Bassist Brian MacDonald, singer/guitarist Lyndsey Gunnulfsen, and guitarist/keys player Alex Babinski make up the immensely popular and widely talked about trio, PVRIS. If you don’t believe us, then just have a look at your social media feeds after they roll through your town. The band mixes elements of post-hardcore, commercial rock, and synth to an extremely successful extent, and it’s a sound that seems to resonate insanely well with audiences the world over. We recently sat down with PVRIS while they were in Melbourne to talk at length about social media issues and combatting negativity with humour & positivity.
When I was speaking with Anthony [Green, Circa Survive] before, I said that I found this bill to be a bit of a weird mix for yourselves and Circa. Are you fans of them at all, as I’ve heard that they really like you guys and your music?
Lynn: Oh yeah, I’m a huge fan.
Alex: One of the bigger fans. That band introduced me to pedals, delays and reverbs, because before then I was just plugging in and playing.
Lynn: Anthony’s a phenomenal singer, so I always looked up to him.
Brian: Plus, that whole band is just so good at their instruments, it’s just amazing.
Lynn: It’s so cool to see them play, as they’re all enjoying it and understanding what’s going on. They’re all in-tune and you don’t see that a lot.
Yes, I’ve seen and heard some greet things about their live show over the years. I’m curious, do you all ever watch any old live videos or photos from two or three years ago, and compare it to the venues and crowds that you’re playing to now? Almost measuring your continuing success in a way, as you’ve come so far, so quickly.
Alex: Yeah, I do that often, and it’s crazy to see man.
Lynn: See, Alex has time lapse on Facebook so he gets the notifications from what we were doing a year or two ago. But I don’t wanna watch old live videos, they’re probably dreadful [laughs].
Alex: We’ve got all the photos to look at.
Lynn: And you can’t hear live photos either. Thankfully [laughs].
Ah, that’s very true. Despite the poppy element of the band, I’ve always gotten this vibe that you guys came from strong alternative and heavy music backgrounds, am I correct in saying that correct?
Alex: Yeah, we all grew up in the punk and hardcore scenes.
Lynn: Maybe not so much punk?
Alex: Well I went to punk and hardcore shows all the time…
Brian: It was probably more like hardcore for us. We were listening to bands like Have Heart and stuff like that.
Sorry to cut in, but Have Heart fucking rule.
Alex: Yeah man!
Lynn: You know, a lot of people who have taken us under their wing, these people who really look out for us, they all come from the hardcore scene. They’re very much about earning your stripes and putting in your work, and we bring that mentality to what we do now. I feel a lot of musicians don’t do that now.
Cool, cool. With being into many other styles and with also being a part of Rise Records, they’re notorious for their “breakdown” bands. Yet they’ve been starting to change up their roster over the past couple years, and I wonder if you guys are in favour of a more diverse roster?
Lynn: I think it’s awesome that they’re breaking it up a bit and not signing the same bands, not to talk shit about some of those bands. They have such a huge platform and an entire audience, and the fact they’re starting to put out something unique and different to a lot of people is cool.
I think it would be cool to see a Rise only show, with Miss May I, then PVRIS, and then say Like Moths To Flames.
Alex & Brain: [laughs]
Lynn: I don’t know if that would work. But it’d be cool, I love the Miss May I guys.
No doubt you guys have heard about the Neck Deep incident recently, your own Twitter issues recently, do you think that maybe the barrier that social media breaks down causes fans to have an almost unhealthy view and obsession with their favourite bands?
Lynn: Absolutely. I feel like social media, with being able to comment on what someone said or did, I feel that that defeats the whole purpose of art and what you’re doing. You don’t go into a gallery and then write a bunch of comments underneath it or yell at the painting, ‘I DON’T AGREE WITH THIS!’. The painting is the painting and it is what it is. Your opinion doesn’t matter and social media allows people to think that your opinion impacts someone’s art is kinda fucked up. There’s been a really weird mentality that’s been building online and it’s kind of scary for people who just want to make their art. We’re not here to sell ourselves as celebrities or Internet personalities; we want to sell our music. It seems like artists are trying to sell themselves, instead of their art. Sorry to go off track, it’s very frustrating for us.
No, no that was great. It’s very shallow to just look at the comments and not at the content, or just reading a headline without reading anything more.
Brian: Yeah, and you may see one negative comment and it can ruin the purpose of why you’re doing it, but that’s not it at all.
Lynn: We’re not here to entertain you online; we’re here to share music with you. And it shouldn’t be the opposite of that, and it’s getting all mixed up.
Well said, guys. With that shitstorm that happened on Twitter earlier this year, with people finding those old Tweets and tasteless jokes you guys made from years back, I found that to be quite unfair, as those posts were from like 2011. There’s nearly no way you’d be the same people now, I know I’m not the same person I was three years ago.
Lynn: Exactly! We weren’t even a band back then. We didn’t have the same morals we do now, and we didn’t know what was politically correct. We were just stupid ignorant kids. Like anyone else was. To have people say that we needed to apologise, as people who carry themselves very professionally and who are very mature now, it was very frustrating. If people think we would tolerate that now or do that now, is just, so frustrating, especially with that whole thing with Alex.
Yeah, I felt sorry for you Alex, you coped a lot of shit.
Alex: oh thanks man, it hurt for sure [laughs].
Lynn: Anyone who thinks that me being a female in this band and that I would tolerate that behaviour, or that the two other female crew members, we would have nothing to do that with if that happened now. We had no intentions of people seeing that, because we had no idea those Tweets even existed, cause we were fucking 17 years old. It also has no parallel to our perspectives now.
Brian: It was crazy. You get some blue check mark on a website and then it makes you some bad person, from three or four years ago. People seem to hold you onto a pedestal and try to find something that’s wrong.
Lynn: It’s so fucked up. That goes into what we were before about social media being so toxic and unhealthy now. It’s creating a very unhealthy relationship and mentality for artists.
Brian: When we were kids, we’d go to a show and we couldn’t post about it, or take a video of it. If I went to a show, I’d hang with friends, watch the bands, and go home. But now, fans have all of this stuff, and can now find something wrong about them or the show. If the artist sees that they can really bummed out, despite all the positive feedback.
Lynn: Another thing that really frustrates is that the idea of going to shows has completely changed, whereas we would go to a show to see a band play and if you saw one of the members backstage or down the street, that was good enough for me, you know? That was icing on the cake. Now, it’s expected to meet their fans, and that’s awesome – and we do that – but when you can’t because of schedules or whatever and people get angry or upset about that, is wrong. As you bought a ticket to the show to see them play, not to meet them. As grateful as we are, we’re only human.
I was going to ask this in another interview I have coming up, but I think this is way more relevant here. I saw Twenty One Pilots a few months ago and the amount of phones being held up was just staggering. What’s your thoughts on the sea of phones that come up when you play, and the idea that people need to have a photo or a video of that show, or of that band member?
Lynn: Yeah, it’s like, ‘I need to people to know that I was here!’
Brian: It’s like if you went to a waterfall or something, you may get a photo of that but the connection you have of seeing it in person is far stronger. I’ve seen kids just watching us while we’re playing, and they’re so into it, and that’s so awesome to me. Seeing the emotion through someone else while you’re playing is so cool.
Lynn: I think just being there and being fully present and not recording the whole thing, it just seems so much more meaningful to me. That’s the whole reason you’re there after all.
When I see a band, and there’s no phones being held up, I actually feel so relieved about it.
Lynn: It’s a disease man. When I went to go see H2O when we were at Slam Dunk, and I’ve never seen them before, and their singer got in the crowd and people pulled their phones out, and he started yelling, ‘Put your phones away! Selfies are a disease!’. That’s probably the most epic thing anyone has ever said.
When it’s used well, for promotion and actual communication, I think that’s when things like Facebook are a their best. Moving on from that rather serious topic, with those rumours of a ghostwriter for the band, I loved the way you handled it with that picture of you hiding under the white sheet.
Lynn: Right!? Some people commented things like, ‘Oh, I think that’s Sierra under there’, and you can clearly see all of my tattoos on my arm, you fucking idiots [laughs].
[Laughs] Do you think handling such rumours and criticisms with a bit of comedy can go a really long way?
Lynn: You can’t fight fire with fire, you have to go about it with a level head, because it’s not healthy at all. We’re always trying to be positive and mature about things as a band
I think that goes for anything in life really, otherwise it becomes some giant clusterfuck situation.
Alex: Humour and kindness, it’s the only way you can do that.
Well, I think we’ve gone at it long enough now, guys – thanks so much for taking the time to do this, it’s been really great to speak with you all, and it’s been a pleasure
Alex: Ah awesome, thanks so much.
Lynn: Yeah you too dude, it was an awesome chat, Thanks so much Alex.
Brian: It’s been a real pleasure man.
‘White Noise’ is out now.