I Prevail’s Eric Vanlerberghe: 'I Want To Write Music That Stands The Test Of Time’

22 August 2022 | 11:54 am | Mary Varvaris
Originally Appeared In

“Those are great examples of records you can listen to 20 years later, and you can still feel the music's energy and pissed-off nature.”

(Pic by Adam Elmakias)

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I Prevail aren’t your typical metal band. They make that known in their music, stretching the boundaries of genre conventions. The Michigan-based group can feature brutal riffs and breakdowns in the same song as a rap verse and blast beats. And they wouldn’t be out of place in playlists that feature Sleep Token and Northlane.

Aside from the wild music they make, millions of Spotify streams, and two Grammy nominations, I Prevail remain humble and genuine to their roots. When Eric Vanlerberghe answers the Zoom call, he wanders around his grandparents’ backyard, which he helped grow during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I moved into my grandparents’ old place after they passed, and I had a lot of time to fix the house up and hang out with my family,” he says with a smile. In a way, it was special to have two summers off touring – the most rigorous periods of touring for any band, even in Australia – and actually make it to the birthdays and family gatherings. “I’m glad it was two and not three because I was starting to get stir crazy!”

Vanlerberghe displays animalistic energy on stage and derives extra stamina from enthusiastic crowds. He’s never missed a show, even when he experienced the worst head pain in his life before the band’s gig in Fremantle this June. “I was rehearsing before the show, and it felt like someone hit me in the back of the head with a club,” he says. Vanlerberghe was subsequently rushed to the hospital, where doctors thought he had experienced a subarachnoid haemorrhage or a significant heart condition. The doctors ruled out both possibilities.

So, he faced a choice: stay in the hospital to be monitored overnight or be discharged? He chose to play. “I got home after two weeks and saw a chiropractor. It turned out it was a severely pinched nerve in the base of my skull, and every time I'd go to scream, a specific muscle in my neck was pulling on it. Now I'm feeling better.”

There’s something about Australian fans that keeps I Prevail coming back every couple of years. Aside from the beautiful beaches, cities, cuddling quokkas, and hanging out with local bands, Vanlerberghe cites a different breed of music fans in Australia. “Y’all just love and appreciate metal differently, and I love it,” he laughs. “Once we get past the 16-hour flight and play that first show, it's like, ‘We should extend our tour or something, right? We should just stay here for a while, right?’”

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Like its predecessor, Trauma, the band’s third album, True Power, is chaotic in the best possible way. The album offers more extraordinary musical and thematic diversity than beforeI Prevail simply follow the natural next step of their evolution. “Trauma was the record where we bared our heart on our sleeve and opened up about some harder to talk about topics and, you know, some more emotionally charged songs,” Vanlerberghe says.

“For this record, we found that our strengths came from challenging ourselves and trying creative things when it came to the writing of the music, especially when it comes to decisions on where does this bridge go? Where does this chorus go? What's the breakdown going to sound like?” he explains.

“Every chance we had, we tried to give it a left turn for the listener. It was funny watching the reactions of kids listening to Body Bag for the first time, and once it got to the bridge, kids were all like, ‘Oh, it's gonna be a breakdown. This is about to be the biggest breakdown ever.’ And instead, it was just this fast, blast beats thing, and I feel like almost every kid I saw that with these reaction videos were like, ‘That's not what I was expecting.’”

I Prevail are confident in trying new, weirder things. Heavy music, electronic music, and hip hop are at home together on True Power. “I want to write something that stands the test of time,” Vanlerberghe exclaims. “I want to be the band where kids hear this record ten years from now and still go, ‘Watch what they were doing ten years ago, 15 years ago,’ and show it to all their friends.” Vanlerberghe is a fan of what he writes alongside his bandmates.

“I think it’s very important to allow listeners to form their own opinions by leaving things open-ended,” he says about one of the most exciting tracks on True Power, Fake. “I don’t want to force any concepts on kids who listen; I want to give them a deeper connection to the music where they can place experiences they’ve been through in the musical journey.” The open-ended nature, atmospherics, relentless heaviness, and fresh ideas keep Vanlerberghe returning to classic albums.

Like many keen musicians, Vanlerberghe is a music lover who listens to anything under the sun. Specifically, though, he’s been listening to a lot of Fit For An Autopsy, Slipknot’s Iowa, and Pantera’s Vulgar Display Of Power. “That’s what I was talking about with timeless music,” he laughs. “Those are great examples of records you can listen to 20 years later, and you can still feel the music's energy and pissed-off nature.” That’s where I Prevail comes in: over a decade into their career, they’re making music that allows you to just scream.