In a musical age dominated by digital streaming, hit singles, declining attention spans and more entertainment choices than ever before, the value of albums - as works of art and as commercially viable products - has been greatly diminished.
But for the members of Pierce The Veil, the intensely hard-driving San Diego quartet that this year celebrates its 10th anniversary, albums are more vital and important than ever.
That’s why Pierce spent an extended period of time to write, hone and record its fourth and newest album, “Misadventures,” the most ambitious and accomplished of its career.
Pierce The Veil, with I The Mighty and Movements
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, June 25
Where: Observatory North Park, 2891 University Ave., North Park
Tickets: Sold out
And that’s why Pierce, which last year headlined the national Vans Warped Tour and headlined for the first time at SDSU’s Viejas Arena, is performing the 11 songs from “Misadventures” in order and in their entirety on its current tour. The 16-city concert trek includes a sold-out show on Saturday, June 25, at Observatory North Park (formerly the North Park Theatre).
“All my favorite albums are ones you can listen to from start to finish,” said drummer Mike Fuentes, 31.
“Albums are important,” agreed his brother, lead singer and guitarist Vic Fuentes, 33, who co-founded Pierce with his younger sibling in 2006.
“A lot of new artists are just pumping out singles, and I think that’s cool, too,” he continued. “But our goal is to put out full-length albums that last. Because, for an album to have longevity and be something you still want to listen to in 15 or 20 years, the ones that hold strong are good front to back, every song. And our fans seem to buy the whole albums, not just a song.”
In a very real sense, Pierce’s members are continuing a tradition that helped mold them when they were growing up and finding their way, musically speaking.
“We still listen to the bands we grew up with,” noted bassist Jaime Preciado Jr., who turned 30 on May 17.
“Bands like Saves The Day and even, like, blink-182, when they started out, making those crazy records. We have the utmost respect for bands like that, who really developed their sound over time.”
Queen-like aural grandeur
Released in May, “Misadventures” came out four years after the band’s third album, “Collide the Sky.” Its most successful release to date, “Collide” earned Pierce a new level of success, here and abroad. The group spent several years touring around the world to promote it.
With “Misadventures,” which last month debuted on the national Billboard Top 200 album charts at No. 4, the four-man group is aiming even higher. It was produced by Dan Korneff, whose past credits include Pierce’s “Collide” and albums by Paramore, My Chemical Romance, Papa Roach and a good number more, including “American Idol” alum Crystal Bowersox.
What results on “Misadventures” is an expertly executed blend of high-octane emo, post-hardcore and skate-punk. On some songs, there’s also a sense of musical grandeur and theatricality that would surely earn smiles from the members of such bands as Muse and Queen.
There are also some pop-friendly touches, which could earn Pierce a broader audience without losing the dedicated fans that connect so strongly with the band’s songs about alienation, youthful aspirations and finding one’s place in the world.
All these elements are immediately evident on “Dive In,” the album’s galvanizing opening cut. An impressive statement of purpose, it vividly demonstrates the band’s desire to push into new terrain. It also showcases the group’s increased command of its craft and growing confidence that even its headiest musical ideas can be made into compelling songs.
“It was unanimous that ‘Dive In’ would be track No. 1 on the album,” Preciado said.
“If people ever want to hear what Pierce The Veil sounds like, we tell them to listen to that song, because it literally has every style we do. It’s an ambitious start to the album; its five and a half minutes long.”
The sequence of songs on “Misadventures” is well thought out, the better to create an emotional and musical arc that ebbs and flows. The band’s gale-force power is periodically counter-balanced with moments of quiet introspection, sometimes in the same number.
“The song order on the album definitely took time,” said Mike Fuentes, who cites jazz drum legend Buddy Rich as his first musical inspiration. “We met at my house, wrote all the song titles down and listed 20 different orders for them.”
His brother Vic nodded in agreement, adding: “We would send each other track listings of different song orders. The feel of it is so important. Because, growing up, we always loved albums that had such a good flow you could play the whole thing and there was never a dull moment.”
Taking stock in Bay Park
“Misadventures” features some intricate arrangements, deft keyboard parts by longtime Pierce recording contributor Dave Yaden and an array of sonic textures that take full advantage of the recording studio. The band still creates its trademark mighty roar at will, but there’s a greater sense of maturity and balancing the heavy moments with lighter touches for contrast.
Now, the challenge for the band is to achieve the same quality when performing “Misadventures” live on its current tour, as well as on its 38-city European tour this fall and winter.
It’s a challenge Pierce’s four members batted around last month during a group interview in their cozy rehearsal studio, which occupies a converted garage adjoining the Bay Park home of the Fuentes brothers’ parents.
“I take the Queen point of view,” Vic Fuentes said. “When they were in the studio, making albums, they were like: ‘F--- it, man! We’ll figure out later how to play it live.’ That was our approach.”
“We do have to figure out who will play what,” interjected lead guitarist Tony Perry, 30, now recovered from a 2015 mountain biking accident that saw him suffer a collapsed lung, broken sternum, torn shoulder and three broken ribs. “I play straight through; all my stuff is there on stage.”
Vic Fuentes, a graphic design major who dropped out of SDSU after three years to concentrate on his band, smiled.
“The goal for playing this record in its entirety in concert is to not just play it live,” he noted, “but to expand on it.”
Delivering the band’s new songs live with the precision of the album requires attention to detail, and - for drummer Mike Fuentes - making sure all the moving parts are accurately executed while maintaining a rock-steady rhythmic pulse.
“I set up all that stuff,” he said, “because we like to play (live) to a click-track.”
Vic Fuentes turned to his younger brother.
“You’re giving away all of our secrets!” he said, laughing, before growing more serious. There’s no (electronic) samples in our concerts. It’s all real.”
In the beginning
A lack of artifice and a desire to keep things real have been key characteristics since the Fuentes brothers launched Pierce in 2006.
The group’s formation followed the demise of their previous band, Before Today. Perry and Preciado joined in 2007, the same year Pierce released its debut album, the aptly titled “A Flair for the Dramatic.”
Through dedication and hard work, the band worked its way up from playing backyard parties and small, all-ages venues here to hitting the road as an opening act for other acts and, eventually, becoming headliners.
“Even before I met Vic, Mike and Jaime, the goal was always to get out and play, to see more,” lead guitarist Perry said. “Then, the goal was to play out of state. Once we started Pierce The Veil, that’s what we got to do, pretty quickly: travel the world. Our goal now is not just to play everywhere, but to make sure our live show gets bigger and better and crazier for our audience. Every time we tour, we ask ourselves: ‘How do we make it more special for them?’ ”
“When we started,” added Preciado, “we had a lot to learn. We were able to tour with some amazing bands, who took us under their wings and showed us what to do and what not to. Now, like Tony was saying, the goal is to put on the best show we can. We all want to get better and be better musicians and songwriters. I want to see us be the best band we can be.”
All four band members smiled when asked to recall the band’s early days.
“We played in a lot of backyards,” Mike Fuentes said.
“At that point,” Preciado added, “our goal was to play anywhere but a backyard! A friend of ours said: ‘Just wait. One day you’ll play in 200-capacity rooms!’ And we laughed, because that seemed impossible.
“But, in a certain way, we just knew we had to get out on the road and pay our dues, and play as many shows as we could, and keep writing songs and recording.”
“Plus,” noted Vic Fuentes, “we weren’t in the middle of nowhere. We were here and we didn’t feel like there was no hope. San Diegio had, and has, a very lively music scene. We always had a lot of friends, whose bands we played in or grew up listening to. If you worked hard, you could open for a national touring band here. When Mike and I were in our old band, Before Today, we sold enough tickets to get to open for Rise Against, and that was huge for us.”
“San Diego always showcased those bands, whether live or on the radio,” Preciado said. “I saw tons of things about blink, Switchfoot, Unwritten Law, and all the underground stuff, and that was inspiring.”
Now, with 10 years under the band’s collective belt and its strongest album to date, the sky’s the limit for Pierce The Veil.
“When we first started touring, I told myself that if we ever played in Japan, I could die happy,” Mike Fuentes recalled. “We played there three years ago, and it was awesome. Having done that, I want us to play as many places as we can. I want to cross them all off the list, and say: ‘We played everywhere!’
“And we will.”