Black Veil Brides: “Our fans have supported us for so long that we’re able to do exactly what we want”

Andy Biersack always had a little razorblade edge about him, but Black Veil Brides’ inimitable frontman has sharpened it further, tapping into his inner Demon Barber for Sweeney Todd-inspired new EP Bleeders. With a Wembley Arena takeover scheduled for Devil’s Night on October 30, too, the Californians’ next chapter will be all about conquering rock on their own bloodthirsty terms…

Black Veil Brides: “Our fans have supported us for so long that we’re able to do exactly what we want”
Sam Law

Andy Biersack is hotter than hell right now. Sitting in a darkened streaming studio at home in Tampa, the Black Veil Brides frontman is getting his first real taste of the suffocatingly humid Floridian summer. “We moved here from LA two years ago and I had the good fortune of being on tour the first two summers,” he grins with a slick of sweat on those trademark pallid cheekbones and white Born In The USA cut-off slung over his wiry frame. “The one good thing about living on the Gulf Coast at this time of year is that you’ll get at least one good downpour to cool things down a little every day. And I’m watching storm clouds roll across the sky right as we speak...”

Darker days are coming. Deliciously so. With Sweeney Todd-inspired new EP Bleeders, Andy is wholeheartedly tapping into the musical ghoulishness that set him down this theatrical goth-rock path in the first place, emphasising the importance of his band holding their destiny in their hands. And with a Wembley Arena co-headline alongside fellow claret-stained dark stars Creeper set for Devil's Night on October 30, the next chapter of BVB will surely be their most spectacular yet...

How (blood) pumped are you for the release of Bleeders today?
“It’s really hard to describe. Everything we’ve ever done has always been very personal. All our concept records, all our theatricality are based on the reference points that influenced us in our lives. But there’s never been anything for me, personally, that’s been as baked-in as an [artistic influence] as much as Sweeney Todd. It’s just something that I’ve really loved since I was a little kid. To see people who’ve maybe never listened to us – or those who haven’t in years – be exposed to this EP and the music video and be so into it is something that I’m very excited about.”

With the inclusion of My Friends from Stephen Sondheim’s musical take on the story, and nods to Tim Burton’s movie version in the promo clip for the title-track, the penny dreadfuls’ demon barber pervades almost throughout. Why are you so into the Sweeney Todd story?
“I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. It’s one of those things that dates back to when you’re so little that it’s almost difficult to put it in proper context. So I sort of reverse-engineered the memory. My dad was very into musical theatre – he went to college at the Conservatory Of Music in Cincinnati, where I’m from – and he was always listening to musicals as well as punk bands like Stiff Little Fingers and The Damned. There must have been a local production happening in town that my parents were going to, because I remember them listening to the original Broadway cast recording for the Sondheim version a lot. It was in this big two-disc CD jewel-case with a picture of Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury as Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett on the back. I remember seeing that image and simultaneously being terrified of it and thinking it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I was obsessed. And it’s something that’s just always stuck with me.”

You dropped two of the three songs on there as singles ahead of time. Is there a real urgency to feed these songs out to Black Veil Brides’ ravenous masses, like Mrs Lovett’s famous meat pies?
“There wasn’t really a plan for this to be an EP. Bleeders was supposed to be a single which, ultimately, will end up on a record at some point down the line. We’d recorded a cover of U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday at the same time we did Sisters Of Mercy’s Temple Of Love last year, but we never finished it to the point we’d wanted to. So when we were finishing up Bleeders, I talked to [producer] Eric Ron about working on that, too. Then we had two songs.

“Afterwards, I was just sitting at home thinking and I messaged Jake [Pitts] and Jinxx to ask what they thought about doing a Black Veil Brides cover of My Friends. They knew the song from the movie and stuff, but they weren’t as obsessive as I was. So it came down to listening to the song and getting familiar with it. They’re so talented that within two days they had it turned around. Then I went to a studio here in Tampa to cut the vocal and we were off to the races with the three songs on the EP. At that point, it goes from a quick release to an EP where we could do vinyl and stuff. In some instances, bands do that kind of thing with the intention of selling a bunch of product – not that I have any issue with wanting to sell records – but in this case it was a cool thing that just got added to.”

What was it specifically about My Friends – a song that Sweeney sings to his bloodstained razorblades – that made it the soundtrack cut to cover?
“I’m a big Batman fan. As a kid, that song always reminded me of The Joker. He’s the kind of person who’d sing to his instruments of torture or turn them into something living in his head. There’s something really sinister about it. But it’s also incredibly beautiful, and I remember growing up with my dad singing it around the house. When we went in to record, I joked that it was by far the most rehearsed song that we’d ever done because I’d been singing it in the shower for 20 years!”

Thematically, where exactly does a cover of U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday – a song about sectarian violence in Ireland – fit in with Sweeney Todd?
“I’ll be honest with you: it doesn’t. And it won’t be on the streaming services. It’ll only be available to fans who buy physical copies or downloads of the record. But it’s a cover version that we’re proud of and we wanted to be heard. It’s adjacent to Bleeders rather than really being part of it. I get that for some people it’s a song steeped in historical significance, emblematic of really difficult times but, as an American band, we grew up hearing it as a pop song constantly on the radio. And completely separate to the ‘real’ meaning of the song, it comes with an incredible amount of emotional meaning to me.

“As a kid, I remember going to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, which is a couple of hours from where I grew up, with my aunt who was a huge U2 fan. I didn’t really know anything about them beyond seeing a member of AFI wearing one of their shorts once. There was a big installation celebrating an anniversary of their Rattle And Hum movie. Up to that point, my experience of music had always been very theatrical, from big rock bands like KISS and Mötley Crüe to punks like The Damned and the Misfits. It was all very dressed-up. Of course, nowadays, U2 have a very theatrical show, but they didn’t then. And as a 10-year-old, seeing them deliver that level of passion and emotion with none of the production and theatre onstage was transformative. I realised you didn’t have to have the pyro and explosions, but you did need the emotional presence and the belief in what it is you’re performing!”

A few years ago, you spoke about the importance of reconnecting with childhood passions like acting and sports. You’ve also spoken about acting out Sweeney Todd as a young kid. Sonically, it’s been difficult to speculate on where the EP might lead, but is that spirit an indication of where BVB are headed?
“Absolutely. I think a lot of people find, as they get out of their 20s and start to kind of figure themselves out a little bit more, that they don’t really give a shit about negative perceptions of the things we choose to do. When I was younger, I had so much piss and vinegar. I was always like, ‘Fuck you!’ And that’s valid. But it’s so much more freeing to not give a shit. If people think that it’s weird to make BVB songs based on a theatre musical, I don’t care. It’s awesome that it’s proven to be successful, but I don’t think I’d really mind if it had been a flop – because it was fun!

“Doing things because they’re fun is always better than making political plays or trying to gain some audience share, because you create art from a genuine place. We've been in great situations with labels, but I would be lying if I didn't say that songs got remixed, ideas got thrown out and things beyond my control happened when I was younger. And that was extremely frustrating. At this point, our fans have supported us for so long that we’re able to do exactly what we want without people saying, ‘What if we did this instead?’ to the point where we’re getting away from the original idea.”

It’s been a few years since you’ve performed in a movie acting role, but you own the screen pretty convincingly in a role that Johnny Depp made famous in the video for Bleeders’ title-track. How keen are you to get back on the silver screen?
“Not to brag, but there are three auditions that I could read for this week alone! But the touring schedule just doesn't really allow me to do them. There was something really incredible that I was really interested in recently, but it would’ve butted into a month of touring, which I’m not willing to do. When I was younger, I tried to balance everything out, but it really just hindered progress, particularly with Black Veil. I've been very thankful that a lot of people have come to me wanting me to do things, and I feel like an asshole for not being able to do them. But let's be honest: I'm not an actor to that degree. If something comes up in future it’ll need to be something I can really dedicate myself to, rather than trying to take a week off to learn the script and being half-assed.”

Speaking of the theatrical, you’ve just announced Devil’s Night at Wembley Arena on October 30 with Creeper. Should fans expect a big production and some special surprises at that show?
“We were joking earlier that short of setting Wembley Arena on fire, giving it bat wings and flying it off into the sky, we’re taking every single possibility seriously. Will [Gould, Creeper frontman] and I are constantly calling to brainstorm. We want to make it as special as possible. All I’ll say for sure is that come October 30, what you get will be the absolute best that we could possibly do!”

You’ve already done a U.S. tour with Creeper this year. How big a fan are you of the current Sanguivore era?
“I’ve been a big fan of their band since the really early days. I remember the term ‘new grave’ being used a lot and it felt like some bands just got lumped into that genre. I’ve always come from more of a punk rock side, than screamo or metalcore. Jake and Jinxx come from the classic metal side. And I think that Creeper are kind of the same. The first time I heard them was actually on a ‘new grave’ compilation CD I was given at the Kerrang! Awards. The song was VCR and it was like heaven had opened and a new band that I loved had appeared. Our UK tour was coming up and they were the band we had to have support, before their first album was even out. I’ve been a massive fan ever since, and I want them to be the biggest band in the world.

“It’s been awesome to see them grow and grow over here, but although I’ve played them on my radio show in the States, they’ve struggled to connect with a U.S. audience and hadn’t toured here in years. Maybe part of that was because they were touring with pop-punk bands whose fans weren’t really their audience, but I thought our fans would go crazy for them – and they did! Come that London show, we’re really going to need to raise our game. They’re great people and an incredible band. As Will said to me recently, if we had grown up near one another, we’d be like inseparable twins!”

Finally, what else is on the horizon? Is it too early to start talking about a new album?
“We’re working on new music all the time. Bleeders is definitely a good starting point in terms of what’s to come. Because we’ve been touring so much, this is a different recording process, working in fits and spurts rather than going off the road for two years to work on a new album. Now we feel like we can do a whole record in the same way that we did with Bleeders: hyper-focusing on making each song the best it can be, and dedicating months to that, rather than focusing on like three main songs and having the others be shafted in terms of not getting the same attention. We want to make a record where each song really feels like its own thing.”

That sound awesome. But by those timescales, a new record could be years down the line…
“Well, I’m not sure that our new label Spinefarm would be too thrilled if the album turned up years down the line, but we’ll see how it goes. All I’ll say to fans of the band is that you can expect new music sooner than you might think…”

Black Veil Brides' Bleeders EP is out now via Spinefarm. Catch them at Wembley Arena with Creeper on October 30 – get your tickets now

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