With their new album confirmed for later this year, we thought it was high time to get Black Veil Brides' Andy Biersack on the end of a phone. Speaking yesterday to Rock Sound's Rob Sayce, Biersack tells us about how album number four is shaping up for the band and why being hated isn't such a bad thing anymore...
Black Veil Brides performing at Download Festival 2012
WHAT STAGE ARE YOU AT WITH THIS FOURTH RECORD?
Says Andy: “At this point we’ve recorded all the drums, spent weeks on guitar tones... we’ve never taken so much time on the sonics before, how it’ll sound at the end of the day. The strings are just about done, and we’re going up to Vancouver at the end of the month to finish everything else. This will be the first time we’ve got away from our hometown to make a record, so it’s exciting.”
HOW DID YOU APPROACH THE WRITING PROCESS?
“It’s been quite a departure. We started out on independent labels, with small budgets, creating songs on Pro Tools. We were victims of circumstance in a way – it’s not that we couldn’t do things more traditionally, but we never had the opportunity to build that ability up. We’d write stuff, track it, and move onto the next thing. As a result, there was never any time to let the songs gestate, or build upon them at all. One of the most interesting things about working with Bob Rock [Metallica, The Offspring] this time was that he requires weeks and weeks of pre-production, just writing and jamming together. I knew that the guys in my band are very talented musicians, but we’ve never taken the time to sit in a room facing each other, and continuously write for weeks on end – there was just a small mic in the middle of the room, and Bob would orchestrate us. If something came up that we liked, we’d try to cut a demo of it just from that. The idea is that if you write all together, you’ll find great material, and know it from the ground up. When you’re doing stuff the way we were previously, it’s very difficult to go back and adjust, because the elements are all built simultaneously. This has given us a chance to do something organic, to know the songs a lot better. So heading into the studio, with twelve or fifteen songs that we feel strongly about, is a new experience. Through writing in advance, I feel like we’ve found our definitive sound. It’s a lot more heavy, traditional rock ‘n’ roll than anything we’ve done before.”
WAS THAT YOUR AIM FROM THE START?
“More than anything, even before we found out that Bob was interested in doing it, we wanted to make a return to the darker, heavier material – in tone at least. We touched on that with the first record, but weren’t as mature songwriters back then; I don’t think we’ve ever truly executed the sound we’ve wanted to have as a band. We’ve always evolved, and I’ve always been excited about everything we’ve done, but this was something all of us have wanted to do. If we’d have been as good songwriters five years ago, the record we would have made then would have sounded a lot like this new one. That was an exciting notion, going back to the things we talked about when starting the band together. It’s a return to the things we really love. Bob was a great fit for that. So many of the records that influenced us or that we loved growing up were produced by him. It was something we’d been talking about for the last year, and when we found out Bob was interested, it was a nice coincidence.”
QUITE A CHANGE FROM THE LAST RECORD, THEN?
“Definitely. I don’t want to discount ‘Wretched And Divine’ in any respect. I feel very proud of that, but it was a very theatrical record. It was glittery, in a lot of ways (laughs). I love that we’ve made that kind of album in our career, but this time we wanted to make something straightforward.”
DID BOB PLAY A ROLE IN THE SONGWRITING PROCESS?
We’ve picked up a lot of things about the songwriting process from him, how to really structure a song. There’s no way this record won’t be fantastic to me. I feel like through doing this, I’ve learned so much about what it is what we do, what we’ve been trying to do for the last half-decade. It helped that Bob is one of the sweetest, easiest to work with, most insightful people I’ve ever met. When you talk about nice people: he’s a Canadian who lives in Hawaii (laughs). I can’t imagine anyone with a nicer disposition, let alone someone so talented.”
WHAT ABOUT THE LYRICAL SIDE OF THINGS?
“In some ways, I wanted to tie up the loose ends of the story from ‘Wretched And Divine’. There are a few songs on this album that do so. But otherwise, I wanted to shoot from the hip a little bit more with this one, to write about things that were happening to me as they happened. There are a lot more opinions and viewpoints, which I haven’t done in a long time. I haven’t lost the elements of that makes the band, stylistically, as I always like when there’s a theme to a lyrical style. I’m a huge Alkaline Trio fan, for example, and I’m interested in the way Matt Skiba approaches his lyrics. I’m also a big Bruce Springsteen fan, and I know his style, the kind of words who chooses. I respect that, and in that way I needed to keep elements that were similar to the other albums. But at the same time, I wanted to do something that was fun and exciting for me, not to mention different. This is our fourth record in four years, and if you write the same thing over and over – not over is it essentially pandering, but it becomes incredibly boring for you as an artist. My thing was: if crazy things happen in my life, and they frequently tend to, I should feel free to write about them directly. I should be able to talk about my political and religious opinions, and I think the sound of this record lends itself more to that approach. I don’t think that these lyrics would have made a lot of sense in the context of a more theatrical record, like ‘Wretched And Divine’. The heavier, grittier sound accommodates me in writing more truthfully.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY WORRIES ABOUT HOW IT’LL BE RECEIVED?
“In the past, I could tell before a record came out... I’d know how excited we were about it, but also what a shame it was that so many people would act surprised that ‘The Birthday Clowns’ were able to put together an album. It was always so frustrating, like ‘man, I wish people would actually listen to the fucking songs.’ Over time, I’ve realised that I do not give a shit what those people think. I’ve always done what I’ve felt the band has needed to do, to take the right next step, and we’ve never played it safe. Certainly I feel an element of responsibility towards our audience, to the people who have put us here. If new people find this and give it a chance, and the fans are happy, then that’s still the ultimate goal. But I don’t have the same level of angsty narcissism that I used to have. That’s not to say that I’m not still a huge egomaniac, just that I don’t concern myself with these things to the same degree. I have a pretty good life, travelling with my best friends all the time, people cheer when I come onstage... overall, I don’t have those concerns anymore.”
ANY PERSONAL FAVOURITES THIS TIME AROUND?
“There are two songs on the record that I’m particularly excited about, and they’re not actually the heavier songs. On the previous album there was one called ‘Lost It All’, a very epic song with horns and livestrings. I really enjoyed that. We’re not doing so much of the theatricality on this record, but in place of that we needed to build the same feeling. We’ve built a few songs to meet that challenge, and it’s resulted in weeks and weeks of live strings and instrumentation. It’s a great project to build up these six, seven minute songs. As much as we’re scaling back on the ear-candy production, some of these compositions are the biggest things – in terms of scale, strings, vocalisations – that we’ve ever done. On the previous record we had interludes between songs, and it was all very touch and go, piecing it together as we went along. This time we’ve really taken the time. There’s no consideration of whether other people will agree that these things are awesome. I’m sure we’ll get negative reviews, but I’m also quite positive that fans of the band will like it. I’m having so much fun doing this stuff, and the fact that we’re closer as a band is exciting. There have been fewer feelings of ‘shit, we have to get something out.’ It’s a little ironic because I’m a lot sunnier in outlook and disposition, but we’re making a much darker rock record (laughs). Maybe that’s the way it has to go.”
IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU’RE FEELING PRETTY POSITIVE?
“Yeah. We seem to have crossed an imaginary threshold, and now more people are excited for the record than are saying negative things about it. People always say ‘haters make me famous’ and all that shit, but I don’t subscribe to that theory. It’s very possible that a lot of people don’t like me, and it’s not enhancing my fame level. If people don’t like this, that’s their prerogative, but I’d much rather people enjoyed it openly. The numbers of people entering Black Veil Brides’ world is still growing. We’re still divisive, plenty of people want to see us fall flat on our face, but there seem to be more people behind us now. That makes it more fun. I’d be lying to say that it’s not stressful to be this polarising figure, but I also revel in it to some degree. We get to make people a little upset through our music, and that’s what rock ‘n’ roll needs to do.”
Black Veil Brides will return to the UK in October, ahead of the release of their fourth album on October 28. Dates as follows:
03 - CARDIFF University
04 - LONDON Brixton Academy
05 - SOUTHAMPTON Guildhall
07 - BIRMINGHAM Academy
08 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
09 - NORWICH UEA
11 - EXETER Great Hall
12 - MANCHESTER Apollo
13 - NEWCASTLE Academy
15 - DUBLIN Olympia
16 - GLASGOW Barrowlands
17 - LEEDS Academy
Tickets are priced £22.50 in London and £20 regionally.
In other news, Andy Biersack recently unveiled his new solo side-project, Andy Black.
This is what that sounds like:
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What a line-up.
This man has lived.
This hits hard.