Q&A: Pierce The Veil’s Vic Fuentes On New Music, ‘Shared Trauma’ And New Orleans

These are incredibly heady times for Pierce The Veil frontman Vic Fuentes, who, in the span of a few days, celebrated his fortieth birthday, released a new album with his band — The Jaws Of Life — and, most importantly, welcomed his first child, a daughter named Violet.

Given the seven years since the band’s last album, Misadventures, it’s like a lifetime has changed for Fuentes since the last record. In fact, Fuentes admitted to me in our Zoom chat that the band struggled at times with the lengthy gap between albums.

But the band founds its groove by heading to New Orleans to record the new album with producer Paul Meany. The result is arguably the band’s most sonically diverse collection, one that finds the normal fury and frenzy of PTV, but also heavy New Orleans undercurrents.

I spoke with Fuentes about the new record, the New Orleans food and drink that fueled the recording process, writing in Seattle and much more.

Steve Baltin: So the fortieth birthday and the album out February 10th, and the baby is due February 7th.

Vic Fuentes: Yep. February 10th is the big day, birthday and album, and then baby on the seventh. Could all happen on the same day. Who knows? It’s definitely gonna be an emotional ride. So I’m ready for it. I’m saddled up.

Baltin: That is a lot of life changing stuff at once. Does that explain why the album is so diverse? It covers a lot of ground.

Fuentes: Yeah, it was written over a pretty long span of time. So there was a lot of different times of life happening all over the place. So, yeah. That probably kind of affected that.

Baltin: Was there one song early on though that jump started the whole process?

Fuentes: Early ones, there was a song called “So Far So Fake” that was in the first batch of writing that we did before the pandemic. And that still made the record. That was one of the only ones that’s kind of still made it. Actually, there’s one called “12 Fractures,” the last song on the record. That one was about a buddy of mine going through a divorce, and that was all happening kind of pre-pandemic. And then I didn’t finish the song until pretty much right before we went into the studio. And it was kind of interesting ’cause they’re going through this divorce, I’m watching two of my best friends fall apart. And then each of them found new spouses since then and got remarried. And so that was when I finished the song. It was like once everybody was actually happy again. So it went from happy to sad to happy again. And then that’s the whole story of that song.

Baltin: When they heard the song, did they know it was about them?

Fuentes: My one buddy does. He knows. I don’t think she knows yet or if she’ll catch that it’s about them. I’m not sure. Typically if I’m writing about somebody or a relationship song, about somebody specific, I’ll tell them about it. And sometimes it’s like a gift. Or sometimes it’s an apology. I’ve written songs as an apology to people and given it to them and been like, “Hey. I wrote this for you and this is what it’s about.”

Baltin: Have you started thinking about playing this material live yet?

Fuentes: Yeah, that song in particular, I could picture it being a really powerful moment in a set or it’s just a good song that I can play anywhere. I could play it on a side of a road, I could play it in a radio station, I could play it on stage, so that one I’m pretty excited to play in general. And then some of the ones that we’ve already put out have just been doing exactly what we wanted them to live. Like “Pass the Nirvana” was the first single that we put out. I was manifesting seeing a crowd jump. I was like, “Oh, I just want to see a whole crowd jumping like a f**king Rage Against the Machine show for this song.” And that’s exactly what we got. We’ve been playing it the last few months and it’s just been insanity. It’s so fun. I’ll probably wait and see what the fans start really loving and then we’ll kind of decide from there to see what they want to hear live.

Baltin: What happens, of course, is now the fans get to decide.

Fuentes: That’s my favorite thing. I’ve always said the fans pick the singles. And you can try as hard as you want, but at the end of the day, they’re going to be the ones to pick it.

Baltin: As you start to watch the response, are there ones that you are either very excited about or that you’ve been surprised by the response?

Fuentes: Yeah, totally. I’m excited for people to hear a song called “Flawless Execution,” ’cause it’s just got a vibe that I don’t think we’ve ever been able to capture before. It feels almost sexy to me, which I don’t think we’ve ever done. It’s got a ’90s rock vibe to it too. I would love for people to hear that song. I really want to know what people think about the song called “Resilience” too, it’s track eight. It starts off with a clip from Dazed and Confused. I’m excited to see what they think of that one. There’s a song called “Shared Trauma,” that I just think is a cool topic that I’m wondering if people will relate to and see what they think about it.

Baltin: You know Aimee Mann, the singer-songwriter. She did a show for Audible called “Straw in the Gold.” It’s her talking with five or six artists about how trauma influences art. And it’s so good and she’s so smart. I think trauma recognizes trauma, it becomes a shared language.

Fuentes: Totally, 100 percent. I’ve seen friends who gravitate towards other friends because I can tell that they all had rough upbringings. So they can connect with each other in that way and it’s a beautiful thing. And I think it can be one of the strongest bonds that you have between somebody. And even in relationships, if you and your partner go through something together, it can make you undeniably strong. And yeah, it’s pretty amazing.

Baltin: Aimee and I were talking about it at the interview. People are becoming much more open to talking about this, and it’s such a necessity to talk about in the music industry where things are really screwed.

Fuentes: Yeah everything is all autobiographical for me. These are all the stories along the way here. And yeah, that one could be a little bit about me and my wife, it could be a little bit about me and my band even, kind of being apart for so long trying to make this record and then finally getting it done. I think this record bonded us tighter and closer than we’ve ever been. And the whole experience was important for us. I think this record was like actually like a working through trauma album and we made it up, releasing it represented to us getting out of it and finally seeing the light again.

Baltin: Why? Because of the difficulty with COVID or just in general?

Fuentes: Yeah, I think with COVID and just us taking so much time off or apart. That alone is really confusing for the band. Some point we’re like, “I know we’re still a band, but when is this all going to come together? When are we going to actually be in the same room together? When are we going to be in the studio together? When are we going to be on tour?” On tour felt like a million miles away and putting an album out felt so far away that it was just like starting to really weigh on us. And so once we got actually in the studio and started rehearsing and getting ready to go out there and then actually being in New Orleans together, having just the best experience, it satisfied everything that I think we needed and we craved really badly.

Baltin: Do you hear that New Orleans influence in the record because it is such a distinct place?

Fuentes: We tried to make a goal to put New Orleans into this record somehow. And we were racking our brains. We were like, “We’ve got to capture this city somehow in this album. “And we couldn’t really ever find a right way to do it. But what we ended up doing was we would wander around the city recording background talking and noises and stuff like that. And a lot of that made it on the record just like subliminal little sounds and stuff like that. That was funny ’cause that was really something I wanted to do, but I was struggling finding a way to do.

Baltin: When you go back and hear the record now, do you hear more subconscious elements in there that maybe at the time you didn’t realize how much they were coming in?

Fuentes: I think that I mostly just feel the house and where we were. It’s just mostly about the memories now of where we were and living there and eating the food and hearing the parades and smelling the air there. It’s just more of a reminder now for me, which is really cool ’cause I’ll always think of that now.

Baltin: It’s funny you mentioned the food. Obviously New Orleans is one of the most food distinct cities in the world. One of my favorite quotes of all time, I’ve been friends with Billy Corgan for many years. He was doing an interview with Zane Lowe. Zane asked him about something and he talked about the success of the ’90s. He’s like, “Maybe it was the right water, maybe it was the right chicken piccata.” He and I actually riffed on that for some time talking about how certain foods can fuel a band. And so we started talking about the foods that Led Zeppelin would’ve eaten, the foods that Velvet Underground would’ve eaten. So the obvious question, what are the New Orleans foods that you now hear in this album?

Fuentes: Dude, you’re not wrong. I mean crab cakes and oysters and the beer there. Abita Amber Lager.It’s a New Orleans beer that I drank the whole time when I was there. We got introduced to some things too, like King Cake. I never knew what king cake was. Like where you find a little tiny toy baby inside of the cake, like so dangerous. But definitely those things. So much soul in that Abida.

Baltin: Since you had time between records were there things that you thought about in earlier Pierce The Veil music or just things that you listened to from other people that really became a big influence in making this record?

Fuentes: Yeah, there were a ton of influences along the way. And when I was writing and working up in Seattle, Mike Herrera from MxPx. I worked in his house, his studio up in Bremerton, just across the water from Seattle. He’s got this 100-year-old house. And I lived in it for like a month or two working on the record and just writing and gathering material. When I was up there, I feel like I discovered like a superpower that I’d never utilized in my life, which is, I can kind of reach out to artists and meet them if I really wanted to try and meet somebody. Obviously it’s up to them if they want to meet me, but I did that a bunch when I was in Seattle. Like that’s how I met K.Flay, I just had our managers connect us. I was like, “Hey, like I love your music. I see you’re playing in Seattle, I’m working up here, can I come out and meet you and see the show?” So I did that a bunch of times. I met K.Flay that way, I met Yungblud, I met Cavetown. And I met Mallrat, that girl from Australia. She’s so rad. So yeah, I would go out to shows just by myself and meet the band and watch the show and that was super inspiring for me. I think I’m going to make a point of that, to keep going to shows while we’re making a record. ‘Cause it really just reminds you of the environment and where you’re heading and also just inspires you by hearing these other artists and what they’re doing.