Black Veil Buffalo: Interview with Andy Biersack of Black Veil Brides
blog by Ben Kirst • January 21, 2013 @ 3:23pm
Even before the standard star-making methods of the modern music industry were obliterated by an online tidal wave of file-sharing, self-promotion and social networking, there was a proud tradition of metal bands in this country capable of racking up impressive sales without mainstream support. Make music that your fans can appreciate, tour like crazy, be as accessible as possible to the people who love your band and continually roll out new and interesting ways to engage—it’s not exactly rocket science, but it requires a level of dedication, hard work and audience sensitivity that the vast majority of bands lack.
The Black Veil Brides are one of the latest bands to grab the attention of the greater public by following this blueprint. Led by Ohio transplant Andy Biersack, the Hollywood-based outfit built their reputation on a foundation of black leather, glam-inspired makeup and a thunderous, buzzsaw sound that owed as much to bands of the late 1980s as it did to the metalcore / post-hardcore of the 21st century.
While the Brides don’t rely quite as much on their Looks That Kill anymore—“we’ve kind of toned down a lot of that stuff,” Biersack said in a phone interview on Thursday—they remain both musically and visually compelling. The band released its third full-length album, Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones, earlier this month and enjoyed a first-week debut in the seventh slot on the Billboard 200. Not bad for a concept album based on a dystopian world ruled by a fear-empowered oligarchy.
The Black Veil Brides will headline a 7 p.m. show on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at Club Infinity (8166 Main St., Williamsville) as part of their ongoing Church of the Wild Ones tour. Also on the bill are William Control and Don’t Be A Hero. Biersack spoke with Buffalo.com last week and offered some thoughts on the new record’s auspicious debut, his band’s place in the rock pantheon and the making of Black Veil Brides’ new 45-minute film, Legion of the Black.
So how does it feel to have a record in Billboard’s top 10?
Andy Biersack: Incredible. Throughout our whole career, we’ve been underdogs. People didn’t have much in terms of expectations for us. But our fan base is so dedicated and so strong—we believe in our audience more than other people understand. We’re incredibly excited…we want to be the biggest band that we can be. Sometimes, artists are afraid to admit their goals, like it’s not cool or something, but I’ve always dreamed of doing something big, and now we are doing it. It goes to show that you are capable of doing anything you want to, if you are willing to dream and do the work.
Looking at the top 10 albums, there’s your record, as well as new albums from Hollywood Undead, The Dropkick Murphys—do you feel like the idea that “rock is dead” has been overstated? And how do you feel about carrying the torch for rock?
Rock is not dead. It may be somewhat marginalized in the public eye, but rock is still there if you look for it. Look at Warped Tour, the festivals—the opportunities for the fans to gather and celebrate rock music are more popular than ever and there are still rock bands out there who are just killing it. Just because the mainstream does not pay attention to what you;re doing does not mean that it doesn’t have value or that it’s not there anymore. It does have value. And I think the level of dedication, the passion for the scene—whether it’s heavy metal, punk, pop—is probably greater than it’s ever been, but the (mainstream) outlets that used to be around just aren’t there anymore. In the last five or six years, there’s been a big decrease in the media coverage of rock ‘n’ roll, but an increase in the level of devotion…it’s not dead. It’s waiting.
We never wanted to be a throwback band. We wear our influences very proudly. I love seeing a 14-year-old kid show up at one of our shows in a W.A.S.P. shirt—I think that’s really cool. And from growing up in the Midwest, where the heaviest thing you’re going to hear on the radio is Matchbox 20, you really find out how to seek out the good stuff, how to find it on your own. So while we may be the leaders today, are we “trying to bring rock back?” I don’t think so. I don’t think rock ever left. You just had to know how to look for it.
Wretched and Divine is a concept record, which is kind of an antithetical thing to do in a music world where the trend is towards making hit singles as opposed to cohesive and narratively complex albums.
Well, I love any kind of dark theater, and I’ve always loved theatrical things—Crimson Idol by W.A.S.P., The Wall, Tommy—these comprehensive works…and then you see what Green Day did, and what AFI did, and it got me thinking, “wow, that’s a cool way of doing things”—I was really influenced by the idea of that.
We needed to raise the stakes a little bit. It would have been easy to just go in and do another album like (2011 Black Veil Brides record) Set The World On Fire. And people may have dug it, who knows? But we did six or seven songs, and we just didn’t feel challenged. It just wasn’t something we wanted. We wanted to wipe the slate clean…
I have always been drawn to comics, theatrical things, so I just went back to my roots, really. I was just messing around and started writing a short story, and that turned into the outline of a concept, and then I started drawing, and it really came together. I started kind of pitching it around, showing it to my friends, you know, like “hey, guys, what do you think of this?” Everyone seemed to like it. So we just ran with it.
And what inspired the idea to do a film in conjunction with the release?
We had the basic script already, and me and my manager had a conversation—a genuinely innocent conversation—about crafting this short film that was a visual representation of the record. It just blossomed from there. After a lot of creative maneuvers, a lot of favors called in, we ended up with something that I am really proud of. Our label (Universal) didn’t really understand at first, but to their credit, they gave us funding and helped us to do it.
How has the tour been?
The tour’s been great—it’s different for us now than it was when we were just getting started. it’s more about being comfortable and less about being insane party animals. But these guys in the band are my best friends, and I get to play music with them in large rooms. I’ve got no complaints.
For tickets to the Black Veil Brides concert at Club Infinity, visit After Dark Entertainment online today.