November 24, 2017 Interview – Brian MacDonald of PVRIS
Life is a gift. Sure, the phrase is as cliched as it comes, but it is true and if you are doing what you love, well that is just the gift that keeps on giving. Out of the Lowell, Massachusetts area, PVRIS are a band living the dream. Working hard and touring, in just five years they have evolved into one of the highest praised newer bands around. Initially begun under another name as a Metalcore act, PVRIS has developed into a unique band combining all the best qualities of Rock, Alternative, Pop, and Electronic for a smooth, catchy, yet ambient style all their own.
With the edge of a Hard Rock act but the subtly of Synthpop from the 1980s, PVRIS has brought it all together on their 2017 album All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell. A follow-up to 2014’s acclaimed White Noise, after 3 years of touring relentlessly, PVRIS take the experiences, good and bad, to offer what is arguably one of 2017’s best albums. Recently we caught up with PVRIS’ Bassist/Keyboardist Brian MacDonald to talk the whirlwind of the past few years, the work behind All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Since coming together some five years ago, PVRIS has released two studio albums, toured consistently, and steadily are building a large following. First, tell us, what has the past five years been like for the band?
Brian MacDonald – It’s been super busy! These last five years have been nothing but amazing though. We’ve been able to meet amazing humans from all around the world and play music that we’ve created along the way.
CrypticRock.com – That is very exciting to hear and probably even more exciting for you to experience. The band’s sound has morphed and grown since initially forming. You had 2014’s White Noise, which was a major success while marking the band’s shift in style. At the time of writing and recording White Noise, was the band comfortable with the new creative path chosen?
Brian MacDonald – So when we began recording for White Noise, we were still young and we just wanted to create music that we enjoyed playing. I feel like that’s how the creative process is with all three of us still. We never go out of our way to sound like anything or to fit into a certain sound. Blake Harnage, our producer, was a big help and such a great mentor for us when we began recording White Noise. He brought out a lot in us musically, I am forever grateful we were able to do our first, and also second, record with him.
CrypticRock.com – The best music is the music that is most sincere. As stated, White Noise did exceptionally well, picking up steam after stints on Vans Warped Tour in 2015, prompting a reissue of the record in 2016. As consumers, we often look at bands as coming out of nowhere, overnight successes if you will, but that is not the case; it takes a lot of hard work. Being there and watching PVRIS steadily attain more recognition, what was that like for you and the band?
Brian MacDonald – I do look back on when we started the band and we were rehearsing in a basement with thoughts of touring the world and touring with bands we have been ever so grateful to tour with. There are some days I do step outside of all of this and realize how grateful and honored I am to be able to do this with a crew and band that are so dear to me, I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else. I remember sleeping in Walmart parking lots in the driver seat 4 years ago and not at one moment did I dislike it, it was such an amazing learning experience.
CrypticRock.com – That is really great to hear that you can appreciate the process and learning experience of it all. That said, the progression continues with All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell. Released back on August 25th, it is a masterfully composed record and the next step in PVRIS’ evolution. What was the writing and recording process like for this new record?
Brian MacDonald – The recording process was beyond amazing for the simple fact that we had a lot more resources like amps, guitars, drum kits, pedals, mics, etc. Also, where we recorded was so beautiful! We recorded at a studio called “Big Blue North” and the recording studio is a renovated church. We were able to vibe out a lot and really zone in on a lot.
CrypticRock.com – That sounds like a great place to record! All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell includes various promotional videos, all shot in black & white, and include a similar theme. What was the concept behind the music videos associated with the album?
Brian MacDonald – Lynn is very big on being able to not only capture someone sonically, but also visually, and she and our Video Director Raul Gonzo worked together to bring these videos that you see to life.
CrypticRock.com – Well, it all worked very well because the videos certainly compliment the music. It is clear the atmosphere is more ambient this time around with All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell. Emotional, quite dynamic, with subtle textures, was it the goal going into the recording to make it such?
Brian MacDonald – Going into this record, the process was obviously a bit different from when we recorded White Noise since we had been touring off of that record for 3 years. I feel like we put everything that we’ve gone through for those 3 years of touring and growing as humans into All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell. We all went through things both good and bad, but we were able to put it into this record. I am sure Lynn and Alex would agree as well.
CrypticRock.com – That is certainly evident in each track on the album, there is a real emotion and it works extremely well musically, lyrically, and production-wise. PVRIS has done their share of touring through the years, supporting acts such as Mayday Parade, but also doing headlining shows as well. This past summer, you went out with Muse and Thirty Seconds to Mars. What was that experience like?
Brian MacDonald – We are just so grateful these bands gave us a shot and let us tour with them. These were bands that we dreamed of touring with, and those dreams became reality. They were all so nice and welcoming!
CrypticRock.com – Not to mention it also opened PVRIS up to a slew of new potential fans playing to crowds of that size. The band launched a headlining tour back on September 22nd with support from Lights, Party Nails, and Flint Eastwood. Quite a great bill, now complete, what was the tour like?
Brian MacDonald – It was great. We miss all these amazing, talented humans and I hope everyone that came out to these shows had such a great time.
CrypticRock.com – It was a great run of performances, but PVRIS will be back on the road come February of 2018 with headlining shows through March. Yourself, Lynn, and Alex have been the core of PVRIS. At what point did you three realize you had something special, and what has the chemistry been like?
Brian MacDonald – I knew it right when we started our first ever tour. I knew that I would want to tour and create music with them and no one else. Both of them are such talented, funny, amazing humans and I am so lucky to be able to be doing this with them. I wake up everyday thinking this and I wouldn’t change a thing. We all get along and we all do our own things and collective things as well.
CrypticRock.com – You could not ask for anything more. Getting along with your fellow bandmates is not always a given. It seems PVRIS have the right chemistry both on and off the stage. Last question for you, CrypticRock.com covers music as well as Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of Horror or Sci-Fi films, what are some of your favorites in these genres? Furthermore, if you like neither genre, what genre of film do you enjoy?
Brian MacDonald – I love Horror/Sci-Fi films! The first ever Horror film I watched was The Exorcist (1973) and I remember I couldn’t sleep for like 2-3 days (laughs). I was afraid that if I fell asleep I’d end up getting possessed and my head would spin around (laughs). I would say that my favorite film of all-time though is Lost In Translation (2003) with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, such a beautiful film.