In 2016 there’s plenty of reasons to be cynical about music, whether it’s the impending disaster that is a cash hungry Guns N’ Roses reunion or the pseudo-revolutionary hot air of Twenty-One Pilots and company. Revel in that at your peril; it’s a fast root to despair and if you dare to dwell on it too long you’ll have missed the unbridled enthusiasm and honest passion in your peripheral. Enter, Creeper; a band from Southampton that are vying for the opportunity to bring back what has been missing.
First up, let vocalist Will Gould explain exactly what angle Creeper are shooting from: “We all come from hardcore punk, but growing up I listened to David Bowie and a lot of the glam rock stuff my Dad liked, whilst Ian (Miles, guitarist) grew up listening to Metallica. Both of those are very different musicians and very different styles, but the bombastic and grand nature of the ideas is what really excited us at quite a young age.”
It’s the theatrical vision that Will describes in his formative years that is most distinct about the band’s output thus far. So it’s almost no surprise when he reels off some more influential and intertextual idiosyncrasies. “There’s a film by Brian De Palma, ‘The Phantom Of The Paradise’, that I obsess over and the songs from that were a massive aid to our writing”, Will divulges before nonchalantly citing Jim Steinman, who wrote songs for the mighty Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler. He admits that “his records weren’t punk records at all, but the ideas, the scope of them and the storytelling, were something that we took a lot of cues from. We try and temper that with punk. It’s kind of weird, it shouldn’t work on paper, but we try out best to fuse them.”
Fuse them they do; and seamlessly so. It’s a fusion that’s certainly grabbed the attention of key and influential parts of the music media, but Will refuses to take any attention of the hype. “It’s really odd. We don’t think a lot about the way it’s all being perceived. We’re more focused on our songs. We try not to take too much notice of what other people are doing or saying. As shitty as that sounds, you tend to lose your focus and you can lose your muse really quickly when you start concerning yourself with what other people are saying. As nice as it is to hear, I don’t want to get caught up in that.”
Creeper’s refusal to buckle and give in to the superlatives that surround them aids in the feeling of community among their small, but perfectly formed and ever growing fan base. In fact, they refuse to even call them fans; followers of Creeper are known affectionately as a cult. It’s these small aspects, such as the manner in which they choose to address their audience that piece together the larger narrative puzzle of Creeper’s universe. It’s a world that is far more complex than anyone outside of its centre to imagine, but its more than overtly hinted at in the way they present themselves. Six members, clad in black denim and leather, each emblazoned with one sole ‘Callous Heart’ patch on their back; and that’s just the start.
“We take great care over every little detail, all the t-shirts designs, everything; I’m meticulous with detail. We try and keep it all together, so when people are into our band, it’s more than just liking a record”, enthuses Will.
“I’ve found that a lot of bands are more like small businesses than they are bands; it’s all so formulaic”, he adds with a sense of disdain. “So for us, visuals are extremely important because we are presenting the whole piece to everybody, every time. When we play on stage, we’re in character and are playing those parts, so we do things that we couldn’t normally do because we use that to our advantage, as a storytelling technique. It’s all part of the project.”
But it’s more than just a gang, or a means of presentation. This isn’t just an aesthetic, or a state of mind. Creeper use their music as a means of storytelling in a very traditional sense. Reading their lyric sheets is an experience more akin to reading a novel than a poetic, sycophantic or nihilistic diary.
“I’ve found over the time we’ve been doing Creeper that using story mechanisms to express how I feel has been a lot easier. ‘The Callous Heart’ has a lot of references to Peter Pan, to The Lost Boys and all these things in it because I used that as a storytelling guise.”
In most instances, a cheap reference to an insubstantial concept behind a particular band or album is pretty brittle. It serves as an afterthought to feign at some kind of substantiation and false validation, but Will takes great pains to explain the depth of Creeper’s narrative. “I got some books from the library, some J. M. Barrie, a book called ‘Tigerlily’, which was a book written from the focal point of Tigerlily the character from Peter Pan who was his other love interest. So we kind of used the crux of that, but threaded our own lives through it. So they become songs that bind us all together. The songs are about us as a group. So everything we sing about is from a very real place.
I always try and explain it like when you see a hardcore punk band a lot of the time their telling you it’s sincere, but they give you pantomime. I feel like the difference with our band is that we promise you pantomime but we actually give you something quite sincere”, Will gestures.
That’s what sets Creeper apart; a real sense of sincerity in an industry over-run with falsity. They practice what they preach and they deliver something of true substance that they’ve crafted as more than just a means to an end. This band have more than just potential to mean so much to so many.