Despite the world seemingly ending, Creeper are back with their brand new album, 'Sex, Death & the Infinite Void'. A rich and complex record, their second outing spins a tale of a doomed romance set on America's wide-open highways, utilising all of the theatricality and drama for which frontman Will Gould & Co. have become known.
The album opens with the bombastic double-hitter of 'Hallelujah' and 'Be My End', but it wasn't always like this. "I toyed around with a few different ideas on how to start the record," Will explains. "I thought that people would notice that introducing a character and getting to a different world would be really cool.
"Originally, I had this idea about trying to start with a ballad to try and throw people off a little bit, but every time I did it, it just didn't feel quite right."
The tracks themselves actually reference the opener of their debut album, 2017's 'Eternity, in Your Arms'. "It's a conscious thing to nod to the past while pushing into the new narrative. We ended up using this excerpt of the Bible which pertains to the story and had Patricia [Vanian, who's worked with The Sisters of Mercy, The Damned and more] read it."
Speaking of their debut, Will reckons 'Sex, Death & the Infinite Void' is "quite a bold step away from what we've done before". "In fact," he says, "in the way this has been made, nothing's been similar to the last one really. It's been a completely new experience, which is probably what we were looking for at the outset."
That's not to say Will and co. have abandoned everything that's come before. "There are obviously clear hints to the past in lots of ways on every record we've done. For example, every record has a song that prefaces with the word 'black', so we have 'Black Moon' on this one. We had 'Black Rain' on the last one, and on all the EPs we have something in a similar vein. There's also obviously the use of traditional female names in the songs, so we've got 'Annabelle' on this one. Sonically and in terms of the reference points, it's a very different beast, but still has these little pieces of the past in it."
'Born Cold' was the first taste of the new record back in November 2019, but there's actually a different version of the song that made the final cut. "There's a different mix engineer on the single version because we had to get it out. We were basically running a little behind, and we wanted to try and get things done so we had the single ready. When we came to the album, we're really funny about how the record flows and things like that, and it didn't feel like that mix fit in with the other songs we had, so we had it re-mixed, so it flows in a little nicer with the other songs.
"I didn't mind the first one, I liked that the keys were up a little bit in it and it's cool to mix things up once in a while, but the new mix is more guitar-heavy, and it fits in better with the flow of the record."
'Cyanide' has also been shared in the run-up to the record with its vaudevillian pomp. As Will explains, he wanted to do a Britpop song. "I thought it was really, really cool to take a bunch of British influences and send them through an American needle to grow the sound on that one. Then the chorus pops like a bouncing soul song, it's got a big gang choir which we haven't seen used much in recent years, but the whole song is kind of a throwback to the past. We were trying to introduce Annabelle as well for the first time with the lyrics.
"We were trying to do a really exaggerated over the top version of a punk rock song with a Britpop leaning, so it would be shaggy and campy and things I felt summarise what the band's goal was, in the beginning, to put the thrill and the pomp back into rock music. It probably would have been a cool one to start the campaign with as it was, in a way, a mission statement. This record is a lot of different styles and variations; the real challenge was to try and sew it all together into a patchwork quilt where it'll fit nicely together, because there are a lot of these threads."
Will says that "the whole record is very context-driven" when asked about what he feels are the most important songs to the record's story. "It's difficult for me to pick out certain songs off the top my head because I feel like all of it is quite important to digest as a piece. It's telling a story. Like all my favourite records, it's something that we appreciate people listening to all the way through because it allows me to take the listener on the journey of the album."
Creeper recently went off on tour with Japanese rockers Babymetal, and it's safe to say they were quite happy with the reception of the new songs live. "'Annabelle' has become like a little anthem in itself, and it's our favourite one to play now. It's amazing that a song we didn't know how it was going to go down has instantly become our favourite in the set. I feel like when we finally get out of this lockdown and play it at our own gigs, that's going to be one hell of a song. Maybe even a set closer. There's a little raucous energy to it."
One song that's an even bigger departure for the band is 'Poisoned Heart', as Will reveals. "We realised we had quite a lot of fast songs in our history and a lot of really really slow songs and I thought it would be a cool experience to delve into the waypoint between those two things.
"We were looking at a lot of music when we made this record, and one of the artists we were really interested in was Roy Orbison; there are a lot of themes on his records that wore quite heavily on us. It started with Ian and me at a piano, and we started writing this thing, and I wanted to start exploring my baritone vocal. It blossomed out of nowhere and became a really beautiful part of the album, and something completely unexpected. It's gonna throw people, I know it will, but that's the fun of all this - to try and keep experimenting and making something innovative and not doing what's expected of you."
There's also a cheeky duet in the form of 'Four Years Ago', Will says. "Hannah and I have wanted to do a duet for ages. I initially wrote a duet that didn't end up working. I spent ages working on it, and it became a little bit too High School Musical the first time around. We then were playing around with it and ended up writing this sadder piece, so then Hannah and I recorded it in LA. We've actually been doing a stripped-down piano version of it recently, it's really fun. I think it works well because Hannah's got such a brilliant voice and she is so crystal clear on what she sings all the time. It's gonna make a really dramatic part of the set live, and it came out better than we hoped."
There's a boatload of symbolism used to anchor the story, as Will elaborates. "I was drawing on a lot of stuff I grew up on in Catholic school when I was a kid. Obviously, there's something of a religious nature in this entire story with a town that's dominated by the seven deadly sins, and it finds its redemption in the end. All of that stuff is extremely important. It ties the themes of the record together nicely in the way that referencing stories and mythology that we're all familiar with, for example, the history of man and the religious stuff for sure.
"There's the mechanism that exists inside of it, as well as wisdom, so there are a lot of similar themes that flow through the whole record. These things anchor the story and deliver it in a way that we're familiar with in a way perhaps not heard before. That is hugely important in building a world in someone's mind."
Of course, with everything going on in the world Creeper's spring tour was postponed, but Will can't wait to get back out on the stage. "We're excited to be back in front of our crowd to show this world we've created. Performing is all we've ever known, and it's so bizarre to have such a long gap on that. I can't wait to be back out in front of them and singing together with that sense of community that really comes from rock shows. It'll be an amazing thing to finally get back on stage and perform this music, especially after the situation we have at the moment. It's going to be madness for the band, but in terms of our little community, it's going to be cool to be together again."
Taken from the June issue of Dork. Creeper's album 'Sex, Death & The Infinite Void' is out 31st July.
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