PVRIS' Lynn Gunn Teases Next Album, Promises 'Top Secret Studio Stuff' Is Happening
PVRIS frontwoman Lynn Gunn is sprawled in the grass on a bank facing New York City’s Harlem River. Her dyed blonde hair is loose around her shoulders, and she’s wearing the same simple black tank top and belted pants as she had on during PVRIS’ Panorama Music Festival set roughly an hour earlier. Put simply, Gunn looks relaxed, and as she tells Billboard, it’s because the most stressful part of her day -- the performance -- is over.
In fact, this is the moment that Gunn can begin a summer vacation of sorts. The band’s July 28 festival set was the final one in a headlining tour that took the electronic pop-rock band to a number of countries on the other side of the globe, in many cases for the first time. PVRIS has been on tour since March 2017, making appearances at South by Southwest and playing shows in Australia, and releasing their sophomore album All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell in August. Once the new year rolled around, the band upgraded to larger venues stateside, and more major opportunities came up, including a debut set at Coachella.
The touring experience is “the number one thing,” as Gunn tells Billboard, but now she’s ready to go home to Brooklyn for a bit, lay low and... get to work on PVRIS’ third album. Below, Gunn hints at what’s in store for the band’s next era.
You’ve just wrapped up tour. How was it to play in and experience all of these new places?
It was awesome. I had no clue what to expect in Korea or Singapore, but I was pleasantly surprised in both. I did some crazy shopping in Korea. In Seoul, there were just streets lined with really cool mom-and-pop shops and vintage stores. The food was amazing. We had Korean barbeque one night.
When you play a festival, how do you change up your set from a headlining show?
We actually don’t have a lot of songs to switch around with! We have two records’ worth, but we usually keep it similar. We never really have time to rehearse, it’s just go, go, go. So depending on the set time, we'll just shrink it down. We used to try to cater to different festivals, like, “Alright, play electro songs at this one, or play bangers at this one,” but this past year we just tried to make it comfortable for us and then hope that translates out.
How has it been doing Coachella and these big festivals?
It's been cool, ‘cause I feel like our band is equally able to expand just as much as it is able to be pigeonholed, or hard to identify, rather. A lot of people don’t necessarily know what to do with us. But in a lot of ways, it really allows us to be chameleons and play to different audiences. It's been cool to see it translate and learn where it can work and where it doesn’t work, and touching a whole different type of fan base and type of crowd.
Do you feel like playing these more "mainstream" festivals opens a door to these new audiences? I wouldn’t say you’re any particular type of genre....
It’s kind of all over, yeah! I feel like it lets us bend the rules a little bit and fit into different cracks that we didn’t know we could. And also, the opposite, because people are like, “What do we do with this?” It’s one or the other.
As you’ve reached those new audiences, do you feel like you’ve done the same with your peers and other bands, too?
I feel like a lot of people on the festivals are kind of on their own thing, but we've seen a lot of crew members kind of get turned onto us, so that’s been funny. We bumped into the drum tech for Janet Jackson and Lil Wayne [today], and they actually engineered drums on our record. We've definitely turned a lot of the crew people on to us! They make the magic happen.
How do you see your live show evolving in the future?
I want some more jam sessions. I really want the set to translate to being able to do something on the fly or improvise a little more, or just switch it up if we want to. There are some bands that just kill it. We saw Foo Fighters at Rock am Ring [in June] and they literally had a 10-minute jam-out for one of their songs, and they were like, “We're just gonna play as many songs as we can, we're not gonna do an encore." They were amazing. So more jam sessions. More freedom to improvise. Maybe more instruments.
What sort of instruments do you have in mind?
I used to play saxophone and horns. Maybe not on this record, but it would be really cool to hop on that horn. I would love to [do that]. This past year, we brought up a second drum kit for a lot of shows.
I noticed you actually play the drums -- you don’t do that “bang on the drum for looks” kind of thing.
No, fuck that. If you're gonna play, do the whole thing.
Who would you love to go out on tour with?
I would love to tour with St. Vincent, or Florence + the Machine, or Haim. Grimes would be really cool. I’d love to collaborate with her. Anything with some badass chicks, I'm on.
How about as an opener for PVRIS?
I would love to take The Aces out. Zola Blood. I don’t know if they tour much or if we'd be cool enough to take them out, but Zola Blood would be great.
Are you thinking about the next album yet?
Always thinking about it! I actually had a session yesterday with a new person to try collaborating with as a producer, and it went really well, we had a cool time. The early stages have started.
I know some artists like to wait until tour's over to write, but what do you find works for you?
I do it when it comes. Not trying to force it, not trying to schedule it or compartmentalize it. I did a lot of writing out in L.A. this past winter, just meeting with new people to team up with and seeing who vibes and who doesn't, and we got started pretty early. So all of August, I’ll just be here [in New York] working away, and trying to purge all kinds of ideas and get inspired.
In the meantime, how are you going to keep us all warm? Will there be any new acoustics or other releases?
This year was so hectic. We did a lot of touring, so it was kind of hard to get in the studio for extra things. I definitely want to think of a few things. I want to start documenting more of the recording process, because no one’s really seen it.
Yes, we need the moody black-and-white studio BTS sessions.
Yeah, or me just like trying to find the right synth patch for, like, 20 minutes. Our drummer Justin [Nace] posted this really fun thing -- we were in a hotel together and I was in my bed, and I had a little keyboard and I was working on a song it sounded so cool in my headphones, and then he took a video of me and it’s just silent. That’s what a lot of the recording process is, it’s just me sitting somewhere in silence.
You also did give us a cover of Tegan and Sara’s "Are You Ten Years Ago” last fall, which I love.
Thank you for listening to it. That was so fun, I got to co-produce it with one of my best friends. He engineered the last record we put out. We co-produced it together and just had a fun day in L.A.
Are there any bucket list venues that you would love to play?
We opened a show at Red Rocks, but I would like to headline a show there for sure.
What’s the weirdest or most unique venue you've ever played a show at?
There was The Rave/Eagles Club in Milwaukee, which is a very haunted venue. It’s 100 percent haunted. You can feel it when you walk in. There’s also this place called Thompson House in Newport, Kentucky. It used to be an old courthouse. I think they hanged people outside in the courtyard, and then there was this guy who shot his family on the third floor, this lady who hanged herself at the widows peak, and then there was weird shit going on in the basement where they would keep prisoners and now it’s a venue! I was walking back from getting ready and thinking, “This place feels really weird,” and then our merch girl was like, “Did you hear all the ghost stories?” But it’s in this really cool, beautiful, creepy old Victorian house.
Whoa. Have you ever seen a ghost?
I actually may have seen one, but I don't know if I was just half asleep or if I saw one. But I've definitely seen somebody and interacted with something before. I've definitely had some weird shit happen.
Anything else in the pipeline?
We're on break now, so just top secret studio stuff.