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Creeper have had quite the 2017 – from dropping their debut album to touring around the planet, we talk what’s been, and what’s to come with the band of the year.
Words: Ali Shutler. Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2 vc_col-lg-8 vc_col-md-offset-2 vc_col-md-8″][vc_column_text]Will Gould is thinking about the end of Creeper. It’s not the first time he’s thought about the demise of his band, and it definitely won’t be the last. This year has reinforced every shining light that we’ve held up to them. From the fantasy epic of debut album ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ to the ever-shifting gleam of their live shows, they’re a band who find inspiration in emotional extremes, who see the importance in the everyday and crave excitement in every moment.
“Things are going great for us,” grins Will. “But it’s important to keep in mind that nothing lasts forever and that’s exciting now. These things have a lifespan, and that’s important to remember. The band will have a day it dies. We’ve got a limited timeframe where this thing holds together, and while there’s a momentum behind it.”
Their music longs for misspent youth and misplaced love, wanting to take those moments of life-affirming feeling and make them eternal. Those flickering dashes of joy, hope, love and togetherness are temporary but live on for an eternity in your heart. There’s always something to treasure and Creeper are both narrator and protagonist in this tale. “This isn’t going to last forever,” repeats Will. “That’s why it’s significant now. I can’t be this age forever. I can’t be this able forever. We have to do it while we can. That’s why each show is living on your heartstrings. That’s why you throw yourself into it every time ‘cos we’ve all seen those bands that hang on too long and they don’t have it in them anymore. And that’s sad. Go on and do something different. ‘To die would be an awfully big adventure’,” he beams, quoting Peter Pan. “It’s really apt. That storytelling, it’s what Creeper is all about. I hope that long after we finish the band, we’ve done our work, and the project resolves; I hope that people will look back and think, ‘Oh, do you remember that experience we had with Creeper?’” It’s a small wish, but sometimes they’re the most poignant. “I hope that people will remember it fondly,” he smiles.
After years of setting scenes, character introductions and leaving frayed ends, Creeper gathered them all together for ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’. Eleven tracks of fantastical storytelling and personal memories, it marked the completion of a world that’s still being explored. “The world’s on fire, and you need culture and art more than ever in those times.” You can lose yourself in a good book. You can find yourself in a great album.
“There’s a crossing over period where you give your records to your audience, and they take it then make it their own. People claim things for their own, and that’s the magic of music. You have a personal relationship with the records that define you as a person. They’re part of you.” ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ might be telling the stories of fictional people, but they reflect something very real and everyday. There’s something special about a universe that understands you. “That’s one of the great things about the album, people have made it theirs. It’s become part of their world, and that’s a huge privilege. I’m proud to be part of these kids lives. Those years where you grow up are so important. It starts off the way you intend it; then the audience make it into something else.”
The band always knew what their debut album needed to be. “We’re super proud of it. I’m proud of the guys and Hannah [Greenwood, keys], their work is absolutely fantastic, and some of the best songs Ian [Miles, guitar] has ever written are on that record. It’s varied, challenging but still accessible. It’s a difficult balance and I’m proud of what it’s done. Making the record was stressful; it was hard work because we were very specific about what we wanted. It had to be right because the EPs had propelled us to a point where I didn’t want to let anyone down but at the same time, I was adamant that I wasn’t going to think about anyone else.
“Me and Ian shut the record label out of every conversation and floated the idea of an hour-long odyssey with a song that was just all organ. At the time we thought that was such a good idea,” he laughs. “What I’m really proud of is that we didn’t compromise on anything. Our record had so many different things on, and we got away with putting it all out.”
There’s the hardcore swing of ‘Poison Pens’, the fourth wall break of ‘I Choose To Live’, the torching empowerment of ‘Crickets’ and the theatrical pomp of ‘Black Rain’. Every track is jagged, taking from the well-read book of their influences but then twisted, reimagined and doing something unique. “It’s a thoughtful record, and it’s the most challenging record we could have made in that instance, we’re not a math rock band or anything,” he adds. “Stylistically it’s very interesting. It came from a place where I was very stressed out, and I was really worried.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”47707″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2 vc_col-lg-8 vc_col-md-offset-2 vc_col-md-8″][vc_column_text]Recording the album in secret, trying to maintain their hectic tour schedule and match their own stargazing expectations, ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ almost killed the band then and there. “When things are about to fall apart, that’s when things happen. If you’ve never been in a position where you feel like you’re on the brink of collapse, you’ll never appreciate anything at all. If you live a life that’s sheltered, you never learn to appreciate anything.”
2017 has forced Will to live in his own art, away from the shelter of moving onto the next thing without looking back. “You’re constantly reminded of it. You know all the things that are wrong with it, and it drives you mad after a while. If you look in the mirror, you have all these insecurities about your own face or body, and it felt like that. You’re constantly staring at what you’ve done. Forced to look at those things you’re insecure about on the record but the nature of being an artist is that you constantly feel inadequate and you constantly doubt yourself all the time. You feel constantly insecure.”
“I do love it though,” he adds. “It was made in Southampton, it’s a homegrown record, and it’s taken us around the world. We’ve taken songs we wrote in my living room, recorded with the same guy who’s been recording us for 15 years and we’ve become this band that’s touring the world. It’s insane. I never thought Creeper would be doing this stuff. I’ve been saying it for years; I’m constantly in shock we’re doing anything. It’s so silly all the time.”
It’s in the moments where the band spend a night with friends and fall asleep in their own beds or sell out The Joiners in ten minutes when they could never do that with their old bands that are particularly special. “Suddenly you realise we’ve gone on a big journey with this band. It’s all-encompassing. Every time I’ve struggled this year, it’s been important to keep that in focus, remember where Creeper came from and keep the ideals of the band close to heart. We never lost sight of those, but sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind.”
Creeper are giddy, over the moon and full of humble joy that they’ve been allowed to do the things that have made up their 2017. Their music has reached people around the world, and for that, they’re truly thankful. “It’s all the things that come alongside it that are frightening sometimes. Being at a show and having people looking at me, I hate it. I find it really odd. I sometimes miss just being someone who just enjoys music but at the same time, what we’re doing is important. When you get offstage, you have an almost instant review of your set. You can literally watch a video of yourself performing that’s been tweeted to you the second you get back to the dressing room. It’s insane.” Creeper have set about amplifying the sort of crackling electricity that can’t be captured. “Nowadays everything feels so fast and disposable, so what we’ve been trying to do recently is slow the whole thing down. Do less but when we do it, make it more. Trying to make it an experience for people. Trying to do less but more at the same time and making things that feel important in a world where everything means nothing.”
“We live in a strange world where everything is a photocopy of a photocopy; Creeper are absolutely in that camp as well. There’s nothing that monumental anymore. When I go to Hammersmith Apollo, I know that’s where the last Ziggy Stardust show was. When I think of The Mayflower in Southampton, I know that’s where people saw The Who back in the day. It’s hard to generate those significant moments in this day and age, but we’ve been trying our hardest of late. The focus has been on making these shows this all-encompassing experience, to try and give people something they can take away with them and think about. What comes along with that is that everything is really hard work, everything takes a million years to plan. Where a lot of bands would just rehearse, get a lighting guy and get on the road, with Creeper we’re literally writing scripts and having to have things built.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmDiNAIccW8″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10″][vc_column_text]
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2 vc_col-lg-8 vc_col-md-offset-2 vc_col-md-8″][vc_column_text]For their (at the time of writing – Ed) upcoming headline tour, their Theatre of Fear, everything is taking a lot longer. “It’s a challenge, but it has to be otherwise we’re just a band playing some gigs, and we may as well not even be a band. It’s very Creeper; there’s lots of running around, being stressful and just wasting our money all the time on the shows. We’re the worst business people in the world, but it’s part of Creeper’s responsibility to do more. Our audience wouldn’t expect anything less. They’re fans of this band for a reason, and everything has to be perfect, everything has to be different. We’re not like other bands,” reasons Will. “Music should be exciting. For too long, bands have played it safe. It feels like we’re living on the edge all the time, everything could fall apart at any minute and anything could go wrong. That’s the only way to keep it exciting and interesting though.”
The thing about Creeper is that they’re much further along in the story than we are. They’re always straddling their present with the past. The two worlds, onstage and offstage, are out of sync. Existing in this netherworld is a strange feeling. “Those EPs and that growth, all that happened onstage. Behind the scenes, those things happened a long time before. I really believe in Creeper. But I believe Creeper is capable of doing so many things with sound and with ideas. If you think of Creeper as an author, this story so far is one of the books.
“Sometimes I wonder if people see us as just one thing. Since the beginning of the band people have said to me, ‘Your band is like My Chemical Romance’, ‘You’re like Alkaline Trio, or AFI’. We’re always being told we’re the next something and I used to find it so complimentary at the beginning but as time’s gone on, I’ve found it more difficult. I understand people saying we’re the next MCR, that’s really nice, but it gives people this expectation of us, this idea that we should achieve the same things MCR achieved.
“It also lumps us in their mind that we’re going to be a replacement for that band, and we’re not. We’re a completely separate band, and I find it exhausting. I know it sounds bad, but sometimes it feels like we’re stuck in this loop where everyone tells us we’re the next MCR and we’re going to be stuck in this loop forever. I don’t want to be MCR. I love them, but I don’t want to be them. We’re Creeper. That’s our band, and we’re very different. Same with AFI, or Alkaline Trio. I feel like people sometimes group us into this box. And I feel boxed in by those comparisons.”
Rather than sitting idly by, muttering under their breath or aggressively correcting people, Creeper know the only way the box will break is with change. Nothing will shift “until we can really prove ourselves. Until we can make a fundamental step forwards.” A lot of this year, rather than enjoying the success or exploring the reality of their dreams, has been about that proof.
“I’ve felt ready to shed my skin for a lot of the year, but it’s not time yet. I’m always in this constant state of transition as a person, in terms of how I look, or what we’re doing musically and sonically. That’s why the band evolves a lot of the time. We all have this will to evolve, grow, change and metamorphosis. It’s almost imprisoning to live the same life over and over again when you’re ready to do something else and push forward. It’s a very odd thing, and I’m finding it hard to articulate.
“The band used to be something that really liberated me and was my release from my day job. Sometimes this year, the band has felt like a bit of a prison. I feel like I’ve lived an entire lifetime in these past few years. There’s something liberating about beginning again and starting with a blank page. When you’re going to write the next thing, there’s a new set of ideas and a new bunch of parameters and rules. It’s a new game, isn’t it? That’s something I think about an awful lot at the moment.”
“I’m really proud of what we’ve put out,” Will assures. “I’m so pleased and what we’ve built is something that’s important and dear to us all, but it feels like this album campaign has lasted for the entire career of the band. Part of me craves that reinvention process. There are a lot of adventures we haven’t started yet. We know what we’re going to do, we’ve already started working on it, but everything feels so far in the distance all the time. I know absolutely what we’re doing next, I have to be in control the whole time because I’m a control freak, but it’s top secret. Teachers always said I seemed ready for college before school was over, and I feel like that’s what’s happening now. The next chapter, I’m ready for it. I’m eager to get going. Next year is going to be an exciting time for the band, not necessarily in terms of a career but as creatives, it’s going to be special.
We ask about hearing new music next year. “I can’t tell you if that’s going to happen,” is the response. “So much of what we do, the magic of it comes from being a secret. It’s hard to even think about writing another record even though I’m so desperate to move on. The last one took so much of my soul; it almost broke the band up when we were doing it. It was really trying so the idea that I’m about to do all that again, it’s stressful. But it’s the magic of doing the band. It’s why we do it.”
That magic, being able to tell stories and have people listen. To create, just for the sake of creating and to be inspired by the people they’re inspiring. “It’s incredibly rewarding; I still feel totally blessed and so lucky to be doing what we do. It feels like someone made a mistake letting us in. We shouldn’t really be in this position, and it’s somehow working out. We’re still getting by,” laughs Will. “Creeper is the black sheep among black sheep.”
For Hallowe’en, Creeper did a benefit gig at their local, The Joiners, under the name The Midnight Kids. It was confirmed a week before (the joys of trying to work with the many cogs of the industry machine), and as soon as they got the green light, the band realised: “We’re not going to need a creative for this. What can we do?”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BT83wjfs0lM”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10″][vc_column_text]
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-2 vc_col-lg-8 vc_col-md-offset-2 vc_col-md-8″][vc_column_text]Olly stayed around Will’s house, and the pair got arts and craftsy in the direction of The Twilight Zone. Lights, signs and a big The Twilight Zone spiral entrance, edged with balloons set the scene for purpose filmed video and voiceover. “We did all this shit for one show, but I felt like I couldn’t let anyone down. People are expecting a Creeper show; we have to give them a Creeper show. We can’t only care about the big shows, we have to make everything special,” promises Will, before asking: “Maybe sometimes I’m doing things so much for myself that I completely lose track of our audience, who probably would have just been happy with ‘Monster Mash’ being played?” But that dedication and total immersion in everything Creeper is, that want to be the band they needed as kids, that’s what makes them so special. It’s why they mean so much.
“It’s such a lovely community, and the community aspect of our band is something we’re really trying to focus on at the moment. We’ve got this big plan for next year to do something in regards to that and pull it all together,” teases Will. “Watching people let the record into their lives, let it be a part of them. It’s real magic, isn’t it?”
The band might be driven forward by a fear of things becoming temporary, but they’re not afraid to start again. To burn things down to make space for the next step. The show at The Joiners was a one-off, never to be repeated. Their Theatre of Fear will play for six nights, and that’s it. The band are talking about moving on to the next story, ruthless but necessary to their survival.
“The only thing that really lasts is that real-world magic. It’s the only thing you really remember. I try and block out all the negative in my life and focus on the really special moments. One little magical thing makes you appreciate everything else. The show at The Joiners, all that work gets thrown in the bin, but in the heat of the moment, I like to think that when one of those kids goes back to a gig at The Joiners, they’ll remember when we played there and what a special show it was. They’ll think, ‘I felt really at home that night. I felt like I really belonged. I saw that show, and it inspired me to make my own film or do something different with my band.’
“I’m hoping for that real-world magic every time, even if it’s from silly painted signs and hanging fairy lights. Even if we build it ourselves, it’s trying to make it an experience they’ll remember forever.” That what Creeper is. “That feeling of the gig, the experience of it, it becomes more than a show. It becomes part of your identity; it’s something you can stand by. It’s something you can believe in and hopefully, what we’ve always tried to do with Creeper is inspire people to do their own thing. And when Creeper stops, it’ll be time for someone else to do it. It’s important to keep that positive space. We have to set the bar every time. I don’t want to be a band who doesn’t do these things, because they’re the bands you forget. The bands you don’t think about are the ones that just play their songs. You can go to a million gigs like that; you only go to a couple where it feels like something is happening to you.”
“We’re playing different size rooms now, but we’re still a small band. We have to sit down and ask, ‘What will people expect of us in this position?’ ‘What can we do that’ll make people think about the next thing we’re doing and believe us when we say it’ll be unmissable?’ I don’t want people to think we’re all talk,” reasons Will, but that responsibility goes beyond lights and theatrics. “When we can call the shots ourselves, we can bring out who we want and be a positive change in the industry.”
On their upcoming tour, just like their March 2017 headline run, every venue will have non-binary toilet signs. “That’s something that’s important to us. All this stuff we’ve seen recently about abusive men overstepping their mark are a telltale sign of the entire industry in general. It’s slowly crumbling away, and it’s up to us bands on the way up to change it for the better. It feels like the pillars of the scene are falling down around everyone and I’m glad to be a part of it. There are things about the music industry that make me feel very uncomfortable. It’s very much still a boys club; there are a lot of jack the lad band people. There’s a weird lad culture that comes along with it, which I despise. We’re trying to make Creeper shows a really safe space, and something people can rely on.”
“When this band breaks up,” he continues, “I hope people say ‘Creeper were reliable’. That’s what I want our epitaph to be. What a reliable band they were, because maybe we’ve made mistakes at some point, but I hope people know when they’re sending their kids out to see us, that we’re a safe band. You might get kicked in the head by a crowd surfer, but that’s the worse thing that’s going to happen to you. It’s a safe space for people to be themselves.
“Having a safe spot away from an oppressive world is important. Having a break from school or knowing there’s somewhere you can go where you know you’re not going to be harassed; now it’s more important than ever. I like to think that’s what we offer. We try very hard to speak our minds on what’s important to us, but at the same time, create spaces at our shows that are inclusive of everyone. Anytime we do anything with the band, we try and make it worthwhile. The memory of it lasts on beyond that one night, even if the signs are in the bin somewhere rotting. The idea of it lasts. That’s what you hope anyway because real magic is the only thing that lasts forever.”