"If music could be Ebola, this would be it.” “Is this the extremely overrated band I’ve been hearing about from all the scene kids?” And the quite eloquently, succinctly put: “This is crap.” These are just a few of the more print-friendly comments on the YouTube video for Black Veil Brides’ most recent single, Heart Of Fire.
The tittle-tattle of back-and-forth arguments, casual homophobia and language none of these keyboard warriors would dare say in front of their mums is nothing new to the Hollywood five-piece. Ever since their emergence into the public consciousness, for all the hearts that the band have stolen, there has been an ever-present notion spread through the rock and metal community that it is simply not OK to like this band. When frontman Andy Biersack was growing up listening to wailing guitar solos and looking to form a band of his own, he certainly never had any intention of being rock’n’roll’s public enemy number one.
“The one thing I always try to be clear about is that I don’t enjoy it,” says the singer. “I don’t revel in any sort of negativity. I don’t ever make a record under the pretence of, ‘I can’t wait for people to hate it!’ I think that it’s very childish, the ‘haters make me famous’ argument. I try to argue that some people just hate you!”
While Andy may not be seeking out the ill feeling that comes his way, it is clear he has long come to terms with it. The maturity and level-headed attitude he approaches the subject with makes it easy to forget that he is just 24 years old. He has fared far better than many would being called the sort of names that would force a sailor to wash his own mouth out with soap. However, something that does irk him is that much of the anger is misplaced and simply comes from individuals misinterpreting the band.
“It boggles my mind that people can’t see it for what it is. I would end up banging my head against a wall until I was bloody if I thought about it,” says the clearly frustrated Californian. “Things that are said about the makeup, especially in the early days – it seems to be completely
lost on people that that has always been a huge element to the aesthetic of rock’n’roll. It’s funny to me that one of my heroes, Axl Rose, who was always celebrated as being a guy’s guy, would wear thongs, but no one would question him. Yet if I wear makeup and have black hair, it’s offensive.”
Regardless of the abuse and false accusations thrown his way, strip away the makeup and hair dye and at the man’s core is a rock’n’roll spirit that surges through his veins:
“Do I live for this? Absolutely. I never wanted to do anything else.”
Perhaps Black Veil Brides were never meant to be global superstars. Perhaps a lot of the hatred towards them comes from the fact that this is a band that gleefully stuck out and wanted to capture everyone’s attention, good or bad. One thing is for certain, though, and that is that Black Veil Brides were going to succeed on their own terms; nothing was going to change from Andy’s vision in order to alleviate the criticisms or make them fit in.
“We had to fight through to get any kind of recognition,” he explains. “I don’t think I’ve ever been someone who has been very interested in what the rule book was, or how you should do things, or how you should dress. When rock music died a death you had all these guys that were copying things that made someone else popular. ‘Oh, well, that guy has long hair, and he parties, and sings songs about fucking girls.’ When you get to that point, it becomes so homogenised that there is no personality behind it.”
His bloody-minded attitude has certainly bred itself into the band’s music, with themes of standing strong in the face of adversity and being true to yourself being prevalent. Far from the poseur tag that many throw in the direction of BVB, they offer something many of rock’s greatest bands have: a place for the outsider. It’s a message steeped in positivity for the teenager at school being bullied, or those feeling like they don’t have a place to fit in. This is a band that is saying it is ok to be different and to appreciate yourself for who you are. It’s a message that Andy developed for himself growing up.
“I grew up in a small town, I was not popular,” he reflects. “I was not the classic archetype of a nerd, I was just different. I didn’t fit in. I was never the guy that liked songs [saying], ‘I’m going to kill everyone at my school.’ I thought that was kind of silly. I thought that if someone didn’t like you, it’s not necessarily their fault. You should be yourself and meet someone who does like you for who you are. I think we’ve been very fortunate to evoke that within the fanbase, that feeling of strength of self. I believe that our audience, despite the fact that they are constantly taken to task, are intelligent people, willing and honest enough to be kind. The action of being kind and accepting is so vilified that it makes me cringe.”
Andy constantly references how much his fans mean to him and how grateful he is to have
such a “ferocious fanbase” behind him. The band’s detractors are merely an afterthought when it comes to what the self-proclaimed ‘BVB Army’ have helped the band achieve. Massive worldwide tours, huge record sales, a plethora of awards and – the latest checkbox off the bucket list – working with legendary producer Bob Rock on their new, self-titled album. It was an experience Andy describes as “incredible”, and he explains that not only did Bob help them improve as musicians and writers, but he helped make the band become stronger than they have ever been.
“Half a decade into touring together, sometimes you can become detached,” he muses. “I think we’ve been able to grow back together as a band, which is a rare occurrence. Bob was certainly instrumental in that and brought us together in a way I think we’ll always be indebted to him for.”
With Black Veil Brides now a world-beating gang being fronted by a determined leader, it’s safe to assume they are gunning for the same dizzy heights of much of the impressive resumé of bands that Bob Rock has worked with. Anyone who witnessed the ramps, big screens and pyro of their recent UK tour (see page 104) has seen firsthand their desire to keep the legacy of huge, awe-inspiring rock shows in the vein of Metallica and Mötley Crüe going strongwell into the 21st century.
“Someone has to do it!” insists Andy. “If you go and see Avenged Sevenfold, you’re going to see a magnificent show. But if you go and see a lot of bands of a similar stature, you won’t get that show. It seems unfair; if people are going to come and spend their hard-earned money to see a show, you should give them every ounce of yourself, and every ounce of the show. Large-scale rock needs to have that!”
Black Veil Brides are keeping the notion of larger-than-life rock’n’roll alive, and introducing it to a whole new generation of budding fans. While Andy acknowledges that some may mock their relatively young fanbase, ultimately, they are introducing kids to an alternative to the One Directions and Taylor Swifts of this world, and opening their eyes and ears to the joys of big riffs. The 12-year-old currently learning In The End on his guitar could be headlining Download in 20 years – a notion that sows the seeds for just how important this band could prove to be.
A look through the history books shows that the bands that are hated are often the same bands loved with a passion. Unlike those that simply sit and stagnate around the second stage at festivals and mid-sized venues before evaporating into the rock ether, it’s the polarising artists that go onto greatness. It’s something Andy would also like to see happen with Black Veil Brides.
“I don’t see why we couldn’t be one of those bands,” he ponders. “Sometimes people are afraid to classify themselves as gods because they feel like they’re overshooting their station. Those people that are those wonderful gods in the sky we all look up to, and while they’re there for a reason, they’re also just human beings. They weren’t shit out of the sky to rock the world – they were people that worked very hard, had a dream and a vision. So I hope that we can be there one day.”
Black Veil Brides is out now via Universal/Island