentes that—without question—makes him exempt from the existential equation.
Pierce The Veil are currently knee-deep in the Collide With The Sky Tour. In this interview, frontman Vic goes no-holds-barred for an emotional conversation about love, life and music, and of course, why the band trekked from San Diego to New Jersey to record their latest masterpiece.
Congratulations on your July album release of Collide With The Sky. You guys recorded it at House Of Loud in Elmwood Park, NJ. What brought you guys to this neck of the woods? What was the recording process like?
We came out to Jersey to work with a couple of producers: Dan Korneff and Kato Khandwala, out of House Of Loud studios. I had heard that they did Mayday Parade’s self-titled last record, and I thought that was one of the best sounding records I ever heard.
The writing process for our album was pretty tense and crazy. It was spread out over a long period of time. I wrote a little bit in San Diego, some out in Florida and in Detroit. We also stayed in this cabin in Big Bear, California. We ended up setting up a whole studio for a couple of months last summer in a living room. And then by the time we got into the studio, we had material. We set up a big circle of our instruments surrounded by our drummer, mic’d up everything, set it up to a computer so we can record it, and we would just jam out parts that we had, so the songs took shape.
We recorded the drums in this abandoned warehouse next to the studio. That was pretty cool—the sound kind of helped shape the record. It was a risk the producers had never taken before. We told them we wanted to take risks on this record. We’re not trying to write pop hits. We want to have fun. If there was anything we wanted to do or try, we did it on this record.
Your lyrics are special. They’re heartfelt—intense even. From where do you draw inspiration?
The [lyrics on this] record came from a lot of different places. Some of the songs were inspired by relationships. Others were inspired by intense things that have happened. My ex-girlfriend was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was the inspiration for some of the lyrics of “A Match In The Water.” It’s dedicated to her and all the crazy stuff she went through in chemotherapy and fighting the disease. That song was a gift to her.
Then there are songs that are inspired by fans. We get a lot of messages from our fans, talking about how our music saved their lives, helped them from self-harm, suicide and depression, things like that. They send us these really in-depth, heartfelt stories. One of them, in particular, was from these kids in Australia that reached out to tell us their friend had committed suicide. She was a big fan, and they wanted to let us know about it. They sent me a goodbye video she posted on her Tumblr. It was super sad. She was this beautiful 16-year-old girl who thought she was ugly, and she said she couldn’t handle her depression anymore. That came to our attention during the middle of recording, so I ended up writing about that whole situation a bit. It’s crazy, some of the things that people share with us.
A lot of what I write is inspired by fans, and my desire to give them a sense of hope, and let them know they’re not the only ones out there feeling that way.
Pierce The Veil are a real family affair, in that you founded the band with your brother, Mike. What’s that dynamic like between the two of you? Is it hard to find a balance between your musicianship and brotherhood, or do you two mesh well?
We’re pretty close in age—only a year and a half apart—so we grew up tight. We’ve been playing music together since we were like 15 years old so it’s really nice to have family in the band, especially when you’re traveling. We only have a couple months off [from touring] in the whole year. It’s nice to have family around, to have your friend, so you don’t get so homesick all the time. We’ve been playing music together so long that it’s cool. We know each other musically really well. I know his style. We know what each other will do before we even do it. We’ll fight every once in a while, but it’s always about music. We rarely fight other than that.
Mostly when we’re getting ready for tours and stuff—shaping the setlist and we all have different opinions—we’ll get into it, but the other guys in the band just laugh at us. They think it’s funny when we fight.
You guys do some great work with your music videos. The videos “King For A Day” with Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens and “Caraphernelia,” featuring Jeremy McKinnon of A Day To Remember, are both great works that really tell stories. The art of the music video is lost on a lot of today’s artists. What goes into your music video production?
We’ve all been fans of videos where the band is actually involved in the story and not just performing, and they act. We’re the worst actors in the world, but it’s more fun to watch. We decided to do that for the last couple of videos. It’s a matter of taking the video treatment and the ideas the directors have—that we have—and making sure they make sense to the audience. I think a couple of our first videos were so artsy in concept that the concept didn’t come across. It has to make sense at the end, so that’s what our goal was.
Your fame and following has grown significantly over the last few years. Some say the industry is harder to break into with piracy, or conversely, easier with user-generated content. How do you perceive it?
The other day I was talking about this with one of my best friends. We were talking about how the band didn’t really blow up every night, like other bands do. Other bands get popular in like a year, and it has taken us six or seven years to get where we are. He said he thought it was a good thing because, over the years, we’ve grown.
For example, when we do signings and appearances, people will say, “I’ve been listening to you since my freshman year in high school!” These fans [who started listening to us when they were] young are now older, and now we’re getting new fans that are young currently, so it’s like we’re all growing up together. So we have this attachment to each other. With that said, we kind of built a fanbase that’s long lasting—people that will be with us forever. It’s not just these brand new fans; it’s people who have had experiences with our band and they’ve been with us for years. I think that’s the kind of band that can last and keep playing—and play shows years ahead from now.
Pierce The Veil will play Oct. 31 at Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park, NY, and Nov. 1 at Best Buy Theater in NYC. For more information, go to piercetheveil.net.