“When it comes to the band’s artistic vision we’re utterly uncompromising” - hmv.com talks to Creeper
Normally it takes a band three or four albums and a solid dose of boredom before they decide to pursue a concept album, especially not one weirdly inspired by a strange warped version of the Peter Pan story complete with its own website (which is here), but then Southampton goth punk six-piece Creeper don’t do things the normal way.
Formed in 2014, the band quickly won hearts and ears with their potent mix of raw punk energy and the romance and idealism of glam rock. As much inspired by Bouncing Souls as they are by David Bowie, Creeper are a very unusual proposition.
As their debut album Eternity, In Your Arms comes to CD shelves we spoke to frontman Will Gould about making it, being inspired by Walt Disney and David Bowie and why this band is like an old-school Hollywood studio…
You’ve released a string of EPs before you got to the album. How did the experience of making an album compare to your idea of doing it?
“When we first got signed to Roadrunner I wanted to go straight in and make an album, but the label really wanted us to do EPs. At first, I was really against it, but now I understand how important that was. We experimented and really pushed the sound and we're in so much better shape. That said, making it was a much longer, much more stressful and much more stretched out process than I wanted. We were recording in between a really heavy touring schedule in these little bursts rather than just being able to focus on it. So it wasn’t really how I’d envisaged it.”
You did the album with Neil Kennedy, who’s worked with you since the very beginning, did you ever consider bringing in a bigger name?
“We insisted when we signed that we got to work with Neil, I wanted to keep the continuity of the sound and I didn’t see any need to go anywhere else. Neil’s been recording me since I was 16 and playing in crappy punk bands. Working with him and communicating ideas is very painless and the quality of his work is incredible. He’s been coming up as we have and it’s been great. He’s brilliant at filtering the good ideas from the bad and it’s a lot easier for someone you’re comfortable and you really respect with to tell you something’s awful than someone you don’t know. You need someone you trust.”
There’s a grand concept behind the album, would you mind talking us through it?
“It’s difficult to get it into an elevator pitch, but the general idea comes from the Peter Pan story, which isn’t usual lyrical fodder for a punk band. I’m a massive Walt Disney guy and after watching the Disney production I went back and read the J. M. Barrie story and found real parallels with my life.”
In what way?
“I’ve spent most of it on tour, avoiding the real world and any responsibilities, for that reason I’ve got a very minimal education. It’s like living in a strange purgatory, every time you get back from tour your friends are growing up, getting jobs, buying houses, having kids, being adults, and that makes you feel like one of the lost boys. I sympathised with that story and that’s where the inspiration for The Callous Heart came from, our first EP.”
“As the band has gone on we’ve found more correlations with the story, so we started writing about Tick-Tock The Crocodile and he morphed into this tall stranger character who you see at night time, he’s kind of a metaphor for sleep psychosis, then there’s this third character who is based on Captain Hook.”
And that’s James Scythe?
“That’s right. It’s odd, I’m in my mid-20’s now, too young to be old and too old to be young, it’s a weird period. Captain Hook is this guy who longs for the youth of the lost boys and is constantly chased by the ticking clock of the crocodile. The longer this band has gone on, that character means the most to me now, so he’s the one you see a lot of it through. I know it sounds ridiculous, but that’s what we’ve been up to.”
A lot of bands wait until they’re a few albums in before they attempt a concept album, but you’ve got right in, did anyone ever try and talk you out of it?
“Unfortunately I’m quite a stubborn character and though there aren’t many things in my life I’m very sure about, when it comes to the band’s artistic vision we’re utterly uncompromising. It was more a case of get on board or don’t bother than anything else, we were always going to do it this way. I find it very, very difficult to get motivated for anything that I don’t want to do. I’ve spent most of my life doing jobs that I’m not motivated to do so that I can do music, I don’t want the first bit of success to make this band turn into work. I was too ambitious in my earlier bands when I wasn’t ready, but this wasn’t like that.”
It must be a challenge, though, you can’t write as freely when you’ve got a story to serve. Most bands can move songs around or drop them and pick them up as they see fit on an album, you can’t do that...
“We work from these two enormous whiteboards and everything goes through that. The way we work is a bit like old Hollywood, all the writers, builders, directors, actors, they all worked within the studio system and that’s like our band, we work more like a production company. Everything comes from a skeleton and a story rather than just writing random songs, we work the dynamic and journey of the record through and we really plan. We write to blueprints rather than letting things happen. When we sit down to write we know the piece we need, not just write something and jam it in.”
Were there any concept records you particularly looked to for inspiration?
“David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars is a huge one. My Dad brought me up on that album and Bowie is a hero of mine. It’s a really important record, it’s got such a striking cover, it really ebbs and flows. We have a grand closer in the same vein as ‘Rock N’Roll Suicide’, it’s all there. We also love My Chemical Romance. That last album Danger Days and the whole Mad Max feeling of that was really interesting.”
Where does the love of concept records come from?
“It’s more from being a fan of film and TV. I used to make movies with my little Handycam as a kid and I did film at college, we’ve always thought quite cinematically and we’ve always wanted to make movies. Weirdly, I used to work in hmv Southampton on the DVD floor and all I wanted to do was work on the music floor. Now it’s kind of the other way round! We spend a lot of time thinking about how we come across visually and taking people through the stories in visual terms, not just in audio.”
Finally, you must have so much planned for touring this album. Are you scheming a big theatrical production?
“I’m always thinking how we want to inspire people and make them respond. We’ve been on tour with bands where they’ve had proper production, we toured with Pierce The Veil and they came out of this spaceship and we were all salivating. The second we get to do any of that we’re just going to go overboard. Every bit of money we make we’ll end up spending on the show!”