I Went On a Really Creepy First Date with Lynn Gunn from PVRIS
How’re haunted church ruins and a Victorian operating theatre for romance?
All photography by Chris Bethell
A first date usually happens under one of two circumstances. You’ve known the person IRL for ages before finally succumbing to the evident vibe between you. Or you put blind faith in a friend’s recommendation or a heavily edited photo. My afternoon with the frontwoman of Massachusetts rock band PVRIS was neither of those. Instead, it existed solely to have temporary intimacy with someone in order to recreate closeness for fans who’ll likely never have it. And this time, we were going to some church ruins before going to London's Old Operating Theatre Museum, an attic space full of gruesome saws, scissors and screws. Because what’s cuter than a place where live bodies were slashed open without aesthetic?
I’d actually interviewed Lynn Gunn a few times over the phone, sometimes at length for cover features, but we’d never met face to face. Lynn probably wouldn’t know anything about me besides a name and a publication. But at this point I knew a bit about her. At her first gig she watched Paramore and couldn’t believe how extraordinary Hayley Williams was. After falling in love with her first girlfriend she came out by hiding a letter under her mum’s pillow and leaving for a tour. She would do it differently today, but at the time nothing had felt so liberating. She can get anxious touring, has been depressed and learnt to untangle the thought patterns tripping her up with therapy. If she’s not playing music, she’s usually found sketching people, journaling or listening to podcasts about ghosts and serial killers. She has the outlook of a realist but comes across as more of an old soul. Her Instagram account is a checkerboard of black and white snapshots of tarot cards, stained-glass windows and climbing into a cloud of arms holding a mic. And while no one should be reduced to the narrative they incidentally provide, she’s embraced being a queer alt person of reference for teens more drawn to the broody and other-worldly than the everyday.
As for the music she makes, PVRIS created a remote world and extended an open invite to their listeners. Like My Chemical Romance, Slipknot and more recently Creeper, it’s something few bands do well if they go to the effort of attempting it. The clean, dark PVRIS aesthetic translates into a distinct feeling that permeates every element of their work: style, lyrics, sound, imagery, videos, merch, even the fashion of the fans themselves, the PVRIS CVLT. The music – which is heavy, with melodic, pop undertones – rides the tension of being fierce and expansive while paradoxically insular and uneasy. It’s unique enough for them to have supported huge artists like Bring Me The Horizon, Fall Out Boy and Paramore.
Before she arrives for our date I look out for PVRIS trademark black but she’s dressed lighter than I expect. “Still monochrome,” she assures me with a smile, holding onto her denim jacket as we begin our tour of London’s most gothic spots.
Noisey: Is this a sufficiently pretty but gothic spot?
Lynn Gunn: Yes! I’m so pleased we’re here because I feel like I’ve seen this place before on a website I love that’s about cool abandoned places.
What’s your favourite date you’ve been on?
I’ve actually never been on a proper date. Let me think… nope. As a teen, I’d just meet people through groups of friends or very organically. I’ll establish a relationship and then we go on dates but I wouldn’t count that as ‘we’re going on a date’.
You’re not the sort of person who’d go on dating apps?
No, it’s funny. I’d never signed up for any of that but there was one point where I got Raya, just to see what was on it. I got accepted and then the next day I met this girl. It was like the universe was telling me to stay off of those. I really do believe in meeting people organically and that people you’re supposed to find present themselves. My philosophy on relationships in general is that they shouldn’t be a burden or distract you from what you want to do, they should just be an additional thing. I like to go on Tinder for my friends though. Do a little of the work for them.
Do you live with friends now? Whereabouts are you based?
I do; I just moved to Brooklyn. I used to really not enjoy it because we’d mostly stop there for tour and most of our management are there and I associated it with that kind of stress. Then I spent a few months there finishing up the record and fell in love with it. Or with the Sunday brunches. I started stick and poking people within the past year – I met this tattoo artist and he took me under his wing and whenever I’m home in Brooklyn, he lets me do tattoos on him and practice.
I’m sad I didn’t know before or I would’ve got you to do one on me.
Aw man, if I could give you any tattoo what would you get?
I want a Sylvia Plath drawing which is as cliché sad lit girl as it gets.
That’s amazing. I feel like that would’ve been destiny if I’d been able to do it. Maybe if you can wait…
Some more synchronicity: I very recently spoke with a medium that I swear I saw you worked with.
I know who you mean! On Warped Tour my friends had been telling me about her and she came up to me and said, “I’m not trying to do a session right now but I just wanna tell you your solar plexus is all kinda off balance. Do you have a lot of stomach problems? Have you been through a big shift this year?” I was like, “Yeah, I have!” And she just dove right in, it was crazy. Our bus driver on this tour also told me he was a medium and that I have lions looking after me. Fully maned lions.
Weird. How did that come up?
We were soundchecking the other day in Bristol and two days before I had gone to see a homeopath and had an energy healing session with a healer. I kinda went through this big shift in those two days. While we soundchecked I noticed our bus driver was watching us. I saw him later and he said, “You just had two lions onstage with you, one on each side, they were protecting you”. I’ve always my whole life been obsessed with lions and I never knew why. I’d always draw them in art class, things like that.
I don’t want to be weird and I’m not saying you look like a lion. At all. But…
I’ve gotten it, though!
Especially with your hair blonde now. If Nala was a human, you know?
I do know what you mean. It’s probably the coolest compliment anybody could give me.
I might buy everything in this gift shop. I love this skull ashtray. If I was going to buy you any one item in this shop what would you get?
Because I’m modest I would be afraid to ask for something too crazy. [Picks up a skull ashtray] I’d buy you this 100 percent because you said you liked it. I’d probably pick a postcard because I collect them. I have all my notebooks with folders in the back and they’re full of a bunch of postcards from different places.
Ew, that one has an illustration of someone with colic. All those Victorian diseases freak me out.
I used to be so scared of every disease. I was a hypochondriac. I learned about leprosy when I was about six and I didn’t understand that it wasn’t really a thing anymore. My grandma took us out on her boyfriend’s boat – because my grandma was a total pimp and had a bunch of boyfriends – and told us about it and I was so terrified because we were on the ocean passing islands and thought that I would catch it somehow. I went home from that trip and physically made myself sick worrying about it. I thought I had leprosy and my mum was like, ‘What’s wrong? Why are you so upset?’
I can relate to that. You know, I imagine your apartment to be like this.
It’s getting there. But I believe in energy and I’d be afraid to have this kind of energy where I’m living. I definitely have a lot of old antiques and etchings and anatomical things.
When was the earliest time you can remember getting into gothic or darker things?
I was always a weird kid. When I was three or four, still in a crib, we had our Halloween decorations up and there was a blow-up skeleton and I literally slept with it in there. My mum said when we went to the library I’d always pick up the skeleton books and on the top floor of the children’s section there was this pop-up haunted house book that I’d always have to ask someone to bring it down for me because it was too high and I couldn’t reach it. I’ve been drawn to things like this for no reason… Probably a past life.
I was just thinking that.
Do you have any hint at what you might have been in any past lives?
Not really. I’ve always felt drawn to Tudor era England and just after, but maybe that’s because it’s so bloody and dramatic. My mum and I had a bonding session at the Tower of London last weekend.
See, I wouldn’t pick that era. It’s specific for different people so I really think there’s something in it.
I couldn’t be sure I wasn’t imagining it though. I used to be a compulsive liar as a kid, but it was more fun storytelling. Hour-long epic tales. At about five I showed a family friend’s kid this cage and said that the children who’d lived in my house before me had died in there and were buried ‘on the grounds’ AKA our garden.
I love that. You were trolling people at age five. I had something similar. There was this girl in preschool who had a broken arm and for some reason I thought the casts were so cool and I wanted one. I had a gym sweatband that was for a four year old’s arm, and wore it around telling people I’d sprained my wrist and this one girl who actually had a sprained wrist was like, "Get the fuck outta here." That was one of my little lies.
What would your job be, creative and non-creative, if it wasn’t PVRIS?
Creative: I’d love to work in film and do cinematography. Non-creative: something morbid. Maybe a groundskeeper for a cemetery or this. Or maybe a history teacher. I’d make it interesting though because I didn’t like it in grade school. My history teacher later on was one of my best friend’s dads and he did a good job of making the subject comical for annoying high schoolers who didn’t want to learn. I remember learning about the Tudors and he turned it into a big soap opera.
You don’t have to try hard with that lot. Oh fuck, they put this cane in your mouth instead of anesthetic so you can bite it when they’re sawing you open.
Ewwww. I must’ve been around during the black plague or something because I’m so scared of it. My hairdresser’s friend actually does past life regression therapy and you go under hypnosis and in that state you rattle off whatever you see. My hairdresser got it done and said she was standing over a bunch of dead bodies and came to the conclusion that she was a serial killer in the 1800s. She could’ve been Jack The Ripper or H H Holmes. Did you learn about H H Holmes?
No, I don’t know much about serial killers actually.
They think Jack The Ripper and H H Holmes might be the same person. Holmes changed his identity a bunch of times and was constantly relocating. He built this massive hotel in Chicago with all these death traps and hidden doorways and stuff. He killed possibly hundreds of people there.
Lynn, this has been the sweetest and creepiest date and interview chat.
I know. Best date ever. First date ever – technically.