PVRIS Frontwoman Lynn Gunn Details the New Independence and Nuances of ‘Use Me’
There are only a select few bands that proceed with such conviction that they are willing to drastically change styles in the blink of an eye, and own it so well that it doesn’t even matter. PVRIS is this band, starting off in a post-hardcore genre, and turning overnight into a dark electropop group that channels the energy of their early rock excursions into infectious tunes with a broad alt-pop appeal. Frontwoman Lynn Gunn has been the driving force since the beginning, writing all of the music, and playing multiple instruments ever since the band’s screaming days. Now, she has finally stepped forward and owned leadership as the primary visionary on PVRIS’ latest album “Use Me.”
The album title is double-edged, on one hand being an open invitation to a paramour, and on the other an incisive complaint about being used, as it is. A new assertiveness is ever present in her latest work, resulting in both new power and new punch. The songs are more unabashedly catchy and mobilizing, while retaining the core qualities of PVRIS’ distinctive sound. With “Us Me,” Gunn details her struggles to overcome autoimmune diseases and toxic influences over the years. She delves into the paranormal and the mind-altering power of relationships. Along the way, she traverses plenty of ground, sounding empowered, vulnerable, endearing, and ultimately triumphant, while turning out impassioned, acoustic-driven escapades that give way to raging dancefloor revelry with a menacing plod. Gunn recently spoke with Entertainment Voice about PVRIS’ musical journey, her taking charge, and the sounds of the new album.
Your third album, “Use Me,” finds you finally taking credit as the sole songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and visionary behind PVRIS, rather than merely a band member. Why now?
It’s always kind of naturally been like that, but especially with this last album, I worked on it entirely alone, and was flying around to every session, and flying around to the studio alone, and pressed every instrument, and even got to work on some production, and it just kind of naturally was happening like that, due to the scheduling and the craziness that we were in, so it was just very clear as day that this is what it has been, and where it will be, and I just wanted to update the external view of that, to be transparent about it, and evolve from the past.
Considering that you decided to take proper recognition after a psychic reading, how much does paranormal influence make its way into the music?
Totally. I definitely reference the psychic a couple times, I think once or twice in this album. I don’t know, ever since I was a kid, I felt really connected to the occult and the paranormal and spiritualism, and anything under that type of umbrella, whether it’s been in the music or just in the places that I’m making music, or whatever it is, but it’s very present, and yeah, it just has naturally been seeping into our music as well.
Lead single “Dead Weight” seems to be about growing disillusioned and fed up, with lyrics like “Nothing changes, I’m getting colder / Dead weight hanging off of my shoulders.” Musically, however, it has the feel of a raging party track. Expand on the music and meaning of this song.
Yeah, the meaning of this song is just kind of a summary of the last few years, and a lot of changes, and a lot of endings to old relationships, old friendships, old patterns, old programming, old things that just don’t align with where I’m at, and aren’t the healthiest to have around, and it’s kind of just about setting yourself free of those things, but it’s kind of a bit of the party (laughs). The music is kind of just the celebration and the liberation from those things.
There aren’t many artists that transition from a post-hardcore band to an electronic outfit with broad pop appeal. Tell us a little about your musical journey, what led you to make such a drastic sonic overhaul, and how your new album represents the latest stage in your evolution.
Yeah, I think before I even started playing in a band, I just really listened to a lot of weird music. I would listen to a lot of movie soundtracks, so my taste was kind of all over the place, and it was a compilation of all different genres and energies, so that’s always kind of naturally been there. Once I started, in high school, playing in bands, and just playing around with friends, the only place we really had to play live music, or to go see live music, was in a kind of heavier, alternative scene, and I definitely enjoyed some of it, but for the most part, I felt like we didn’t really fit in there, but there’s this pressure to kind of adhere to that sound, in order to be embraced within whatever local scene you’re in, and in earlier stages, I felt really pressured for us to fit into that, so naturally, the music was a bit heavier. Once we started touring a bit and playing out of state, and just having more confidence to be free creatively, it naturally started progressing the way it has. I always want to keep our sound evolving, and be influenced by different things, so that’s naturally where it’s been heading.
“Use Me” is a rather provocative title for an album. The title track appears to be about consoling someone with your presence, but the story surrounding the album’s release suggests an ironic use of the titular command, in protest of being used for so long. Is the title meant to be ironic, suggestive, something in between, or something different altogether?
It’s meant to be all of those things (laughs). It’s meant to be one thing, it’s meant to be the other thing. It’s definitely mostly the double-edged meaning of that, the really passive aggressive, kind of ironic usage of it, but also a very genuine like, “Go ahead, use me. I’m here for it.” It is funny because the song, “Use Me,” I didn’t really write it about anybody or anything, but it was, I think, something that I wanted to care of from somebody else, or like to have somebody say that in return, so it is a very sincere, genuine part of that, and a part of how I feel with a lot of relationships and a lot of friendships and people that I have around, so it was a little of both of those.
“Death of Me” effectively captures the idea of dangerous love, with lyrics about courting disaster, and serrated sounds that enhance the experience. How did this song come together, and what does it mean to you?
Yeah, it’s definitely kind of similar. It’s a little bit more on the dangerous end (laughs). I think with relationships, and especially with romantic relationships, I’m totally a go hard or go home person. I don’t know, I don’t really have any fear with being vulnerable and connecting with somebody, and I think at times, I can kind of ignore red flags, or might not necessarily see things that might be unhealthy, I can sometimes pick partners that might not be the best for me, so it’s kind of just about that feeling before you give yourself to somebody, and really just go for it, it’s that gamble that you’re about to take before connecting to any human, even friendships, not just romantic relationships.
“Hallucinations” explores the mind-bending disorientation that can occur in the aftermath of a relationship, with lines like “I can’t tell what’s real and what’s…” With all the talk in recent years of “simulated reality,” tell us what you currently think is real, and what isn’t. And expand on the line as it relates to the song.
Ooh yeah, I mean, I believe that anything and everything is possible around us, and I think there’s so much around us that we can’t see, and are not supposed to see, and not supposed to understand, and I think it’s terrifying, but also really liberating. There are some days where I get really paranoid, and in my head, and I’m like, “Wait, what is real, and what’s not? And is that actually a real thing? Is that actually a thing that I’m feeling, or am I making that up? Or is there something else influencing this feeling?” and it’s all about trying to navigate that uncertainty, but that openness at the same time.
“Good to Be Alive” is about your struggle with autoimmune disease. How has this affliction affected you, physically and emotionally, and how has the experience made its way into the new album?
So I started to notice a lot of symptoms popping up on our last touring cycle, specifically towards the end, of having really bad back pain and hip pain, and some days, I couldn’t really get out of my bunk, or it would take me a long time to be able to get up, and it was really bad rib pain, and it was just really confusing and weird, and my eyes would feel really strange and tired, and I would just feel really out of it and foggy, and one of the symptoms I have is basically chronic inflammation throughout your body, so it can really manifest anywhere, but when that was undiagnosed, and didn’t know what was happening. It was really frustrating, because I would be going to the doctors, and I’d go to urgent cares on tour, and go for separate symptoms, and nobody really had any answers. They’d just be like, “Oh!” For a while, I thought I had kidney infections, because my ribs were hurting in the morning, and I went to several urgent cares on tour, and I was like, “I think I have a kidney infection,” and they didn’t find anything, so for a lot of our touring cycle, it’s just a lot of confusion, and just not knowing how to handle it, or how to manage it better, so in the last year, once we got off tour, I finally had time to actually go to the doctor, and find the right people who could give me the answers, so it was definitely a long journey to figure out what’s happening, but it’ s been really great to have the answers now, and be on my way to figuring out how to manage it long term, and how to live comfortably with it.
What’s next for PVRIS, considering the current state of affairs? How will you be spending your time in terms of promotion, musical projects, and just general activity?
I think naturally, I always want things to feel dynamic, and have a push and pull to it, and I think that, in itself, can create moments of intensity and emotion and grit, like you were saying, and this time around, I did the album with JT Daly, and he also has a really great understanding of that, and has really fun ways to express aggression, and bring out the grittiness in a track, maybe in a way that people wouldn’t directly think of or assume, so it was all about accentuating different ways, and highlighting different parts, and just finding a different lens to create that a, which was really cool. JT was a really big help with that.
What are your plans for live shows while we wait for things to return to relative normalcy?
Until we can really tour again, and perform, and have in-person experiences, I’m just going to working on new music, and learning, and growing, and trying to just stay inspired, and stay creative, and stay informed as well (laughs) to the outside world, and yeah, just kind of hanging in there, I think like everybody else right now.
“Use Me” releases Aug. 28 on Apple Music.