At first glimpse of Mikey Chapman, I immediately feel at ease. Upon introducing himself, he flashes a radiant smile that has a mysterious way of making you feel right at home. Midafternoon, and midway through his stint on the 2015 Warped Tour, there are undoubtedly much more exciting places for the Mallory Knox frontman to be than the Warped press area, granting an interview in the middle of a crowded hallway—balancing a loaded paper plate of food from catering, he admits that he “got up about 45 minutes ago”, and goes on to describe the hangover he’s currently experiencing from last night’s Warped after-party—“…but,” he insists cheerfully, “I’m happy to be here!”
Over the past few years, Mallory Knox has skyrocketed in the alt-rock universe. As the UK group won the hearts of crowds overseas on worldwide tours with established acts like Pierce the Veil and Sleeping with Sirens, they earned a Rockstar Energy endorsement and their 2014 release “Asymmetry” reached #16 on the UK alternative charts. Like many successful musicians before him, Chapman radiates passion, drive, and sincerity. He talks animatedly about his childhood obsession with music, transposing raw emotions into powerful songs, and the importance of staying true to yourself. Mallory Knox’s heartfelt and unadulterated ambition is best conveyed on “Heart & Desire”, a standout track on “Asymmetry”: “These bright lights, big dreams, they always meant the whole damn world to me,” croons Chapman, “…so give ‘em heart, give ‘em desire.”
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.
It is 7:30 PM in Mansfield, MA, and it is monsooning outside. Rain is crashing violently and relentlessly onto the Vans Warped Tour crowds, drenching a sea of black band t-shirts, smudging heavily-applied eyeliner, and wreaking havoc on freshly-dyed neon hair—one unlucky punk already has a steady stream of purple Manic Panic dripping down her neck. However, despite the weather-fueled chaos, inside the amphitheater, As It Is is incredibly happy. As they perform to a room of hundreds of people, undeniably wet but still dancing and screaming with undampened energy, frontman Patty Walters seems physically unable to stop smiling. To the crisp pounding of the drums and unrelenting rhythm of the guitar, Walters never stands still for more than a second—he is perched on the amps; then he is jumping vertically in time, looking indisputably pop-punk; and then he has launched himself onto the barrier to sing with the army of fans before him. Every now and then, I catch guitarist Ben Biss smiling to himself through his impressive mop of blonde hair, or bassist Ali Testo looking out into the amphitheater with wonder—though the band plays to loving crowds on the daily, they still give off the “ecstatic disbelief” energy of 5 garage-band teens from England, finally playing the festival of their dreams.
It’s safe to say that As It Is have successfully broken into the American alternative scene, yet playing with the British flag draped proudly over their bass amp, they have never been shy about their love for their home country. Since forming in Brighton, England in 2012, they had self-released 3 EPs before signing with Fearless Records for their 2015 full-length debut “Never Happy, Ever After”—a feel-good pop punk masterpiece with loud, clap-along hooks perfectly crafted to translate into a fun, dynamic live show.
Before it started pouring, I was able to catch up with Ben Biss and Ali Testo at Warped Tour, where we chatted about recording their new album, the differences between the US and the UK, and dream-come-true moments. Continue reading
Yesterday morning, Jezebel.com premiered the cover of Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein’s highly anticipated memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. Spotlit in striking black-and-white against the jet-black background, Brownstein’s triumphant stance and defiant scream into the microphone provide an extremely fitting visual for her explosive career. She is best known for her innovatively unconventional take on the electric guitar, as well as her affinity for hipster-centric sketch comedy on the indie hit Portlandia. But, c’mon. Those are only her most well-known projects. Brownstein’s less mainstream endeavors are just as impressively diverse– she has starred in a number of indie films, collaborated with some of alt-rock’s greatest, and played a notable role in the “riot grrrl” movement of the early 1990’s.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl promises to delve not only into these aspects of Brownstein’s career, but into the facets of her upbringing that preceded them. The official description, posted by Riverhead Books, promises an “accessibly raw, honest and heartfelt” memoir that “captures the experience of being a young woman, a born performer and an outsider, and ultimately finding one’s true calling through hard work, courage and the intoxicating power of rock and roll”.
Out on October 27th, 2015 from Riverhead Books.