After putting out missing posters for their band members and announcing their breakup to mark the start and end of the era for their debut album, Eternity, in Your Arms, all that was left for goth-punk band Creeper to do was decapitate their vocalist, which they staged last November, during a show at London’s Roundhouse.
“It comes from a place of wanting to play and be playful with our audience and making the band a larger-than-life affair,” vocalist Will Gould, who now goes by William Von Ghould, says. That mindset permeates the band’s upcoming album, Sanguivore, out in October, on Friday the 13, and is, fittingly, about vampires. (Its title refers to beings that feed on blood.) It boasts the over-the-top theatricality and the intricate world-building their fans have come to know them for.
Creeper had the vampire concept floating around for a while, but it became especially relevant following the difficult period of time surrounding the band’s second album, 2020’s Sex, Death & the Infinite Void. After having not been able to participate in all of the sessions for that album due to his mental health, guitarist Ian Miles resumed his writing role for the whole of Sanguivore.
“It was a rebirth of the band, and I think there was something really nice about being reborn as a vampire, everlasting life, and the symbolism that related to our real lives,” Gould says. “Lots of these stories weirdly mirror what's going on in our present lives, sometimes by complete accident, but lots of the time on purpose.”
Like closer “More Than Death,” a swooping piano ballad Gould wrote when he had COVID-19. “That song is about giving yourself to the light, and about being reborn and dying, letting yourself go and choosing to be a better person,” he says. “And that being based around a relationship with somebody. So it's kind of about my girlfriend, but also, there's lyrics in it about [paranormal investigator] Lorraine Warren, and it starts with the line about all the violence. But it's odd. It's a love song, but in a violent death way.”
While the album is fantastical and escapist, reality peeks through. “It's funny because they're personal songs,” Gould starts.
“Using vampirism as a vehicle to talk about it,” Miles finishes his sentence. (Gould responds by quipping that Miles could write a book with that phrase as the title. “That sounds like a book I'd read,” Gould adds.)
Sanguivore takes cues from a lot of ’70s and ’80s vampire movies, including Lost Boys, Near Dark, and Fright Night. Gould describes the “Teenage Sacrifice” music video as “riffing on a Brian De Palma-style horror film” with a nod to Carrie. “Lots of homages going on with Creeper at all times,” Gould says.
Narratively, the album centers on the friendship between two vampires: Spook and the much older, although permanently young-looking, Mercy. That dynamic reflects the relationship from Anne Rice’s novel Interview With the Vampire and its film adaptation. “They have a platonic relationship, which is something we wanted to do with this one because our main character, Spook, his sexuality is ambiguous in this,” Gould says. “It's about their friendship, really, and giving themselves over and a different type of love to what we've sung about before.”
Love and violence sit alongside each other on the album — with lots of references to blood and death. “There's a lot of sex in it as well, because Mercy seduces people and kills them and eats them,” Gould laughs. “So a lot of that going on.”
The musical influences came from a similar moment in time. Nine-minute opener “Further Than Forever,” which Gould calls “the opening credits,” draws from Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf. (Sanguivore producer Tom Dalgety, who has worked with Ghost and Royal Blood, voiced the spoken-word parts on that song.) On “Chapel Gates,” Creeper were inspired by Misfits, Ramones, and the Damned. Gould describes “The Ballad of Spook & Mercy” as “a really violent murder ballad in the vein of a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds song.” Its unexpected rippling guitar solo came from Metallica-style music Miles had been recording, with the intention of releasing online for streamers to use in their videos royalty-free.
Miles attributes Creeper’s evolving sound to the band’s rapidly shifting music tastes. “It's a very indulgent record... All the best ones are that way,” Gould says. Musically, there’s a lot of variation on Sanguivore, from the searing punk of “Sacred Blasphemy” to the dark dance flair of “Black Heaven.”
It’s Miles and Gould’s creative partnership — which predates Creeper (the duo estimate they were around 18 the first time they collaborated on music) — that brings it all together, especially since they were both involved throughout the Sanguivore process. “I think that's reflected in why it sounds so cohesive in the sound, and even though it takes left turns, there's two of us steering the ship, so it's very special for that reason,” Gould says.
Their sense of humor comes across in their jokes and back-and-forth during their responses, but also in the lyrics. “My favorite lyrics of ours have been ones where there's a setup of a punchline,” Gould explains. “But you don't know whether it's supposed to be serious or it's a joke.” He mentions the “More Than Death” line: “If I still had one, I would give my life.”
“Over the years, I've grown tired of watching people in melodic-hardcore bands pretend to be sincere all the time, and all the fun is just stripped from it… It feels like a pantomime,” he says. “I have always felt that what we do is go, ‘Hey, here's the pantomime.’ And there's some realness inside, once you get to the crux of it.”
As with all of Creeper’s work, the strength of Sanguivore comes down to the band’s commitment to the concept, whether it’s Miles’ intricate guitar solos, Gould’s vocal performances, the mosaic of influences, the aesthetic and visuals, or the imagery in the lyrics — and their ability to wink at it all. “We're telling you, ‘Hey, you're gonna come and hear some songs about vampires,’” Gould says. “Off the bat, we're in on the joke a little.”
And they want to encourage fan involvement. “We're really inviting the audience to step into the world themselves,” Gould says. “[My partner] Charlotte designed [the band’s makeup] look purposefully so you can paint your face, and you can be in this band as well. You can be part of this world.”
Miles points to the members’ roots in punk and hardcore scenes. “It was all about inclusion. It was people jumping on the stage, people stage-diving, people helping each other up when they fall down in the pit… As the shows have gotten bigger with Creeper, it's been harder to have that because there's a barrier in the way — there's physical space between us,” he says. So, they’ve had to come up with new methods of participation.
Ultimately, Creeper have enjoyed inhabiting Sanguivore, which shines through. “This record is full of wonder and excitement about music,” Gould says. “I think that's because, in the real world, outside of Sanguivore, we were really excited about these songs and exploring this world as well. They're reflective of each other.”