In the backseat of a cab on her way to a signing for her fourth album EVERGREEN, PVRIS frontwoman Lynn Gunn sits in reflection. Over a decade into her career, PVRIS have catapulted to heights that Gunn never thought were possible, cementing her status in the rock scene and accumulating a die-hard cult following whilst on this journey. A journey that began when Gunn was only a teenager. Those who follow PVRIS know the ride hasn’t been easy and the uphill battles and home truths Gunn has faced over the years have undoubtedly shaped her into the artist, and the person, she is today; a rigorously confident all-rounder whose clawing back control and making her voice heard.
Since backing away from the public eye to write and record this new music, Gunn began to question the entirety of what it meant to be an artist. Why were others dictating her next move? What gave the high-ups the power to manipulate the type of art she made? Before this record, Gunn never asked for credit for the work she put in or knew it was something that was possible. Today, the tables have turned.
Refusing to be tied down to a specific genre, EVERGREEN is Lynn Gunn like you’ve never heard her before. Just shy of over 10 tracks long, its minimality has done enough to make a huge impact on the future of her career.
Following her shoot for Principle, Gunn sat down to discuss the ongoing tour with Fall Out Boy, the history of PVRIS, and guides us through the immersive universe she’s formed with her new record EVERGREEN.
Welcome back to the UK, Lynn! We’re so glad you’re here. Have you had much time to explore since arriving?
I’m glad too, it feels good! Quite a little bit. We arrived a couple of days early before we rehearsed and then we’ve been fortunate enough to have two off days here so far.
How did the shoot go?
It was great. It was some of my favourite photos, I think ever.
As we speak, you’re currently on your way to a signing for your new record EVERGREEN. Being offline for so long whilst making this record, it must be nice to connect with fans properly at these sorts of events.
Definitely. I think that’s such an integral part of PVRIS’ history – in-person experiences like this. And like face-to-face connection versus constant posting on social media. It feels refreshing and fulfilling at the same time because I think nowadays, if you’re not posting online, or you’re not connecting online, it almost feels like you’re kind of withering away. So it’s a nice confirmation that you’re still alive.
You’re here supporting Fall Out Boy. How have the shows been going so far?
They’ve been great. It’s incredible to get to tour with them again, we toured with them in 2015 in the States and it was right after our first album came out. I think at the time, it was obviously an amazing opportunity, but I think mentally and emotionally, I didn’t feel fully ready for it and I think that took away from a lot of experience just being nervous and anxious about so much of it. I didn’t really get to take it in and enjoy it.
But fortunately, now almost eight years later, I feel much more comfortable on stage, and just in general, and we have enough experience now. It feels much more relaxed and I’m actually getting to enjoy each show and be present for it.
You’re playing some of the biggest venues in your career so far, so it’s good that you’re there to enjoy it as well.
I think it’s our best-sounding show and the most thought out too. It’s really cool to kind of have all these pieces puzzling together.
Tell us more about the Halloween outfit you went on stage in Birmingham!
Anybody who follows the band pretty thoroughly will know that I have like an alter ego named Grandma Gerd, which is my middle name. This year for Halloween I wanted to be an old person. It’s been my dream to have, like really good prosthetic makeup done. I felt very comfortable in an old woman’s body. I feel like I’m 90 sometimes.
What do you think of UK crowds? I know we can be a mixed bunch.
On this run, in particular, I think for Fall Out Boy’s audience, most of the crowd is there to see them, which is rightfully so. So I do think there is a bit more withholding of interaction. But I also think everybody’s just kind of older and taking it in, and they’re more present for it, which is cool.
But go to a PVRIS show and it’ll be mayhem…
[She laughs] Yes! Hopefully.
Let’s talk about EVERGREEN. It’s such an insanely refreshing album. We’re hearing you experiment sonically in ways we haven’t heard you do before. What were the main messages you wanted to convey with this record?
The intention was to not have any reservations or fear, or hold back on experimenting with the production, song structures, kind of everything. I think in the past, we’ve always pushed the boundaries a little bit, but there’s always been that kind of overlooming thought of “This is a rock band, this is the rock scene, so you can’t push it too far. You can’t make it too crazy,” I think I felt very stuck in that for a long time and felt like my tastes weren’t reflecting what we were putting out fully, I would say maybe it was like 70% there.
But I think this time, it was ultimately do or die. Just make music without any fear, cross your fingers, close your eyes, and hope this goes well because I don’t see the point in putting out a half-assed album or something that you’re not incredibly excited about. If it makes you feel excited and electric and on fire then you’re on the right track. And if it feels a little bit scary, then you’re also on the right track, and I just really tried to follow those feelings.
Just throwing the brief out of the window and just doing what feels right with the music.
I hit a point where, with the state of the internet and the state of the world I was like, I don’t know how I fit into this. A lot of my interests don’t feel like they align here and just across all aspects, It was like, okay, if I’m feeling like this, I need to just put my head down and look at what I do want to do and try and pay attention to that and tune everything else out.
The majority of the album was co-produced by yourself, alongside only a select few others.
Yeah, it was largely me, Y2K, JT Daly, Mike Shinoda, and Dan Armbruster. From song to song, it varied as far as co-production, but that was a very big through line for this album too, the fact that there were so many different collaborators, it had to be reeled in by something. And I think having my co-production on it and kind of overseeing that helped tie it together.
How was it to get stuck in with production, transferring all of those sounds in your head into actual songs?
I’m always recording as I’m writing and vice versa. So a lot of it is discovery, a lot of it is happy accidents, a lot of is just messing around until something works and then you run with that. Sometimes you’ll hear something in your head and you’ll try and get it and never can. Or at least for me, personally, sometimes I can’t.
That sounds very frustrating.
It does lead you somewhere else, though. Because I think if you’re imagining it already, it’s something that you’ve probably heard and might be referencing subconsciously. I always look at it as if I can’t pinpoint it then there’s something else that I’m supposed to find.
We need to give you your flowers on the visual side of EVERGREEN. Was it always the plan to make it a visual album?
It had been for a long time but we never had the support or resources to be able to do it. And even with this one, we were still pretty cut on resources and things we wanted to do. So a lot of it had to be kind of rolling with it and thinking on our toes and minimizing ideas, but I think sometimes that can lead you to a better direction anyway.
The main theme that I was playing with a lot was the juxtaposition between a clean, blank environment against nature and lush scenery. This blank white space feels like the algorithm and social media and you exist like an avatar online versus being out in the real world. And I think that happens on the album too; it’s like an aggressive machine and then there are also these dreamy moments that at least for me, my brain thinks of nature and being outdoors in a big open space.
The visuals were all co-directed with Jax Anderson, how was it working together?
Working with Jax was awesome. She’s always done the visuals for her own projects and it’s always been a great extension of her music and very thought out and special, so it felt right to be doing that with her and to it with a trusted friend. Also just bringing her ideas to the table and getting to see her vision as well because I think she has great ideas as a director.
You mentioned that making EVERGREEN set you on a journey of reflection, meditation, and self-discovery. How does it feel now the album has been out for a few months?
I think a big message of the album was to trust your gut and follow your taste. As far as creatively, that was a huge confirmation because it felt like this big scary leap to be taking even though internally I was like, “This feels right. This is what feels so exciting and aligned for me, as a person and as a creative.” So I think, kind of trusting that more and being like, if you’re feeling that a little twinge of fear, it’s probably good. If that fear is accompanied by excitement and passion then it’s a good combination.
The band have been touring non-stop since July, which must feel quite intense. What will be the first thing you do once you wrap up your performances for the year?
Once we finish this tour we have two weeks off and then we go to Australia. But for now, I’m just going to be staying here in the UK and I’m going to go to Bath or the countryside and start writing some new music, and once we return from Australia it’ll be time for the holidays. So I think it’s a good reset and rest period after.
If you’re staying in the UK the Lake District is also a stunning place to visit too.
Yes! I’ll actually be going there with one of my friends afterwards.
It’s the best place to just be disconnected as well. I mean, there’s absolutely no phone signal up there either. So even if you wanted to, you wouldn’t be able to use social media.
That sounds like a dream.