Having recently released his first solo material as Andy Black, Andy Biersack is currently at work upon the next Black Veil Brides record with super-producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Motley Crue). The charismatic singer took time out to speak exclusively with TeamRock about his solo album, the price of fame and his ongoing mission to take over the music world...
How did your solo Andy Black material come about?
“It all started about a year ago. I had come home from a tour and me and my friend [producer] John Feldmann had talked for a long time about our mutual love of stuff like Psychedelic Furs, and Modern English, and the more pop orientated stuff of the 80s, the kind of new wave stuff. I also always loved stuff like Depeche Mode and Sisters Of Mercy. So after Warped Tour, I went over to his house and said ‘Hey, I think it would be fun, just for the hell of it, for you and I to write some of that material.’ Before I knew it I had nine or ten songs that musically had nothing to do with Black Veil Brides. They didn’t sound like the band to me and I was doing it almost just as an exercise as a way of expelling other interests I had so I could really focus on Black Veil and making sure the sound of Black Veil was consistent and something I continued. I understand that we have a mutual love with our audience, and our fans: we put out this music that we think the world will like, and we hope the world will like, and in return we get the adoration, and love, and feeling of respect from our audience which we hopefully can give them the music that we make. That’s kind of how these fan dynamics work. The reason for calling it Andy Black is it draws a pretty distinct line between saying here’s Black Veil Brides and here’s my other alter ego Andy Black. For the fans to see there’s some correlation here but it’s minimal, there’s going to be separate releases.”
It’s obviously a very different sound to Black Veil Brides, but in terms of lyrics, did you also want to explore different subjects and themes?
“Most of the songs are a lot darker and in a way it was fun for me to lyrically just shoot from the hip. Andy Black allows me the opportunity to write any way I wanted to, because there was no expectation, nobody had heard it and I was certainly writing musically different styles of songs. So there was nothing that said you have to be writing this way, or whatever else. What actually ended up happening was that doing these Andy Black songs led to me changing my writing style a little bit for Black Veil. Now with the upcoming Black Veil Brides album I am being a little bit more honest and direct with my lyrical content probably as a result of having written this record.”
So is Andy Black more of a personal project?
“I was joking with some of my friends initially that I’ve never had a diary but it felt like a way of expelling if a shitty thing happened to me, I could just write this song about it and talk about it immediately. It was immediate satisfaction because I was looking at it, especially then, as just a hobby. There were no plans for release necessarily when I first started it: it was just a way of saying exactly how I felt.”
A lot of great rock music is written for the outsider, or the underdog, and that’s something your lyrics reflect. Has that been a conscious decision or just something that comes naturally?
“I think it’s a little bit of both. In the early days especially that’s just how the songs developed: on our first record I’m just writing a combination of my feelings from the first eighteen years of my life. Subsequently the emotions that you feel that are resonating with an audience start to affect you. I’ve never written a lyric or a song to pander to an audience, thinking ‘Oh, I hope they like this one’ but you can’t help at some level, maybe osmosis, develop a feeling of this is what this band is about, this is the emotion, this is how I feel, and this is how our fan base has developed. The whole idea of the fan base starting to call themselves the BVB army, certainly not something I would have done if I were to name our fan base. With the Kiss army and MCRmry, it wasn’t necessarily something I would have ever thought to call our fans but they started calling themselves that because they had this sort of outcast but united feeling. So I really enjoyed that and I think that over time that has definitely seeped into the way I write for the band because I enjoy that feeling of community and it’s a way of saying this is for us, this is about all of us.
With how passionate your fan base is, do you ever feel pressure as a front man and being the focal point for it all?
“I think the pressure just comes from that if you’re an entertainer you want to be the best you can be. You want to be able to develop your skills while maintaining the audience that appreciates what you are doing. I think that’s a tight rope any musician, or any entertainer in any capacity walks. I’ve really worked hard to develop these emotional feeling with our fans. Because we’re not a band that have been critically acclaimed in the past, we really are a band that are about the fans. Our fans really knocked down doors for us because it became impossible to ignore that our fans were so excited about the band and so passionate about the band, that eventually people just had to pay attention.”
So how do you like to be perceived by the fans? As a larger than life character, or just a normal guy?
“I’ve always said that I like the idea that the fans develop these characters in the sense that when I go on stage, that because of these people that have loved me so much I am free to become this character that someone can look up to, or someone can be like I want to be like this guy. But my thing is the end game always has to be when someone says “I want to be like that guy” they also have to realise that they totally can be. I think when people lose the distinction is when guys go on stage, and they have a whole audience full of people going I want to be just like that guy, and then they start to believe that they have some sort of godly gift that was given to them that no one else can achieve. I make no bones about the fact that I am completely just a regular guy who grew up in a small town and was told my whole life that I could not make it in any way, was told that I was a fool for believing that I could, and I didn’t listen to those people. Thankfully I connected with people and worked my ass off and found an audience. That is totally a story that could happen to any of our fans, if they really work their butts off and believe in something. Rock stars are not shit from the sky by god, they’re people that have something interesting about them and work very hard to achieve that goal. Sometimes yes, people are particularly attractive or whatever else so they are put into a position where they can succeed quicker, faster, better, whatever but that doesn’t mean that people can’t achieve the ultimate goals that they have and find some level of being happy, because it just takes a lot of work and dedication and drive. I was a little chubby kid with curly hair from Cincinnati, Ohio, it was not likely that I was going to become an internationally known rock musician. However I never believed that I couldn’t do it.”
There’s a lot of people with strong opinions on you and the band, and they’re not shy of voicing them online. Do you ever Google yourself?
“No, I think I used to when we first started because I was excited to see, like any new band, if anyone had said anything about us, that sort of thing when we first started. But I never read reviews or cared when someone said anything negative. I don’t look up our name on social networks and stuff because the best thing that could happen is I see something positive, and the worst thing that could happen is I see something negative. The bigger the band gets and the more time that comes to pass, the less and less of the whole divisive, polarising nature that we have, it feels like more people seem to be excited for the release of this new record than with previous records. It’s almost seemed like from some websites and some magazines that it was amazing that we could release an album because we’re just a bunch of birthday clowns, or something. We were always seen in this super polarising way and so I never really put much stock in it. I don’t believe in the whole ‘haters make you famous’ thing, and I don’t believe in the ‘well at least they’re talking about me’ thing. I think it’s genuinely possible that a lot of people just don’t like something. If you’re standing in a bar and some guy comes up to you and says ‘Hey I fucking hate you’ there are two options, you can either challenge them and fight them or you can walk away. So if someone’s saying something in my face, I’ve been known to be aggressive because I don’t like when someone brings that to me, but I have the option on the internet of just not going to see that. We’ve been around now for half a decade, and I think people are going to get sick of hating on leather pants. When we first started I would see this negative stuff like ‘Oh Black Veil Brides they’re just’ and say something silly, ‘like an electronic band’ as if they’d never listened to the band and they were just lobbing us into some sub-genre and that’s never been the band we are. So it’s been fun to see that people are listening to the music and are respecting it.’
What’s the weirdest rumour you’ve heard about yourself?
‘Well, the most disappointing thing I’ve seen is uninformed people, or people who are just trying to be ignorant of our personalities, or people that want to start headlines, or they’re saying ’this guy’s terrible.‘ The worst one for me is when people say things along the lines of Andy’s a jerk, or in some way mean to his fans, or something and that’s the most disappointing thing, because we really have made a strong attempt over the years to cultivate a great relationship with our fans and audience and if you come to any of our shows we’re always very open, welcoming and engaging with our fans. So when I hear things like that, that is the most disheartening thing but again that comes with the territory. Everybody wants the flashy thing that says “Oh this guy’s a jerk and you think he’s nice but he really isn’t” because that makes for a better story but that’s it. I don’t read the sort of crazy stuff about he’s dead or whatever else. For me the only one that gets to me is stuff about how I’ve changed, or I’m a dick, or whatever, because I’m just a person and I try to say that to our fans very often. I’m just a human being, I’m just a guy in a band, I don’t have any magical powers, I certainly am in a bad mood some days, but I try my best to be a decent person and I try my best to be appreciative to what they give me.’
Have there been any experiences where you’ve felt particularly proud or humbled by what you’ve done with Black Veil Brides?
“Any time when a record comes out, or we get to see that people are really enjoying our new music that’s always really exciting and humbling. Ay time when we play these big festivals, where you’re looking out on this big group of people, and people are really enjoying this thing that you’re doing, that’s certainly also a time when you feel proud. The fan voted awards are always great, we’ve been so fortunate in our career that we’ve gotten to have such a close relationship with our fans. It’s so interesting for a band to be known almost as much for their fan base as they are for their music. In a lot ways our fan base is very well known in the rock community as being the sort of crazy, awesome fan base. The whole opportunity to be twenty three years old and to say that I’ve done these things and to have these things so far in my life is the most humbling thing.”
How is the new Black Veil Brides album coming along?
“I’d say we’re probably about 35-40% done with all the tracking. We’re heading up to Vancouver in a week and a half to finish up the bulk of the album with Bob Rock. Bob Rock is amazing, one of the nicest and most insightful individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending time with. Not only is he a fucking musical genius, but he’s such a sweet person, it’s almost alarming how nice he is. You’re so used to in this world, especially rock n roll, where everyone is so jaded and mean to each other, and talking shit to each other, but Bob is just genuinely a nice guy who loves rock n roll music, and loves the notion that he can make new rock n roll music with young people that are in a new band. He’s taught us so much just about the process in which songs are written, and what works and what doesn’t work in the concept of songs. His whole goal was to really strip it down for us and help us to be better writers as a band. In a lot of ways we are victims to the era in which we exist, and we didn’t have a whole lot of experience with writing songs from scratch in a room altogether organically, and recording them not on fancy recording gear but on just a microphone in the middle of a room. So we were all down for the idea of us developing that kind of thing with this record.
We started pre production weeks ago and it was just all of us in a room writing music together, putting songs together and saying if something isn’t good that’s fine, if something is good that’s great, and in that process just the five of us in a room really talking these songs through and really writing we came up with twelve or fifteen songs that I think are totally excellent, that I think are the best songs we’ve ever written. A lot of the purpose of this record for us is, another reason working with Bob is the right choice, is because we wanted to do something that returned to a heavier sound for us. Nothing against the last record but in a lot of ways it was certainly a much more glittery or glistening quote unquote record, it didn’t have a lot of the balls that I think we wanted to have, and in a lot of ways it’s a much more theatrical record. With this one we really wanted to strip it down and go back to a much heavier sound and obviously Bob is the right guy for that, and I think what we’ve found is just a better version of our band. We’re also getting along a lot better, and Bob’s been great about that. When you have a producer that can play to different people’s personalities on such a truly professional level, it’s a great thing to have.”
What can fans expect on the upcoming tour?
“I think the most exciting thing about it is that it is happening in the UK first. We’re putting out the record at the end of October and we’re finishing the recording process right at the beginning of Fall, and that means the first place in the world that we’ll be playing on the new album is in the UK, which means the UK will be the first place to hear new material. It’s something we’ve never done, typically we’d come to the UK in the middle or the end of an album cycle and so to start out over there is going to be really cool. We have a great relationship with the UK audience and it’s certainly going to be interesting to do all of our production rehearsal having never played these songs live for an audience yet in the US, and then come over to the UK and just jump right into it that’s something we’ve never done before. It’s definitely going to be a trial by fire situation, the UK will be able to see whether we can take the ball and run with it straight away.”
Black Veil Brides tour the UK from October 3. Their as-yet-untitled fourth album will be released on October 27.