“All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell” — the title of the sophomore album by alt-rock/electronica act PVRIS — is an intriguing verbal juxtaposition. But what exactly does it mean?
“It’s all subjective. Ultimately, heaven and hell is pretty subjective. I think pleasure and suffering can also be pretty subjective,” frontwoman, guitarist and songwriter Lynn Gunn explained in a phone interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. “And that was such a huge lesson for me in the past few years.”
Indeed, in between PVRIS (pronounced “Paris”) releasing their debut album, “White Noise,” in 2014 and its follow-up this past Aug. 25, there has been plenty learned by Gunn and plenty she’s still trying to figure out.
PVRIS, a Massachusetts trio opening for Muse and Thirty Seconds to Mars this Wednesday at Usana Amphitheatre, can match the dramatic, grandiose bombast of their tourmates. But underneath the anthemic sheen is a dark layer of melancholy.
“Don’t need a metaphor for you to know I’m miserable,” Gunn sings in the chorus for “What’s Wrong.”
Gunn, who came out as a lesbian in a letter to her mother right as the band left on its first-ever tour, has been open recently about the emotional and mental struggles she has battled on the road as the band’s star started shining brighter, and in the lead-up to recording the new album.
“To be completely candid, it was just anxiety and depression and being burnt out. I was just trying to rewire my brain and get in a good headspace so I could make the record eventually,” she said. “It’s not like a one-and-done deal, it’s a constant thing. It was just very heavy in that period. Everything kinda caught up with me at that time — it was a pretty inconvenient time! But that’s how it goes.”
She’s cognizant that being a songwriter and being the frontwoman of a band carry the responsibility — and burden — of being inherently more open and vulnerable. That draws listeners in.
Of course, it’s also problematic and painful being exposed like a raw nerve all the time.
She still isn’t sure whether it’s worse to feel constant anguish or nothing at all.
“It’s actually been something I’ve thought about recently. I think a big part of what was going on for me was, ‘Is it something mental? Or is it something even bigger than that, something energetic or spiritual, in a way?’ I feel a lot of those concepts go hand in hand. I’m almost wondering if a big part of it was just not being vulnerable, or having my guard up,” Gunn said. “I’m in a current internal debate about how much to be sharing now and how vulnerable to be. It’s like a weird self-preservation conflict, I guess. How much do I want to give up to people? How much do you want to keep to yourself? If you’re constantly giving to people, what do you have of yourself at the end?”
Such ambivalence wound up setting the tone for “All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell.”
Gunn conceded that while she had some initial ideas for the path the album would take, they seemed better off discarded in the end.
“By the time I got to the studio, I was just really trying to purge all emotions and energy from the past three years,” she said. “And it kinda just lost that rhyme and reason and lost that theme that I’d kinda been putting in my head beforehand.”
Now that the record is out, she looks back with bemused curiosity at the unexpected trends she keeps discovering in it.
“I think when you create something all in the same time period and in the same headspace, there’s a lot of subconscious stuff that happens and things that happen that tie things together, whether they’re intentional or not. … But they’re seamless nonetheless,” she said. “A big one — it’s a very subtle one — is balance, light and dark, pushing and pulling. Kinda like existing in a weird paradox; circumstances that don’t fully line up with what’s going on internally.”
That “existing in a weird paradox” feeling has seeped into other areas.
As the band was wrapping up rehearsals in Nashville before heading out for the latest leg of its tour, Gunn confessed she still couldn’t quite believe the situation she was in. But at least now she’s able to like and appreciate it. And she expects plenty of others will as well.
“I was up until about 2 a.m. last night going over the lighting and production with our production designer, and I had a weird moment where I kinda stepped back and thought, ‘Whoa — this is our band, this isn’t another band.’ It was a very surreal moment,” she said. “I think people are gonna be shocked when they see the production and the show. It’s a good shock! I’m really excited and incredibly proud of it. That’s all I’m gonna say, ’cause I think people should come and find out for themselves.”
Opening for Muse, Thirty Seconds to Mars
When • Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where • Usana Amphitheatre, 5150 Upper Ridge Road, West Valley City
Tickets • $30-$99.50; Smith’s Tix