“We had an interesting day today, a lot of cool things have happened,” Pierce the Veil singer Vic Fuentes tells us as we sit out on the balcony of a San Fernando Valley hotel on a Thursday afternoon, Jameson in hand, toasting the band’s success.
The group’s new album, Misadventures, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, giving them their first top 10 album. And just like 2012’s Collide With Sky, Misadventures hit No. 1 across the board in the rock world, including the alternative, rock and hard rock charts.
As a result of the San Diego group’s breakthrough, they are enjoying cool things like interviews with former MTV host Matt Pinfield and Nikki Sixx’s Sixxth Sense show, and free Smashing Pumpkins shirts from a recent in-store at Hot Topic. Maybe the most gratifying thing for them, though, is the success of a record that was their most difficult to finish. We spoke with Fuentes and bass guitarist Jaime Preciado about writing Misadventures, Willie Nelson and how Stevie Nicks influenced this album.
Was Dan [Korneff] really helpful with the sound of this album?
Fuentes: We went to him because we followed his sound. He’s got a great ear.
Preciado: He’s good at making everything sound real, but sonically really good. His drums are probably his bread and butter. I think he makes drums sound so fucking awesome; and that’s the hardest thing to make sound good. At least for me when I listen to a record, the first thing I notice are drums. You listen to Foo Fighters’ “My Hero,” those drums are so roomy and so huge. It sticks with you.
Fuentes: I think that is a huge thing about Dan Korneff, he was on the same page with us. We like to use real amps and have things be as real as possible, but at the same time we want this record to sound like one of the best records ever. He’s on that page, he’s like, “I want my shit to sound hi-fi, but I want it to be real.” That’s right up our alley.
Looking out at the tour bus calls to mind Willie Nelson. If Willie asked you to come on his bus what song would you sing for him?
Fuentes: I would sing any song he wanted, I would pull up the tabs and learn it right in front of him.
Preciado: I would play “On The Road Again” and have him sing it high as fuck.
Fuentes: Come on, think of something else. You’re gonna sing his biggest song with him? We created this coffee table book of our tours really early days and I remember he was one of the quotes, “The life I love is making music with my friends.” With Willie I’d probably sing a song by Sublime called “Smoke Two Joints”; “Two in peace and two in time of war.”
Do you have any good weed stories to entertain Willie?
Fuentes: I have one more weed story, I recently had the chance to work in Santa Monica at the Village. So I’m working there, and downstairs, Snoop is working on some stuff, posse of like 15 Crips, brought them straight into the studio, had strapped bodyguards outside the door, rolled up in one of those cars that has three wheels, those new cars you have to wear a helmet on. I was working on a bunch of emo songs upstairs, Snoop in one room, Busta Rhymes in another. It was a great day.
What were you working on there?
Fuentes: It was Misadventures, I was writing there for like a month or so. It was awesome because it sort of fell in my lap at the perfect time because I really needed a place to finish the record and our label, Fearless, had just merged with Concord. So when we merged with Concord they were like, “Hey, we have a residency at this place called the Village. You are now an artist on our label. How would you like to use this?” I’m like, “Are you serious?” They literally let me use this amazing studio and it was rad. I think it was really helpful for the record. When I walked in, I learned about all the history of the place. Fleetwood Mac built their studio there.
How does writing in a place where all this great music has occurred inspire you?
Fuentes: Honestly, I’m not the most super spiritual kind of guy, but when I walked in there, you can feel a warmth. You can feel the air is warm, it feels like if you’re gonna make something great, it’s gonna be in there. It feels like one of the last places that maybe cares about honest creativity and they light candles everywhere for you. You can do anything in there and they support it. It was cool, I got to do a little tour of the room that Fleetwood Mac built, her vocal booth’s called the Tahitian room, or something like that. She made it look all island-y and Seventies. It was really cool. When you’re around all that, it kicks you in the ass and gives you a little extra boost.
When you go back and listen to the record are there moments where you hear the influence of the Village?
Fuentes: I think so, I think you can hear it maybe even in my voice. I think when you record one place or the other your mood is different and your energy is different and I think it was definitely a special time for me. Creatively, my brain was just moving a lot faster when I was in there.
Where did you find the inspiration in this record?
Preciado: For us, I think we went in there trying to be a little bit more creative and more outside the box. We wanted to take chances, take some risks, do some things that we couldn’t have done on our last couple of records. There are a couple of songs on the record where I think we did that. For us, that’s always our goal. We always want to try to go in the studio and create something that for us, at that time and place, we really love. That’s always been our goal every time. Vic always says, every record, for us, is a little time capsule of how we were in our life and what we were doing. So listening to Misadventures, it kind of brings me back to exactly where we were, what we were doing and the crazy fucking trip it took to finish it all.
Fuentes: Yeah, this record was really unorthodox for us. When we finally did get back to finishing lyrics after taking a break from our record to do a world tour and do a Warped Tour, right in the middle of recording one of the most anticipated records of our career, we were just like, “We need a break. We’re gonna take a break and do some touring, and then I’m gonna write the rest of the lyrics.” When I did that, I was so obsessed with this record for two years, I almost compare to it when actors go method. It felt like that for me with this record. I was just so into it. So, when I had to write the lyrics, I ended up traveling everywhere and I stayed in like 15 different Airbnb’s in different cities and worked in different studios. I finally finished the record up in Seattle. I just booked a cheap flight by myself, flew up there to finish the rest of the record, and I just walked around to some of my favorite places, like Gasworks and an area called Ballard. Then I wrote the last few songs up there staying at this hotel called Hotel Max, which is really Sub Pop inspired and I was feeling all those vibes up there and it was nice.
Preciado: I’ll never forget that phone call. He called me, “I think I just did the last line.” You could tell over the phone he was fucking smiling. It was awesome, so we pretty much said, “Get the fuck out of Seattle, go to Long Island and fucking record it.”
Fuentes: So I ordered the most expensive cocktail on the menu down at the hotel bar. It was a really twisted Manhattan, their own version of a Manhattan, it was like $20. I got drunk by myself and celebrated, I was really happy.
How did you guys handle the pressure and stress of making this record? Did you internalize?
Fuentes: For me, with every record, I like to go internal and I like to go in isolation, and I think this record I went too crazy with isolation. I almost spent like a year by myself on this record.
Preciado: We finished the music all together and we got it dialed in, that was the first three months in the studio. Then, with every record, we have this quiet confidence in Vic that he can go, ‘cause he likes to be in isolation with his lyrics. For us, it’s always been the way we’ve done things, and I think we all have his back and there’s never any time where we’re like, “Yo, let’s fucking go.” We know that he’s working nonstop. I think, with this record, it was the same kind of thing. We have a formula, for us, it works.
Since you like every album to be a time capsule what is that one time capsule album each for you guys that take you back as fans?
Fuentes: Third Eye Blind, Third Eye Blind.
Perry: Thrice, Illusion Of Safety, one of my all-time favorites every time I hear it because that was the first time I heard that style of music.