One of the most prominent heavy bands active in the scene currently, Michigan-hailing I Prevail have returned with their latest studio album, TRUE POWER. Long-awaited by fans since 2019’s TRAUMA, the record turns that concept onto its head, ultimately centred on “taking your lows and your traumas and everything that brings you down and turning that into your strength,” as told to us by vocalist Eric Vanlerberghe. Taking a beat out of the lead-up to its release last week, Vanlerberghe talks us through each track on the Grammy-nominated act’s new full-length.
‘There’s Fear In Letting Go’
After demoing a few songs halfway through the process of this record, we all kind of had the understanding with each other that this one was gonna be the first song on TRUE POWER. It’s the longest song we’ve written, I believe. And it’s the most theatrical song we’ve written. With this record having intertwining themes throughout each song, we felt it was kind of important to start this record off with this song. It kind of just takes you on a ride into the world of TRUE POWER.
‘Body Bag’ is one of my favourite songs currently. We’ve played that a few times, we debuted it live for the first time in Australia, it was such a fun song to play live and to write. I remember sitting in the room with Tyler, Brian and Steve, coming up with some riffs and the intro riffs, and we just kept pushing along. We were like: “Let’s just keep making it heavier, who cares? Let’s see how wild we can get this song.” And every time we kept pushing it further and further, we kept double checking with ourselves and each other, and we were like, “This is dope! Alright, let’s keep going, let’s keep going.” And that’s ‘Body Bag’.
‘Self-Destruction’ is another one of my favourite songs. We just started rehearsing for this new US tour, and I knew it was one of my top five, but as soon as we started playing it in rehearsals, it became either my favourite or second favourite next to ‘Body Bag’. When we were writing it, it was another one where we were like, “We’ve hit the mark on these other avenues that we were trying to hit.” There’s the typical I Prevail big chorus breakdown song, we did that with ‘There’s Fear In Letting Go’. With this one, we were like, “Let’s try and write something very ignorantly pissed off.” I think we started with the chorus, then the verses just fell into place. And we got done with that, then were like, “Where do we take the song? We’re two minutes into it, where do we go, do we go to a breakdown? Do we go to a last chorus?” And that was one of the songs where we were like, “Well, what would the listener least expect? Let’s throw this ignorantly pissed-off rap over this heavy-ass guitar riff and see where it takes us.” And that’s probably one of my favourite parts on the whole record.
‘Bad Things’ was one of the first songs we started working on. Brian was humming melodies on the mic over the music bed. And this was one where we were like, this is a very down-the-middle I Prevail chorus, let’s keep at this. This just feels like core I Prevail, and taking things that we tried with the last record and the rapping. And it just felt natural to go in that direction for the verses. And just like the outro on ‘Self Destruction, we were like, “How can we give fans what they want without realising that’s what they wanted?” And just that guitar riff – it’s simple but heavy. And, a fun fact about the music video, we filmed that on a day off in Melbourne if I’m not mistaken.
‘Fake’ was a really fun song to write. I think that was one of the ones where we had a little bit of an instrumental bed and we were trying to think of a word to title the project on the computer. I don’t remember who came up with it, but we called it ‘Fake’. And after working on that chorus a little bit, we were like, “What if the tag was just ‘Fake?’“ And we came up with that melody and the heavy post-chorus riff, another thing that I feel like is unexpected and just hits you. I remember fighting to have more of it, but I think the important thing is to leave the listener wanting more. You’re assuming you’re getting to something heavy in the bridge and bam – Steve’s first guitar solo!
‘Judgement Day’ is probably one of our most straight rock songs, just pedal to the metal, 180 miles an hour…or should I say kilometres an hour, right? It’s just a fast as fuck song and we wanted it to have just a completely wild, chaotic energy. It was just one of those songs where we were like: “How weird can we get? How weird can we get?” And honestly, that’s probably one of my favourite choruses, the way Brian delivers those lines and the back and forth we have. ‘Judgement Day’ is one of the most fun songs that we have. It’s heavy, but it’s still fun.
‘FWYTYK’, or ‘Fuck What You Think You Know’, is probably the weirdest song we set out to write. With the last record, we feel like ‘Paranoid’ was probably the one that was the odd child on TRAUMA, the one that’s, you know, pushed the boundaries of who we are as a band. ‘FWYTYK’ is one that we feel the same way about with TRUE POWER. It’s blending a lot of EDM, electronic dance music elements, mixed with heavy guitars in the chorus and the outro in an odd time signature. I think we’re in 7/4 for the breakdown at the end and just having an instrumental heavy breakdown to end the song is something we’ve never done before. The song just speaks for itself: “Fuck what you think you know about this song, you don’t know where we’re going with it!”
‘Deep End’ is…oh man, I say this about every song, but it was a fun one to write and it’s a fun one to play. We’ve been rehearsing that one a lot. I’ve gotten to sing a little bit more on this record and ‘Deep End’ was one of the first ones that showed my vocal chops and sang a bit of back and forth with Brian. This is a song that I feel like the band connected to a lot. I feel like it’s another one that ties who we were with TRAUMA to who we are with TRUE POWER, it connects the emotion from wearing your heart on your sleeve and being open with the things you’re going through to now, with TRUE POWER being a record that’s about taking your lows and your traumas and everything that brings you down and turning that into your strength and into what your power is. I think ‘Deep End’ is a song that bridges those two records and connects them in a way.
‘Long Live The King’
‘Long Live The King‘ is a song that started off with some weird electronic ideas, and just had us going way out into left field with it, then dialling it back, reeling it back into what it is now. That one was a fun one to write because it was one of the last ones that we started and we had no rules, we already had enough demos to fill a record. We were like: “Well, let’s take another shot at a new song before we wrap it up and start tightening the ones we already have down.” And a fun fact about that song, Steve was supposed to come in that day to work on a different song. And his kid was being born that day, so he didn’t show up. And it was the last day that we had Tyler for that writing trip and he was flying back home to LA, so we started ‘Long Live The King’. And now I’ll always connect that song mentally to Steve’s child.
For me, once we had most of that instrumental bed down, it was so fun to just go up to the mic and envision the short list of people that inspired that song and just go off and say what I would love to do those people. It’s just the pissed-off fun, it’s got a little bit of fun energy behind it, but with one of the most pissed-off messages I think we’ve had yet.
‘The Negative’ was one song that we started with our other producer Jon Eberhard, an incredibly talented kid. Between him and Tyler Smyth, I don’t think there’s anyone that could stop the team that we have between I Prevail, John and Tyler. But John brought an idea in and we took that and just ran with it. And that song was one that we feel fills a gap on the record. It was one of the later songs that we started, but it felt like it was necessary for the record. It filled a gap of what you hear from I Prevail in the past before you hear this record, this is a song that I would be like: “If you want proof that I Prevail is still I Prevail? Here’s ‘The Negative’. I’m looking forward to playing that song live one day and it’s just one that I think we all relate to. And hopefully, when a listener hears it, they can relate to it as well.
‘Closure’ was a song where we started the chorus, Brian had that melody and it was actually supposed to go on TRAUMA. But we just felt like we didn’t have it in us to finish that song for whatever reason, we didn’t really relate well to it. It was a great catchy chorus, but we just felt like we couldn’t give it the love that it deserved to make it onto TRAUMA. ‘Closure’ was the only demo that we carried over from TRAUMA to this record. The song’s about missing the girlfriend, and about the breakups, and leaving for tours and leaving the loved ones behind. This is actually the song that I feel I relate to the most. I left a very long and not happy or healthy relationship, and then met the girl I’m with now and have never been happier. And ‘Closure’ was a cathartic reminder for me that having closure is sometimes unnecessary. You just move on to the next thing and find your happiness within yourself and the rest will come. And I feel like that was a message that needed to be said on this album, I feel like there’s a lot of people who need to hear that you can be happy, you can be content, you can be the person you wanna be. And sometimes that’s just cutting off the shit and moving forward.
‘Visceral’ was the other song that John brought in a riff for and we loved it. Usually, when we write demos, we start with the intro and go into a verse and then we get to the chorus and about then you kind of know that: okay, what we have here is good, let’s put it to the side and let’s start something else. Then when you get a couple more demos started, then we’ll go back and start adding more to the other ones and letting those breathe and grow naturally. ‘Visceral’ on the other hand, I remember sitting in Brian’s basement and we got to the verse and had a melody and a very solid idea. Brian had the idea for the chorus, and then we went to the second verse and had an idea – and just ran with it. That’s how we got that second verse, the energy was rolling in the room, we couldn’t put a pause on it and just kept going with it. And I’m glad we did, because I think if we’d stopped and given it any more thought – it would be the song that it is because we just let the song…it sounds corny, but we just let the song speak to us. And we just wrote down what we heard. We let it become what it was trying to be.
‘Doomed’ was a song that we all agreed the record needed. Every I Prevail record so far has had a ballad, and it was kind of an unspoken thing that we all came to the conclusion of and agreed that this record didn’t need an acoustic guitar, it didn’t need that kind of song. It felt like this record was a step up in our writing, and a step up in our production, and just as a whole a step up in our career. And we felt that a ballad that was written on the piano was the move. And we knew right away that this was gonna be the song that ended the record, in many ways it connects with the first song and to the themes throughout the record. ‘Doomed’ was a challenge to write, but in the best way, it was something where every time we wrote, we kind of chipped away way at it little by little, until one day we were like, “Whoa, this feels right, let’s keep rolling with it!” And I took a shot at singing half the song, that was probably one of the first songs I’ve sung the most on. And as a band, I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished with this record and with ‘Doomed‘ itself.