Since their arrival in 2014, I Prevail have been creating rock music with a view to catalysing the genre’s evolution. First rising to popularity with a riff-driven cover of Taylor Swift’s Blank Space, the now twice GRAMMY-nominated Michigan quartet have spent almost a decade flipping the script on people’s expectations.
Darting between heavy metal, hip-hop, alternative, and electronic influences with little warning and no rules, to date they have released three albums that fearlessly delve into territories many of their peers wouldn’t dare to venture. On a mission to change perceptions of rock music, each chapter of their journey is markedly evolved from the next, but all are united by an unrivalled ability to emotionally connect to millions of music fans across the globe.
Vocalist Eric Vanlerberghe talks us through the 10 defining tracks in I Prevail’s career to date, stressing that his selections are listed in no particular order.
Bow Down (TRAUMA, 2019)
“When we were going into the studio to write TRAUMA, [co-vocalist] Brian [Burkheiser] and I ended up having an extra day with our producer [Tyler Smyth] out in LA. Steve [Menoian, guitarist] had to go home and we didn’t want to continue on an existing song without him, so we decided to write something insanely heavy to surprise him. We wrote the beginning of what Bow Down became, and when I showed it to Steve he was like, ‘Holy shit, this is so awesome’.
We were all on the same page with the message and meaning behind the song, and we wanted to write the heaviest thing that we'd ever written. The mantra of the song is a call-out to the people who doubted us but are now out there watching us and cheering us on.
We wanted to say to everyone who doubted us, ‘Bow down’, and I love that message. It felt even more relevant when we were coming out with our last record [True Power] at a point when a lot of people thought we were just going to be a flash in the pan. Here we are, stronger than ever.”
Breaking Down (TRAUMA, 2019)
“This is the counterpart to Bow Down, and we released the two songs on the same day with hours apart. It was important that they were released around the same time because they showed the complete opposite ends of the spectrum, both in our songwriting and our emotions.
Breaking Down dove into some mental health stuff that each of us were dealing with, especially after going from everyday normal dudes to starting the tour and leaving everything behind. We were going on the road and facing things that we never even thought we'd have to overcome, especially with Brian and his vocal injury.
That song was important for us because in the past when we’ve written about mental health or depression there was always this idea of, ‘Keep your head up, things are going to be okay’. However, this song ends with, ‘I don't really like myself’. That's the last line, and we thought that was important. We've learned that it's not always going to be happy go lucky, sometimes it just sucks, and it might not get better for a long time. Knowing that you're not alone and that there's other people who feel the same way is comforting though.”
Body Bag (True Power, 2022)
“We had the same intent with this song as we did with Bow Down. We wanted to write something that's in your face and completely unrelenting. Throughout the writing process we thought a lot about how it would go over live, which we haven’t really done in the past. Usually when we write songs, we’re just trying to write the best song. The best parts, the best lyrics, and the best overall track. We do that so that when people hear it on the record, they’ll really feel it, because more people will hear it that way than at a live show.
With Body Bag though, we thought it’d be really sick to put a circle pit part in instead of the breakdown, and a part where the whole crowd could chant along. Whenever we got to a new section of the song we’d think, ‘What would the fans expect here?’ Then, we’d scrap that, and give them something they had no idea that they wanted. It's one of my favourites to play, and hearing kids scream back, ‘Oh my God, just shut your fucking mouth’ is one of the coolest moments in our live set.”
Come And Get It (Lifelines, 2016)
“This was our show closer for the longest time. It was the one song that no matter who you are in the crowd, and no matter where you fall on any spectrum, it’ll have everyone singing and screaming along at the top of their lungs. It has such a fun, ‘Fuck you’ energy, and I remember writing it a long time ago and getting that young, angsty energy out into the music.
It still feels relevant, and it doesn’t feel like a whiny song that we wrote ten years ago and matured through. It's still got that same message, it still feels strong, and it fits the set every time we put it in, no matter where we put it in the set. We have that tag line in it that says, ‘It’s about to get rowdy’, and it was the first song where I knew for sure that I could hold the mic out and the crowd would sing that part. That was such a cool feeling, and I love having those moments with the crowds.”
Judgement Day (True Power, 2022)
“When we were writing our last record, we had nothing but time. It was during the pandemic, and we had two years of no touring, and nothing to do but sit and work on music. This is one of the songs that I think thrived from having all that time to pick at, because we did stuff here that we've never done before.
The whole bridge is a headbanging guitar vibe. There’s no breakdown, it’s just a cool riff throughout the whole song. We took a few elements from different things we listened to growing up, and there's even a little part in there that's reminiscent of Beethoven. It was a lot of fun to write, and it’s a lot of fun to not be so serious about a song. I love playing Judgement Day, and whilst I don't expect a lot of people to have this at the top of their list, for me to be able to be completely creative without saying, ‘No, that’s too weird’, was important.”
Doomed (True Power, 2022)
“When we were working on True Power, we noticed that it was leaning more in the heavy, angry direction, and we loved that. But to be an I Prevail record, we felt like we still needed to have a deep, emotional cut or a ballad of some kind.
In the past, we've done acoustic songs, and we've revisited older songs and turned them acoustic, but we've never done anything with a piano. With the two years that we had to put this together, we wanted to challenge ourselves and write something that was outside of our comfort zone. It still had to feel like us, but we wanted it to feel like a mature step up, and I’m proud of what we accomplished with Doomed. Brian and I both sing on it and being able to work in the room with him, Steve, and our producers to write something profound that could stand the test of time was incredibly rewarding.
It shows that we're not just some dumb rock band with rocks for brains, and we can actually sing some delicate stuff. It’s in my top ten because of the creativity behind challenging ourselves and pushing past what was comfortable.”
Bad Things (True Power, 2022)
“I feel like Bad Things is the most creatively clever we've ever been with writing lyrics, and it was a whole lot of fun to do. We were staying in Airbnb’s through the beginning of this album cycle, and I remember sitting in some random living room with Tyler, Brian, and Steve working on this song. We were trying to create a new vibe somehow, because the idea of singing choruses and rapping verses has been done so many times before. We love bands like Linkin Park, but we didn’t just want to emulate someone else.
I think what we ended up with is the best thing we could have written, and seeing the reactions after putting it out was amazing. It’s one of our biggest songs now, and when we play it live it’s such an incredible feeling to have every kid out there singing the words. When we were writing it, we knew it was going to be quite special, and we knew it would be a single, but I don't think we ever expected it to be the champion for us that it is now.”
Gasoline (TRAUMA, 2019)
“Like I said earlier, we don’t generally focus on how songs are going to go over live when we write them, but with Gasoline we wanted to write something for the people who are pissed off and want to get in the pit and release it all. It’s for anyone who wants to release everything they've been holding onto or have pent up, and it’s one of the first songs we’ve written where there was no specific person or event that caused it to formulate.
Every time I go on stage and play this song, I'm thinking about anything that pissed me off that week, and I just want to burn that motherfucker down. Having that energy is a lot of fun, but it's also cathartic. If fans are coming to a show after having a shit day at work, or getting into a fight with their brother, they can get to our show, forget it and have a good time. But, when Gasoline comes on, even if they haven't been in the pit in the last 12 years, they’ll want to get in today and beat the shit out of someone. It’s a moment in a controlled environment for our fans to let out whatever pain or heartache they're dealing with, and I love seeing that happen from the stage.”
Self-Destruction (True Power, 2022)
“This is one of those songs that keeps ahead of the listener so that they don't know what they're getting, and seeing people's reaction to that is my favourite thing. Self-Destruction has this heavy, pissed off, simple guitar riff, and whilst it’s nothing insane, you hear those notes and know it’s about to get nuts in here.
When we got to the end of the song, I remember us writing it and thinking, ‘What do we do now? How do we get out of this?’ We didn’t know whether to end on a breakdown or a rap section, so we decided to try and do both. Having this outro rap that’s one of the heaviest things we've ever done fulfilled our mission to blend genres, but it’s also amazing to blow apart anyone’s expectations of what’s coming.
I remember coming into the room with part of the outro written and we all looked at each other like, ‘Yeah, this is sick’. Now, I love seeing kids' reactions to it on their first listen. They hit that tempo switch and just get that nasty look on their face like, ‘What am I listening to right now?’ It’s like someone slapped their grandma.”
Hurricane (TRAUMA, 2019)
“This was one of the first songs we started writing for TRAUMA, and we knew that it was something special. Coming from Lifelines into this new era of I Prevail, we wanted to have a little more heaviness, we wanted to try rapping, and I wanted to sing a little bit. We had so many things that we wanted to try, but Hurricane felt like a good middle ground. It felt like the core of what I Prevail should be, and whilst it had remnants of what we’d been in the past, it also showed what the future may bring for us.
I mentioned how Breaking Down was about the struggles that we go through, and how it's okay to feel those things and not be okay in the moment, but Hurricane was different. We have one of the greatest jobs in the world, and being able to tour, play music, and meet fans is incredible, but there are a lot of hills to climb. This life is full of speed bumps, curveballs, and learning experiences, and we’ve missed funerals, weddings, and countless big life moments with our friends and families.
It all adds up, and Hurricane was a culmination of that. We started reaching our dreams, but we also started realising what we had to give up, and that was a struggle. We have to remember that we’re living our dream, and we're doing this for the right reasons. We love the connection we have with our fans through this art, and we know how incredibly lucky we are. We wanted to put our story into words because this hit us out of nowhere, and life happened real fast. We weren't ready for it, but we're so grateful to be where we're at now.”
I Prevail launch their European tour tomorrow, March 7, in Zurich, Switzerland and will begin their UK/Ireland run at Portsmouth Pyramid on March 17. Tickets for the UK dates are available here (opens in new tab).