When the last chords of ‘Misery’ rang out at London’s KOKO back on 1st November 2018, no one in the crowd could’ve predicted what would happen next. But it was with a re-imagining of David Bowie’s iconic Hammersmith Apollo speech, the one that dramatically killed off Ziggy Stardust back in 1973, that Creeper’s Will Gould seemingly also called time on their tenure as a band. Then: silence.
Over a year on from that day, the frontman finds himself sat in the group’s label offices, reflecting back on their unexpected last twelve months and the surprises that they were thrown along the way. “It felt like the best way to close that first chapter was for history to repeat itself,” he explains of the final show for debut LP ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’. “And for us to do a vanishing act, but this time, in front of everyone’s eyes.”
With all trace of their presence gone from social media, and fans left up in the air as to the status of Creeper as a whole, the band found themselves free to explore an entirely new realm. “Our first record was very much a product of its environment; we recorded it at The Ranch in Southampton, with Southampton-based producers,” begins Will. “Since then, we’ve spent a lot of time in America, playing shows over there, and a lot of those influences have fed into our palette and what we were interested in writing. I thought there was no better place for a band like Creeper to go and record [than there].” And so they set off to Los Angeles to begin work on their second album. “So many of my favourite records have been made there,” he continues. “We were making music in the shadow of our heroes, so to speak.”
"I can't really stress enough how dark some of the moments have been."
— Will Gould
And yet, for all the characteristic theatre behind their choice of next steps, Creeper didn’t know the half of the real life drama that would soon unfold. “There’s quite the tale behind this record really,” Will nods. “It’s about our personal trauma becoming more of an interesting story than the actual fiction that I’d been writing all this time.” After a series of visits trying to find a producer – eventually settling on duo Xandy Barry – it was just as Will and songwriting partner Ian Miles were about to relocate that Ian's mental health took a downward turn. He was soon hospitalised, leaving the band in a state of uncertainty. Yet with encouragement from Ian's wife, Will still made the journey to LA. Unexpectedly, the new twist in their story would go on to inform the direction of the record itself.
“There was this feeling of being an eccentric Englishman, wandering the streets of Hollywood,” he laughs, “making friends and going to nightclubs on my own. I felt a bit like an alien wandering around these very American places. There are a lot of feelings of isolation, and being a little bit out of place [on the record]. I remember walking around a Walmart – which you think is just like Asda, obviously – and seeing a woman with a handgun in a holster. You think, 'Why've you brought that to buy your cornflakes?!' Suddenly, I noticed a lot of really interesting cultural differences.”
Though Ian was recovering back in the UK, the guitarist was still very much involved in the process. “Even while he was in hospital, we would write together via FaceTime,” Will explains. “His mum brought an acoustic guitar to his room and I'd have a little piano that I'd take back to my hotel room, and we'd play and chat through choruses and stuff while he was unwell.
“When you go and record over in America, and you're trying to make a very different kind of record but you've got your best friend with you, it doesn't seem quite as daunting. Suddenly when I was there on my own for a little while, I realised that while there's a sense of magic to this place, there can be something very dark and sinister about it too. The magic's kind of like black magic.”
Yet, despite the hardships of the last 12 months, Creeper are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They’ve got Album Two in the bag and Ian is back playing with the band, who recently made their live return exactly a year since their disappearance. “There was a moment where I did think we'd have to break the illusion,” Will muses. “I was thinking that we might need to put this on a real-life hiatus; I can't really stress enough how dark some of the moments have been.” Having persevered through a truly tough 2019, now a new chapter can begin. “I think we've made a really interesting record, which is really varied, really different and is definitely going to catch people off guard,” he concludes. “I think our fans are going to follow us down the rabbit hole.”
As featured in the December 2019 / January 2020 issue of DIY, out now.