Black Veil Brides are finally back! Here, we talk to Andy Biersack about what drew him back to Black Veil Brides, the meaning behind the new album and the future.
HI ANDY - LET’S LOOK BACK FOR A SECOND - WERE YOU HAPPY WITH THE SELF-TITLED ALBUM ON REFLECTION?
“It gets an unfair shake in my mind because of the time it represents for me. I was very unwell at the time, I didn’t realise that what I had was a pretty severe injury that had gone untreated and something that to this day I do physical therapy on a regular basis, most people know that I had broken my ribs a couple of years ago onstage and shattered the nine, 10, 11 ribs on a very classic video of me jumping off stage and whatever else, and because I was a drunk idiot who was 19 years old I never got it treated or anything and I went on touring for years and years slowly started to lose feeling in my lower back and my legs and couldn’t figure it out.
“Then I went to all kinds of doctors, I was basically just in excruciating pain for the entire year that that record was around and later was finally able to find out through various doctors and physical therapists that I had basically degenerating muscles on that side of my body that I was not treating and so unfortunately before I found that diagnosis, I was diagnosed with 180 other different things because doctors see pain and see a difference in blood cells and they think, ‘Oh my God, there must be something going on!’ so they’ll medicate you and for me I didn’t need medication, I needed physiotherapy so all the while that was going on, that record was going on and I was taking various medications for them to kill what they thought was like a blood borne bacteria or something like that because I had all this pain that they couldn’t explain and that led to…
“I was already drinking for the entire of my adult life, from my teen years into my adult life, I’ve always had anxiety, I’ve always struggled with just being too loud in my own head and I guess I found the drinking quietened that down and made me feel like maybe some of my inhibitions were lowered, so during the process of that year was the height of my drinking and I was taking all this weird medication for something that I didn’t actually need and kind of losing my mind!
“And so most of that record was written, at least for me lyrically, drunk and mentally altered by these different medications and it doesn’t hold up to me and it’s not because I didn’t try really hard, it’s just I think somebody else might enjoy it more than I do because when I look back at it I see what is essentially the worst time of my life and that’s why I’m now sober and why I now exercise every day and why I had to make such a huge life change and why I kind of got myself back.
“People that I speak to go, ‘Oh my God, you’re doing so much stuff,’ you don’t get to that if it’s not for the depths of upset that I caused for myself in fourth record. Now, having said all of that, working with Bob Rock was a complete joy, he was one of the sweetest, most interesting people I’ve ever met and he really believed in me and I think we did make a great record. I think that if I look at it objectively it’s a really enjoyable album that represents the band, we made it together, everyone in the band was in the studio every single day, we did a lot of it in Canada, we had a great time, just for me personally, I think I underachieved a bit, at least lyrically, some of the lyrics feel a little bit like, I call it ‘Black Veil Brides mad libs’ where I feel like some of the times unknowingly I was just taking stuff I had already written and rephrasing it and putting it into place to build a song out and to me, that’s kind of bullshit, that’s not art, that’s not something that the fans deserve, I should work harder than that. But at the time, I wasn’t myself and I think I missed a lot of opportunities to do some great stuff. But I think that we more than made up for it on this record.”
GOING INSIDE ‘VALE’... IT’S VERY PAINED LYRICALLY, ESPECIALLY SONGS LIKE ‘WHEN THEY CALL MY NAME’.
“The truth of the matter is that a song like ‘When They Call My Name’ is about my direct relationship with my wife, most specifically my wife because she’s my best friend and the person that I’m around the most, in the situation where – I don’t want to get into ‘sobriety!’ talk – but the truth is that when I wrote that song I was just about six to eight months into… I had been off drinking for a while but I had had a few relapses.
“I was never a tragic drinker, I was never a get up in the morning and have booze because I have to, I was a drink anytime there was a social situation, blackout and not know anything that had occurred and then hate myself drinker! You know, how did I get to the point where I’m saying, ‘Okay, well I’m going to go out with my buddies and then the next day I’m in my hotel room with my leather jacket still on feeling like complete shit and getting a terrible hangover’?
“That wasn’t good for me and when you do that every single day, it takes a toll on your central nervous system. Again, I wasn’t in a situation where it was that kind of cartoon TV thing where the person is going to the school in a robe or something and like yelling at little kids, that wasn’t me, it was a situation where I was unfortunately in the exact situation to be drunk all the time, I was in a heavy metal band surrounded by people giving you booze and telling you how great you are. There is no more appropriate and terrible place at the same time to be drunk all the time and it just didn’t work for me so what happened was, I removed myself from that and I wasn’t around it all the time, and the truth of the feelings and the emotions and the anxiety that I’d been chasing away for my entire adult life really started to come back about six to eight months into my sobriety.
“All of a sudden this shit that I hadn’t felt in years was back, these… not voices in my head, but these emotions and feelings and fears and all this stuff that I had been putting aside saying, ‘No, no, no, I’m mister rockstar with the lipstick and the mascara and the leather pants,’ it was coming at me when I was sitting in sweatpants in my house, so the façade of the untouchable rock star starts to come down when you’re in your quietest moments and the truth is that I wanted desperately to remember and to feel all the things that made me feel good about myself, not tear down the idea of this rock star that you build yourself into, because that defeats the purpose of the message that I’ve been trying to send to our audience from the very beginning.
“You should always feel like you’re an untouchable rock star, but you should always remember to be good to yourself and everyone else, the untouchable rock star’s responsibility is not to be a dickhead to everybody, it’s to give a shining example of the fun that you can’t have if you lead a life that follows dreams and understands consequence.
“I was at that point where I was writing about, ‘Fuck, I’m telling my wife all this stuff that I’ve felt for years that I’m not saying to anybody,’ and I need her, need my friends, I need the people in my life to be there for me so I can get through to the other side and write about these feelings so I can share them with the audience and make sure I’m able to continue to inspire particularly the younger audience we have in their moments of darkness and to understand that while I’ve never been someone who’s self-harmed, I know that that’s prevalent in youth culture and I can’t imagine that the feeling of inadequacy and anxiety is too different and I wanted people to know that I have felt those things but I also don’t dwell on them and it’s important to rise out of them.”
SONGS LIKE ‘THE LAST ONE’ HAVE A HEAVY SENSE OF FINALITY TO THEM. WAS THAT ABOUT OVERCOMING AND BEATING THESE SERIOUS ISSUES?
“I’m going to tell you a story, and this is not to brag about how virtuous I am, but rather to kind of exemplify how lost you can get and it’s just small, little things.
“When we first started in Hollywood and we were all broke, we would all go to the liquor store around the corner from our crappy apartment and I would buy a bottle of booze and if there was a homeless guy outside, I’d stay and have a chat with him and give him whatever spare change I had.
“Now, I had no money in the world but I was at a point where I had so much joy about the prospect of life that I wanted to share that with other people, ‘Oh my God, I’m fucking 19 and I’ve got cool hair and I’m in a rock band and girls want to talk to me and oh my God this is such a cool thing!’ I was a kid from Ohio who was essentially a loner who didn’t have anything like that, I had an arrested development when it came to being an adult and all of a sudden all of these exciting things are happening, I’m fucking cool for the first time!
“I wanted to share that, as time and life progressed the last thing I wanted was not necessarily to not talk to a homeless guy, but to ever make eye contact with anybody or to talk to anybody. Towards the height of the first wave of Black Veil Brides’ success, by the time I’d get home from tours the idea of leaving my couch was almost too much to bear and I’d kind of lost that joy and that feeling, and this feeling of almost agoraphobic like I need to stay to contained and then if I want to get outside this bubble I have to be completely piss-drunk to make contact with anybody else took over, the only way I can talk to anybody is if I’m completely drunk, and I was writing this record and coming back to myself when it came to the lyrics and the elements that I wrote on the album, it became really clear to me that I noticed myself doing little things that made me feel like a human again, wanting to stay and chat with the teller at the bank for an extra minute about their day, wanting to make eye contact with everybody around me, not feeling embarrassed or ashamed of just being.
“That to me started the road of like, ‘Well maybe I’ve shed all that shit that was on top of me, maybe that monkey that was on my back, I’ve thrown him off’. And if that’s the case then I need to say bye to all that stuff in an appropriate way and so, I’ve said before, but ‘Vale’ is several different terms, a valley obviously, but also a written or spoken goodbye in the most basic form of Latin which is ‘be well, be strong’ which is to say ‘goodbye and hello’ and so that’s what the record represents to me, it’s saying goodbye to the negative and upsetting elements of your life, your friendships, the people around you.
“I mean, it’s an unrelatable and stupid problem to talk about, ‘Oh my God, I was at least marginally famous and people wanted to say nice things to me and oh my God’ I know it doesn’t sound realistic but the truth is that sycophants and people that don’t want something good for you exist in everybody’s life whether you’re 14 years old and in school or you’re 45 years old in work, there is someone who looks at you and wants something from you and will try to manipulate a situation to make you get off your guard and do something stupid or not something that’s true to you and that’s a lot of what the record is speaking about, it’s being constantly aware of the fact that you are the only person who can really handle yourself and don’t let other people manipulate or upset you.”
ARE THERE SOME NERVES IN RETURNING TO THE BAND?
“I think it’s going to be interesting because every tour that we did for years, I would make a CD of the setlist, I’d burn a CD of the setlist and listen to it in my car as I drove around town just to make sure I was familiar with all the songs.
“If we wanted to do some really old songs - I’m going to be honest with you, I wrote the lyrics for ‘Heaven’s Calling’ in 2009 but I have no idea what they are right now!
“There’s plenty of songs in our catalogue that the average person doesn’t know, that I don’t remember much of either! Because they haven’t been played much and when you’ve got five, maybe seven real albums worth of material, it’s hard to remember all of it, so what I would do is burn CDs with the setlist on it and now I went to go do that yesterday and go, ‘Oh, well none of our computers have CD burning drives, there’s no way of getting a CD into this computer, where do I get a CD? What can I do?’ And then I realise, ‘Oh, I can go on Spotify and make a Spotify playlist of my own band’s music’.
“So that’s what I wound up doing, our setlist is coming and I shared it with the band, ‘Here’s our setlist’ It’s so weird and impersonal sending a Spotify playlist link to everybody in the band but that’s alright… I think one of the cool things is just being in a room together again, 2014 was really the last time that we stood in a rehearsal space and rehearsed together and talked about what we were going to play and figuring out everything else. It’s getting more real every day. You know how I know it’s getting more real is that I’m having to deal with things that aren’t that much fun every day; the specifics of a light grid and co2 cannon contracts and all this kind of stuff. Doing Andy Black for the last two years, I don’t have any of that shit, Andy Black is just very stripped down, basic, little bit of light, no risers. Black Veil, we have to do the show so I’m dealing with all these fire codes and video wall specs and where to store things and every day my email if full of things that aren’t that much fun – and that’s how you know something cool’s about to happen!”
HAS THE MAIN ATTRACTION BEEN TO GET INTO A ROOM TOGETHER AGAIN AND RECONNECT AS FRIENDS AND BANDMATES?
“First of all, at this point it’s all kind of in theory because people live in different places and we’ve all just been emailing back and forth and communicating that way and in about a week is when everything really kicks off with getting together.
“We’ve made sure that we’re aware - everybody’s been rehearsing independently and knows exactly what’s going on and we all have our plans, we have a music video shoot coming up here very soon, all the stuff that happens around a record, I’m really excited about that. It’s fun for me because I have such a hands-on approach when it comes to the visual representation of the band and all that kind of stuff, whether it’s me trying to sketch out ideas for costumes or the look of a video, like I love doing that stuff and to know that I’m going to be back with these guys that I’ve spent my entire adult life with and we’re going to share this experience together, it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“Being one-fifth member of a band is a pretty cool thing, you get to share all this stuff with people that have lived the same moments as you professionally for years and years. You know it’s a double-edged sword being in a band because you might say to me, ‘Hey, what happened to you yesterday?’ and you and I might have different stories of what we went through yesterday and that might keep our friendship interesting, you know we might be able to have a conversation for a long period of time because our experiences are vastly different, when you’re in a band that is not the case, when you’re in a band everything that happens to the guy that’s on your left also happens to you so what do you talk about? ‘Hey, I was on the plane yesterday,’ ‘I know, I was on the plane too, we’re always on the same plane, we’re in the same vehicle everyday, we’re at the same venue, we eat the same things, we’re at the same hotel, everything we do is the same’ – there’s nothing to talk about.
‘So now we’ve had these years apart and time apart, we’re going to have fucking plenty to talk about! It’s going to be a family reunion.”
YOU’RE WORKING ON THE NEW ANDY BLACK ALBUM TOO - HOW ARE YOU PLANNING ON BALANCING IT WITH BLACK VEIL BRIDES NEXT YEAR?
“When I completed my first run at the Andy Black record, the plan was always to go to the beginning of December and then stop production because I don’t want it to ever interfere with any of the Black Veil Brides stuff.
“At this point now, I shift my focus 100% to Black Veil, to the tour, to the release of the record, all that stuff and moving forward that’s my focus. Now, I’ve got about 14 or 15 songs recorded, in my opinion about nine or 10 of which are ready to go on an album, just need to be mixed, some of them could use some tweaks and I’ll probably continue to write, that writing won’t kick off until probably around the Spring of 2018 and I can anticipate that the Andy Black record would probably come out toward the end of 2018 or the first quarter of 2019.”
'Vale' is out now via Lava / Republic Records.
Black Veil Brides are also set to tour the UK later this month with Asking Alexandria and To The Rats And Wolves.
Get them dates below:
23 BIRMINGHAM Academy
24 MANCHESTER Academy
25 GLASGOW Academy
27 LONDON Brixton Academy