Midnight in PVRIS: Talking Expectations, Discrimination, and Success with Alternative’s New It-Band

It is only 11:15 AM in the “moving city” that is Vans Warped Tour, and in the Warped press area, one band is already the talk of the town. “PVRIS is the next big thing on this tour,” confides the photographer next to me. “Their crowd is getting bigger at each stop, and everyone is fighting to have time with them.” It only takes a few minutes to realize that this isn’t just gossip: when I go to sign up for interviews, I’m lucky to be squeezed in, as PVRIS’ press sheet is completely full—the only band of over 70 that day to be 100% booked.

PVRIS’ live show is something else—not only the experience of witnessing the 3-piece act, seeming so miniature on the towering main stage, blast through their powerful set; but observing the dynamics of their audience. Though they are scheduled smack in the middle of the day, their crowd is reminiscent of that of the final band at any festival: that magical, almost serene period when, instead of the usual 4 or 5 bands playing at any given time, there is only one left standing, and as the sun sets, all of the remaining concertgoers gather together around the main stage to watch the lone band give the closing performance. Similarly, it feels like the entire Warped world has shown up to see PVRIS, the crowd stretching all the way back to the farthest vendor tents. While fans near the stage riotously yell, leap, and crowd-surf, others near the outskirts simply stand and observe, still tapping their feet and mouthing the words along with Lynn Gvnn, the energetic frontwoman whose vocal style lies somewhere between breathily melodic and startlingly growly.

But PVRIS isn’t the final band, and it seems clear that their sun won’t be setting anytime soon. Formed in 2012, a mere 3 years ago, the alt rock-electronic trio has already released 2 EPs (one produced by Blake Harnage of Versa); become the first and only female-fronted band signed to Rise/Velocity Records; toured with such notable acts as Mayday Parade, Emarosa, and Pierce the Veil; and won the 2015 Kerrang! Award for Best International Newcomer. And as the cherry on top, their first full-length album, “White Noise”, quickly rocketed to #6 on the US Alternative charts.

I sat down with frontwoman Lynn Gvnn to discuss dealing with pressure, what it means to be a female in music, and PVRIS’ speedy rise to the top.

You grew up in Lowell, MA. How was the music scene there?

There was none. (laughs) But it’s a pretty cultural town—there’s a lot of Hispanic people, a lot of Asian people, a lot of black people… it’s many different cultures and races and customs so it’s pretty cool. It’s diverse in that sense, but it didn’t really have a music scene or anything. I got into music by doing marching band and jazz band.

So you felt like you had to kind of create your own music scene?

Kind of, yeah. That’s how I met a lot of people in that scene—they would go to shows up in New Hampshire, and I would go with them. They showed me the ropes, in a way.

How has this year of Warped Tour been so far?

It’s awesome! It’s very different from last year. (laughs)

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Yeah, didn’t you guys play on the Ernie Ball Stage in 2014?

Yeah! We did 2 dates on the Ernie Ball Stage 2 years ago, last year we did 2 weeks, and then this year we’re doing the whole summer.

That’s awesome. So have the crowds really changed?

Oh yeah, we keep getting bumped up to main stage (laughs). So it’s very different!

How have the fan interactions been? Do you do signings every day?

Yep! We try to do signings as much as we can, and sometimes we do them at the other tents. But it’s been crazy—last summer I could walk through the crowd and no one knew who I was, and this year it’s a lot different, but it’s fun. It’s funny to see different people’s reactions!

Do a lot of people run up to you and take pictures and stuff like that?

A lot of people will, but with most people, you’ll pass them, and then you’ll hear, “OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD”. They’ll notice after, and it’s kind of funny. It’s silly.

Do you ever try to disguise yourself by going out in sunglasses or something?

Nothing works. (laughs)

Pvris recently played at the Acoustic Basement for a day, how was that experience?

It was good! We’re pretty good friends with Brian Marquis, who runs the tent, and we did one day in the Acoustic Basement probably like 3 years ago…? Before we were even a band. So it was pretty crazy to go from then to now and play it. We’re just doing it on select dates cause we don’t want to throw anyone off the schedule, but it’s pretty fun. It’s a much different take on our songs, and I like that people can hear it in 2 different ways in one day.

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And it must be a totally different vibe for a show, kids are sitting down and just chilling.

Yeah, it’s a lot more of a chilled acoustic vibe, it’s cool.

If you could give yourself advice before starting Warped Tour this year, what would you say?

Don’t pack so many clothes, even though you tried to not pack a lot (laughs). That would be mine. What else would I say? Oh, I would tell myself not to be so hard on myself because I’m always very critical with myself. I would tell myself at the beginning: Just chill out, you’re good, don’t worry.

And this is the dream tour for so many people, so there must be a lot of expectations going into it.

For sure! And everything’s been kind of a whirlwind for us right now. Everything’s moving very quickly, a lot faster than it does for a lot of bands, so there’s definitely a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations from us. I take that pressure a lot, and I don’t deal with it very well, so I’m just trying to learn to roll with it. I say all the time that it feels like our bones are growing faster than our skin.

Last year, Kevin Lyman received a lot of backlash for having so few women on the tour…

Which is the stupidest thing ever, because he always supports female bands—“female bands” is a stupid word, but you know what I mean. Half of, almost all of production for Warped Tour is female. Warped Tour is basically run by women. It’s pretty funny that people don’t understand how anything works in the scene, or how anything regarding Warped Tour works.

So there are a lot of women behind the scenes?

Almost everyone in production, yeah. And post-production, catering, press… everything is run by girls. It’s pretty kick-ass.

Have you experienced sexism in the music industry?

Oh yeah, it happens all the time. You get the typical doorman being like, “Oh, who are you with, are you the groupie?” and you have to be like, “No, we’re actually playing.” And you get the people who won’t let you into the venue, or sound guys who don’t take you seriously, but it’s kind of fun because then you go up there and kick ass and flip ‘em off! Another thing that contributes to that is just the fact that there are so few females in music right now, but I think that’s something that will change over time. I feel like the generation coming up is a lot more open-minded and there are a lot more females getting involved, so that’s something that will hopefully diminish over time. And I think it will.

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I’ve always thought it’s ridiculous how every female-fronted band is immediately compared to Paramore.

(laughs) Typical, yeah. But I think a lot of that comes from the same thing—a lot of people who hear a band with a female singer don’t necessarily know a lot of bands, and they automatically go to Paramore cause they’re so well-known. I think the whole thing kind of stems from ignorance and people just not really having a diverse taste in music. There are so many females out there and if you put a male singer in their band, it would not sound similar at all. It’s a silly assumption that people make just because they don’t know any better, half the time. Half the time, other people are just being trolls about it. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; Paramore is an awesome band, so you gotta just roll with the punches. It’s not the worst thing in the world.

Do you have any advice for aspiring female musicians?

Just go for it. Go for it, and don’t take shit from anyone, just roll with it. Don’t stop for anything.

You guys recently covered Sia’s “Chandelier” and Tove Lo’s “Talking Body”. How did that come about?

Yeah! For BBC Radio 1, you get to pick certain songs that are on the A-list, B-List, or C-list on the radio over there. And we were originally going to do Florence and the Machine, but then I chickened out. I was like, “I don’t think I can do Florence any justice!” (laughs) So we had to find another one, and “Talking Body” was my jam for all of our trip overseas, I was always jamming it. So I was like, “It would only be suiting to cover that for things in the UK.” And then for “Chandelier”, when we got asked to do Punk Goes Pop, we got a list to choose from and it was a pretty big list, but I saw Sia and I was like, “I love me some Sia!” (laughs) And her voice is kick-ass, it’s killer. So I was like, “I kinda want to take on this challenge.”

Yeah, that song seems like it would be kind of intimidating! With how high some of those notes get.

Yeah, I was like, “Should I do this?” But we just went for it, and I think it did alright.

Have you had any big dream-come-true moments in the band?

Totally! Getting bumped up to main stage was a huge one, but there’s literally things happening all the time that we didn’t expect to happen at all. There’s been a lot. We didn’t expect very much to happen to us with this first record, or just even in general, and the fact that so many awesome opportunities have presented themselves… But [main stage] was definitely one of them.

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What would you say are your biggest goals as a band?

Literally just to keep putting out good music and hope that it can inspire people in any form. But we don’t want to restrict or limit ourselves. I know a lot of bands are like, “Oh, we don’t want to go mainstream,” or “We don’t want to do this or that,” but we don’t have any limits—the sky’s the limit for us. We just want to do whatever our music’s going to take us. Go wherever it goes.

Any last sentiments for fans?

Thanks for listening and go grab our record “White Noise”!

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