It feels like Pierce the Veil have been gone forever. Their last album, Misadventures, hit store shelves in 2016 to rave reviews and the band quickly went out on tour shortly thereafter. In 2018, frontman Vic Fuentes announced the band were working on their fifth album – but before long, the coronavirus pandemic hit… and now it’s 2023. Speaking to me over Zoom, Vic seemed like he had whiplash. Just days after playing a string of wild sold-out UK tour dates, he almost couldn’t believe the band’s fifth album, Jaws of Life, was weeks away from being released after so many years away. While fans have been waiting for years, the journey was even longer for the frontman.
Vic exclusively told Express.co.uk that, over the past few years, countless songs have been written and dropped during the writing process of Jaws of Life.
“Honestly, there were a lot that came to me,” he confessed, coolly, with a laid-back drawl in his distinctive voice. “But I stuck with the ones that felt like they always gave me a good feeling. [For example] there’s a song on [Jaws of Life] called So Far So Fake, that’s the first song we wrote before the pandemic. But I stuck with it because it gave me a good feeling.”
Obviously, the pandemic was a transformative experience for literally every person on the planet. But, musically, it entirely transformed what Pierce the Veil wrote, recorded, and ultimately delivered. “The album was just getting started,” Vic said of the pre-pandemic recording sessions. “I honestly think the album may have sounded a lot different if we finished it back then because we were writing a group of songs that sounded like they belonged on an EP together.”
Of course, once everything shut down, the band’s outlook changed, but there is some familiarity with Jaws of Life. The beautiful album is very much built with the two personas of PTV in mind. Vic’s raucous, feral vocals are given the spotlight in tracks such as Pass the Nirvana and Flawless Execution; while some really sombre, pensive moments are also explored within the record, as well. Resilience and Even When I’m Not With You tell the story of a beleaguered band who have fought with everything they’ve had to get through the pandemic.
And they have been through it. In 2017 their drummer Mike stepped away from the band, and the echoes of that stressful line-up change can be felt within Jaws of Life’s songwriting. Even down to the record’s title.
Vic confessed he’s kept the idea of using Jaws of Life as an album title for some time. “As we kept making the album [the title] actually became really meaningful to all the songs,” he recalled, wistfully. “To me, it represented the way life tries to get a hold of you and sink its teeth into you. There could be a time in your life when life is trying to eat you and you’re just trying to break out of its grip, and I think – by finishing this album – it really represented being released from this grip that you’ve felt like life was trying to get you.”
Taking a pause and absently scratching at his eyes, Vic added: “Then digging your way out of this hole and seeing some light again. That’s what it felt like trying to finish this record. That’s where I feel like we are now. Finally stepping out into the light and rubbing our eyes and finally seeing again.”
While Vic and the rest of his band (guitarist Tony Perry and bassist Jaime Preciado) struggled through the pandemic, not everything that came of the cultural pause was a bad thing.
Pierce the Veil’s 2012 track King for a Day had a monolithic resurgence on TikTok throughout 2021 and 2022. Thousands of emo kids garnered millions of views using their iconic chorus to show off just how much they loved the band. Even pop icon Lizzo got involved, doing her own version of the trend. Vic stressed that the band and the label had nothing to do with the revival of the song before shaking his head in disbelief: “It was incredible. I don’t know what happened or how it happened. I don’t know, man, we’re just mind-blown and grateful for it.”
Obviously, having your song go viral in a major way is an excellent thing for any band, but for it to happen while you’re making new music does build up a new sense of urgency and pressure to not drop the ball.
Vic seems to have a way to keep things fresh while he’s writing new music, however. “I think the challenge…” he began, before readjusting. “I’m always having fun challenging myself with little goals that nobody would really notice.” Vic pointed at the new track Shared Trauma and explained that it included him singing “in the lowest octave he’s ever sung a song before”.
“That’s an accomplishment for the band,” he explained. “It’s like we did something different. To prove to yourself that you can do something different, and something that maybe some people won’t even like! But I like it, and I think it sounds cool. So little goals like that are what keep our band progressing.”
And it seems as if the wind is back in their sails. Pierce the Veil just announced a new UK tour for 2024, and he doesn’t think even more new music is too far away either. “Knock on wood,” he breathed. “I hope it won’t be a long [wait].”
Pierce the Veil – Jaws of Life is out tomorrow.