Creeper’s Will Gould: “I miss those days when I was younger”

Horror punkers Creeper may well be one of the most exciting bands which 2017 has to offer. Having emerged out of the ashes of Southampton’s punk scene, Will Gould and co. manage to fuse elements of straight-up punk with operatic flourishes and choruses which soar so high that you’ll have to do your best to keep up. Debut album Eternity, In Your Arms comes out on 24 March through Roadrunner Records, and we called up Gould to discuss the album as well as various other topics of interest.

Gould live in Amsterdam. (c) Jack Parker
Gould live in Amsterdam. (c) Jack Parker

Hey Will, how are you?
I’m not too bad thanks, how about you?

Good thanks! It’s also been a very good twelve months for Creeper. Can you outline for me how the last year has panned out for you?
That’s a bit hard, because there’s not been much time to think! We had an EP come out this time last year called The Stranger, and after that we went out on a headline tour. It was mainly in very small rooms, apart from the London show which was at the Underworld in London. We sold it out! After that we went on tour with Neck Deep through Europe and the UK, which was the biggest tour we’d done yet. We won the Metal Hammer award for Best New Band, and the Kerrang one too. We also played Reading & Leeds and toured with Andy Black and Pierce the Veil, the latter of which featured our biggest to show at the Brixton Academy. There was also an American tour with Tiger Army, as well as a headline run of our own.

And now we’re here. Eternity, In Your Arms comes out in March, and you worked on it with Neil Kennedy. How did you approach the album compared to your EPs?
Neil’s done all of our music up until point. We’ve worked with him since we were kids! He’s an up-and-coming Southampton producer, and he knows our way of writing completely and also understands what we want from our songs and that ambition that we have. We absolutely approached this album differently! All we did beforehand was two EP’s, so I suppose the record needed a much bigger amount of material. The structure was thus important. We asked ourselves what we wanted from the album and how we wanted the listener to feel. My favourite records are the ones that take you on a narrative-esque journey. We had a whiteboard and wrote down the exact types of songs we wanted to write, for example “a hardcore song here” or “a slow song there to break it up”. It was all very pre-determined in that sense, and it’s also the first record where we had a lot of time to work. Beforehand we would write five songs and bring them into the studio for Neil to tweak around with a little. This time round, Neil was also in the studio with us when we wrote two of the songs (Hiding With Boys and Down Below). We basically wrote those songs with him in the studio. We would get into a room with him and work on the ideas that we had. Ian would have a riff and I’d have some ideas, for example like referencing our older work. On the chorus of Hiding With Boys I wanted to go into something very dramatic whilst still maintaining a cocky and Ramones-y style in the verses. I wanted to have this grand dynamic with Hannah backing me up. In the studio we thus mixed our own ideas with those of Neil and then put them all together. Because we grew up with him, all of the Creeper felt very natural and not-alien. You can run the risk of having that when working with an outside producer.

Would you consider it to be a concept record? The intro on Black Rain certainly makes for this assumption.
Yeah, I think that there’s certainly some sort of narrative going on during the album. I wouldn’t see it as a standard concept record with story-like structure, though; we think of it more as one body of music instead of one segmented story. It’s an album with very clear themes and characters associated with the band, but overall I think I’d consider it a conceptual record of the unusual sort.

You just mentioned characters. Are these fictional ones, or people that you personally know?
We have three characters, and it’s a narrative which has actually run through all of our EPs as well. When we started the band I noticed some similarity with the story of Peter Pan. Flying out a window represents us going on tour. When we came back from tour, everyone was growing up, having kids and working whereas we were still doing the same shit we did when we were kids. I noticed the comparisons, and on The Callous Hearts EP it symbolizes the Lost Boys Gang in a way, albeit a gender-neutral one. The Stranger is thus a tall figure with a mask who actually represents the Captain Hook-chasing crocodile in Peter Pan. Our final part of the story sees Captain Hook himself as the symbolized character. When I think of him as a character, I see him as someone who’s forever chasing youth and fears death. I feel much more of a connection with that now, that will to escape. It sounds ridiculous to say out loud, but it’s just this one big universal theme which seems more relevant to me now than it ever did before.

Aside from Misery, you decided to keep your older tracks off of the album. Why?
I really don’t like it when bands do that. I always try to make records that are their own piece, because as soon as you put music out into the world you’re different to the person who you were when you wrote it. The thing with casual listeners is that they’ll probably never hear the EPs, because they go straight to the album. The EP’s will disappear into time a little bit, but Misery is a song which I’ve always felt to be one of the strongest from the EP’s. It always clicked really well live with fans, too. I wanted the track to last longer so that we could keep playing it live. It was a very important song for us to continue playing!

As a vocalist, your voice sits firmly between elements of raw punk and operatic flourishes. Who are your three main vocal influences and why?
At this point in my life it’s difficult to separate them all, but when I was growing up I really wanted to be David Bowie. I could never sing that well though, haha. Bowie is my absolute hero, and the variety of ways in which he sings was always very interesting. The way he could magpie a lot of different genres and combine them into one was amazing. With the later material you would just hear a totally different voice. When I was a kid, I also looked up to Matt Skiba. That fast playing/slow singing combination was amazing. What I liked about Matt’s voice was that he was similar to the Misfits in a sense, a bit like how Glenn Danzig crooned. Skiba was very big for me lyrically too, he had the weight of a jawbreaker. We’ve recently also gotten very into Jim Steinman, who was a very big reference point for this album. Meatloaf is everyone’s guilty pleasure, but the solo album Bad for Good was very big for us. Steinman always had the songs, but Meatloaf had the voice. I draw from that a lot on our more theatrical numbers.

You’ve recently toured with the likes of Andy Black and Pierce the Veil. How have these experiences enhanced your own live show?
Those tours were great! As we’ve been around a while and toured a lot we’ve managed to gel so much as a unit that it all becomes very natural now. It’s a very nice feeling. Those Andy Biersack crowds respond very strongly to theatrics, and that’s a very big part of what our band does. We went down very well with his crowd, and had a really good time. Andy also asked me come and sing an Alkaline Trio song with him every night! That tour was essentially the tipping point which made us realize that things would go crazy. Pierce the Veil, on the other hand, had a crowd who wanted to dance and mosh. At the core, we’re a punk band, so it was great. We played massive rooms every night and created massive circle pits. It reminded me of being younger and seeing bands live like The Offspring. Playing places like the Brixton Academy and starting a huge pit was really, and also humbling to see people responding so well. Pierce the Veil were also fun guys to hang out with, and the kids were super receptive too. It was our second time in Europe so it was very nice to be back there.

You previously talked of an ambitious live production. What can we expect when you bring the live show to Europe?
When we’ve previously been over we spent a lot of time doing support slots. You get half an hour and you have to structure your set completely around that time frame. We have all these different types of songs, so in terms of production we now get to call a lot more of the shots. With lighting we get to do a lot more now to, and the set will flow even better with samples and stuff. It’s the first time that we’ll play a set in Europe which fully encapsulates the feeling we want you to have when listening to the record. We get to do a little bit more this time round, and we have some cool things planned.

You recently spoke of the shifting musical climate. Who is standing out for you right now?
I think I can only really speak for the UK as I’m familiar with that the most. I feel that there’s a resurgence of punk rock in mainstream culture now, and it’s really exciting. Our friends Neck Deep are putting punk back on the radio again. We also have bands like Moose Blood who have written a record with real soul and feel to it. People are so tired nowadays of things being so phony and false. It also trickles down to the overall sound as well, in terms of production. Bands don’t sound like bands anymore, but Neil makes us sound like one. I dislike triggered drums, for example. There’s a lovely shift in the climate now where real honest bands with real good songs are coming through for the right reasons.

And how do you feel about the modern day musical climate as opposed to, say, 10 years ago? That’s when bands like My Chemical Romance were still huge. A lot has changed…
I miss those days when I was younger. Before I was in this band I was a fan of music, and I was always so disappointed with the way things were going. I don’t make much money from music, but I don’t need to because at heart I’m a punk. Music is a creative place! My Chemical Romance were one of the last few bands with big creative ideas to break through, and AFI were also an incredible band with an incredible vision. Green Day are still really impressive when you go and see them, and they’re the old guard now! Young people need to keep an eye out on what’s going on for sure. Bands should focus less on making money and more on making something that’s fun and true to themselves. There’s always been this ‘blueprint’ on how to be big. You get your pictures taken by a certain photographer and you then have this certain sound. Music lately hasn’t had much bite or edge, so what’s exciting now is that we’re having some sort of renaissance. It’s funny that you mention My Chemical Romance, because there were also bands like Taking Back Sunday, Funeral For a Friend and Brand New who people essentially latched on to. They’re the old guard right now. These days you’ve got Moose Blood revitalizing that whole emo thing, and you’ve also got Neck Deep who are basically this generation’s New Found Glory. How cool is that?! There are kids who didn’t know who New Found Glory were, and they’re now going to Neck Deep shows. I think that’s really cool, and I’m just super excited to be a part of that!

Eternity, In Your Arms comes out later this month via Roadrunner Records. Watch the video for brand new single Black Rain below.