Courtesy of Travis Barker’s cultural renaissance and the prominence of artists like Machine Gun Kelly …
On their last album cycle, I Prevail walked through the darkness.
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And through the deeply personal, reflective Trauma, they found their light.
Now on True Power, the Michigan natives have entered a brand new era – one characterised by strength, confidence and a whole lot of experimentation.
We met with frontman Brian Burkheiser to chat about this change, what it means to the band and more.
Hysteria: Hey Brian! How are you going?
Brian: Good, thank you! It’s been a busy day. We just finished our first big rehearsal, getting ready for our upcoming fall shows. It’s been fun finally diving into these songs live.
So the topic of the moment, the new album! Trauma was so massive for the band and so personal. So when it came to crafting True Power, what kind of headspace were you all in?
The pandemic happened, and we were in Europe. We had initially planned to tour Trauma for another year or so. But having to come back home, we sat down and said are we going to hold out hope and wait for this pandemic to end or do we say it’s go time and start working on the new record?
In the summer of 2020, we decided to get into the studio. That allowed us to look back on Trauma. We reflected on the album, ourselves and how much we’d developed as a band. We still wanted to touch on depression and going through tough times, but a lot of us were in a pretty positive headspace as well. I had just got married, and our guitarist Dylan Bowman did too. Then Steve Menoian, our guitarist, had a baby. The first baby born into the I Prevail world!
We were going through big life events. And we looked back on Trauma wanting to show people they could embrace their trauma and develop true power through it.
No matter what you go through in life, as dark as things get, you can come out to the other side and show people there’s a positive light to be found. We touch on a lot of different things with True Power. There are a lot of highs, lows, peaks and valleys in life, but you’ve got to embrace them all. You’ve got to be able to say you’ll get through everything you go through, whether it’s the greatest moment of your life or the worst.
We want to inspire all the younger bands to go crazy with it and take risks. We want to be that band that shows things don’t have to be done in a certain way.
[Brian Burkheiser, I Prevail]
Focusing specifically on writing during the pandemic, was it hard to find that creative energy?
We felt great going into the album. We had a lot to speak about. With Trauma, we got the accolades. We were GRAMMY-nominated, did our biggest shows and tours, and did our biggest support tours. Everything was really good, and we went into this new record wanting to show people that Trauma wasn’t a flash in the pan. It was a record we wanted to evolve, to show that we’re a band that will be around for a long time.
We wanted to hit on many different sounds and styles. And we’ve done that with our previous discography. But with this record, we went in saying it was going to be our heaviest yet, but also our most accessible. We wanted to do things outside of the box.
It was fun for me to throw hip-hop elements into the record. And for Eric (Vanlerberghe, vocals) to get to sing a couple of times. I know the pandemic threw certain bands off, but we looked at it as a gift. Bands usually get thrown deadlines, and there are always people telling you how to do things. But we were able to just hunker down in Michigan, and then we went to LA to work with our producer, Tyler Smyth. We kept a super small, collaborative circle, and it allowed everyone’s minds to be at peace.
We definitely thought this record pushed the genre limits more than anything you’ve dropped before. Super cool.
Even after Trauma, we did DOA with the rapper Joyner Lucas. We also collaborated with an EDM artist called Illenium. Seeing the reaction from the hip-hop fans and the EDM fans made us want to push the boundaries more. A song like FWYTYK is a perfect example of that. We said let’s just get weird with it and have fun. We wanted it to be a song that people across all genres could listen to and enjoy.
As we’ve gotten older in this life and this industry, it’s given us confidence. We’ve seen the success we’ve had rapping on a song like Gasoline or with DOA. And we wanted to keep going with that, but do it in the I Prevail way. We’re not straying from our roots. We’re showing people our songs can have crazy breakdowns but still be hip-hop-leaning.
Working with Tyler Smyth again – what’s kept you going back?
He is the man! A lot of people don’t know this, but I was a massive fan of his band Dangerkids. I was 19-20 and starting to form I Prevail after my previous band didn’t work out. I heard their music and thought it was awesome. And I loved how they marketed themselves.
Funnily enough, when we started to get big, we offered them a direct support slot for one of our tours and we got to meet. Tyler and I hit it off and talked about writing some songs together in the future. He was brought in halfway through Trauma, but he ended up being the full-on producer. He co-wrote like six or seven tracks too.
With this record, we went in with him. And it was such a great collaborative process. He’s a producer who will go balls to the wall and do whatever he can to make you happy. We didn’t know how long this album would take, but he embraced that. He was happy to work on it until we were done.
It gets difficult when you’re constantly writing with different people, and there are all these producers. It can make it a lot less collaborative. From the band, we had me, Eric and Steve. Then we had Tyler and one other co-writer, a young kid from Michigan. It was a core group of five people, and that’s what made this album so special.
You’ve come such a long way as a band and have such a bright future ahead; what’s something you’re really looking forward to achieving?
I’m excited to see what our live show turns into. Our crowds have always been incredible, but I think this new album will bring a vibe we’ve never had before. So I’m excited about that, and to tour the world and come back to Australia. It’s one of my favourite places.
Also, I’m excited to show people that we’re a band that will continue to bring rock up in the mainstream without selling out. It was fun going to the GRAMMYS, but it was mind-bending to me that the rock category doesn’t even get televised. That motivated us to be the band that comes back one day after helping make rock big again. To the point we could accept an award and actually be on TV.
We want to inspire all the younger bands to go crazy with it and take risks. We want to be that band that shows things don’t have to be done in a certain way. We want to show people what rock is. We’re out to prove that it’s a genre that’ll only get bigger.