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April 2020

Reading & Leeds 2017: PVRIS: “We were stepping back and letting the universe do some work"

PVRIS return with one of the most anticipated records in rock right now. It's been worth the wait.
Published: 9:00 am, August 25, 2017
Reading & Leeds 2017: PVRIS: “We were stepping back and letting the universe do some work"
One night, Lynn Gunn reached New Orleans, got to her room and lay down. All she heard was silence. After PVRIS's whirlwind debut ‘White Noise', the success, the relentless touring, it wasn't until this moment that she realised she hadn't heard exactly this – nothing – in years.

"It was the first break I had in over two, three years of touring. It was the first time we had more than four or five days off," remembers Lynn. They were in the garden district, a beautiful area of the city where she was surrounded by scenery to admire at every turn. "I just remember getting to my room, laying down and hearing silence. I didn't hear the rumbling of a bus; I didn't hear the sound of a band in the background or any kind of external noise. It was just peace and quiet. I heard crickets; I heard the wind. It was really the first moment I breathed in years."

Life can't always be taken at face value. PVRIS's second album ‘All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell' is similar. Up front, it can feel almost euphoric at points as you listen, but it wraps more melancholy tales, discovering yourself, admitting things aren't great in its poppy claws. There is no black and white, but a shade of greys in navigating the human condition. These thoughts began to unwind as Lynn lay there in silence, with crickets chirping close by.

"It was a very reflective moment for me. I hadn't done that in years. That in itself was kind of heartbreaking. I started really looking back on the past year, how much had changed, how much I had changed, how I had no clue where I was anymore, how I was really lost.

"In New Orleans, I felt happy, restful. It was a peaceful time, but it was also sad. Really, it was the perfect blend of melancholy with relief, and the songs we wrote there really capture that. It was one of the most beautiful emotions that I felt in the past few years."

The 'AWKOHAWNOH' era is still fresh, but it's already been pivotal for the band. ‘What's Wrong?' wastes no time in owning the realisation that things hadn't been quite right as Lynn declares, "Don't need a metaphor for you to know I'm miserable."

"Initially, [that frankness] was pretty subconscious," explains Lynn. "But it turned out to be a really big lesson that I learned in the process of making the record. That was one of the first songs we wrote lyrically; I was searching for so many different angles and perspectives on how to say what I wanted to say. In the end, I couldn't say anything other than ‘Aw, fuck it, I'm miserable'.

"That was the epic turning point and once that chorus was written. I was like, ‘Oh wow. That felt really good to come right out and say.' After that, it wasn't necessarily an effort, but it was definitely something to keep in mind to let go and not have to paint a picture with everything all of the time. It was very freeing."

Freeing as it was musically, it also earmarked some important revelations for Lynn. The album was coming to life at the same time that she started really taking care of her mental health. "I was just learning to be present with my emotions and not bottle them up, ignore them or sweep them under the rug. It was really about being vulnerable and feeling them, acknowledging them and not being ashamed of them. It's important to honour [the harder] emotions as equally as any positive or happy one. Sometimes they're the more important ones to sit in and absorb. That was such a big thing I've learned in the last year and went hand in hand with a lot of the record. Don't be afraid to be frank and straight up about your feelings."

With their debut album, PVRIS were guided by what they were fans of. They didn't force anything. Following ‘White Noise', it would have been understandable to try fit a certain box or bend certain ways, with expectations high. Instead, they pressed pause, inhaled, and looked around for inspiration before picking back up.

Revitalising on a personal level, powerful on a musical one, the freedom and openness has led to ‘All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell' feeling almost serendipitous for them. It all felt right. Even the name came from taking a step back.

"I had been searching quotes and poems all day, and I couldn't find anything, and I gave up," she recalls. "It was probably two in the morning, and I was watching a TED talk about love and loss and everything that comes with that, what the human mind goes through, and the woman quoted this Emily Dickinson poem. She quoted the last line, and I was really grabbed by it. I looked it up and read the whole poem and found it was really beautiful."

Since crossing paths with Emily Dickinson's work that first time with Parting, she kept appearing in conversations; other people were suddenly sending Lynn other poems from her repertoire by coincidence. "It was like the universe was telling us to go for it," she laughs. "It fits with the record. There's a lot of subtle duality to them; there's a natural thing that came together. When you step back and listen, take a moment and look around, there's so much that subconsciously weaves together that you'd never pick up on otherwise. We were stepping back and letting the universe do some work."

‘All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell' came into their life by chance, but it also came into their lives at the right time, now happier, healthier, and with time to breathe.

Taken from the September issue of Dork. PVRIS' album ‘All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell' is out 25th August.

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