Having reached number one on the Billboard Rock chart with their March album, Trauma, it’s an achievement metalcore masters I Prevail truly deserve.
By the time harsh vocalist Eric Vanlerberghe sits down to discuss the album, I Prevail have, in a very short time, defied the odds stacked against them.
Between incredulous chuckles, Vanlerberghe says, “It’s hard to fathom, it feels like we’ve been sitting on it forever and now that’s out, it’s like ‘Oh yeah, it’s out’. I forget.”
The journey to Trauma hasn’t, of course, been easy for I Prevail. In 2017, clean vocalist Brian Burkheiser suffered a serious vocal injury during I Prevail’s North American tour in support of their debut album, Lifelines – an experience that ultimately had the band really living up to its name.
The negative events which plagued recent years have culminated in Trauma, a very personal release. Vanlerberghe says he never conceived it would be received and related to on a scale that would mean it would be number one.
“We hope for stuff like this to happen, you know, and when it finally does, it’s kinda like, ‘What?!’ When we were writing this record, we walked the line. We had people on the outside telling us, like, ‘Maybe this is a little too much’.
“We have this song, ‘Breaking Down’, it’s a down-in-the-dumps song that doesn’t end on a positive note and we have people saying, ‘Is this what you want to put out?’. We kept saying, ‘100 per cent. This is it, this is us’.”
Had I Prevail released something that was, in Vanlerberghe’s words, not heartfelt, he says they would have been dishonest to their fans because they would be lying about who they are.
“I don’t think any of us would have as much fun on stage if we didn’t have any feeling or connection to any of these songs.
“You start feeling like a puppet out there, like someone wrote the music for you. Every song we’ve created, I feel proud to say each one of us can relate and connect to. We’re playing these songs and putting everything into it, and hopefully the fans get something out of that.”
The other element of I Prevail the band can take pride in is, of course, the solid foundation of friendship upon which these musicians have formed a successful brand. When Burkheiser was sick, his ejection from the band was not an option even considered by the other members. Instead, while Burkheiser recovered, Vanlerberghe undertook clean vocal duties in addition to his usual contributions.
While it’s well documented that Burkheiser was floored by the band’s support of him through a difficult time, the sentiments weren’t all that different for Vanlerberghe as he not only took on additional duties, but worried for his friend at the same time.
“I can’t take all the credit,” he says. “Dylan [Bowman], our guitarist, he picked up a lot of the slack on Brian’s vocals live. But to be up there in front of a crowd and have to explain to the ones who know who we are, know what we look like – ‘Oh by the way our singer’s down right now and we don’t know what’s going on. We’re kinda nervous but we don’t want you to be nervous, we just want to have a good time tonight.’
“To all the fans that stuck with us through it, we’re so appreciative. And to have Brian back after his surgery, to know he’s back in the saddle 100 per cent ready to go, it’s such a good feeling to know we’re whole again.”
I Prevail are arguably more than whole. These guys must be riding some mystical cloud of euphoria because it is all happening for them right now. Their lives today are truly a dichotomy compared to just a few short years ago when Burkheiser was sick.
“Whoever’s running my simulation right now, I want to thank them because life’s pretty sweet right now.”
I Prevail’s sophomore album Trauma is out now via Fearless Records.