hen we speak to Vic Fuentes, it’s on the dark day the world learns that Prince is no longer a part of it. “It was a pretty weird morning, kind of like the morning Michael Jackson died, for me,” the singer laments. “I just feel like an important piece of the universe is gone.” He’s still storing a Prince costume that he’s worn on five Halloweens. “I should probably just break it out and wear it today.”
It’s unsurprising that the tragedy has shaken Fuentes in light of the impact the Purple One has had on his life; he cites him as a formative influence on the band he fronts, Pierce The Veil. At the time of our chat, they’re gearing up to release their fourth studio album, Misadventures, in under a month, which saw Fuentes undergo a struggle of his own. The years spent meticulously working on the record cemented for him that nothing is easy, whether you’re dealing in pop or post-hardcore.
“Instead of powering through and putting out something that we didn’t feel strongly about we just decided to do the opposite. We went on tour and took a break from recording and came back, and then I went on this crazy journey to finish the lyrics on the record, trying to make sure every song had a good story behind it, and had a good piece of my life in there. We took a method-acting approach to this record and really got stressed over it. But I think it was worth it in the end.”
His frustration comes as a response to the pressure put on the San Diego outfit to complete the LP, a weight that’s been on their shoulders for the four-odd years since Collide With The Sky was released in 2012. “We’re people and we’re not just here to meet every single deadline, you know? What we’re doing is an art and it’s creativity, and it has to be treated that way.”
Although it may seem unnaturally invested, the sensitivity with which Fuentes approaches his music is justified by how much he weaves his experience into it. From its lyrics to its cover art, every second, word and inch that makes up the chaos of Misadventures is intimately personal.
|“On the album cover each element actually represents one of the songs or the lyrics or parts of our lives,” he explains. “For example, there’s a syringe on there and I put that in there for our friend Tyson [Stevens], the singer from Scary Kids Scaring Kids. He passed away during the making of this record and it was a pretty big hit for us because they actually took us out as like, a big band, you know? They were the first band we ever saw that had a tour bus. It was a really bad day. And you know, we’ve had a couple of friends that have struggled with addiction and that was kind of talking about that. And you see on the album, the hand pouring out booze, that’s sort of a symbol for when a friend dies; you pour out alcohol. There’s a song on the record called ‘Gold Medal Ribbon’. That was about my first girlfriend, she actually passed during the making of this record as well, so I made that song for her, to let her know that I was still thinking of her. Each element actually has a meaning.”
It’s intriguing how honest Fuentes is willing to be about the components that make up the narrative of Misadventures. But it’s that characteristic of earnestness, even when it exposes vulnerability, that’s propelled Pierce The Veil forward, colouring their music with the bittersweet conclusion that value can be mined from tragedy. That being said, “Song For Isabelle”, the record’s stirring closer, isn’t just his story to share.
“It’s about a friend of mine that… She was going through something. I don’t know what she was going through, but she felt like she couldn’t handle how cruel people are to each other in the world. The weight of that concept was, I don’t know, she was obsessing over that. She didn’t want to be in a world where people treat each other so poorly. I don’t know what was going on in her life but she told me she didn’t want to be around anymore; she was going to be gone in a year. And it was crazy to me. It really hit me hard for the next year. I didn’t know her too well, so I wasn’t sure if she was still around. I don’t know. Just seeing this beautiful girl not wanting to live in this world anymore, it kind of messed with me for a while. But she got through everything and she’s okay. So you know, I think a part of that is that each person has to find their joy in life and what the meaning of their life is. That kind of becomes important at some point.”
|Just as much as Fuentes empathises with the hardships of others on the record, he also diarises his own obstacles. They partially revolve around touring, with Fuentes, now 33, seeking some form of settlement that’s almost impossible to find when you’re forever travelling from city to city, speeding away from prospects of love aboard buses and planes. “Sambuka”, the shortest song that Pierce The Veil have ever released, documents that.
“Before I met my girlfriend I had dated a couple of girls and since we travelled so much my life was pretty much on the road and I ended up falling for people that didn’t actually live where I live. They lived all over the world, in other states or overseas. And I was trying to make these relationships work and they never seemed to work for me. It was just too difficult to make happen and that song was kind of about that, and just rejecting that whole part of my life and realising that.”
|That’s not the only issue that has accompanied the lifestyle that every member of the band has become rigidly dedicated to. Zooming out from their personal lives reveals the cutthroat nature of the industry as a whole, and the inevitable immorality of a handful of its members. Pierce The Veil’s changing opinion on success can be tracked through their entire discography, from cuts like “I’d Rather Die Than Be Famous” on their debut album, A Flair For The Dramatic (2007), to “Floral & Fading”, a new song that Fuentes wrote to remind his girlfriend that the vultures of the online world mean absolutely nothing after they started harassing her. For surviving inside the business, however, he did offer this advice: “The more you’re in the music industry, you just have to stay away from the people who have forgotten why they used to do music and forgotten why they’re passionate.”
Pierce The Veil certainly aren’t those people, and they’ve come a long way from playing Drake covers to get the attention of nonchalant crowds. Now, they front sold out shows where devotees with tattoos of their lyrics line up from the early hours of the morning just to get a glimpse of them (for the record, Fuentes did insist that he could see them bringing back a lil’ Drake every now and then, “just for fun”). Come August, Aussie followers will get the chance to do the same when the band returns for their first ever headlining shows on a stacked bill that includes Beartooth, Silverstein and our own Storm The Sky. By our calculations, that gives you three months to commit every inch of Misadventures to memory.