CREEPER‘s latest album ‘Sanguivore’ is a fantastical vampire epic that combines elements of punk, musical theatre, and prog-rock, from a band that matter more than most. Check out our latest Upset cover story.
Words: Ali Shutler.
Photos: Andy Ford.
Creeper’s new record ‘Sanguivore’ is a fantastical vampire epic. More The Lost Boys than Twilight, album opener ‘Further Than Forever’ is a sprawling nine-minute track that weaves together urgent punk, musical theatre and prog-rock, while lead single ‘Cry To Heaven’ takes Creeper’s scrappy rock’n’roll swagger straight to stadiums. ‘Teenage Sacrifice’ is driven by blood and lust, ‘The Ballad Of Spook And Mercy’ is a sneering murder ballad and ‘More Than Death’ brings the thundering, violent narrative to a hopeful end. It’s all very Creeper.
“We’ve flirted with a lot of this on previous albums, but we’ve really thrown ourselves into it this time around,” says vocalist Will Gould. “I guess it’s the ultimate Creeper record.”
2020’s ‘Sex, Death & The Infinite Void’ explored extra-terrestrial romance, while 2017’s ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ was a paranormal, punk-rock opera. So that’s aliens, ghosts and now vampires – isn’t there any part of Creeper that’s tempted to try their hand at being what others would consider a serious rock band?
No, is Will’s immediate answer. “We’re just not very serious people,” he continues, surrounded by year-round Halloween decorations and fresh from changing his name to William Von Ghould for this album campaign. “I think the world needs less people who take themselves so seriously anyway,” he adds.
When Creeper started in 2014, their mission statement was to “put the thrills and feathers” back into their corner of the DIY punk world. Over the years, the band have comfortably broken out of that underground scene, but their ethos remains the same. “What we bring to the table is something larger than life, something that isn’t normal,” he says, which in turn creates the real-world magic that can be found at a Creeper show. “There’s a real sense of community that I don’t think you’d get from us wearing jeans, plaid shirts and singing about how some girl broke my heart. It’s like Comic-Con or The Rocky Horror Picture Show; people want to dress up and be a part of what we’re creating, knowing they’re surrounded by people who have similar interests and politics. It wouldn’t work any other way.
Under the makeup, there’s always a lot of heart to Creeper’s fantastical tales. ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ provided a soundtrack to community strength, and ‘Sex, Death & The Infinite Void’ explored isolation, loss and belonging. ‘Sanguivore’ is about friendships, romantic relationships and reincarnation. “It’s about having the chance of a new life,” says Will. “It’s breathing fresh life into something that’s been troubled for a while.”
“It’s the ultimate Creeper record”Will Gould
They’d always planned for the third album to be vampire-themed, but that story of life after death happened to reflect Creeper’s own. At the start of making their last record, guitarist Ian Miles was committed to a psychiatric hospital after he suffered a psychotic episode, with song ideas traded from his hospital bed. Meanwhile, the rest of the band were struggling with how to bring a new level of ambition to Creeper after the runaway success of ‘Eternity’. At times, it looked like the staged, David Bowie-inspired break-up onstage at London’s KOKO might stick.
By comparison, ‘Sanguivore’ wasn’t born out of complete agony. Songs came quickly, the band were laser-focused, and all the ambitious leaps forward felt comfortable. Creeper worked on 12 tracks in total, and ten have made the finished album. The only reason the Leonard Cohen-inspired ‘Phantom Fantasia’ and Joy Division-esque ‘Love And Pain’ didn’t make the cut was vinyl space. “We didn’t want to price people out,” says Will, who still wants both tracks to be released in the near future. “It’s funny how the last album was so bright in its aesthetic but came out of such a dark time for us, while this violent, gloomy record came from such a happy place.”
“There’s a real warmth to this album,” he continues before describing songwriting as a “compulsion” rather than a method of shared catharsis. “I was doing this long before it was my job, and if people stopped coming tomorrow, I wouldn’t stop doing it,” he explains. “I prefer writing about other things and then putting my life into it,” with characters acting as “absolute versions of particular emotions.”
“What we bring to the table is something larger than life, something that isn’t normal”Will Gould
‘Sex, Death & The Infinite Void’’s Roe reflected androgyny and apocalyptic romanticism, while the stern, violent Mercy that sits at the centre of ‘Sanguivore’ is about ruthlessness, empathy and lost humanity. Still, the narrative came second to writing songs that felt amazing.
“I always tell people that Creeper is a pantomime, but there’s a sincerity just below the surface,” says Will. “I’ve seen other bands preach how sincere they are, but that often feels like a simulation of an emotion rather than something real.”
Previous producers may have suggested Creeper tone things down, but Tom Dalgety encouraged them to go further with ‘Sanguivore’. “It led to a very creative space where we could tackle ideas head on,” rather than trying to sneak them in. “It let us make something very grand and over the top,” says Will. “With this album, there’s a lot of us being a gang again. It’s a return to form in a lot of ways, but it’s also us pushing those boundaries out further than ever before.”
Inspired by classic punk acts like The Damned, Sisters Of Mercy, Type-O Negative and playing up to their longstanding love of Jim Steinman, ‘Sanguivore’ sees Creeper embracing what makes them more odd-shaped than other bands. “There’s less of an insistence to be a part of any sort of revival.”
“We didn’t need to make it sound like a modern emo record,” continues Will, with the band stripping away the more contemporary influences that have previously been a part of their world. “We’re not trying to appease a radio audience or speak to that alternative, emo scene,” that’s been growing in popularity since Creeper first appeared. “That’s allowed us to shapeshift, break down a few of the walls we made for ourselves, and it feels like we’re really just doing our own thing now.”
There’s a grandness to ‘Sanguivore’, but there’s less hiding behind studio tricks. “It still sounds like Creeper playing in a room. That’s how we first started, and even though we’ve been through a lot over the past few years, we’ve come out the other side resembling the band we were at the very beginning. There’s a poetry to that somewhere,” says Will, describing it as a “reimagining of the past”.
“It’s a very romantic, sexy record”Will Gould
Speaking of nostalgia, next year is the ten-year anniversary of Creeper’s self-titled debut EP. “I’m sure we’ll do something,” says Will, but conversations have only just started taking place about possible birthday celebrations. “A bigger occasion will be the anniversary of ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ because that always felt like the culmination of that first chapter,” he adds. “All I know is that we never threw any of our stage props away.”
Despite all this talk of feeling comfortable and reborn, Creeper aren’t getting complacent about the future. “Since the beginning, Creeper has felt very temporary,” says Will, who’s hinted at the end of the band multiple times. “It’s lasted a lot longer than I thought it would,” he continues. “We planned the records out, but there have been moments where it felt like everything was imploding, and it could still collapse under its own weight,” he adds, aware there’s not really a blueprint for Creeper to follow. The joys of being oddities. “That keeps it exciting, though. Creeper feels special because there’s the potential that it could still end at any point. It’s made significant by its vulnerability.”
Will still hasn’t worked out exactly why Creeper resonated with people in the way that it has, chalking it up to a mix of timing, luck and perseverance. “I think people needed fantasy,” he continues. “We had this vision of making music that was a bit sillier, a bit more ambitious than what we were seeing at the time. It really captured people’s imaginations, which has been such a rewarding thing.” ‘Sanguivore’ is designed to build on what Creeper have always been trying to construct.
“It’s a very romantic, sexy record. I’d like it to be something that people can relate to on an intimate level,” he continues. “It’s got a big heart, and I want it to help create a safe place where people can come, dress how they like, be who they are and have no fear of judgement. There’s something in this tragic vampire love story that feels jubilant and victorious.” ■
Creeper’s album ‘Sanguivore’ is out 13th October. Follow Upset’s Spotify playlist here.