In the Middle with Creeper
Creeper are a difficult band to pin down. Their theatrical flair and highly cultivated aesthetic set them apart from the gritty realism of the current punk scene, while their meticulously crafted characters and storylines make them a rarity not just stylistically but lyrically as well. Just two years on from their initial conception, the horror punks from Southampton have released their debut album Eternity, In Your Arms, a record that, amongst other things, I got the chance to chat to lead vocalist Will about.
When talking about the high-concept characters that made their earlier work so unusual, Will says some will definitely carry over. While there’s an evolution, old characters will definitely make a reappearance, and a new character is even being added, to “complete the trilogy of characters taken from the Peter Pan story.” With “Captain Hook, the Lost Boys and the Crocodile Tick Tock” being the framework up which the story rests, the new character James Scythe acts as a catalyst to drive the narrative forward, especially given that they now have a full album’s worth of time to take the listener on a journey.
However, the transition from EPs to a full-length album hasn’t been without its challenges. As Will said, “one of the great things about having an album is that you have the ability to take your time, but how do you keep someone’s attention for the full duration? It’s a lot easier to capture someone for the length of an EP than a full album. One of the main things we were talking about while making it was how to grab attention and maintain it for the full thing.”
Despite this “double-edged sword”, it’s hard to argue that the longer record wasn’t much in demand. Creeper have become somewhat famous for their dedicated fanbase, who descend on every UK festival decked out in Callous Heart patches and trademark leather jackets. Much of the hype is down to their tendency to stray from the beaten track as far as themes and aesthetic go, something that has to be attributed to their somewhat eclectic influences.
Will specifically cited both Meatloaf and The Sisters Of Mercy as far as his distinctive vocals went, but said his more classic technique was an amalgamation of a lot of different styles. It was Nick Cage who taught him how to croon, but Meatloaf’s lyricist who was perhaps his most formative influence. “Jim Steinman wrote a lot of Meatloaf’s stuff” he said “but he has an album called Bad For Good that I listened to a lot. He doesn’t always hit the note, and that rawness is something I really try to draw on.”
These are hardly stereotypical names to talk about in the context of punk, which might be at least part of the reason the band is so polarising. It’s rare an act are nominated for best and worst British Band in the same year, and yet Creeper made both lists in Rock Sound’s 2016 poll. I asked why Will thought his band was quite so divisive, and his response was simple; they’re doing something different.
Talking about the scene, he made it clear that there was a kind of “blueprint”, a formula a lot of punk bands followed that was kind of “dreary”, while what they were doing was completely different. Instead of wearing Topshop they were wearing make-up, and they were a little bit more ready to laugh at themselves. While other bands were adapting their sound for radio, Creeper felt fine continuing to offend people, and to “live in the shadows”, as he put it. Having been around since the Myspace era, he saw a generation of people “growing up without magic”, and made it his mission to bring back the flamboyance that was once a staple of the punk scene.
This also accounts for their constant dealing with themes that aren’t exactly in fashion. Aside from a few bands like AFI, HIM and of course My Chemical Romance, there really aren’t that many acts focussing so heavily on romance and theatricals. I wondered if Creeper were conscious of filling that niche when they started making music, and if they felt the pressure of being one of just a few bands to do what they were doing. However, more than being aware of filling a void in the punk landscape, Will said he was more so looking to “fill a void in himself.”
After being in hardcore bands for a while, he found the seriousness of the hardcore scene “pulling him apart”, and went through a really tough period of falling out of love with the profession all together. He realised though that “music was in his blood”, and that he was simply missing the flamboyance and “amatuer dramatics” of people like David Bowie, that had made him fall in love with music in the first place.
As for the future, Creeper have their sights set pretty high. Always working towards a Diamond Dogs tour level of high-concept production, Will said their current focus was on making sure that every idea they bring out is fully mediated, and that they are constantly world building. There’s definitely an interest in a full, Queen-like, theatrical production, but for now the band are more than happy to settle for their first European headline tour, commencing on the 25th of March.