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Creeper: Misery Never Goes Out Of Style

Thursday, 18 February 2016 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Since Christmas, life has battered our hollow, dishevelled excuses for bodies. But, at this moment, anyone with their head screwed on isn’t paying attention to the outside world. Forget crippling debt, global warming and impending nuclear war for a while, because Creeper’s third EP, ‘The Stranger’, has just started streaming online.

Half an hour passes. The Creeper Cult declare it a masterpiece. One eager fan tweets: “These are songs I’ll be listening to for the rest of my life.” They are bold words, the sort that could easily be dismissed as the ravings of a youthful mind caught in the cogs of media hype. But this is Creeper we’re talking about.

This time, that hype is justified. Comprising vocalist Will Gould, guitarist Ian Miles, Dan Bratton on drums and bassist Sean Scott, with new recruits Hannah Greenwood on keys and a second guitarist in Oliver Burdett, the Southampton sextet have created a right old beast with ‘The Stranger’.

In building on the AFI x Misfits x My Chemical Romance recipe apparent on their previous two EPs, their self-titled bow and ‘The Callous Heart’, which fleshed out the idea of the titular gang, Creeper have injected their already melodramatic-to-the-point-of-starring-in-its-own-West-End-show brand of hardcore-tinged pop punk with a healthy dose of Jim Steinman. As in Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler. That guy.

“We love the huge theatrics and the over-the-top production,” Miles says. Why is he admitting this? Well, Creeper have woven Steinmanisms into the overblown, brooding opening track from ‘The Stranger’, The Secret Society. “The whole intro is basically an ode to the Callous Heart. If you sit down and read the lyrics, it’s all about the chance for everlasting youth and whatnot.

“And that’s the first time we ever sat down and realised that we’d done loads of research into Jim Steinman’s writing, wondering how to make our songs as big as we wanted them to sound. We wanted a call to arms. A big, anthemic, ‘we’re all in this together’ opener. It’s just our take on Steinman’s stuff and those big ‘80s ballads. This all sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud.”

It is ridiculous, but so is rock ‘n’ roll. You might remember ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ being cheesy and shit, but you’re wrong. It’s cheesy and brilliant. Creeper have managed to grate that cheese while still remaining unashamedly dramatic. The Callous Heart sport skeletal back patches, leather jackets and are based on the Lost Boys from Peter Pan. EP three, meanwhile, builds on the character-based narrative further, introducing the Stranger and, on the Black Mass single, a character named Madeline.

“It all exists in a world together,” Miles says, speaking with the wide-eyed excitement of a child being given the keys to a sweetshop and 17 spare sets of teeth. “The Callous Heart represents the everlasting youth of the Lost Boys, and that’s why we have the gangs of youths with the patch in all our videos. The Stranger, in this scenario, is Tick-Tock, the crocodile from Peter Pan. He’s representing everything which is the opposite of the Callous Heart.

“The Stranger is there, essentially, to plague the Callous Heart and remind them of the things they don’t really think about: growing older, losing their youth, all those things that scare you when you stay up at night. There’s loads of other stuff tied in there too, like sleep paralysis. We watched a bunch of documentaries about that and wrote that into the whole thing [the Black Mass video is a dream inside the head of Madeline]. They co-exist and we’ll introduce another character further on down the line.”

Musically and conceptually, you could compare the works of Creeper to My Chemical Romance’s sprawling, chart-bothering ‘The Black Parade’, a record that tells the tale of a terminally ill man dying of cancer. There, the story is only really available to those who dig for it. But Creeper aren’t content with one or two EPs focusing on their concept. They’ve got big plans.

“It’s all very deeply thought out,” Miles says. “We get caught up on the tiny details and writing all these little, elaborate stories, and we had to get someone to come and calm us down with our ideas. We’re supposed to be writing a whole new record. We’ve written a couple of songs, but we’ve written the story, designed all the visuals, got concept art and everything before we’ve even written all the songs. It gets a bit out of control sometimes.”

Hopefully nobody will rein them in too much, as both the band and fans have gone over the top in a style most spectacular. Creeper’s self-titled debut, released in 2014 on a limited run of 300 through Palm Reader Records, was found knocking about on eBay the other week for £100. One hundred of your Earth pounds.

Their upcoming London show, originally slated for the Barfly, sold out in less than 24 hours and was bumped up to the Underworld. That’s now sold out too. The poster advertising the shindig was drawn up by a friend of the band but, when Creeper were coming up with the concept for ‘The Callous Heart’, they initially wanted Matthew Joseph Peak, best known for those gruesome, iconic posters for the Nightmare On Elm Street series, to paint their world to life.  Obviously he cost squillions of pounds. So they didn’t get him. Still, though, the Underworld’s sold out.

“I can’t even fathom it,” says Miles of the Underworld show, a gig he originally envisioned happening at the much snugger Old Blue Last. “We have to figure out something really special as a way of saying thank you, I think. We have loads of cool ideas, like we’re bringing loads of lights, decorating the place and writing a really cool setlist.”

The Underworld show and the surrounding tour will be made even more special by, well, the songs lifted from ‘The Stranger’. Across its five tracks, the EP flexes Creeper’s sinewy muscles in a variety of ways, but it’s the last two numbers that really set the band apart from the pretenders. Misery, in particular, is an affirmation of Creeper’s individuality.

It will surely be their calling card once they slide up festival bills and start playing to audiences more acquainted with their music. It’s got one of those sun setting over the field, beer in hand, arm round your mates kind of choruses without being, like, Coldplay or something. On the other hand/claw/tentacle, the punker-than-an-infected-safety-pin closing track, Astral Projection, was born from a grim, frostbitten environment and the two most harrowing things you could imagine: teen romance and black metal.

“I essentially wrote the main bulk of that song when I was 13 years old,” Miles laughs. “It was a really sad acoustic song for an ex-girlfriend at the time. It was one of those stupid, young relationships that didn’t really mean anything, but at the time it was everything. Then I really got into black metal a couple of years ago, so I rewrote it as a black metal song. It kinda shaped from one equally sad thing to another. I was just jamming it at practice and Will said it sounded great, so we just adapted it and fed it through the Creeper machine.”

Creeper were on tour for every month of 2015, having been asked to open for Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes via Twitter, (“That just doesn’t happen every day,” Miles says in disbelief) while the Misfits’ Jerry Only separated the rockstar myth from reality when Creeper supported the punk legends back in August.

“Will and I were backstage, just having some drinks and talking to the promoter,” Miles says. “Jerry Only came up to us, looked at me and went ‘Aw, ya little scamp!’ and ruffled my hair like we were in an American teen movie. And then he goes, ‘Don’t drink and drive, kids!’ and just walks off. What is my life?”

Jerry Only’s giving them life advice, fans are going mad for them and it seems like the only way is up, astride the silhouette of a giant bat, or a motorbike, or a bat-shaped motorbike. This isn’t just a flash in the pan. This is the genuine article and there’s not even a full-length album out yet.

“Me and Will have been in a bunch of bands where we’ve written an EP, played a couple of shows and just called it quits because, well, that’s just what we do,” Miles says. “This time round, for some reason, it all happened really quickly, so we decided to not quit and actually give it a go. It’s worked out all right. The EPs are, from my point of view, us not being ready for the full-length. With bands I’ve been in in the past, there’s always been a period of finding your feet, and it takes a while to gel with the group and hit your stride. We’re ready now.”

'The Stranger' is out on February 19.

Creeper Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat February 20 2016 - WEYMOUTH Finns
Sun February 21 2016 - NEWPORT Le Pub
Mon February 22 2016 - WREXHAM Rewind
Tue February 23 2016 - EDINBURGH Mash House
Wed February 24 2016 - DUNDEE Beat Generator Live
Thu February 25 2016 - HUDDERSFIELD Parish
Fri February 26 2016 - PETERBOROUGH Met Lounge
Sat February 27 2016 - COVENTRY Kasbah
Mon February 29 2016 - WORCESTER Marrs Bar
Tue March 01 2016 - GUILDFORD Boileroom
Wed March 02 2016 - BATH Moles
Thu March 03 2016 - LONDON Underworld
Fri March 04 2016 - TUNBRIDGE WELLS Forum

Click here to compare & buy Creeper Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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