Halloween Special: PVRIS’s Lynn Gunn on Finding Light in the Darkness
PVRIS is an esoteric band whose latest release, All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, makes a timely addition to your autumn playlist. There are no gimmicks here, although this trio doesn’t mind being a little spooky as long as the beats go hard and the delivery is stylish.
The Massachusetts group is known for its series of black-and-white Raul Gonzo-directed music videos, which veer into soft-gore with shadowy images of ghosts and betrayal. Singer Lynn Gunn once told a Gigwise reporter that PVRIS’s artistic mini-films even spurred a few mothers of young fans to worry that the band was satanic (it’s not). As a mom who has listened to PVRIS’s two albums with my own teenager, I can say that, although its Victorian era-inspired storytelling is darkly complex, the music pulses through a nerve network of hummable melodies and punchy rhythms which are clearly searching for the light.
Gunn, 23, says PVRIS’s sophomore effort has a bigger sound than the band’s 2014 debut, White Noise. This time, her writing process involved therapy, opening up to family members about her sexuality, and rediscovering the poetry of Emily Dickinson.
“I was watching a TED Talk one night, and the speaker quoted the last line of the Dickinson poem, ‘Parting,’” Gunn says of the album’s title. “The record is called All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell because it speaks about duality, paradox and existing between two different experiences – and we recorded it in a [rumored-to-be-haunted] church.”
Gunn says the band’s views on religion are spiritual and humanist in nature, rather than tied to a traditional faith, and she copes with tough times by tapping her own intuition and the law of attraction. The singer has been forthcoming about dealing with depression following the success of White Noise; she’s now in a better place and working through her feelings in poetic verses.
The deep blood-and-bones phrases Gunn sings in “Half” and “Walk Alone” on All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell might translate as sullen if it weren’t for the juxtaposition provided by the band’s atmospheric and frenetic rock energy, produced by Blake Harnage. The starkness is intentional: PVRIS’s stanzas paint a more realistic portrait of a young woman trying to make sense of the world than do the dolled-up or dumbed-down rhymes often found on Top-40 radio.
“I’ve always been a big fan of pop music, but its lyrical content sometimes dodges the heavy emotions people are going through,” she says. “While we were writing this latest record, I wanted to honor my struggles alongside the positive [moments]. To me, it’s part of the importance of finding balance, and facing your fears as well as your own darkness. My way of dealing with negative issues is to put them into songs.”
After touring with Thirty Seconds to Mars and Muse this summer, PVRIS landed at number four on the Rock Albums List with All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, completed a September headlining run, and clinched the number one spot on Billboard magazine’s Emerging Artists Chart. PVRIS follows in a decades-long line of female-led alternative acts with moody chops, including Cocteau Twins, Lush, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. One listen to the band’s “Heaven” or “What’s Wrong,” and it’s easy to wonder why PVRIS’s songs are not yet mainstream hits.
“I think sometimes people have a hard time figuring out where we fit in,” Gunn says. “As far as ambitions go and where we see ourselves headed, the sky is the limit. I trust the universe to put the band in the situation that works for us at the right time.
Meanwhile, PVRIS will continue climbing its way to the boldface type at the top of the roster. The band is set to perform as part of the lineup at the Riptide Music Festival in Fort Lauderdale on December 2-3 alongside Cage the Elephant and Weezer.
(Photo: Eliot Lee Hazel)