On Use Me, the latest album from the versatile pop rock project PVRIS, the multi-talented Lynn Gunn shares musical snapshots of recent years of her life. The album, which is available now via Warner Records, ranges from the heavy, bassline-driven, energetic “Dead Weight” to the especially soulful “Loveless,” which hinges on an acoustic guitar.

Elsewhere, moments like the restrained, pop-beat-driven “Good to Be Alive” (which also features splashes of heavy bass riffing around the chorus) and the trip hop-leaning “January Rain” round out the sonic experience of Use Me.

Each one of the songs carry poignant soulfulness buoyed by Gunn’s richly dynamic singing. Some of the events from her life that the music reflects include serious health issues that she’s dealt with throughout recent years, including while she’s been on tour. For instance, she was recently diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, which is a type of arthritis.

“Some of [Use Me] was made a bit earlier, but for a lot of it, it was really focused around my real life and things that were happening around me, and unfortunately, a lot of those were health issues and not having the time to fix those or have the proper time to heal those or work on those,” Gunn explains. “So, that’s definitely very present within the album, and I think with that comes a theme of maybe not setting the right boundaries with people and kind of just having to learn to speak up for myself a bit more while navigating all of that.”

Fittingly, considering her focus on her real-life circumstances, Gunn took the spotlight on Use Me in a way that she hadn’t on the previous two albums from PVRIS. She’s always been the project’s chief creative force, she has explained, but until Use Me, she didn’t take the level of credit that she’d earned. The album’s cover art features an image of Gunn, and the latest set of promotional photos for the project feature her alone, too.

“It’s ironic because I know this next chapter is kind of me stepping forward, and we’re embracing that part of PVRIS that has always been existing, but I think that it’s ironic because I really don’t like social media; I don’t like being the center of attention; I really don’t,” Gunn shares. “I don’t like using the word fame because I really don’t think we’re famous. I don’t enjoy the spotlight essentially, but the stepping forward was kind of just like a creative liberation and wanting to be transparent and to kind of give an updated version of where things are at. But, it is interesting because I really don’t feel comfortable using the internet. I don’t feel comfortable being the center of attention. I’m really kind of a homebody, an introvert—I don’t know; I like the little things a lot. It’s funny, but I think that it kind of works in a way.”

Lately, during downtime that emerged in the shadow of COVID-19, Gunn shares that she’s been finding the space to do pretty well on a personal level.  “I’ve been doing pretty great despite the craziness around us and the state of the world and the state of our country,” she shares. “I’ve had a lot of health issues over the last year or so, so my body’s been really happy to have time to rest and be able to work through a lot of that and get myself to a better place, so that’s been really nice, and it’s also been a good time to reflect and learn and—there’s been some positives within it, for sure.”

Separately, she also notes that artists including Tinashe and Anderson .Paak have been “really heavy rotations” lately. “It’s really funny—when I’m home, if I’m not driving or in motion, I really don’t listen to a lot of music,” she shares. “So, when I’m driving, I really just want to feel like I’m going somewhere and feel kind of hyped up to wherever I’m driving to. I listen to a lot of hip-hop; I listen to a lot of pop; I listen to anything that’s kind of upbeat and fun.”

As for some of those “little things” that are behind the creation of Use Me, Gunn explains that she took inspiration from perhaps unexpected sources for the music video for “Dead Weight,” which also appeared on the Hallucinations EP that preceded Use Me.

“The song is a really fun hybrid—it’s aggressive but also a little bit cheeky, and it’s intentionally like that, so I really wanted the video to reflect that, and I felt like if the video was hyper-serious and intense, it really would not work, and it would just be a little bit too much and a little too try-hard,” she explains. “So, I felt like the video really had to match the cheekiness of some of the song but also still keep it within the PVRIS universe.”

Thus, Gunn crafted what she refers to as the “weird zombie disco” that’s on display in the video. Inspirations, she says, included the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever and the opening credits sequence for That ‘70s Show. “Then, I was like, OK, how do we make this a little bit dark and weird and fucked up, so we had to make my fun, little dancer friends [into] zombies and bring the wolf in as well,” she shares.

During the writing process for Use Me, Gunn collaborated with the multitalented producer JT Daly, who’s also worked with the rapper K. Flay. The album was originally set to come out on May 1, but amidst the music-industry-wide slowdowns due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the release date was postponed to mid-July. Before that date, Gunn announced that she’d decided to postpone the release date further, to August 28, in order to avoid taking too much attention away from a nationwide protest movement that sprung up throughout the summer of 2020 against societally embedded racism.

Now that Use Me is out for the world, Gunn is happy that folks will get the chance to listen. Going forward, live shows have frequently been an integral part of the PVRIS experience—towards the end of 2019, the project embarked on a nationwide tour in music venues that were on the smaller side in order to foster close connections with fans, and tickets sold out quickly.

Yet, PVRIS are one of many projects who’ve had to put touring plans on hold due to COVID-19. “We miss it,” Gunn shares, discussing touring. “I’m excited for whenever shows are able to happen again, even if it might look very different and feel very different. Who knows what they will end up being like, but I think live music is going to feel so amazing once we can experience it again, and I’m excited for that.”

The honesty that Gunn presents on the album, which features her own performances across instruments, feels poised to connect with fans. PVRIS has long been a project that folks have looked up to on account of elements like Gunn’s often straightforward lyrics, her openness about her gay identity, and her advocacy for fellow members of the LGBTQ community. With Gunn taking the credit that she’d long worked for in this new chapter of PVRIS, the project seems well-suited to continue connecting with folks via the readily apparent artistic sincerity. It’s a new step for PVRIS, but Gunn has been working towards this milestone for a while.

“I just hope whoever’s listening can feel empowered, and feel loved, and feel like they can take on whatever they need to,” Gunn explains. “Because a lot of the album is about giving yourself to others, and the good and the bad of that, so I just hope anyone can listen and connect to that and feel better through that in one way or another.”

Photo by Alan Snodgrass

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