Vocalist William Von Ghould on the band’s latest bloodthirsty era and the planning of their upcoming tour.
Creeper have never been a band to deal in half measures.
A five-piece with a flair for the dramatic and a love of all things spooky, their sold-out headline show at London’s Roundhouse last November climaxed with vocalist Will Gould – now newly christened William Von Ghould – being decapitated by a vampire who then paraded his severed head around the stage. The final show of the band’s Sex, Death & The Infinite Void album cycle, it signalled the beginning of a new era – one marked by the band’s bloodthirsty third album, Sanguivore.
Immersed in a world of vampires and named after an entity that needs to feast upon blood to survive, Sanguivore is Creeper’s darkest record to date – drawing upon the legacy and flamboyance of rock ‘n’ roll composer Jim Steinman and the twisted storytelling of classic monster movies. Concentrating the band’s over-the-top theatricality into an album that pays tribute to the gothic glam of the 80s, it’s a bold statement of intent from a band who refuse to be confined to any boxes.
Ahead of Creeper’s biggest UK tour to date, including a stop at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, we caught up with Von Ghould to discuss the band’s bombastic new chapter, the goth rock influence that dominates their third album, and what to expect from their November tour.
Creeper are a band defined by eras and evolution, and each album you’ve released so far has had a distinctly different world built around it. Thematically speaking, where did you find yourself being drawn for Sanguivore?
The hardest thing as you go along is trying to take people by surprise. Since we killed the band off at our KOKO show, everybody has been expecting the next thing.
The idea for this album was to try and go the opposite way to Sex, Death & The Infinite Void. We wanted to go much darker and explore a lot more of the aesthetic and story side of things. Weirdly enough though, it was born from quite a bright place. Our guitarist Ian Miles had come out of hospital and gone through recovery, and after that we were able to start writing this album together. So, weirdly, the darkness on this record was born from quite a light time. Interestingly, it all links in with the theme of rebirth that comes with the vampire influence on the record though. The real world often mirrors the creative world that we operate within.
We’re coming up to a year since the Roundhouse show that kickstarted this new era. Since you were decapitated by a vampire… Is there a pressure to try and top that? To deliver what people expect?
Absolutely, and it becomes harder and harder. We launched straight into the next album because last time we took a step back and stepped away for a while. Unfortunately, now people are onto us more than ever because we’ve been around a minute… People know to expect the unexpected from us, and that’s part of the allure of Creeper. We’re always trying to be one step ahead of everyone else. The best way I’ve found to do that is to have a blueprint. We have a calendar of where we are going long before we get there, so a lot of this has been planned for quite some time.
The Roundhouse show also introduced Darcia, who’s been heading up your social media since and teasing the characters of Spook and Mercy. What kind of a journey do we see those characters go on throughout the record?
The relationship between Spook and Mercy is very different to the ill-fated lovers on our other records, especially the last one which showed a doomed apocalyptic kind of romance. This one is a love that’s a little more platonic than it is romantic, even though there are romantic themes. It’s about the relationship between a mentor and a student, or a brother and a sister. It’s been an interesting dynamic to play with because so often, especially in the land of movie monsters, there’s a very powerful male figure. We were trying to riff on films that put the female in that role, like Interview With The Vampire and Let The Right One In. We were looking at vampire films and vampire lore that didn’t just retell the same stories.
You see the journey – from Mercy teaching Spook all about how to seduce and claim a victim, to the two of them having a dialogue across the songs about what it is to be human, and what it is to banish the evil inside them. That story takes place over the course of these 10 songs, and we try to use cinematic wording and lyrics to aid that process along with the music. It’s supposed to be more of a soundtrack to a film than anything else.
‘Sanguivore’ is undoubtedly Creeper’s darkest album to date, leaning into the realm of creatives like Jim Steinman and Sisters Of Mercy, as well as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Murder Ballads era. What was it that drew you to those influences?
The Jim Steinman stuff has been rooted in us from the offset, really. Often, I find myself really relating to the Meat Loaf project, in terms of how odd it is and how out of place it seemed at the time. They weren’t a classic rock ‘n’ roll band at the time were – they were so theatrical and out there. Jim Steinman had an interesting look and way of writing rock ‘n’ roll that hadn’t been seen before, and we really leaned into that stuff. Jim worked on so much great rock music back then, and the Sisters Of Mercy leanings we have on these songs are also in the more the Steinman-esque stuff.
The Nick Cave influence came naturally to us because we’re such big fans. But also, when you’re writing a rock ‘n’ roll record about murder and death, there’s just no better place to go. I remember that record being really scary and violent when I first heard it, and I’ve always been massively into the 80s and early 90s goth rock scene – we’re always looking to draw from the greats.
It’s refreshing to see Creeper embracing these influences because whilst you’ve always spoken about your love for them, people have often tried to label you as a pop-punk or emo band. Was that ever a scene you felt as though you truly belonged in?
We’ve always been a punk band, and we still have that part of us because we all come from that scene, but I always felt like we were an uncomfortable fit. We were often an odd band to put on a support tour because we don’t fit in. If you’re a pop punk band, there are billions of playlists you can go on, there are billions of tour packages that you can sync up with, and it’s the same thing if you’re in a metal band, but it’s very awkward to be on the outside of that. We’re this odd amalgamation of things.
It’s funny because for quite some time we were being forced into a box, but we never fit in very well. We’ve always been awkward, weird people, and we’re an awkward, weird band – and that’s part of the reason people are drawn to us. A lot of other people are awkward and strange. They don’t fit in these boxes at school or in their home life, so they find a place with us – which is a really special feeling.
Everyone’s always talking about a revival, which is lovely because I love some of that music, but we certainly don’t fit in there. We were misplaced when people used to try and find a home for us there, but we carried on doing our own thing. Now, three records into the band, I think it’s never been more obvious that we don’t fit one particular lane. We do our own thing, for better or worse.
As an album, Sanguivore feels like an embrace of the weirdness that has always sat at the heart of Creeper. It’s quirky, it’s fun, it keeps you guessing, and in that sense it feels like the most fully realised form this band has ever found…
I think it’s the most fully formed we’ve ever been. We’ve gotten considerably better as time has gone on, but it’s taken some teething periods. Often you don’t know how to write these things – you just have to go out and do them. In a weird way, the pandemic aided us because we had a lot of time to work out how we could perform some of this stuff live. Now, it feels like this is the most complete we’ve ever been, and this is the most concise and consistent among all our records. It’s the best bunch of songs, and that’s partly because I know more about my voice now than I did ten years ago, or even two years ago. Ian knows his strengths as a guitar player more now, we know the best moments to use Hannah [Greenwood, keys/co-vocalist]’s abilities, and we’ve got this fantastic drummer in Jake [Fogarty] now. We’ve learned a lot about making music together, including how important it is to find the right producer. This record couldn’t have been made without Tom [Dalgety].
Tom has worked with the likes of Ghost, The Damned, and The Cult in the past. What did he bring to Sanguivore that wouldn’t have been possible without his input?
It’s got his blood. This record has got more than just his fingerprints on it, it’s got his DNA. He wrote with us for some of the process, and we were all sat in a church writing for a long time. We encouraged each other. He would encourage us to go further, and we would encourage him to throw out all the spooky magic that he’s known for.
We decided to drive until the wheels fell off and paint outside the lines a little bit, and we couldn’t have done this without him. He knew how to push it to the next level, and it was an absolute dream to work with him.
The recording process feels very different for this album. You worked on Sex, Death & The Infinite Void over in LA, but album three was recorded in England. What was it about this country that leant itself to an album like Sanguivore?
It was written in two 18th century churches and recorded in Rockfield Studios where Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody. We have a rich musical heritage, and there are a huge number of amazing, important rock ‘n’ roll bands from this country. It was nice to try and soak up a bit of that on this record, and it had to be made here for several reasons.
The record sounds like a band playing in a room, which is incredibly cool. It’s hard to do something as excessive as this, with all the different layers, and still make it sound like you could be watching a band playing live. I think it sounds authentic, and that’s one of the things we do very well in the UK. We make authentic sounding things because we’re very authentic people in general. Even though this record is so rooted in outrageous fantasy and fiction, it still retains an authenticity at its core.
How has the concept and theming of this album impacted your live show? Has there been a lot of thought put into how to translate the world of Sanguivore to the stage?
One of the real challenges now is to try and work out how to play all the new songs! Not necessarily all of the Sanguivore songs, but playing things from across our three records and seeing how they all fit together. There’s a contingency of our audience that only want to hear the first EP, but there are also some people that just want to hear new things. It’s impossible to please everyone, but we’re trying to work out this ultimate setlist where we give everybody a bit of everything.
Obviously, we’re in Sanguivore season, and it’s very exciting to be working on a set for that. We’ve had to figure out how it can work, what we can bring in, and who we can take on tour with us. For this upcoming tour, we’ve got Save Face from New Jersey and The Nightmares from South Wales, who are both incredible. It feels like a very special tour we’ve got coming up in November.
Do you approach that planning process like a gig, or is it more like planning for a theatre production?
On the last record, we did a lot of costume changes and theatre on stage. However, we’ve made such a great rock ‘n’ roll record this time around that we’re trying to balance that a little more. There’s still going to be some elements of that, but on the Sex, Death & The Infinite Void cycle we were so worried about cues, costuming, and wardrobe that I wish we had more time to focus on playing.
We’re going to be debuting a lot of these songs for the first time in November, and that’s what we’re most excited about. We’ve bought a whole load of new gear, and I think the band’s going to sound the best it’s ever sounded in these bigger rooms. We have some tricks up our sleeve, but whilst the theatrics will be there, we also want to give everyone a great rock ‘n’ roll show.
Every new Creeper album cycle brings fresh surprises and unexpected twists. Whilst I know you won’t want to give too much away just yet, what can people expect from the Sanguivore era?
A really solid live show. I think we’re going to be the best we’ve ever been in terms of playing live, because whilst people like to romanticise the past, we often weren’t the best sounding band on the bill. We’ve always had ideas bigger than our abilities, but now it seems we’ve managed to balance that out.
Each record has been very different. The first one was a serious murder mystery story, the second one had all the glam rock pomp, and this one is a bloodthirsty, kitschy horror. There’s a real sense of fun in the fantasy, and that’s something that’s been contagious. We’ve seen a lot of people respond to it already, and I’m so excited to see everyone’s costumes and creativity when they come out to these shows.