The Legend of PVRIS – The Mind of Lynn Gunn

Image Credit: Image Credit: Matty Vogel

OTwo Co-Editor, Isabella Ambrosio, dissects the mind of Lynn Gunn, the brains behind PVRIS’ endless genre fusion, evolving far beyond what the eye can see.

Lynn Gunn wasn’t always the solo mastermind behind PVRIS. But there’s something about PVRIS that is solely Lynn Gunn. Maybe it's because she’s the multi-instrumentalist responsible for PVRIS’ newest record, EVERGREEN, released on the 14th of July. From writing the record to singing, playing guitar, piano, drums, bass, using synthesisers, to programming, Gunn meticulously pieced together PVRIS’ best record. There’s something quite intriguing about the ‘band’ – Gunn has cited that it’s not a band and it’s not a solo project, it is what it is (Alternative Press) – and that’s the journey and evolution of their sound. Originating in the emo scene, opening for post-hardcore bands, and even starting as a post-hardcore band named ‘Operation Guillotine,’ PVRIS was introducing dance- and electro-pop to the genre. They were embraced by the emo scene, and never truly shunned for using pop techniques the same way other bands were. There was something special, and exceptional about PVRIS. And that is, Lynn Gunn.

There was something special, and exceptional about PVRIS. And that is, Lynn Gunn.

Gunn’s fascination with the darker side of life has always stood out. Whether it be religions, cults, evil, paranormal, supernatural, unsettling imagery – the dark sides of the human psyche are what she seems to be drawn towards. It's a constant throughout the first three PVRIS records and makes you feel as though you’re being haunted by a persistent and distant echo in the background of the tracks as the strings and synths mimic the kind of trance that you’d get lost in. The ghostliness hangs above everything – it’s a ghost of a touch, a whisper, a single string echoing in the background. The first album masters the essence of dark pop, balanced with alternative rock guitars and drums, but there’s a darkness that remains and weaves its way through every song. The second album was recorded in a reportedly haunted abandoned church with a makeshift studio built inside. The third album was the perfect backtrack to cold winter nights during COVID when it was dark at 6 p.m., everything outside was wet, and the streets were empty. Even with the pop seeping through the record, it makes goosebumps rise. The fourth album emulates the feeling of the future, with distorted electronics and heavy backbeats, the unsettling premise of the unknown weaving throughout the ambience Gunn creates.

The first three PVRIS records make you feel as if you’re being haunted, a constant distant echo in the background of the songs, the strings and synths mimicking some kind of trance that you get lost in.

Still, PVRIS roars to life with enthusiastic guitars, powerful drums, and eccentric synthesisers. It’s eerie, but it’s passionate. It’s the essence of this fusion that makes PVRIS compelling. Light and dark, ethereal and demonic, happy and sad, good and evil… There’s a consistent juxtaposition between elements and a balance between sounds that some artists can only dream of achieving. And it’s done by one person. 

Even when PVRIS had three members in 2014 as they released their debut record, White Noise, Gunn stood at the forefront with her powerful vocals and capabilities, and the way they delivered dark, emotional lyrics. The ability to go from screaming to growling, to belting, to enunciated and fast is special, and unmatched. Even with Gunn’s mental blocks when it came to singing earlier in her career, her voice takes many forms and develops throughout verses and choruses as Gunn strings together poetic visuals and metaphors. Gunn uses her words to paint a picture: she turns empty houses and ghosts into people, and monsters and demons as the worst parts of herself. Each song is cohesive, following similar themes and ideas, but they never sound the same. PVRIS records don’t have two songs that sound the same – but they all sound like they belong on the same record.

There’s something to be said for an artist that can put a record together. Sure, artists release albums with songs that they have made, but to create a record is to create an experience from start to finish. Records are albums that you listen to from the first track to the last, it isn’t something you shuffle. You do shuffle albums. Sure, after a while, shuffling PVRIS albums may happen in order to breathe some semblance of new life into the tracks, but it never gets tiresome. There’s always something new to discover in each track. Whether it’s a hidden harmony, a guitar part tucked away in the depths of the instrumentals, or the use of a harp – there’s always something. Yet, the importance and solemnity of listening to a record remains the same each and every time a PVRIS record is played. 

Ultimately, it’s the transformation of PVRIS that sets them apart from other artists. From their moody, echoing first release, White Noise, to their haunting, powerful second record, All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell, to their dark, pop-y third album, Use Me, to their grunge-y, industrial fourth release, EVERGREEN. They evolve with each release but always maintain the same bones. PVRIS sheds its skin, like a snake; a new skin revealing new identities and genres to be explored. Each generation of PVRIS is unknown – you never know what PVRIS is going to do next, what genres they’ll fuse together, which road they’ll go down this time around. The band purposely sets themself in a place where they can take multiple different avenues, never just one. They’re versatile, and they can bend and twist and shift, but they’ll always be PVRIS and they’ll always sound like PVRIS.

They’re versatile, and they can bend and mould and shift, but they’ll always be PVRIS. And they’ll always sound like PVRIS.

From three members, to then two, to one, Lynn Gunn stands as the mastermind behind the electro-pop project, PVRIS. Gunn’s unique fascination with the dark side of life, their versatility in writing and playing, and their experience as a multi-instrumentalist leave no doubt that PVRIS and the mind that controls it, is legendary. 

Songs to Consider – From White Noise: ‘Smoke,’ ‘Eyelids,’ ‘Let Them In’ | From All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell: ‘What’s Wrong,’ ‘Walk Alone,’ ‘Winter’ | From Use Me: ‘Death of Me,’ ‘Hallucinations,’ ‘Loveless,’ | From EVERGREEN: ‘I DON’T WANNA DO THIS ANYMORE,’ ‘TAKE MY NIRVANA,’ ‘LOVE IS A…’