Interview: Eric Vanlerberghe // I Prevail

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Since Trauma‘s March 2019 release, Detroit’s I Prevail have continued to defy the odds. The record has accumulated nearly 480 million worldwide streams and over 380,000 units in worldwide consumption. The group also received its first-ever nominations for not one, but two GRAMMY Awards in 2020 – in the categories of “Best Rock Album” for Trauma and for “Best Metal Performance” for the single “Bow Down.

Montreal Rocks caught up with vocalist Eric Vanlerberghe earlier this week to discuss the release of their brand new live album, Post Traumatic, available through Fearless Records today.

Hey Eric, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I was really happy to hear that you guys are releasing a new live record at the end of the month, in 3 days if I’m not mistaken, right?

3 days… yes. Oh yes, it is, holy crap!

It almost feels unexpected to release a live album in the current context when no one is able to go to live shows. How important is the release of this live record to you and to the band? And what do you hope it will bring fans?

Let me start this way: We were talking about doing a live record after we released Trauma. We started to tour, and our sound guy Josh started to record every one of our sets. At first, it was to check if anything bad happens so we can go back, look at it and be like “oh okay that sounded bad, we could change that”. That’s almost like when you’re playing football and you’re looking back at the tapes to try to be better. He always did that for us, and we thought it would be really cool and special to have a live record at some point. Then, COVID happened and we were done touring and I think the thing I personally miss is shows… even when I’m at home and not touring, I love to go see shows! I miss those three hours when you get to disconnect from everything and just be there. You just forget about all the bullshit that’s going on in life. It’s like a meditation, you’re releasing the bad energy, there’s something magical about being at a show.

We wanted to put something out that felt like a live record, that felt like you’re in the venue listening to the songs in different parts of the world. We wanted to put a record together that could almost make you feel like you were living that moment with us. We wanted to give our fans a way to just forget all the bullshit and just be at a show again in some way, even if it’s in their head right now (laughs).

I couldn’t agree more! It’s been over 7 months since I’ve been to a show. I miss it so much that I was quite happy to see that video you released last week with Caleb, for Deadweight. Just seeing a video like this one brings a smile to my face and makes me feel nostalgic for the not-so-long-ago time when we could be at rock shows.

Good, good! I’m glad. That was a fun moment actually because it was the only time Caleb ran up and did vocals with us. He surprised us. I turned around and I saw him running on stage and I’m like “holy shit, where did he come from?”. To be able to share that moment with everyone, especially with the live video… we miss it, man. We miss it too! Just looking back on that gives me hope that we’ll be able to do that once more.

Yeah, definitely. I can hear the passion in your voice. It really shows that you’re excited to get back to it. This record features live songs you’ve performed all over the world as you said, but is there anyone of the songs on that record that brings you the best memory and why?

I’d say each one of those songs, we had to narrow it down. Obviously, we couldn’t pick every city and every moment, but each one of those songs was picked because there were special moments for the band or someone in the band had a moment at that show. All those recordings were of special shows or reasons, and I’d say selfishly one of my favourites was “Bow Down” in Grand Rapids, Michigan because that was the last show of the Trauma Tour. We were in our home state and my birthday was that night, and that show went on, it was great! And after the show, I got to get really drunk for my birthday. I remember that show being really special. It was the last show of the tour, we got to go home, see our girls and our families, and all that. That was a really fun moment, a fun night and so to be able to have that on the record is pretty cool.

I bet! You titled the record Post Traumatic, is there a specific reason why you picked that title?

It felt like it was the right branding, rather than calling it Live around the world, it felt right going with the name Post Traumatic. Trauma was the experience that drew us to write the record and Post Traumatic is everything that happened after us playing it live and playing those songs in person. The rest of the guys and I felt like it was the best way to represent the delivery of these songs than them just being live.

I Prevail at Place Bell (Photo – Jesse Di Meo)

I actually saw you during the Trauma tour in Montreal, with ADTR, and had a great time! It was my third time seeing you guys, the first time being back in 2016 when you opened for Hollywood Undead. Like everybody else I feel, I’ve discovered I Prevail thanks to Taylor Swift’s Blank Space cover you guys performed. And now I’m seeing you today, nominated for Grammys twice: once for best rock album and one for best metal performance. How does it feel to go from covering Taylor Swift to being in the Grammys competing against bands like Tool, Bring Me the Horizon, and Cage the Elephant?  

Honestly, it’s crazy. I think it’s been 6 or 7 years since we started to write music to where we’re at now. I still can’t believe it sometimes. Thinking that we’re sharing stages with these bands and to be nominated alongside these killer huge bands… I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully describe how I feel. It’s humbling, it’s also amazing. Friends and family of mine don’t really understand or know how big of a deal it is that we’re touring and being gone all the time. But when they see that we’re Grammy-nominated; they finally understand how crazy things are! I was playing in little garage bands when I was younger and am now touring the world, being nominated for awards. It’s crazy, it’s a crazy feeling.

Would you say it came as a surprise or did you guys always know that you had it in you?

The awards were definitely a surprise. We never sat down to write music or play something telling ourselves “We need to win this. We need to be here to be able to do this”. We always wanted to write music that we thought was cool, unique, feels familiar yet different. Most of all, we write stuff we want to write. We just wanted to write really good music that connects with people. Going from that to being nominated for awards, it’s such a great feeling. To know that we weren’t aiming for that, it’s just an awesome add-on.

Being at the same level as bands like Tool, it must be something. I remember seeing an interview you gave a few months ago, seeing the look on your face, being pretty surprised to be at the same level, seeing how much you like them as a band, felt unbelievable to you.

It was. You know, I grew up listening to bands like Tool, Bring Me The Horizon, Slipknot… being able to play festivals and be on the same stages as these bands, to play right before them and compete for the same awards… to be able to say that these people that I looked up to and drew aspiration from are now my peers, it’s crazy. It’s crazy man, I feel like it’s the only word I can use. It’s unbelievable. I’m so incredibly lucky. If you would’ve told my younger self that this is what would be happening, I would’ve never believed you.

Since you’re mentioning being part of this special group now and having these people be your peers, I can’t help but look at the features you have on this album. You recently released “Dead on Arrival” featuring Joyner Lucas, “Every Time You Leave” with Delaney Jane, and “Feel Something” with Excision and Illenium. You also had Justin Stone on “Rise Above It”. It’s almost surprising to see that no one from your own music genre is featured on your songs yet. It feels like you don’t want to be stuck in a box. How would you describe how these different features came along?

Each one is a little different. The Excision and Illenium one… we were writing a song that wasn’t all the way there, it wasn’t going to be ready for the record. We thought it was something fun, something good but it didn’t fit the record, so we put it to the side. Illenium and our producer David Pramik put it together. They took the parts that we worked on and made it into something crazy, something that we never saw coming. That was a really cool thing.

For Joyner Lucas, we were thinking that one day it would be cool to have him on a song, we didn’t know which one at the time. We wrote “DOA”, and after it came out, we were filming the music video with Ben Proulx who directs Token and Joyner Lucas’ videos. We had the connection there and got in touch with Joyner. He loved the idea behind the song and the meaning of it. We got to rework the song with him on it. That was really cool.

For Justin Stone and Delaney Jane, we heard them on YouTube or Spotify and really liked their voice. We really wanted to see what they would sound like on an I Prevail song. As we were finishing these songs, we left those spaces open, hoping that they would vibe with the song or like it and want to be a part of it. After we sent both those songs out, we were ready to fill in those verses on our own but they sent them back with their verses, telling us “we loved it, here’s what we felt fit”. They put their own flair to it, it was so cool.

But to go back to what you were saying about not wanting to be stuck in a box with our features… There are musicians that we’d love to have from any genre and there are a couple of songs that we did on Trauma for which we went back and forth and talked about having vocalists from the rock and metal world featured. It just seemed too obvious that they’d be the right choice. On the other hand, there was the option to have people like Joyner, Justin Stone, Delaney Jane, and other musicians from different worlds featured. Looking at Trauma as a whole and how different of a record we were trying to get, it made sense for us to try and have different artists from different worlds and different genres featured on our record. That’s what I was excited about when we worked on new music and we got to that point and talked about having features. Now it doesn’t feel like we have to stick to the same style of music. I would love to have a big rapper or pop star, or EDM artist on a track and then on another track have a huge metal vocalist on the same record. It would be so cool!

It would be really sick, not going to lie! Did you have someone in mind that you’d like to have or maybe something in the works?

Nothing in the works yet! I have a shortlist that I personally have and maybe I’ll release that one day, but I’d rather keep most of it a surprise. I don’t want to have our fans hear that we tried and have them be disappointed that we couldn’t get them. Brian and I have a shortlist of people, there are a few musicians that are common to both lists. We’ll try, fingers crossed!

Sounds exciting, I’m looking forward to it! I wanted to touch upon the last few months with you. I know you were touring in Europe when the Pandemic happened, and you were supposed to tour in Australia right after. That didn’t happen for obvious reasons. Other than that, how has the pandemic affected the band and yourself? How did you use that time off?

We had a lot of work to do on the Post Traumatic live record, putting together the merch, the vinyl, and putting the record together. Outside of that, Dylan and I have been streaming on Twitch pretty heavily. It’s been a fun way to keep in touch with fans, the ones that still want to hang out. Other than that, we’re starting to work on some music, and we’ll see what happens and see where that takes us. Hopefully, by the time it’s ready, the world will open back up and we can start touring again. Hopefully, we’ll have some new stuff to start bringing out. We’ll have to wait and see how these next couple of months go.

Only time will tell! What type of content do you stream on Twitch?

Dylan and I both play a lot of Valorant. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve played Fortnite. We’d play a lot of video games. Dylan and I started to talk about doing vocal and guitar covers. Mostly it’s video games and hanging out with the chat.

[You can check out their respective Twitch channels here: Eric & Dylan].

That’s pretty cool. One last question for you! Since 2020 is pretty much coming to an end, do you have any plans for the end of the year and/or 2021? Are you writing new music, or do you have any tours planned if things get back to normal?

Our bookers always talk and try to keep something open for touring. Nothing in stone or concrete yet. I remain hopeful that we’ll be able to start touring again in the next year. As for writing, I think that’s the next logical thing. There’s no reason to just sit here and wait to tour again. We’re doing some music videos for Post Traumatic, we’ll put some cool live videos together. Other than that, it’s time to start working on some new music. We’ve got a lot to write about.

I’m really looking forward to hearing the record and seeing you guys live again. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us today.

Thank you for having me! I appreciate it and can’t wait to get back on the road, and hopefully see you at a show soon!

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Post Traumatic is out now through Fearless Records and features a collection of live, reimagined, and acoustic versions of songs from I Prevail’s sophomore album Trauma. You can order it here.

Interview – Maxime Le Huidoux 

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