Tangled in the Great Escape: An Interview with Pierce the Veil

Experimental post-hardcore act Pierce the Veil has gone from a band on the verge to main stage scene-kings on the Vans Warped Tour. The band sits down with PopMatters to make sense of the wild ride.

While Warped Tour serves as a platform for showcasing some of the best and biggest acts in the post-punk scene, it has long been recognized as the proving grounds for young bands looking to make a name for themselves. Spending the summer traveling by van, in close quarters, with little food or access to showers and basic hygiene tends to be a good way to find out what your band is made of. In 2008, San Diego act Pierce the Veil headed out on Warped Tour in support of its debut album A Flair for the Dramatic and has been making notable strides ever since. Its 2010 follow-up Selfish Machines saw a huge improvement in overall quality from the post-hardcore act and was followed by the group's second full run on the tour.

This summer, the band celebrated the release of its accomplished new album Collide With the Sky by rocking the main stage on it summer-long stint, and in the process has become a shining example of hard work paying off. With a continually growing fan base and persistent knack for expanding its experimental sonic boundaries, Pierce the Veil is on a trajectory that could soon land it as one of the top billed acts in the scene.

During the Cincinnati stop of this year’s Warped Tour, PopMatters had the chance to catch up with Pierce the Veil frontman Vic Fuentes and guitarist Jaime Preciado about their new album, their summer on the main stage, and the bands they’re taking the time to catch on Warped.

As Warped Tour winds down for the summer, what would you say has been your favorite moment or something you’re going to miss?

Jaime Preciado: I’m actually kind of sad now because I just realized how close it is to ending. It hadn’t really hit me until last night or this morning when everyone started asking.

Vic Fuentes: I guess we’re just going to miss our friends that are on it, you know? We’ve got a lot of friends that we’ve been touring with for, some of them, seven or eight years.

Jaime Preciado: There’s a lot of new friends that we’ve made on this tour too, so it’s kind of crazy to only have three or four shows left.

You guys just released Collide With the Sky last week. What’s the response been like from the fans coming out to the tour?

Vic Fuentes: It’s been cool. We’ve had the same response here and all the way overseas. We’re excited to get out and tour everywhere on it.

Jaime Preciado: We’ve only been playing one song from it, since it released so late into Warped Tour, but that song, since the beginning of Warped, has been going off. It’s “King For a Day” that we’ve been playing live. Having Kellen [Quinn] on tour with us, it’s been awesome.

Is it kind of relieving to have it out or do you feel like you can enjoy the tour a little more now

Vic Fuentes: Yeah, I mean, we’re really happy that it actually came out on Warped Tour. We didn’t have to push it back or anything and that was the whole plan -- to have this new record, be on Warped Tour, our first time on the main stage. It’s cool to have all of this exciting stuff happening at once.

You’ve had guest spots on previous albums and you’ve got some pretty high-profile names on this new one, including Kellen, like you mentioned earlier, and Jason [Butler] from letlive. How did those come about?

Jaime Preciado: Just through touring, I think.

Vic Fuentes: Yeah, we just did a tour with letlive. and we all bonded on that tour really hard and became good friends. We have a lot of respect for them as musicians. We love their band and we listen to their music all the time and we’re inspired by them. That’s what it’s all about -- just making music with people that you really respect and people that actually make you better.

Now, this album is a little more eclectic than some of your past work and it seems like you’ve really worked on expanding your sound. How much did you intentionally set out to do that?

Jaime Preciado: I think we’re always trying to push ourselves to do new things, so I think it was a natural transition to just try have no boundaries at all and just go with what we had. I think working with our producer Dan Cornith, he was in the same boat with us. We tracked in rooms in a huge warehouse just to give it a try. We didn’t know what it was going to sound like -- it might have sounded horrible, but it ended up sounding really good, just trying new things. It was a lot of fun.

Vic Fuentes: It’s all about risk-taking when you’re making an album. Don’t be scared to do weird things sometimes. We want to have people remember us.

Jaime Preciado: Be bold. You gotta be bold.

Vic, you’ve played a pretty big role in regards to production in the past. What was the biggest challenge for you this time around during the writing and recording process?

Vic Fuentes: I guess the challenge was that we put a lot of pressure in ourselves, and I put a lot of pressure on myself personally to kind of beat what I did last time. Like, whatever I did lyrically or vocally, just to try and get better at everything. You know, we’re not afraid to say that we can always get better at what we’re doing. I take vocal lessons and do all kinds of shit to just improve our songs. Hopefully with every record, we’ll look back and be like, "This one’s a lot better.”

You’ve been able to write songs that are really straightforward, but you also have a lot of stuff that’s a bit more ambiguous. What sorts of things inspired you lyrically this time around?

Vic Fuentes: It was a lot of different things because the album was written over a year or so. There was personal things in my life and some of the songs were inspired by fan letters. We get these really deep and emotional fan letters sometimes that are so heartbreaking or shocking or haunting sometimes that I can kind of relate to them in my own way and connect with our fans in that way.

What are your plans once Warped Tour ends?

Jaime Preciado: I’m going to Disney World. Fuck it, I’m going to Disney World [laughs]. No, actually we’re going to the UK for our first headlining tour and we’re really stoked about that. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We’ll be playing in a little bit smaller of clubs over there, so it’ll be really intimate

Has there been any bands this summer that you’ve discovered or made a real effort to try and catch their set when you can?

Jaime Preciado: Not so much discovered, but I really enjoy Breathe Carolina’s set. I’ve been really into their new music, especially. Seeing them grow up with us -- we did our first headlining tour with them about four years ago. Seeing our bands both grow and seeing them on the main stage too, it’s just like, I’m so proud of them.

Vic Fuentes: For me, I watched Memphis May Fire the other day and Matty, their singer, is one of the sweetest dudes I’ve ever met. So we’ve been friends this whole time throughout Warped Tour, but I hadn’t really had a chance to check their music out. I watched them the other day and they sounded super tight, one of the tightest bands I’ve ever heard. Great singer, great screamer, really catchy.

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