Interview: Black Veil Brides' Andy Biersack on "Aggressive" New Album, Working with Bob Rock, and Misconceptions about His Band
"It's been so much fun--we're in great spirits," says Andy Biersack, frontman of the Black Veil Brides. "I know everyone says that they're having a great time—but genuinely, I'm enjoying my life more than I ever have."
When Revolver reached the vocalist for this in-studio report, the band was wrapping up the last few days of recording in Vancouver with famed mega-producer Bob Rock--you know, the guy who oversaw albums like Metallica's "Black Album" and Mötley Crüe's 'Dr. Feelgood.' While Biersack couldn't have been more ecstatic about working with Rock and about his group's new material, he revealed that his current "great spirits" follow what was a dark period in his life between the making of 2013's 'Wretched and Divine' and now. We caught up with Biersack to talk about that, the forthcoming fourth BVB album, "being a militant asshole," and the misconceptions surrounding his band.
REVOLVER What's it like working with Bob Rock?
ANDY BIERSACK The star-struck nature--especially when you're a kid who loves hard rock and metal--when you meet him, there is the initial, “Oh shit. This is Bob Rock.” It is the greatest thing we've gotten to experience, which is honorably so rare for the people you look up to--but he's really an awesome person, a joy to work with, and incredibly talented. The biggest thing I can say going away from this record is I've learned more about the process of writing and creating songs and the importance of the elements of songs more so than any other record we've done. I couldn't really put an amount of the value of knowledge that I now have in terms of musical creation, songwriting, and nuances of songwriting.
Bob produced both Metallica's "Black Album" and Mötley Crüe's 'Dr. Feelgood'--which do you like more?
For me, I would probably say the "Black Album" just because the lyrical content tends to skew more towards things I'm interested in. Not to say Nikki [Sixx] is not a great writer, and I'm obviously hugely influenced by Mötley Crüe on many levels, but maybe as an adult now what speaks to me a little bit more now is the "Black Album." If you asked me that question when I was 6 years old, it might be different. It's like picking between your children, but it's two of the biggest rock records of our time.
You said the lyrical content of the "Black Album" interests you more, and speaking of that, how would you describe the lyrical content on the new Black Veil Brides album?
Very angry. I feel like in a lot of ways I had a lot of aggression towards the state of how we were perceived. Obviously some people will see, “Oh, he's the guy who yells at awards shows" or whatever. But in a lot of ways, we had made this record [Wretched and Divine] so large in scale and had this grand story and we did the film. There was a certain level of frustration when you feel you do this thing so large and great, but there were so many people who just refused to listen to the songs, like, "They’re a faggy makeup band." I think on some level, when I was younger that used to affect me. In a way, I enjoyed looking back on those feelings because I don't really care anymore. I can't write about things in the moment anyway, but in a way I wanted to re-tap into those aggressive feelings. I think if anything thematically there is a lot more angst on this record in general. I'm shooting from the hip a lot more on this one. There's no grand story and the metaphors aren't as strong. So it's a return to form—more like our first album, lyrically.
So it sounds like the new one is not a concept album like the last one?
There are a few elements of the story that we wanted to tie up from the ‘Wretched and Divine’ story, but I think it's more hinted at than anything else. There's certainly a theme because we're very theatrical but it is not a straight concept album with a story running throughout. I think the theme of that album is retribution.
With 'Wretched and Divine' being such a big concept record, was it exhausting and did you want to kind of chill out a little after that experience, or do you plan to do more?
No, I think we plan to do more. The one specific thing not being done is a film. But the one thing we did not get to do on the last record is we didn't get to represent a lot of the songs on the record visually in the way that we wanted to. So with us not doing a film, we can invest more time and larger budget into music videos. The plan is to release a few up front and we started pre-production for a lot of the video ideas. I think people will be excited because we're doing a short film prior to the first video coming out that will tie up a lot of the loose ends from the movie.
You said you wrote angry songs for this new record but when we first got on the phone you said you're in a very happy time in your life--what happened to get from point A to B?
I would say when we made the previous record, it was emotionally the hardest period in my life for no other reason than my own misgivings and self-destructive tendencies and I got into a weird funk. It wasn't one thing that spurred it—just sometimes you go through a weird period. When making the movie, it was a very strange time for me. I was so happy about making the album and the process of the concept, but I was not a happy person. I think the band would attest to that and I imagine it was not easy to work with me. I was not being a team player. I was very much, “This is what we're going to wear and sound like." There was not a lot of band voting going on. So with this record, I really wanted to make a concerted effort to bring back the elements of being in a band and being a good friend to my bandmates. It's not easy to admit to everyone when you fucked up. Months prior to making this album, I really wanted to go to everybody and apologize for anything I had done in being a militant asshole--for the lack of a better term. It really brought the vibe back and the experience and nurturing from Bob. We're getting along better as a band now as friends than we have in five or six years. It really does feel like a rebirth.
How did the band react to your change?
Great. You know, I can say I've made a big change but if I don't physically and emotionally live that out and become a better person for my bandmates and family, it's nothing. I don't want to paint myself as some villain—I was never a bad guy doing horrible things, but I got too caught up in wanting a very specific thing to happen to the band. Ultimately, I had to find the ability in myself to get over that and stop being so stringent and learn to laugh a little bit more.
So with the band as a collective unit, what did you create musically?
With the songs being more directed at a personal more angst feel, I think things are definitely heavier. Everybody says this is their heaviest and most melodic but it truly is for us. The feeling was, let's really do something aggressive. We felt that way as a reaction from our own work. When we made ‘Wretched and Divine’ and as much as I love it, it's a pretty sparkly record—it's a record that could be done as a play because it's very theatrical with no grit. Like many artists, we don't want to redo what we did. We're savvier musicians than we were five or six years ago. We were writing songs together as opposed to fragmented in the studio. So we really wrote songs together, making decisions collectively with Bob there, and went back to a much more grittier and heavier sound.
Did you invite some friends to guest on tracks as you have in the past?
No. [Laughs] We debated back and forward, but the lyrical content is too personal. I would not want someone else necessarily singing these words. That might sound selfish, but this is from our band and we want to deliver it to our audience. I want people to sing along, but this needed to be done as a band as opposed to the last record.
Does your gothic side-project Andy Black influence the writing at all?
Yes and no--maybe emotionally. Coming out of ‘Wretched and Divine,’ I was still wanting to explore the more theatrical elements of songwriting. That led to Andy Black. I never have written songs like this and I wanted to do it for fun. I didn't think anything would come of that. In doing that, I had emphasized that element of myself and I got out that pop. Going into the Black Veil album, I felt aggressive again. That's not to say there aren't ballads—there are a few songs with instrumentation, we had a full orchestra in the studio. But I was ready to make heavy stuff again and I got the rest out of my system. Now that we've wrapped it up, I feel like I got the release I wanted.
Can you divulge any titles of songs yet?
Well, no. [Laughs]
You've alluded to your controversial Revolver Golden Gods acceptance speech earlier, and in that case, your very devoted fan base came to the band's defense. With this new release, do you want to win over new fans or even care to?
At this point in my career, I've had so many conversations about being divisive and polarizing or whatever buzzword the writer wants to use, and it's really developed this element that isn't there. When I walk around on the street and someone comes up to me, I have just as many full grown men with large beards in Slipknot shirts saying he likes my band as much as I do girls with bright pink hair. In the real world, the polarization doesn't exist. In releasing an album, I only hope that it's great and I think that it is. It's not about pandering. It's not like it will break my heart if people don't think it's great but, "Boy wouldn't it be great if people were with me on how much I loved this thing!" You want to do good by your fan base and people that have supported you, and that's No. 1 for us on an emotional level. I'm not writing songs for someone else—I'm writing songs with the hope someone can get behind my feeling. It's a dangerous game to write a song for a person you don’t know. It feels disingenuous. I see so many bands, particularly in the last couple of years, that are trying really hard to write for a person that they've never met. I get the idea behind it and the idea of helping people, but I feel you help people more by exposing yourself.
Besides the idea of Black Veil Brides as this particularly polarizing entity, what were other misconceptions about the band?
This is our first record where people are excited. In previous albums, we were treated like it was surprising that a group of birthday clowns were able to put together a record. We're not for everybody, I get that. There's much more of a buzz about this record and when you work your ass off you want people to be excited. I've always said I’d rather have people paint us as polarizing because they feel something about us emotionally rather than be lukewarm. I want to be in a world where people think something about Black Veil Brides than be the band everyone is just OK with--because there're plenty of those.
Biersack and Rock
Photo by Patrick Fogerty
Andy Biersack and producer Bob Rock in the studio
Photo by Patrick Fogerty
Biersack, in the studio
Photo by Patrick Fogerty