I Prevail: Filling In The Blank Spaces
After bursting onto the music scene with an excellent cover version of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”, I Prevail are preparing to release their debut album, Lifelines, this week. The band are keen to prove to their fans – and the music community in general – that their musical prowess extends far beyond reworking other people’s material.
“Honestly, it was kind of funny,” laughs vocalist Brian Burkheiser. “We had our EP (Heart vs. Mind) out, and being the new band, trying to push your original music out off the bat – it’s very hard to get people to check it out. We looked around at each other and said, ‘Fuck it, we should do a cover.’ The Pop Goes Punk series is hugely successful, so we looked into it. Our drummer is actually a huge fan of Taylor Swift and he managed to get his hands on a leaked album, so we played it through, and when ‘Blank Space’ came up, it was a song we thought we could work with.
“We figured we could add some strings to make it heavy, and also make the lyrics kind of work through the genre. All of a sudden we put it out, and that first month was one of the craziest months of our lives! We were happy for ten, maybe 20,000 views, but all of a sudden it went viral – we were looking at the iTunes chart, and the song was #1. That led to the EP being #1, so it was a crazy couple of months. You have to give Taylor her props: she wrote a good song, and we were lucky enough to pick the right song to cover.”
Now, with somewhat of a benchmark set for I Prevail, Burkheiser says the pressure was suddenly on for the young band. They needed to deliver on their promise, and as such, they made the important decision to take things one step at a time, rather than rush things to capitalize on their unexpected success.
“We put a lot of hard work into Lifelines,” he stressed. “The writing process took a little over six months, but by the end of that process, we all kind of sat in a circle, smiled at each other and realised that our work ethic had paid off. The biggest thing with this album, for me personally, was driven from putting out ‘Blank Space’. It gained us notoriety, earned us fans and got people to check out the EP, but at the same time, we also had a lot of people telling us that we were only a glorified cover band. There was a lot of motivation to really do well and write the best songs possible – really show people that we are much more than a band who puts out a cover and sticks around for only a couple of years.
“We are learning all the time, and hope to use those lessons to better ourselves as we go.”
“We really want to have longevity with our career, so with this album, it was about putting everything we had in to it. With the music itself, we really wanted to make sure that all of these songs were diverse, and that it was an album where people could listen through and not have every song sound similar. We wanted to stick with those hard rock aspects, but at the same time have some pop-punk riffs and really stay diverse. I think we accomplished that.”
There is something familiar about I Prevail’s music, but it’s familiar in a way that doesn’t draw too much from any one particular band’s style. It’s a metal-laced rock sound that stands out for its refusal to confirm to the standard formula – one that too many bands adhere to these days.
“That’s actually something we discussed going in to the record,” Burkheiser agreed. “We wanted to make sure that when people think of I Prevail, they have a sound that instantly pops up in their mind. We’ve put a lot of time into it, but like I was trying to say earlier, we wanted to grow it song by song. There’s a similar feel to each song, but at the same time, we really wanted them to stand on their own. Sometimes we get real heavy with it, and other times we go lighter. We want to be one of those bands where you know what the sound is going to be, but you’re not exactly sure what you are going to get either… If that makes sense. We want to keep people on their toes. We don’t mind having a sound that is familiar to some people, as long as it sets us apart from other bands in the genre.”
Without getting too far ahead of themselves, Burkheiser concedes that I Prevail are very much a band with a larger plan, and as such, have already started to think about their next album. With bands having pretty much as long as they want to write and prepare for their debut album, he says it is an important part of the band’s future growth to think ahead.
“We were actually talking about that the other day,” Burkheiser mused of the potential pitfalls of a follow-up album. “I think the next one might even be a little easier [laughs], just in terms of the amount of things that ended up happening with this album. A lot of hurdles got placed in front of us where this one could have easily crashed and derailed, but we just kept pushing through. For example, we were supposed to go to LA to record, and when we went out there, things didn’t go quite the way we wanted.
“We were working with a new person and things went off the rails, so we made the decision, as a band, to go back to our home in Michigan and record the album with the same guy who worked with us on the EP. I think that was a big turning point in this whole record for us. We decided that we weren’t going to settle on any of the songs without being 100% confident in them. We brought it back home – we were in a place we were familiar with, and we grinded it out every day. We were pretty much working 14-hour days non-stop, and I think putting in all of that time led to us getting out the album that we wanted to get out. We are learning all the time, and hope to use those lessons to better ourselves as we go.”