Pierce the Veil's Vic Fuentes Explains Why He Writes Songs For Individual Fans He's Met

Over the course of just 10 years and four albums, progressive rock/hardcore outfit Pierce the Veil accomplished what most bands strive for yet few achieve: the skyrocketing whirlwind of the rock-star dream. But they didn’t get there by seeming “untouchable” or big-money ad spots. Pierce the Veil did the opposite, with a grassroots mentality, plus a staying-true-to-your-musical-roots mantra — and it yielded huge results.

Pierce the Veil sold out tours in 2012, 2013, and 2014, has almost 20 million followers on social media (as well as 200-million-plus YouTube plays), and won awards from Alternative Press, Revolver, and Kerrang! So how did a band that never thought it would get radio play find such success in just 10 years?

Founded out of the San Diego punk scene, Pierce the Veil is comprised of Vic Fuentes (vocals, guitars, keyboard), Mike Fuentes (drums), Jaime Preciado (bass), and Tony Perry (guitar). For a while, they played small clubs and side stages at Warped Tour before hitting their stride with 2012’s Collide with the Sky (their third album, which debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200). 

From the start, Pierce the Veil has made it a high priority to take their fan interaction to a deeper level. The members claim to have made lifelong friends from meet-and-greets, and many of their songs result from actually listening to, well, their listeners. Fan letters — whether it’s losing a loved one, suffering from depression, or struggling with self-inflicted harm — have touched the band just as deeply as the music has touched the fans in return. The band is known for dedicating songs to fans, and writing lyrics about the challenges from these individual stories. For example, the lyrics of the track “Circles” from Misadventures, Pierce the Veil’s latest and fourth record, tell a story about two friends at the infamous Eagles of Death Metal show in Paris last fall.

Released this past May, their fourth album Misadventures debuted at number one on Rock, Hard Rock, Alternative and Independent charts, and in the top 20 across Billboard, the U.K., Mexico, Australia, and Canada. And the band is touring yet again, supporting the span of their four albums and a new, highly anticipated visual production concept.

New Times
talked with vocalist Vic Fuentes about their “surprising” popularity, the importance of being patient, and the band’s first television appearance — ever — on Conan O'Brien.

New Times: I heard that you guys are surprised with the breakthrough in radio for Misadventures — but you guys have been on the charts and garnering millions of YouTube plays for quite some time now. Why the surprise?

Vic Fuentes: Well, I guess it’s because we come from the emo/scream/DIY background, and we grew up playing in bands that were like, "Oh we’ll never be on the radio, because it doesn’t play that style." We always thought if we ever made it to the radio, it would be cool that we just did it by chance, that we wrote a song that made it. And that’s how it worked with this record. Plus, our record label combined forces with Concord, a bigger label with a radio team.

Considering this album took longer to put out than any of the others, do you feel like writing the vocals for this album was a struggle?

Absolutely. I’m just so happy that we’re out here touring on it. It’s a big way to celebrate all the work we did. I feel like every single time you do a record, it’s a different experience. It can never really go the same. We ended up spending so much time on the music that by the time I got to do the vocals, we had already been in the studio four or five months working on the music. I was just sick of being in the same place, and it wouldn’t do the album justice by trying to force out some lyrics. So I did the exact opposite of what I was doing: I went traveling and saw different places and we even went on tour for a bit to get out of the studio to get stories and inspiration for the songs. Our biggest songs are the ones that come from true stories.

You guys get inspiration a lot from fans who write you that have encountered hardships. I heard “I Don’t Care If You Are Contagious” was written for a fan who wrote you guys a letter whose boyfriend died in a car accident.

Yes, definitely.

What’s the craziest fan story you’ve heard, or maybe even seen?

Well, for this record, each thing was inspired by different things in our lives. “Songs for Isabel” was an interesting story about a fan of ours who became a friend after awhile. She, um, she told me last time I’d seen her that she didn’t want to live in a world where people treated each other so badly, and she couldn’t understand it. She couldn’t see the good in the world. She told me she wouldn’t be here in a year, and um, it was a sad moment and story. I wrote that song to give her something pretty and positive to have. And thank God, later on she made it through.

Pierce the Veil fans regard your music as healing and cathartic; many have written to say that the music has helped with depression or suicide attempts. Your lyrics obviously have a compassionate element to them. If you could give all humans in the world one virtue, what would it be?

Patience, I guess? I think that’s the biggest thing you lack when you’re a kid is the ability to step back and see that the rest of your life is still ahead of you. A lot of our fans are younger, and you just don’t have that characteristic as a kid. But that goes for anyone, about patience. I tell kids I remember looking back on my life and all the hard times I’ve had, and now I look back and you realize that time passed, and you figured it out. You have to give it that chance.

What’s your proudest moment on Misadventures?

I think mine personally was when we were on [Conan O’Brien's television show] playing our single. I’d always kinda like feared playing these late-night shows. It’s on TV, and [there are] a million eyes on you at once and you can’t mess up. But the fact that we got to do Conan, one of my idols, was a dream come true. I gave him one of my guitars as a thank you and we all signed it. It was our very first TV performance.

You and your brother founded Pierce the Veil almost 10 years ago; during that time, you transitioned from your mid-20s to almost mid-30s. Do you think that has affected your style or taste in music? I’m curious, because I feel like that life transition does spur a musical evolution in everyone.

I would say absolutely. ... Each album is a time capsule of what we’re into at that particular time. Whether it’s heavy music ... or an influence that has nothing to do with music. It always represents the moment you’re living in. I do think the one thing that connects all our albums is the stuff we were into from the very beginning, like fast punk rock. Those will always influence us.