When PVRIS played Reading & Leeds in 2017, it should have been a celebration. Their first show there in 2015 saw them burning bright after a summer on Warped and the release of their debut album. The Pit was at capacity for half an hour before they took to the stage, and every second Lynn, Brian and Alex were in the spotlight felt like a coming of age moment. Their return two years later to the Main Stage should have seen the band making good on every promise they'd ever made. But it was actually the start of a turbulent and troubled twelve months.
Their second album 'All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell' had been released hours before they bundled onto the Main Stage at Reading, but Lynn Gunn was too busy struggling with vocal issues to lose herself in the occasion. An enduring perfectionist, things are either flawless, or they're wrong.
And there's no easy fix for feeling like someone is grabbing your throat when you're trying to sing. So, while on a world tour, Lynn had to relearn how to use her voice.
"Towards the beginning of the record cycle when my vocals were really bad, it was hard to get anything working. We got really close to calling off the UK shows, including Brixton as well as a couple of European shows. I have very high standards, and I'm really hard on myself so to know that these were some of the biggest shows we'd ever played and that I wouldn't be able to fully deliver things how I wanted to, it was a very difficult thing. I just felt like I wanted to do better. In the end, we ended up pushing through," but things weighed heavy.
PVRIS played their last show of the 'All We Know Of Heaven…' cycle a little over a year after it was released. By the time their appearances at Reading & Leeds 2019 roll around, they'll only have a handful of live shows under their belt for this new chapter. It's been a long road back to the stage, but the band have used this time away from the spotlight to rebuild and refocus.
'White Noise' was a tearaway success. Their debut album came with zero expectations but high hopes, and it exploded PVRIS, setting them on a trajectory that constantly edged towards runaway. The followup, 'All We Know Of Heaven…' saw them take that fuzzy cinematic world and make it bigger, with flashes of colour and bubbling anger. Now the band are back with the first taste of what comes next. 'Death of Me' is a pulsating whirlwind, dancing about on the edge of a blade with a knowing wink and a lust for the unknown while 'Hallucinations' sees PVRIS leaning whole-heartedly into those twinkling pop sensibilities that have always driven the band towards exciting and glorious. Don't call it a comeback but these songs are proof that PVRIS' fire is still raging.
It's the furthest they've stepped from that core "PVRIS sound", but rather than feeling jarring, both singles sound like confident next steps forward.
"It's always really hard for the boys and me to step back and hear how different things are. We hear everything as it's progressing. We started working on 'Death Of Me' two years ago while we were still touring 'All We Know Of Heaven...' and it felt very much still in that universe, at least to start with. The main difference with the new stuff is that it's going to have a much more refined production. It's a bit more fun and a bit more energetic, sonically. It's just emphasising different aspects of the music now, but we're hoping it would still make sense and feel true to what we've done before because it's still gritty, it still has power."
And there's more to come. PVRIS might not have been touring for the past few months, but they've been continually working towards the new. There have been writing sessions on both sides of America, a new label and the knowledge that it all has to be fun, otherwise, what's the point? Right now the band are sat on three more songs that are ready to be released, and plans for the album are coming together. As always, the group want to see how far they can push things, but for the first time, they're determined to take their time.
As for their return to Reading, "I'm feeling excited but definitely a bit nervous. The last time we played, it was at the very beginning of a lot of my vocal issues, and that was a really, really, really rough performance. It was really embarrassing and just wasn't the best time for me. I just didn't say anything about it before or after we got off stage. I'm excited to hopefully have a better time with this show. I think it's going to be a really cool energy. I can't guarantee redemption, but I hope for a little bit, at least for myself. I'm not even really trying to make anybody happy at this point. For me, I would just like to be proud of it and feel good about it. Hopefully, that will translate outwards, and people can enjoy that."
Taken from the September issue of Dork. PVRIS play Reading & Leeds this weekend (23rd-25th August).
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