PVRIS: “There’s this push and pull between doom and joy, hate and love…”

As PVRIS return with two new singles and a new home at Hopeless Records, Lyndsey Gunnulfsen reflects on 12 months away from the limelight, and how taking the time to reflect has created a “dynamic” and “versatile” new era…

PVRIS: “There’s this push and pull between doom and joy, hate and love…”
Emily Carter

It has, for Lyndsey Gunnulfsen, been “a big year”.

With PVRIS being forced to postpone a planned 2022 UK and European tour “due to the unlimited amount of obstacles and setbacks brought on from the pandemic along with being placed in limbo by our old label”, the musician has spent the past 12 months taking the sort of bold leap that most artists feel they can’t do in today’s relentless online age: by going off the grid almost entirely.

“I’ve been really assessing where I’m at as a human in life, but also as an artist in these times, after a lot of really big shifts in the industry and in the world,” Lynn explains to Kerrang!, in the week leading up to the release of PVRIS’ brilliant new comeback singles ANYWHERE BUT HERE and ANIMAL.

Since PVRIS’ last album Use Me in 2020, it’s fair to say that things have changed a hell of a lot. And for Lynn – a self-described “private person” – navigating these new pressures hasn’t been easy. But it’s a test she’s come out on top of, moving forwards with material that doesn’t shy away from these challenges, and that she feels “really good” about.

“I took a lot of time with this next release and tried my best to shut out the pressure of having to be online all the time – especially with everything moving over to TikTok, and the whole landscape of the internet completely shifting,” Lynn says. “We kind of saw it gradually happening during the pandemic, and I was like, ‘How is PVRIS going to exist on the internet?’ because I barely feel comfortable posting on Instagram sometimes. I’ve had this big moment of reflecting and trying to focus on what I want to make creatively, and not have any outside influences coming in and maybe affecting my judgement – subconsciously or consciously. I took a step back and was like, ‘I’m gonna do some soul-searching and really figure out my intentions with this next chapter.’”

PVRIS’ next chapter has officially begun. Now signed to Hopeless Records and with an album on the way, Lynn reflects on what it’s taken to get here…

How do you feel about the industry that PVRIS are coming back into in 2022?
“It’s really interesting because we came up right around Instagram really taking over – that’s when our career started taking off. And obviously Instagram had its own evolution of how people digest it and how they post and connect. But real-life, tangible experiences, like touring and meet-and-greets and all of these in-person events, was the ultimate way that you would connect with the listener. And obviously the pandemic erased that opportunity, but even before that, I feel like things were shifting to people getting discovered and connecting online. And then when it went from Instagram to TikTok it’s been this whole other wave of, ‘Here’s how you make it happen!’ I feel like all of the goalposts and milestones that artists like me in the era I came up in have really shifted. It’s just not the same anymore, and it’s really scary. But it’s also exciting.”

That side of things with social media is so loud and constant – were you able to switch off the noise while you were writing new music?
“No, I had such a hard time with it, to be honest. Initially it was great, and I felt very free and calm, just not having this virtual screaming of everybody on planet earth. I definitely had some moments of peace and feeling like, ‘Okay, things are obviously happening in the world that are really scary, but they’re not directly in my face at all hours of the day now.’ My room is quiet and safe and I could appreciate that for a second – it was peaceful for a bit in that sense. But then I definitely started feeling this pressure and fear that, if I wasn’t existing online, people are gonna forget and they’re gonna move on, and I’m ruining this thing that we’ve spent 10 years building by not participating online during a time that everything is online.”

How has it been then dipping your toes back into actual human stuff again? You played Riot Fest last month, and you’ve got a couple of LA shows coming up…
“It felt so good when we did Riot Fest – it was comforting to be at a festival and see people’s faces and their reactions to what we’re doing. We had a tour last summer, and that was the first tour we’d done since the pandemic, and even just that felt really great to just have some bit of normalcy, and something that was familiar. And, again, to just see people show up in real life, and confirm that that’s still important – people still want that, and it’s still a necessity as much as being pushed to doing things online.”

This year you’ve also done a couple of collabs – did releasing those songs with Bad Suns and MILKBLOOD kind of help keep you going while PVRIS weren’t publicly active?
“Yeah, and it happened organically that way anyway as far as the timeline, but it felt like a nice way to communicate and be like, ‘Hey, I’m still here and making stuff, and here’s a little bit to chew on!’ I also really love collaborations. I think PVRIS has a lot of freedom, and there’s a lot of range with what PVRIS is capable of – I don’t ever feel super-restricted with what we can do – but collaborations are really fun to do something completely different and out of left-field. They’re really great in that sense in just being able to have even more creative outlets, and being able to showcase my voice with different production, or different styles. It’s always really important.”

PVRIS’ two new singles, ANYWHERE BUT HERE and ANIMAL, are totally different. Was it intentional to come back and straight away show both sides – the pretty stuff, and then the more aggressive stuff?
“I always feel very torn between two different types of energy with PVRIS’ music – one side of me wants to create music that’s really dreamy and ethereal and soothing, and the other side of me wants to create stuff that’s really high-energy and aggressive! And both sides of what I want to create are very authentic to me; it’s not like either side is forced, and it’s really just about whatever I’m feeling in that moment. There is this dance that happens with a lot of PVRIS music between organic and electronic, and rock and pop. So I wanted to put them out together to highlight and showcase both sides of PVRIS’ music, and elements in the production as well – that contrast is really important, and it’s not just one thing. PVRIS is all of these things existing at once. Typically when we put out a single I think the instinct is, ‘Oh, it has to be high-energy,’ but there’s always a part of me that’s saying, ‘But what about these ones? These are really important, too.’ Anybody who’s a very avid PVRIS listener knows that both of those sides exist, and it was just really important to serve both of those sides.”

ANIMAL feels very defiant. Is it coming from a personal place?
“It’s kind of personal but also quite general – this kind of goes into what I was talking about with the internet and how everything has shifted from real-life experiences to online. I think a lot about people’s online identities versus their real-life identities, and how they overlap or how they contrast – how some things are true and some things are not. There’s this concept of all these different versions of us that live on the internet, and how people see different things about you based off this tiny glimpse. So that kind of sparked the initial feeling behind ANIMAL, which is about identity and people’s perception of you. And I think with those in the spotlight – artists, actors, politicians – people are really quick to dehumanise you and form an opinion about you, and they’re really quick to put their own projections and insecurities on you. And even in our friendships and relationships I think there’s versions of ourselves that exist to many different people, and I think a lot of people will hold you in whatever version of you suits them best – so at one time maybe you’re really shy, and that made someone feel confident or something. But now you’re not shy – you’re confident and you’re showing up – and it makes that person uncomfortable. That’s just an example, but I do think that we get held in a lot of people’s heads as things that we actually aren’t based off of whatever’s comfortable to someone else. ANIMAL is about challenging that, because I think it’s a disservice to both people. It challenges growth on both sides.”

What about ANYWHERE BUT HERE? It feels personal to you, but also something people are really going to relate to. What message do you want fans to take from it?
“It’s definitely rooted in this feeling of wanting to escape, which I think everybody has felt at this point. It’s rooted in escapism, and daydreaming, and just wanting to be transported out of your circumstances or your surroundings – especially nowadays. And I think this also happens because a lot is thrown in our faces online, and it’s really amplified and intense, and it feels like everything is kind of crumbling around us. I tried to paint this picture of that, and of the things that you see when you’re scrolling online – from news articles to people posting on their stories. It’s just this feeling of being surrounded by chaos and fear and a lot of darkness, and wanting to try to find peace – wherever that is for you. I thought about that a lot when I went in to write that song, and it was definitely a feeling that I was having. Nothing in the world felt normal at that point, and you have that realisation that nothing ever would be normal again – but also realising that that’s history. Things are always changing, and it makes you feel small in that sense, and you can kind of find peace in that while also finding it really scary. It was that feeling also combined with some family stuff happening, and seeing dynamics change – these things that used to be such comfort and safety also not really being that for me anymore. So it was all just this feeling of everything kind of falling away from me, and you just want to go somewhere that makes you feel safe for once. I had that feeling so many times during the pandemic, but especially after we got off tour and I started working on this new music – I was like, ‘I don’t know where I want to go anymore; there’s nothing that will make me feel comfortable, and that’s really scary.’ There were no places anymore that had that safety, and that was a really scary thing to be feeling now – I think a lot of people have had their safety blankets and their coping mechanisms really challenged.”

There’s so much going into both tracks in terms of their meaning – but in one word or phrase, how would you sum up this next era of PVRIS?
“I would say: dynamic, versatile, duality and contrast! There’s a lot of push and pull, there’s a lot of juxtaposition, and that dancing I described of organic versus inorganic, real life versus synthetic. That’s a big thing that I’ve been exploring visually and sonically, and I think lyrically, too: there’s a lot of push and pull between doom and joy, and hate and love. That’s always been there, but it’s definitely been embodied and explored in a lot of different ways this time around.”

ANYWHERE BUT HERE and ANIMAL are out now via Hopeless. PVRIS return to the UK in January 2023.

Read this: PVRIS’ Lynn Gunn: The 10 songs that changed my life

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