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When the opportunity presented itself, Vic Fuentes couldn’t resist a tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Pierce the Veil, the band he and his brother Mike started in the fall of 2006, had just played Cleveland, and they had a little time to kill. Fuentes uses the word “surreal” to describe seeing the actual coat that Michael Jackson wore during the making of Thriller. And then there was the glove, Jacko’s single, sparkly iconic glove. Fuentes claims Jackson as an influence on his own artistic development, and he says he can trace his M.J.-fan roots back to childhood. “That,” he says, “was some of the first music I ever heard.”
In the past couple of years, Pierce the Veil have escaped the gravitational pull of the all-ages club scene of their hometown of San Diego to become regulars on national festival stages. In the bargain, Fuentes says, “We played every shitty bar and club almost in the world.” Before 2008, they were virtually unknown. “Sometimes, we just played to the other bands we were on tour with.” Things changed after they got a date on the Vans Warped Tour in 2007, and then were invited to come back for the whole tour in 2008. They played Bamboozle as well, and by the end of the year, they were headlining their own four-band tour in support of their debut CD, A Flair for the Dramatic.
Yet Fuentes says they still get more than a little star-struck.
“It’s cool to see bands that we had looked up to as kids. We were out with Pennywise, who were huge for me when I was first learning to play guitar,” he says. As teenagers, he and Mike perfected Pennywise covers in their bedroom. “We’re still fans, too, you know?”
While students at Mission Bay High School, the Fuentes brothers had a punk band they called Early Times. It grew a little cult following, mostly of surfers and skaters. Early Times played backyard keggers and such, and over time, they improvised “5.9,” a song that made reference to the alcohol content of Natural Ice beer. “Natty Ice was my high-school beer,” Fuentes says with a laugh.
Early Times morphed into Before Today; as such, they released A Celebration of an Ending in 2004 on Equal Vision Records. When that group disbanded, the label deal remained in place. The brothers began honing the songs that would eventually become A Flair for the Dramatic in the home studio their parents had built for them. “Our parents are our biggest fans,” Fuentes says. With the addition of Tony Perry and Jaime Preciado, the band became Pierce the Veil and went to Seattle to make a proper recording of their debut album.
This year, Pierce the Veil released their second CD, Selfish Machines. It’s wonderfully intense, complicated indie hash seasoned by the band’s time spent on the road. “The first record was just me and Mike,” Fuentes says. “This new record is kind of a whole-band project. The biggest change in the writing process this time around is we actually had a full band and we could play the songs before we recorded them. The first record, we didn’t have that option. We didn’t have a band that had played a thousand shows.”
They’ve been described at various times as pop-core, screamo/hardcore, post-hardcore and more, but, Fuentes says, “It’s a new genre we’re creating called Mexi-core.” He laughs. “It’s basically a mix of heavy music with a little Spanish feel.”
Are there consistent themes that surface in the band’s lyrics? “I write constantly,” he says, “so it’s about things that weigh heavily enough at the time to write it down and talk about it.”
In 2011, Pierce the Veil will tour behind Selfish Machines with Silverstein. “We aren’t gonna be home hardly for the next year or two.” But hard touring, Fuentes says, has been the band’s secret to success. “It was huge for us, getting our first Warped Tour in 2008. We’d never played outdoor festivals like that. That was a huge step for us as a live band. Huge.” Why? Fuentes says that on daytime festival stages, there are no lights or effects to hide behind. “Playing live outdoors,” he says, “is the test of a band.”
This article appeared in print as "Slow and Sure: San Diego band Pierce the Veil come to terms with their ascent to fame."