Mixdown issue #325's cover stars Pierce the Veil on the seven year journey to their brand new album 'The Jaws of Life'.
In mid-2018, Pierce the Veil frontman and co-founder Vic Fuentes posted a photo of himself in the studio to the band’s Instagram page. Therein, he described the creative process for what was to become their fifth studio album The Jaws of Life as a “beautifully unpredictable journey”. It might seem like remarkable foresight on his behalf, but not even Fuentes could have realised exactly how unpredictable things were about to become. 18 months later, the world came to a standstill – as did any plans for a new Pierce the Veil album, or any album for that matter.
“Before we got things in motion with the album, we were in a very disconnected state as a band,” Fuentes recalls when speaking to Mixdown over Zoom. “It was obviously the way the world was at the time, but it was really weighing on the band – there was a lot of anxiety about what was happening, and if we were going to be able to play music again. Personally, I always knew that we were heading towards something and working towards it, because I was still writing a lot on my own. To keep everyone focused was definitely difficult, though.”
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In order to get the process back on track, Fuentes enlisted producer Paul Meany – a man whose best-known aspect of his resume depends on your age. If you’re a millennial, you’ll remember Meany at the helm of keytar-wielding alt-rockers Mutemath. Remember ‘Typical’? It’s a banger. If you’re Gen Z, however, Meany will be a familiar face on account of his production and musical direction work with Twenty One Pilots. Either way you cut it, the man is an accomplished music veteran and knows his way around songs that live in your head rent-free – which is exactly what Fuentes was hoping for by enlisting him.
“When we booked Paul we were like, ‘oh my God, this is going to actually happen now’,” he says. “We have like this, this amazing, talented, creative producer behind us now. We were all fans of Mutemath, and we used to go see them play – they were always incredible. Typically, our producers have all been more within the engineering world – they just want to make it sound as good as possible. This time, we really wanted to have somebody that had a really strong opinion and wouldn’t be afraid to battle it out with us a little bit on the songs. That’s exactly what we got with Paul – he was the perfect guy for the job.”
From there, Fuentes – alongside lead guitarist Tony Perry and bassist Jaime Preciado – forged ahead with Meany on The Jaws of Life with a refreshed focus and a newfound creative vision. If Fuentes wasn’t excited enough about the record, he brought in a second outside influence to bring the album to life: Brad Hagreaves, the drummer of semi-charmed pop-rock stalwarts Third Eye Blind. “It was another monumental moment for the record,” says Fuentes. “We have one of our heroes playing on this record. My favourite band in the world is Third Eye Blind. I got to make an album with this guy who’s played on all of their albums. We were so excited about what this record could be.”
What this record ended up being, as it turned out, was a chance to redefine Pierce the Veil entirely. Nearly seven years removed from its predecessor, 2016’s Misadventures, it sees the band expanding into electric alternative rock – as showcased on the down-tuned headbanger ‘Pass the Nirvana’. Fuentes can’t help but smile when he talks about the fresh coat of paint his band has been given – especially given it started over 15 years ago, when Fuentes was still in his early 20s.
“It was very natural for us to want to do something different,” he says. “We were craving something new. It wasn’t really a question of us changing things up, because I just wasn’t writing the same riffs anymore. I think the last two albums that we did captured a lot of that heavy-metal feel – they have a lot of guitar-driven tracks with complex riffs and stuff like that. For my part, I was just not writing like that anymore. What was coming to me was taking inspiration from different bands that I enjoyed growing up – Weezer, The Cranberries, Beck, stuff like that. We weren’t really trying to impress anybody with our shredding, y’know? We were more so just trying to write powerful riffs and powerful melodies. That was the focus, and it was all very natural on our end, but also a real challenge for us – which keeps things fresh-feeling and exciting.”
A new sound, a new drummer and a new producer might be enough for most bands to properly make their shift, but the trio didn’t stop there. While working with Meany, the band chanced upon a miniature violin bow: “It’s like the dumbest thing ever,” Fuentes laughs. “As soon as Jaime saw it, he laid down a bass track with him playing it.” Not to be outdone, Fuentes himself tried out some new hardware in the recording studio – quite literally. “There’s a couple of songs on the album where I recorded guitar parts with a drill,” he says. “I just pulled it out of the closet and went to town – that was a lot of fun.
“Stuff like that might seem trivial, but for the three of us it was so freeing to make an album however we wanted to make it. We’ve been making albums for 20 years, and we finally feel like we can take control now. We engineered and recorded a lot of this ourselves – I have my own studio, and I was doing stuff in there when we weren’t all in together with Paul. If we all got one thing out of making this record, it was solidifying and having faith in our own abilities. We’re utilising everything we’ve ever learned as a band on this album.”
Pierce the Veil’s The Jaws of Life is available to purchase, and on all good streaming platforms now.