Black Veil Brides, the fashionable metalcore outfit from Hollywood, California, have been taking it on the chin since the group made its mainstream splash with debut album, We Stitch These Wounds.
Guitar World has been actively championing Black Veil Brides since Pitts and Jinxx throughout the years about the band’s polarizing nature. In a 2013 Guitar World interview, Jinxx commented: “Nikki Sixx is a friend of ours. And he told us, ‘You guys get a lot of love, you get a lot of hate. But you know what? Mötley Crüe got the same hate back in the day. You’re going through exactly what we went through when we did Shout at the Devil. So just keep doing what you’re doing.’ ”
Give Black Veil Brides credit for doing exactly that: staying committed to their craft and true to their mission (and loyal to their hair products and makeup brands) despite often serving as a hard rock punching bag. As evidenced by the runaway success of Scarlet Cross, the rousing first single from the band’s newest album, The Phantom Tomorrow, BVB is enjoying the combination of validation and success that only comes with dedication and perseverance.
“It’s so hard to tell right now because we’re all still kind of in our own bubbles because of the pandemic, but sometimes I wonder if the band is actually getting bigger through all of this,” says Pitts.
“The fact that so many people are getting to hear Scarlet Cross and so many new people are discovering the band is really an amazing thing. It’s almost hard to believe that after 10-plus years in this business, we’re just now starting to get attention from radio – I’m kind of in awe about it.”
Black Veil Brides – which currently consists of Pitts along with co-guitarist and violinist Jinxx, vampirish vocalist Andy Biersack, drummer Christian Coma and bassist Lonny Eagleton – took the opportunity afforded to them by the pandemic to spend the majority of 2020 creating The Phantom Tomorrow.
“We certainly weren’t making any money during the past year [Laughs],” says Jinxx, “but the pandemic gave us the time to make the record we really wanted to make.”
Pitts and Jinxx have established them-selves as one of the most formidable guitar tandems in rock, and that symbiotic relationship is in full effect on The Phantom Tomorrow, a thick, lush, hard-rocking affair positively brimming with wicked solos, dual harmonies, chugging riffs and layers upon layers of stringed flourishes either from guitars or Jinxx’s violin.
Guitar World recently caught up with the dark duo to discuss Black Veil Brides’ return to the rock forefront and the making of The Phantom Tomorrow, which Jinxx proudly hails as “our best work yet.”
It’s been 11 years since the release of the first Black Veil Brides album, We Stitch These Wounds, and in that time, the music industry has changed dramatically. Would you say it’s more difficult to make money in the music business now compared to a decade ago?
JAKE PITTS: “Music is just consumed in different ways these days – it’s all Apple Music and Spotify and other streaming services. So unless you’re selling like a million albums each time out, you’re not really making any money with sales anymore. It’s crazy to think that we make music for a living and yet that’s really not where we make any money.“
JINXX: “Artists just aren’t making what they should be making off of streams. Even if we were able to get one penny from every stream, it would be a significant amount of money, but we’re not getting that. You have to be more creative these days – like putting out elaborate vinyl packages and things like that – and luckily for us, the merchandise has always helped us pay the bills.
PITTS: “That’s true. Even early on, we had such huge support from our fans, and people just ate up the merchandise – before we even put out our first album, we had two T-shirts in Hot Topic. So that was what allowed us to go out on the road and support ourselves – not because we had a record deal with a huge advance or anything like that. It was because of our merchandise sales.“
Being a decade older than when you first started in this band must give you a different perspective on things as well.
PITTS: “Definitely – it’s very different now. We’ve been in this band for more than 10 years, and you can change and grow a lot in that amount of time. It’s crazy to think that, at this point, this band has made up about a third of my life. When we first started out, we were just having a lot of fun – just non-stop touring and playing shows and drinking. But it’s just different now – we’re all married, we’re more mature, some of us have kids, etc.“
JINXX: “Your priorities change over time. I became a dad last October. I’m very grateful for all of those experiences that I had when I was younger, because without them I wouldn’t have all these stories that I have – and that we have – now, and I wouldn’t be where I am today. So I’m just very thankful and way more humble now than when I was a cocky 20-year-old.“
Take us back to March 2020. What was the immediate impact of the pandemic on the band and the making of the new album, The Phantom Tomorrow?
PITTS: “Before the pandemic happened, we had to make some changes and figure out how we were going to continue on and move for-ward, and so we got Lonnie Eagleton in the band playing bass [replacing the departed Ashley Purdy – Ed.], and then we started talking about putting out some new music to excite our fans again and let people know that we were still here.
“So in November 2019 we put out The Night, an EP with two songs, Saints of the Blood and The Vengeance, and we went right from that to recording Re-Stitch These Wounds, which was a re-recording to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our first album, We Stitch These Wounds. It was a fun experience, getting to relive that album and make it sound a little bit more like how we envisioned it originally. So the whole plan for 2020 into 2021 was to tour, and at some point along the way we knew we would have to figure out a way to make a new album.
“We played one insane, sold-out show in Mexico City on March 6, 2020, and it was actually one of the most fun shows any of us had ever played – it felt like we were just starting out again. After that show we flew home, and we were going to have maybe two weeks of rehearsals before going out on tour with In This Moment, but within a day or two of us getting back home, everything shut down.
“We thought that maybe things would get postponed for a month or two – but here we are a year later, and we still can’t tour. And as hard as this has been for us and every other band out there, you always have to remember how the pandemic has affected all the guitar techs and bus drivers and sound guys and tour managers and lighting guys – all the people who help make a tour happen who ended up losing their jobs because of Covid.
“On the plus side of things, we did sign to Sumerian not long before the pandemic hit, and since we had nothing but time on our hands for all of 2020, we used the opportunity to make a new album.“
JINXX: “That’s definitely one of the silver linings in all of this: that we got to spend so much time making this record. If we were out on the road all last year, this album would have ended up being a rush job to get it done. So it’s really exciting to know that we were able to spend so much time writing these songs.
“Another silver lining for me personally is that my wife got pregnant right before we were supposed to go out on tour: had I been out on the road, I might have missed my son’s birth. He’s six months old now, and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to spend all this time getting to know him.“
How did you go about making The Phantom Tomorrow during the pandemic?
PITTS: “To be honest, it really didn’t feel too much different, other than us wearing masks and getting Covid tests during the recording process. What was nice about it this time was that we really had nothing else to focus on other than our families and recording the album – we weren’t worried about having to go out on tour in two weeks or putting off the album so we could rehearse or anything like that.
“We knew we had to get the album done, but we never felt rushed. It really was one of the most painless recording experiences we’ve ever had – it was actually a lot of fun making it, and we’ve made albums in the past that were difficult to make and not a lot of fun.“
JINXX: “Agreed. We worked in three different studios this time around, and that wasn’t any-thing new for us, but having all the extra time made it so much more enjoyable. In the past there would be some butting of heads during a recording process, but this time there really wasn’t anything like that.
“We certainly weren’t making any money during the past year [Laughs], but the pandemic gave us the time to make the record we really wanted to make. But we’re all going to come out of this eventually, and we’ll be back out on the road – you just have to keep looking forward.“
Scarlet Cross, the first single from The Phantom Tomorrow, debuted in November 2020 and has been very well-received so far. The video has generated nearly six million views since it premiered, which must give you a tremendous sense of confidence about the new music.
PITTS: “We’ve had songs played on the radio in the past – I think In the End was the last song we had that was somewhat played on the radio, and that song did very well for us – and we’ve always thought about how we could make another In the End without actually making that same song again. I really feel that Scarlet Cross, even though it’s not anything like In the End, is as close to that as we’ve come so far.
“To see the reception of Scarlet Cross is just an amazing feeling, especially when you put your blood, sweat and tears into a song the way we did with that one. The fact that radio stations are giving us the time of day finally is kind of surreal, especially when you look back at our career and think that radio never really cared that much about us.“
One of the hallmarks of Black Veil Brides’ sound has always been a certain richness that comes as a result of all the musical flourishes and accents that take up much of the space in your songs. Where would you say that approach comes from?
PITTS: “That’s really just something that I’ve done over the years – layering. Something that makes songs special and gives them movement is when you have those layers buried and tucked underneath the song. And it doesn’t even necessarily have to be a guitar – it can be a synth part or some programming or a piano or something like that. It’s all about creating texture, basically – and if you were to take those things out, you would notice that the song loses its movement and its sense of excitement. All those little things add to the energy of a song for us.“
JINXX: “You might not notice it all the time, but I added strings to around 90 percent of this record. You can hear it on some songs – the last song on the album, Fall Eternal, has an epic string section in it – but in other songs, you wouldn’t know it unless I told you. I’ve always layered in string parts, but you have to make sure that they are adding some-thing to the song – they can’t get in the way.“
You’ve been with Schecter since 2013 – did your signature models serve as the primary guitars during the recording of The Phantom Tomorrow?
PITTS: “We each have our own signature models with Schecter, and I’m currently using the Jake Pitts E-1 signature model. They created a hardtail version for me for the purpose of being in the studio and recording, but I also have one with an EverTune bridge, which has been life-changing for me.
“If you’re a guitar player and you don’t have an EverTune, you should get one. It makes your life so much easier because you’re not re-tuning your guitar every two seconds and retracking parts over and over. Once it’s in tune, it stays there.“
JINXX: “I’ve got around 30 guitars in my house right now. [Laughs] And they’re mostly guitars that I’ve collected over the years, but the truth is that you really only need one good guitar to record with, and that’s my Schecter Recluse-FR signature model.
“I’m looking at six of them right now here in my house, and I’ve got each one tuned to a different tuning: standard, dropped-D, dropped-C, dropped-C#, dropped-B and dropped-A, just in case I want to write something in a specific key – I can just reach for that guitar and not think about returning.“
How has your approach to getting sounds and recording changed over the years?
PITTS: “I used to have like 14 amp heads at one point, and I sold all of them, as well as my 4x12 cabs – and some people might see that as unfortunate, getting rid of all that gear, but with technology changing so much in recent years, I now have an Axe-Fx, a Kemper, and I use an incredible amount of plugins for guitar amps. The amp sims have come so far.
“I mean, I could put a guitar cab in my iso booth and mic it up and spend all this time tweaking the tone and everything, or I can just pull up a plugin and get an insane tone immediately just by opening the plugin. For me, it’s about being able to have a session template, opening it, and immediately start being creative – writing riffs and programming drums that already sound mixed, and when you hear it back in that context, it’s inspiring.
“It makes your creativity flow so much better rather than wasting the whole day trying to get a cool guitar tone. And I have done that many, many times over the years – I have wasted weeks doing that! But I didn’t get anything out of that – I didn’t write a song because I was spending so much time trying to get the best guitar tone possible.
“I spend so much time trying to perfect everything, and often when you get into that mindset, you end up ruining things – you take it so far that you get to a place where it’s worse than when you first started. I think it’s important for any aspiring songwriter or producer to learn to get to a point where, once you find a decent sound, turn it into a template and start with that every single time.
“And you’ll obviously tweak things from time to time and things will change as you create new tracks, but by working with templates when starting a new session, you want to just get instantly into your creativity and start working as fast as possible. For me, having the tools to do that has just been insanely helpful.
JINXX: “Since we were introduced to Kempers back in 2012, it’s opened up so many possibilities for us, such as being able to work remotely and sending each other files to put into Pro Tools sessions. It’s just more efficient than it was back in the day when we would have different amps and cabs and try to mic everything – it’s just such a waste of time, whereas now all I have to do is turn on my Pro Tools rig and lay down an idea without having to think about sounds or anything. Then I just send the DI to Jake and there you have it.“
- The Phantom Tomorrow is out now via Sumerian.