Pop-punk saved my life.
As a teen struggling with then-undiagnosed depression, high-functioning anxiety and PTSD, listening to inordinate amounts of angsty emo music was really the only way I could express the internal chaos within me. While there’s a whole host of bands that played a particularly poignant part during this time of my life, it was seeing Pierce the Veil live for the first time that had the biggest impact on me. It was the first time, as a Mexican-American fan of a genre known for its whiteness, that I felt truly seen and welcomed by the alternative rock community.
I stumbled upon the San Diego band on April 6, 2008, at Bamboozle Left in Irvine, California. Young and naive, I had zero expectations when it came to massive concerts. I didn’t have parental supervision, $30 to my name (which I spent on a My Chemical Romance shirt instead of food), and was far too tiny to actually brave the pit. Instead, I found myself wandering the festival ground in search of free snacks and an empty place to sit and enjoy music.
Imagine my surprise when I wandered to the back of the amphitheater to find a quartet of post-hardcore musicians putting their whole hearts and souls into their set in front of a barely-there audience. While their music was alluring, it was the fact that the band was composed entirely of Mexican-Americans that really drew me in.
I was shocked to see a Latinx band performing at a major festival, and when I looked around the tiny crowd that had gathered to listen to them, I was surprised to see they all looked like me. It was a pretty big moment of representation in my life to see I wasn’t the only Latinx kid struggling with these all-too-big emotions. That night, I went home and downloaded their album “A Flair for the Dramatic” to my iPod and never looked back. I’d go to see them a few more times at Warped Tour and a few smaller shows in Southern California and New York over the next 10 years.
While Pierce the Veil was never as big as Fall Out Boy or Panic! At the Disco, their fan base was incredibly dedicated, with people from all across the world falling in love with the Mexican-American rockers. Still, it wasn’t until 2022 that I’d feel like they were finally getting the recognition they deserved.
Much like the success the band found on Tumblr in the late aughts, social media had once again shot the band into international popularity with Gen Z taking their songs to TikTok and creating several unexpectedly popular trends.
One such trend involved a sped-up version of “A Match Into Water” with creators lip-syncing into makeshift microphones hanging from their ceilings. One user used a hanging bottle of nail polish on a video of the trend that has since had nearly 4 million views and 1 million likes. The creator commented on the video saying they get bullied for being “emo” because they listen to PTV outside of TikTok trends.
Another, much larger trend was on the “For You Page” for weeks and involved creators using transitions to amplify the notes of the song “King For a Day,” which features Sleeping With Sirens lead singer Kellin Quinn. Some creators even went as far as using it to switch between their before and after shots, like @annaxsitar, who has over 12 million followers, did for her spooky season beauty look. The trend was so big even stars like Lizzo and Landon Barker joined in. The popularity of the trend even got the song to chart at No. 1 on the Billboard Hard Rock charts a decade after it came out.
“Our young fans have always been our main inspiration to create new music. We have infinite love and respect for them because they are the ones who come out to the shows and listen to our music. They are the ones creating the music culture,” lead singer and guitarist Vic Fuentes told HuffPost of the unexpected TikTok success.
Leveraging their revival among Gen Z emos, PTV used the app to promote their latest single, “Pass the Nirvana.” Unexpectedly, announcing this song helped their 2012 single “Bulls In the Bronx” go semi-viral — with Latinx fans celebrating the band’s much-anticipated return with aspects of their own culture. User @kenya_sophia danced folklórico to the song, which received over 2.2 million views and over 517,000 likes. She went so viral that the band actually invited her to perform onstage with them at an upcoming concert.
“We try to represent our Mexican culture wherever we are in the world,” Fuentes says of the band’s own appreciation for their heritage. He aims to support this celebration of Mexican and other Latin American cultures by encouraging fans to show their pride at shows. “Whether it’s through our songs, playing traditional music in our live intros, or Jaime [Preciado], our bass player, wearing his Mexican national team soccer jersey on stage.”
It is the band’s unashamed and continual support for their Latinx fans that has kept me listening to them for close to a decade. Through their best times and worst times, the band has proven that they won’t let the commercial music industry tell them who they’re supposed to be. As their hometown paper said over 10 years ago, PTV is bringing “Spanish-flavored metal to the masses” with their “Mexi-core” take on the pop-punk scene. And that remains true today.
“[Our culture is] an important part of who we are, and that will never change,” Fuentes said. “We love seeing our fans raising Mexican flags at our shows and connecting with us in that special way.”