Jake Pitts (right) and Jinxx (left) hold down 6-string duties for Black Veil Brides in Royal Oak, Michigan,
on November 15, 2014. Photo by Ken Settle.
Since their formation in 2006, Black Veil Brides have made image as much of a priority as their music. They unabashedly smeared on macabre metal makeup, teased their hair to the skies, and wrapped themselves in black leather and metal studs. “We wanted to be larger-than-life rock stars, whereas with every other band you couldn’t tell that they were a band—they looked like they might be working at Best Buy,” says guitarist Jake Pitts. Co-guitarist Jinxx (born Jeremy Miles Ferguson) adds, “We grew up watching bands like Kiss and Mötley Crüe on MTV. That was the image of the rock star to us.”
It wasn’t long before Black Veil Brides became the darlings of the Hot Topic set—and one of the most polarizing bands on the scene. For every doe-eyed fan, there was a hater or two ’round the corner. At the 2013 Revolver Golden Gods award show, the band was met with ear-shattering boos from the audience after winning the Song of the Year award (they’d already won various other GG awards for three consecutive years, including Best Guitarists). They didn’t take the hostility lying down, though: With middle fingers raised, the Brides made their way to the stage and singer Andy Biersack lashed out with a vitriolic, profanity-laced acceptance speech. Some bands would’ve cowered at the less-than-warm reception, but BVB is used to it. “We were picked on for just being weird or different,” says Jinxx. “I would carry my violin or guitar to school, and I’d get beat up for that. Now it gets me chicks.”
Were it all a case of style over substance, you might be excused for writing off the Brides. But these guys can really play. Listen to the excruciatingly tight playing in “The Shattered God” or the warp-speed alternate picking in “Goodbye Agony”—both from the band’s latest album, Black Veil Brides IV—and you may very well consider trading in your axe for an application at Best Buy. If that’s not enough to convince you BVB has arrived, consider this: The Brides’ latest was helmed by legendary producer Bob Rock—whose work on Metallica’s own eponymous album and Mötley Crüe’s Dr. Feelgood hugely impacted countless guitarists over the years, including Pitts and Jinxx.
What was it like working with Bob Rock on the new album—were you intimidated at first?
Jake Pitts: When you think of a producer being a rock star, that’s Bob Rock. He’s the nicest dude ever. He’s a Canadian who lives in Hawaii. The thing that’s so cool for me is that the “Black Album” was really the first heavy metal record I ever got—and it wasn’t necessarily just because of James Hetfield and the guitar playing and all of that. It was how big everything sounded—the guitar tones and the sound of the kick drums. I wanted to have that guitar sound, and being able to spend a few days in the studio with him and every amp you can imagine was just a really cool moment in my life, period. We had four or five guitar cabinets all miked up with three different microphones, and we just spent days getting guitar sounds.
Jinxx: It’s awesome—once you get past the initial shock of, like, “Wow, that’s Bob Rock! He’s done some of my favorite records growing up.” He was really chill and laidback, and just kind of let us do our thing instead of trying to make us sound like something we’re not. Although he did have us do things we hadn’t done before.
Jinxx shredding on his Schecter Jinxx Recluse-FR signature model in Royal Oak, Michigan, on November 15, 2014.
Photo by Ken Settle.
Jinxx: We sat in a room and jammed out an idea as a band. We’d never done that before—we never just jammed. He wanted to capture the best possible sound from all of us. We feel like this album is the definitive sound of Black Veil Brides. This is what we’ve been trying to achieve, and we haven’t been able to with previous efforts.
Pitts: Honestly, he let us be the band we wanted to be. He was kind of like a director. In the chorus of “Walk Away,” that riff was his idea. When we had the demo of that song done, it didn’t have that cool riff. He was kind of mouthing out this idea, and I would translate it into what I thought he was doing. Even with it being a ballad, he brought a heavy element into it and we were able to put heavy guitars into a song that isn’t necessarily a heavy song. He did little things here and there that would really make a song happen. Everything from changing a kick-and-snare pattern in the chorus to saying, “Play less notes.” Like, in the chorus to “Faithless,” he had us play less notes and it really opened things up and made it really big. The little things he did ended up being very big things.
Does Black Veil Brides IV reflect musical growth in the band’s writing?
Jinxx: Sure, we’re always trying to better ourselves and grow as writers, and as a band in general. We’re getting better at writing catchier songs and writing more mature music. It’s definitely showing that we’ve grown—and grown up as people, as well. We’ve been through a lot in life. On our earlier records there was almost juvenile angst, like we were ready to take on the world. And this record is like, “All right, this is what we’ve been through. This is what we’re dealing with as people.” It deals with more personal stuff, like inner emotional battles.
Pitts: I’m getting into the production side of things, too—I have been for a while. I have an engineering credit for the first time on this album. I’d like to get more involved with that, but the ultimate goal for me has always been to be a rock star. To perform, tour, record, and play in the band and be the dude.
Who wrote the string parts in the opening of “Crown of Thorns?”
Jinxx: I did—I’m a string player, as well. It was kind of my masterpiece with the strings. Actually, on our last record I did that also. I picked up the violin a few years after I picked up guitar. I started violin when I was 7 years old and took classical training off the bat. I played with the symphony when I was in high school. On the last record, I played all the string instruments—violin, viola, cello. I did all the symphonic sections.