A Little Requiem: Creeper Interviewed

Will Gould talks new beginnings, live-streams, and 'American Noir'...

This Friday marks the release of Creeper’s latest project, ‘American Noir’, a tainted exaggeration of their last album, ‘Sex, Death & the Infinite Void.’

Staggered across eight gothic rock tunes, the Southampton five-some have accumulated eight years of work into one golden project. From warped introductory statement ‘Midnight Militia’ right up to the short-but-sweet concluding track ‘Frozen Night’ Creeper take you on a flamboyant journey across harmonic keys, addictive choruses, and more.

Having recently played Download Pilot just last month, Creeper are creeping… their way back into live music and we’re just as excited as they are. This year see’s the group return to Reading and Leeds four years later and a headline tour in December. We spoke with frontman Will Gould about the making of, ‘American Noir,’ what tracks he’s most excited to play live, the recording process and more.

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Just a year since their second studio album, ‘Sex, Death & the Infinite Void,’ Creeper have gone darker as they seduce us with eight spell-binding tunes. Exploring the recording process of the EP, Will tells us: “’American Nior,’ was actually the working title for our last album, it was a term that we came up with when we were writing songs.”

He continues: “The concept of the record was based in a fictional American town, we were writing a song called ‘Paradise’ that was on our last record and our producer Xandy Barry from LA said, oh this sounds like an American noir. I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever heard, but as time went on, I tweaked the title into something else, but I loved it, and always had a fondness for American noir. When we decided to start this record – which is made up of a lot of the offcuts of the last – it made sense to bring that back out of the dark.”

Resurrecting their last storyline into a short accumulation of just eight tracks, on ‘American Nior’ Creeper are more authentic than they’ve ever been. Exploring why the theme of American noir was such an imperative turning point on this project, Will details, “a lot of the stuff that I really liked was neo-noir, we messed with a lot of that when we were recording the album before this, ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’. When we were making videos for that first record, we were trying to tick off the trademarks of a neo-noir, they normally have an investigator, or a voyeuristic moment, the classic neo-noir tropes. I’d say Blade Runner is probably my favourite neo-noir film, perhaps not the most conventional.”

Introducing the EP is cryptic opener ‘Midnight Militia’; across this interlude Creeper welcome spoken word vocals from Patricia Morrison (The Sisters Of Mercy), and as you make your way through the tracklist, the group bounce you between theatrical drops, emotive lyricism and buoyant hooks. The juxtaposition between the excitement of ‘Midnight Militia’ and the settling tones of concluding cut ‘Frozen Night’ makes for an interesting correspondence. Both interludes lay out everything Creeper has to offer on a silver platter.

Exploring the EP’s structure, Will details: “There’s three interludes on this record, the introduction, the break in the middle and the end, ‘Frozen Night’. Basically, the thing behind this, like we do with everything, is, we meticulously structure things, but with these songs it was difficult because they were all written long ago.”

He continues: “We didn’t write these songs as we went, so it often felt odd and difficult to lay them next to each other because sonically they were slightly different. The solution we came up with was to create interludes and making sure they didn’t seem jarring going into each other. One of my pet peeves with albums sometimes is how they can sound like a bunch of songs with little regard to how they flow into each other. But with these interludes, it took the listener on a journey, which is something we talk about a lot. The best way to listen to a record, is laying on your bed in the dark and playing it from start to finish. Rather than thinking of it as a collection of songs, we wanted it to be a journey and that’s why we thought it was necessary to add interludes, they fill out the sound and tie things up nicely. The last song is almost like the end credits to a film, the curtain closing.”

Most Creeper fans know about the fantasy storyline highlighted in their last album, but for those new to the parade, in ‘Sex, Death & the Infinite Void’ the group experimented with the tale of a fallen angel experiencing love for the first time. “American Noir’ picks up from where our last record left off,” details Will. “In terms of the death of our protagonist, Hannah has done a fantastic job on this record; you can really hear her starting to shine through. With every record we do you can really see her gaining confidence and I feel we’re starting to see her full potential be released and its really exciting working with her. When she sings, the songs really come to life, she was playing the role of Annabelle, who has lost her lover. It’s a copulative romance that takes this fatal turn at the last moment, and that’s where this record leaves us.”

“Dealing with themes of grief and tragedy in ‘Damned And Doomed’, I was trying to write the most romantic song I possibly could. It’s funny because I was trying to make that song the first track on the album originally. I was working on it for so long, I figured to start with a song like that it would be quite like The Rocky Horror Show, with Hannah singing rather than me. But the problem was, Patricia from The Sisters Of Mercy did a load of spoken words for us, and it made a lot more sense to use that at the time.”

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With COVID-19 putting a huge hold to live music across the majority of last year and most of 2021, Creeper saw a staggering sixteen months without live shows. But this all changed last month when the group played Download Pilot, the first UK festival since the apocalypse of COVID-19, and the game-changer for live music of the year. Playing second stage on the Saturday, Creeper’s setlist included a live debut of, ‘Midnight,’ the official single launch off ‘American Noir’. Speaking about this rare moment, Will tells us: “It was amazing, it was kind of surreal because I had this other project called Salem that did a socially distanced show. It was fun, but everyone was sat at tables, it felt like some kind of cabaret. I think being from punk rock, where you hire bands for the live performance, to grab everything apart from the live performance felt really bizarre. Then when we finally came back to it at Download Pilot, that kinetic energy with the crowd came back again and suddenly you feel it all at once – it was scary, terrifying; all the feelings.”

Not only are Creeper scheduled to make a return to Reading & Leeds this August, but the group are also hitting the road in December for a headline tour including sold out shows across Glasgow, Manchester, Brighton and Birmingham. Talking about their Reading slot, Will tells us: “We’ve been so lucky we got to do it in the past, it’s always really fun, the world is in such a strange place at the moment we can’t really work out what it’s going to be like, but the festival is apparently full capacity.”

He continues: “The last time we played main stage was just before Post Malone, it was the weirdest show, because what happened was Post Malone was booked for Reading & Leeds in the middle of the day the year prior, and in that year, he became this megastar. But they still had him booked for that afternoon slot, from what I understand, they didn’t want to move him to main stage because it would’ve meant paying him more money, and since they already had him on the bill, we had this weird scenario. Creeper played before him on the main stage, which would never happen now, he was one of the biggest acts across the whole weekend – he was lovely by the way – we got to hang out with him!”

“We played to probably the most amount of people we’ve ever played to because they were all waiting for Post Malone. It was so strange we just saw this army of bucket hats and fanny packs – the look everyone had that year – coming over the hill and I was, like omg, I hope they like theatrical rock and roll. It was definitely an odd thing but for the most part they were very respectful, I think by the end of the set some of them may even enjoyed it! They might not have told any of their cool friends… but that was the last time we played. I’m excited to come back to a more conventional slot!”

With Reading & Leeds just moments away, and their headline tour edging closer, it’s hard not to wonder what track the group are most excited to play off their latest EP. When asked, Will details: “It’s funny because we just did ‘Midnight’ the other day, I’d probably still say that one. On the Sunday just gone we did a stream on Twitch, and it’s funny because that one really seemed to resonate with people. Watching people react to that live has been amazing, I’m also hoping Hannah will do ‘Damned And Doomed’ I think that’ll be a real moment. It also means I can go grab a beer in the middle of the set, so I’m hoping she’ll agree to that one. Hopefully this will be another song that people resonate with on Friday.”

“When COVID-19 first started happening the record label put our release date for the album back for two months. I was mortified, the band had also been gone for a year before anyway. So, we gave them a version of ‘Damned And Doomed’ but without the current string and lavishness of it all. People had played it at their weddings which was really cute, but I’m hoping it will get a proper review on Friday as the original only got sent out to people who pre-ordered the album.”

Known for being quite a theatrical, art-rock band, it’s been a difficult patch for the group to go so long without live shows, and up until last Sunday, live streams hadn’t quite been on their agenda. Speaking on the matter, Will tells us: “We’ve never done a live stream before because Creeper are such a weird band. I don’t know another band that has the same requirement, a lot of bands were doing these streams and we were offered loads, but I didn’t want to do them, I felt like we would be breaking the illusion.”

He continues: “Showmanship and performing are such big parts of the band, I used to really hate it when I would see a band stream live with their guitars plugged in, on top of their washing machines. I thought, that’s not my band, my band is a fictional reality, it’s love and death, it’s kissing in acid rain, this is what we do and so I never felt quite right about streams until Twitch came about. The Twitch thing was great because it was free, so it wasn’t exclusive, it meant anyone could watch it which was a really nice thing for one. Another thing was Twitch covered all our costs, which meant we could do all our costume changes and all the other things we would normally do; we were able to. I felt that was a really cool thing, I always have to weigh these opportunities out when they come into our inbox, because they have to be right for us and it’s frustrating.”

Out this Friday, we can’t wait for you to hear this project in full, the wait is finally coming to an end, and with that being said, so are Roe and Annabelle’s narratives. “This is the last piece of that puzzle,” Will tells us, before continuing: “It’s the death of our main protagonist. This EP probably wouldn’t have come out if we weren’t in a pandemic. In some regard it’s a bonus. It’s funny, I thought it was going to be a little requiem.”

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'American Noir' EP will be released on July 30th.

Words: Laviea Thomas

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