After two postponed release dates, Use Me, the third album from Massachusetts-formed band PVRIS, is set to be released on August 28. The new album sees the band explore the more alternative corners of rock, mixing their quintessential high energy stadium sound with dark pop production. Frontwoman Lynn Gunn spoke with mxdwn to discuss her health, taking credit for her large role in the band’s creative process and visiting a psychic.
mxdwn: Use Me has been postponed to August 28th, and not for the first time. How did you feel about these release changes?
Lynn Gunn: I didn’t really mind postponing them both times. I think there’s a lot of really important things happening in the world right now that need more focus and attention. So I was more than happy to postpone for those and I’m excited for it to come out now.
mxdwn: Have you made any changes to the music in that time then or has it remained largely the same project?
Lynn Gunn: It’s been pretty much the same project. We did have one thing pop up after the first postponing or second, I forget. During one of the album push backs, we got a really great collaboration with 070 Shake that popped up. So that was something that was really nice that came from the delay that we weren’t expecting. I would say that was one of the big ones for sure.
mxdwn: And the second time it was postponed was because you wanted to hold self-promotion and leave space for the Black Lives Matter movement. What responsibility do you feel musicians as a whole have during this time?
Lynn Gunn: I think listening and learning, and creating spaces for black voices to be heard. Create platforms for that and finding ways to facilitate change. We are about to launch a thing we did with Propeller which is helping fans donate to a lot of Black Lives and LGBTQ+ organizations, primarily in the south. So just things like that, and educating yourself and learning to be better allies and spreading that message to your fans and sharing resources that feel appropriate for your fans to be learning from as well.
mxdwn: And how have you been doing during COVID-19? What have you been up to?.
Lynn Gunn: I’ve been all right. I’ve had a lot of health issues in the last few years and they kinda like reached a peak right before COVID hit. And so I was kind of grateful to have had time to let my body rest and get a little bit more clarity and time to just like hear my body and see what it needs. Listen to it a bit more and have the time with way less pressure around and a less hectic schedule to do that. So that’s been like the primary focus of my quarantining, trying to heal my body and have a little bit of self-care because I’m really bad at that and learning to bring that in my life a bit more.
mxdwn : Yeah, you’ve been open about having faced quite a few of these health struggles in the past 3-4 years, emotional pain is often referenced as inspiration, but does the physical pain you’ve experienced affected your music?
Lynn Gunn: Totally, I think it pops up a little bit on Use Me. There’s one song in particular called “Good to be Alive” that is like directly about my autoimmune issues and health issues. It definitely manifested in a song on this album for sure. I think there’s a little bit in “Give Me A Minute,” there’s a couple of lines where it references that as well.
mxdwn: Yeah “Good To Be Alive” really stands out as having to do with these challenges, how has this new music played a role in your healing?
Lynn Gunn: Funny, it’s been a little bit of healing, but also a stressor. Ironically when I wrote “Good To Be Alive,” it was during a writing camp, like two weeks with just sessions every day. That whole time I had a really bad Crohn’s flare up and a really bad spondylitis flare up, so my body was just really sore, my stomach was all wax and I just felt really out of it and tired and unfocused. There’s one day I went in where it kind of reached its peak, and I just was really feeling that day and I was really, really lucky to have worked with my friend Sean Van Vleet on this track. It was actually my first day like meeting him and working with him, and right off the bat we were just talking about it and I felt really comfortable opening up to him about it, and he was like “well let’s write about this, let’s talk about it and channel this into a song” and it just kind of flew out really quickly. I think it definitely was channeled the right way and captured the right way.
mxdwn: It’s a great song and PVRIS has become known for this blending of rock and electropop and on Use Me you really lean into the pop and electronic side. Do you see this high production as a big part of rock’s future?
Lynn Gunn: It’s interesting, I think different production styles and different genres are really kind of converging at this moment. Like in hip-hop right now you’re noticing a lot of really cool, grungy guitars being incorporated and in a lot of alternative rock, a lot more hip-hop influences are crossing over into that. So I think there’s a really cool blending happening with genres and pop music and rock music. I think there’s a lot less need to compartmentalize genres or sounds. I think everybody is kind of just excited to mix whatever they want together and keep it fresh and keep it exciting.
mxdwn: “Hallucinations” has been cited as the jumping-off point for the album and when listening to it you can really tell how it carries over to the rest of the tracks, what made you want to move your sound in that direction?
Lynn Gunn: It was pretty natural. It’s funny I feel like I get asked a lot of things, like ‘What made you want to do this?’ It just kind of naturally happened. For this album, I worked with a new producer named JT Daly. And I don’t know, he’s just amazing. He has a really great understanding of how to combine organic instruments with more slick pop production and mixing that with electronics. I think he just has a really great way of translating that into the PVRIS universe and it was a pretty nice natural progression to that.
mxdwn: Yeah, it all sounds really great. Recently you have opened up about taking more credit for the large part you play in the behind-the-scenes of PVRIS, from composition and production to visuals. How has it felt to finally be acknowledged for all the work and influence you bring to PVRIS?
Lynn Gunn: It’s mostly just really freeing and liberating to not have this weird…I think in the past I had this pressure to shrink down what I was doing—or not even shrink, but just like I felt like I couldn’t own it or communicate it. The scene we came up in has a very heavy ‘band mentality,’ and if anybody has a little bit more attention or credit, then people like to create drama and make a bigger deal out of it then it needs to be. And there is that old programming I had in my head about being in a band and doing what we do, where I just couldn’t talk about it openly. Like the creative process is my favorite part of what I do and that was such a big thing that I couldn’t really talk about as freely as everything else. It’s been, for the most part, it’s just been great and like freeing in that sense where I feel like I don’t need to shrink what it is or talk about it less.
mxdwn: And do you think that holding back in order to support the band as a whole is an experience other women in music can relate to?
Lynn Gunn: I’m sure. It’s interesting because another big part of what made me want to do this is because when we were trying to figure out how to do this transition and if we should do it, I was really looking for other bands or other artists that had kind of been in a similar position. And there weren’t any female-fronted bands or women that really were in the same position that I was aware of. I don’t know how often this might happen out there for other people. I don’t know how often women are like stepping forward when they’re in a similar role to this if they’re not already just essentially a solo artist. So it was weird navigating that and trying to find a good vantage point or reference—and I really didn’t. So that put even more emphasis and importance on doing this. So hopefully if anybody else is ever in a similar position or feeling like they need to shrink or that they’re not being supported by their male counterparts or male bandmates, then hopefully someone can look to that as well and find hope from that or inspiration from that.
mxdwn: In the past, you’ve talked about speaking with your psychic the day before the “Dead Weight” session and on the album a psychic is mentioned on the tracks “January Rain” and “Wish You Well,” how have psychic readings played a role in your creative process?
Lynn Gunn: I’d say, in the creative process, it’s not that present. I just have a really great, I like to call her an “intuitive.” But yeah, I have a really great friend who is highly intuitive and is really tapped into outside energies and just is really gifted. So I’ll go to her like maybe once a year or once every six months. Usually during a time when I feel kind of at peace and at ease and just want some type of direction or new things to focus on. So I had gotten that reading in the middle of making the album and just being in a really peaceful place and just a place where I was ready to hear anything. That’s usually the context in which I’ll get a reading. It’s like ‘Alright, I’m here and I’m set up and anything that I should focus on or pay attention to I am welcome to hearing it.’ The readings are really great. They’re very positive and they’re really just in order to help you. None of this is be all and end all, you always have free will. She always puts great emphasis on that, she’s like “these are just things that if you follow this route, it would be really positive for you or if you integrated this into your life, it would be really, really healthy for you.” And she can kind of weigh those things out for you and help you feel like a better purpose with where you are at and understanding with where you are. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions around even astrology and any type of thing that’s like ‘predicting your future.’ And nothing is set in stone ever, it’s all very fluid and can be changed. There are certain things that I think are always going to be on your path, but it’s really what you choose to do with them when they come up to you.
mxdwn: For sure! So to go back to the album, before you were talking about how you got the opportunity to work with 070 Shake on the title track. How did that collaboration come about?
Lynn Gunn: The collaboration was really funny and just kind of out of the blue. I didn’t even know that we were trying to get any collaborators on the album and one day I got a text from my manager and he was like 070 Shake wants to be on “Use Me.” I was like, I didn’t even know we were asking or putting ourselves out there. We just kind of went on a whim, I guess, and they reached out, and she said yes. So it was pretty cool. It wasn’t anything crazy like we didn’t bump into each other on the street or anything. It was just that we reached out and took the chance and she said yes. And I’m so excited. I’m a huge 070 Shake fan. I think she’s gonna do amazing stuff and already is doing amazing stuff. So I’m really grateful that we got to have her on the track.
mxdwn: Yeah, it’s a great track with her on it. In the past you’ve created great tracks for bands like Circa Waves and Hands Like Houses, do you have any upcoming collaborations with other artists planned?
Lynn Gunn: Yeah, I mean, I think right now is the ultimate time for collaboration. I think, like I was saying before, I think genres are becoming less of a thing and everything’s kind of merging together and there’s a lot of creative freedom and a lot of lines being blurred as far as genre and categorizing music. I think that with that will come a lot of really cool collaboration. There’s a couple in the works that I can’t announce yet, but there are a few that will come after the album that I’m really excited about and I can’t wait for.
mxdwn: That’s exciting! Looking forward to the future, I know right now no one can really perform live, but are you looking forward to performing live again once it becomes a possibility?
Lynn Gunn: I’m so excited and ready for whenever we get to tour again. Obviously, there’s no rush. I think the health and well being of the world is the most important at the moment and I think there are much greater focuses than live shows. But I think once it is safe to have shows again, I’m so excited. I think it’s going to feel amazing. I don’t know what they will look like or what they’ll be like, who knows what type of rules or restrictions will be set in place, but I think it’s going to feel so amazing and I’m really excited for it.
Photo Credit: Mehreen Rizvi