Andy Biersack should have been a week into this year’s Warped Tour experience with his Cincinnati-born/Los Angeles-based Glam/Hard Rock troupe, Black Veil Brides. Instead, when we spoke he was nursing three broken ribs, although he’d healed enough to rejoin the traveling madness.
“I look up to people like Stiv Bators and the most clumsy, terrible stage performers,” Biersack says from an Los Angeles hotel. “I don’t exactly have grace on stage. We were playing a release show at a big mall complex in Los Angeles and I climbed up this marble pillar to the top. My intention was to jump back onto the stage, but being that I wear cowboy boots that have almost no traction, and I’m on a marble pillar, I started to slip, then I thought I could push myself onto the stage and instead I heaved myself onto the edge of the stage, which smashed my ribs.”
Biersack’s resilience in managing a 15-foot rib-cracking stage dive was developed during a less-than-idyllic Cincinnati childhood. Born and raised in Delhi, Biersack was outwardly artistic, eccentrically dressed and mercilessly bullied as a teen. But it merely strengthened his resolve.
“I was the furthest thing from accepted in society, and it spurred me to create the band,” Biersack says. “We sing about life experiences; I learned internal strength growing up (in Cincinnati). Instead of bowing down to detractors who told me I couldn’t be what I wanted to be or called me ‘fag’ for how I dressed, it made me tougher.”
Biersack’s musical aspirations started as a pre-teen; he availed himself of CityBeat’s “Musicians’ Exchange” ads but received no responses.
“It’s not CityBeat’s fault,” Biersack jokingly clarifies. “I was a 12-year-old who wanted to start a Horror/Punk band in Cincinnati. There’s not much call for that.”
Biersack assembled versions of Black Veil Brides while still a student at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, but band membership fluctuated. It was difficult to find musicians with Biersack’s commitment level, particularly in the KISS/Guns ‘N Roses/L.A. Guns make-up-and-wardrobe department.
“I’d find people who’d play for a couple of months and then get worried that people thought they were stupid for being in the band and they’d leave,” Biersack says. “That was always the stigma. Unless you’re a Straight Edge band or a Hardcore band or you have more cred because you’re a tough guy, it’s hard to do anything that has any sort of passion behind it without getting dogged. That’s why I’m proud of bands like Foxy Shazam that came out of the Cincinnati scene and they’re completely different and were able to succeed in that regard and that’s cool to see.”
Two years ago, just after his 18th birthday, Biersack left school and moved to L.A., living in his car in the ABC Studio parking lot. BVB had already attracted attention from YouTube videos, particularly “Knives and Pens,” and their social media presence. With a fresh lineup installed (guitarists Jake Pitts and Jeremy “Jinxx” Ferguson, bassist Ashley Purdy, drummer Sandra Alvarenga, since replaced by Christian “CC” Coma), BVB signed to StandBy Records and crafted last summer’s We Stitch These Wounds, which cracked the Top 40 of Billboard’s Top 200 album chart (and hit No. 1 on the Independent chart), all by way of a very D.I.Y. campaign.
From there, BVB’s massive merch sales at Hot Topic led to the band’s signing with Lava Records and the June release of its sophomore album, Set the World on Fire. The album’s title song also ended up on the soundtrack of the summer’s biggest movie, Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
“We didn’t have much budget (on the first album), but we were given the opportunity to do something we’ll never get to do again, which is make a record and produce it ourselves, which is stressful for a young band,” Biersack says. “Going into the second record, it was a much more comfortable situation, and maybe more conducive to creativity in terms of writing. We had a major label budget and producer, and real people working on the record that allowed us to sit back and write songs we were passionate about.”
Reaction to Set the World on Fire has been mixed, but Biersack doesn’t put much stock in reviews, preferring to listen to opinions at a more grassroots level.
“The greatest reviewers are the fans,” he says. “If a fan says, ‘I like the third song better than the fifth song,’ that seems more genuine. You’re looking at someone who’s invested in the band. The bias of how we look to a certain number of people, they’ll have a pre-conceived notion before they listen to the record. We understand it’s off -putting to some people. We personally like it. Rock & Roll is something we have fun with, and we like to put on a show.”
Negative reviews might ultimately mirror the same defeatism that Biersack encountered in Cincinnati, which has amplified since his relocation and success. The last time BVB played the area, Biersack’s parents were threatened at the show and there was clearly a contingent that came to disrupt the gig. Biersack tries to navigate his way through the haters and non-believers.
“The album is my favorite thing that I’ve ever done in my life, so anyone else isn’t really invested in it the way I am,” he says. “ ‘Rock stars don’t come from Cincinnati’ was the thing I always heard, and I felt like it was untrue. Rock stars aren’t crapped out of the sky — they’re regular people who have a dream and work very hard for what they want.”
BLACK VEIL BRIDES perform at the Vans Warped Tour stop at Riverbend this Tuesday. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.