Remember that electric feeling you got while theorizing about the characters in that suspense show you used to love or reading whichever mysterious book series you preferred in elementary school? That’s exactly the feeling you get when you listen to Creeper. In its debut album Eternity in Your Arms, as well as in its EPs, this black-clad Southampton band intertwines supernatural narratives with classic themes of love, longing, and frustration, all set to rock instrumentation that begs for dramatic music videos. Want to listen to a song about a Peter Pan-inspired youth gang called The Callous Heart? Creeper’s got you covered. Want to get over a toxic ex? Creeper’s got you covered in that situation, as well. Don’t be fooled by its dark image—although Creeper is never afraid to explore nightmares and sift through old dust, it always manages to find some sort of lit-up cross amongst the misery, which is one of the things that makes its exciting tales so much fun to follow along with.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Creeper’s Will Gould (vocals) and Ian Miles (guitar) when Warped Tour rolled into Columbia, Maryland. Wearing their signature jackets with the band’s logo (a skeletal figure in the middle of a purple heart), they talked to us about everything from religious imagery to run-ins with tornadoes to the films that have inspired them. Read on to gain some insight into the minds behind one of this year’s most interesting musical concepts.
TYF: You guys have been on Warped Tour for a month now. Has anything especially funny or interesting or memorable happened so far?
Will Gould: Lots of things have happened. I feel like every time we go on tour, a number of silly things happen. We were doing karaoke with Neck Deep in Savannah upstairs [at a karaoke bar]. They’re good friends of ours. It was our day off. And downstairs, there was a drive-by shooting, so we had to hide behind the bar.
TYF: That’s so scary.
Gould: We’re from England. Those kinds of things don’t happen very often in England, you know? So we were a little bit shaken up by that. [Another time], I fell off one of those miniature motorcycles. (Laughs) I fell off one of those and grazed my face up.
Ian Miles: I saw a tornado. It was, like, a mini tornado. It was at one of the sites, and it flew through the site and sucked up two merch tents.
TYF: Oh my gosh.
Miles: They just flew up into the air, higher than this building. And then they just disappeared, and that was it. It’s crazy.
TYF: Yeah. We don’t really get tornadoes around here, so that sounds pretty scary.
Gould: Are you from around here, are you?
TYF: I am, yeah. I’ve lived here all my life. We’ve only had one tornado in my lifetime—when I was in third grade. It was a pretty momentous event.
Gould: Is there, like, a protocol for when a tornado comes through? Do you have to duck and cover, or… What do they say?
TYF: I don’t know. It was happening when I was getting out of school that day, and we didn’t have any experience with tornadoes, so they kind of just told everybody to get in their cars quickly.
Gould: If that happened in the U.K., everything would shut down.
Miles: Everyone would be terrified.
Gould: We’d shut down everything.
TYF: Now I have some questions about your image and your music. You guys have a very significant look, what with your Callous Heart logo and your color scheme. Were you aware that you wanted this to be your aesthetic from the start, or did you have to have a lot of discussions before you agreed on one common vision?
Gould: Well, me and Ian have been friends for years. We played in a band before this. Me and Ian are very like-minded; we finish each other’s sentences quite a lot. He’s basically like my brother at this point. (Laughs) So basically, the other people in the [first] band we were with weren’t so sure about the image, but we were always sure about it. And so when we broke up that band and started a new one, it was kind of me and Ian’s baby at first.
Miles: We had free reign on the whole thing, didn’t we?
Gould: Yeah, so we could do whatever we wanted. (Laughs) And we met like-minded people as well. I think [the aesthetic] comes from an artistic place. Like, I was an art student; Ian’s a photographer. So aesthetic is a really big thing for us. It comes from a very natural place. It’s kind of happened over the years, I suppose.
TYF: That’s awesome. I’ve also noticed that you guys use a lot of religious imagery, like your lit-up crosses. Is there a reason that interests you?
Gould: [The lit-up crosses] actually came from a movie called Romeo+Juliet, the Baz Luhrmann movie.
TYF: Oh! I love that movie. Yeah, I can see where you got that from.
Gould: We have a lot of movie references in our videos. A lot of Lost Boys stuff, a lot of ‘80s stuff. And the Baz Luhrmann thing. I was desperate to recreate that scene [in Romeo+Juliet]. It comes from that. Also, I’m a big X-Files fan. It’s a really nice play on skepticism of paranormal events versus Scully’s devout belief in religion, and there’s a bit of a crisis there. It comes from that, as well. There’s a lot of themes in our lyrics about belief and what you believe in and the lifestyle you choose versus what’s conventional, I suppose. And touring with a band is not a conventional lifestyle, by any sort of means. (Laughs) So it’s very deeply embedded in that. Also, I went to a Catholic primary school. And in England, you’re also brought up on religion.
Miles: Will went to a Catholic school. I… It wasn’t a Catholic school, but we were forced to sing hymns and prayers in the morning.
Gould: I think it’s like that in America a little bit, as well.
TYF: I understand that, because I just graduated from a Catholic private school.
Gould: Oh, yeah? So I had that ingrained in me from a young age, and my mother, when she was going through a divorce, lost faith completely. So I lived with her through that, and… It’s a reoccurring theme in my life, and I feel like that imagery is very bold and stark, and it means something different to every sort person who sees it. So we kind of toy with that and have fun with it.
Miles: And it’s a really important thing to question, you know? Whether you are or aren’t religious. It’s a very important thing to quiz yourself about.
Gould: I think punk rock is, you just need to question everything around you, and when I got involved in that scene, it was a natural thing. So we play with it. It’s more of a tool for us, I think.
TYF: Throughout your EPs and your album, you have several very distinct characters. You’ve got The Stranger, the members of the Callous Heart, and James Scythe. For a new fan, what do you think is the most important thing to know about the different characters?
Gould: Well, they’re all kind of based upon J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. The skeleton of the band is framed around that story, and it came from us going on tour. We’ve been touring since we were teenagers, and now we’re in our mid- to late twenties. So going on tour was really funny growing up, because our friends back home… We’d go on tour for all these months, and come back, and they’d be growing up, and buying houses, and having kids, and we were kind of stuck in this weird purgatory. So something about the Peter Pan story and going to Neverland, and when Peter returns to Wendy, she’s older, she’s grown up… It’s very similar to our lives.
Miles: Being on tour. Being on tour is going to Neverland, in a way.
Gould: It was really funny how similar to us that story was. And the messages of that story worked well with our lives. So we started using it as a storytelling device. The Callous Heart is supposed to be the gender-neutral Lost Boys. The Stranger is Tick-Tock the crocodile. Time’s always catching up on you, and it tends to keep you up at night. And the James Scythe character is Captain Hook. Captain James Hook, James Scythe. It’s all based on literature.
TYF: That’s awesome. Also, I have a question about your song “Black Rain.” In the lyrics, you ask, “You wanna know why it rains?”, and I’ve always wondered what the answer to that question is. So how would you answer it?
Gould: Different people can interpret it in lots of different ways. I think… It’s difficult with lyrics sometimes, ‘cause I don’t want to ruin what people have been interpreting before, and it’s kind of up to the listener to work these things out. But that line… It’s almost like a hypothetical question, and we’re asking the listener. And the thing about Creeper is, there’s a layer that is purely on the music, and then you can dig deeper. It’s like an onion, I suppose. It’s like you peel off one of the layers, and if you wanna go down that hole, you find out a little bit more about the band.
TYF: One of your most popular lyrics is, “Misery never goes out of style.” Since so many people are talking about it, would you guys like to elaborate on what you were thinking about when you wrote that?
Gould: Well, there was a lyric in a Jawbreaker song that was, “Survival never goes out of style,” and I’m a big Jawbreaker fan. I grew up with that. We were writing the song, and it kind of stemmed from that. I was moving house, and I found all these old love letters that I had when I was a kid, and I was pulling from that, and I was writing a song about those. And “Misery never goes out of style,” I suppose, is very literal. It’s not as it’s kind of made out to be, I suppose. Things change, and you get older, and you feel different things as you grow up, and you become a different person. I’m not the same person I was last week, or yesterday.
TYF: One of my personal favorite lyrics on the album is “Remember when we sat on bumper cars at 3 a.m. in warm weather.” Is that based on a true event?
Gould: It’s kind of based on a real thing. That lyric in particular is a true-to-life lyric that’s had a very slight adjustment. It actually happened in cold weather. (Laughs) But the summer line made sense with the narrative. A lot of the time with Creeper, we have to kind of adjust the real-life things to match the narrative, and sometimes we adjust the narrative to match the real-life things. It’s back and forward all the time. But it was in the winter. In Southampton, the pier had closed down, and the bumper cars were inactive. The person I was with and I climbed over the fence and sat in the bumper cars, and we spoke about the world for a little while in the middle of the night. That was a real-life instance. It made sense with what I was trying to talk about, I guess. (Laughs)
TYF: Two of the names that you mention in the album are Suzanne [in “Suzanne”] and Winona [in “Winona Forever”]. Is there any particular reason you chose those names?
Gould: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve always had a tendency—we have Madeline in the EPs—we’ve always had a tendency to use old-fashioned names when naming our characters. But Winona was a reference to Winona Ryder.
Miles: Heathers is a really big leaning in what we have in our aesthetic. The color scheme in Heathers. The Heathers had different colors. Winona had blue. We had purple. In our music video, we made the bedside table purple, we made everything purple.
Gould: [“Winona Forever”] has got the reference to the “Winona” tattoo on the arm. It’s what Johnny Depp had…
Miles: …When they were together.
Gould: It was in reference to that. And as far as Suzanne goes, it was the name of the character. We named her after Susanna from Girl, Interrupted. A lot of what we do comes from cinema.
TYF: Some bands say things like, “We never asked to be role models,” but you guys have spoken about how you think it’s great that you have an opportunity to be good role models. What do you think Creeper offers kids who are looking for some positivity in their lives?
Gould: Well, I think it’s very important, considering we have a platform for young people, to be a good role model. Over the years, we’ve had some very bad ones. People who were very self-centered.
Miles: Self-serving, looking to make money.
Gould: So for us, it’s about preaching a message of inclusion and creating a safe space for people. In the U.K., we post gender-neutral signs on the toilets when we do headline shows, because we feel like the world’s so very upset and very strange, but we have a platform, and we can try our very best to make a dent in it, to make a better world. So if people come to a Creeper show, they know they’re gonna be safe. It’s gonna be a safe space.
Miles: Also, I feel like there’s a message in our band—a link between us and our audience that kind of says “Nobody’s perfect,” you know? And everybody’s accepting of imperfections. I really feel that at our shows in the U.K. with the audience. I feel that everybody’s really accepting of all the other people in the audience. And that’s great. It’s like…
Gould: A bond.
Miles: Such a tight community around the band. It’s very cool.
TYF: I think one of the most interesting things you’ve done as a band is acting in that short film for Alt Press, The Back Issue.
Gould: Oh, yeah! (Laughs)
TYF: How did you guys get involved with that?
Gould: That was through our friend Cassie, who worked there. Cassie really understands. Every now and then, you meet someone who really gets the band, and she’s one of those people who really got it. And she asked us to be involved in this film project, and because it was Creeper, she wanted it to be a horror film. And we absolutely loved it. We had a really good time. And it’s fun to act and stuff, because I think we’re not very good actors, but we love the idea of acting a lot.
Miles: It was very funny, actually, because it became quite creepy. We decided to film it and then we ran out of time. So then we had to come back to the AP offices after hours. It was all shut down, and it was just us there, filming this weird little horror movie. And some of the scares, like some of the people jumping, were genuine because we were kind of freaked out in this big warehouse.
TYF: What would you say was the most fun part of filming?
Gould: I think spitballing ideas. Cassie had an idea for the script, and then she ran through it very loosely with us, but we were like, “Oh, we should do this!” And then you start rolling, and everybody says, “We’ll do this! And do this!” Working with people who are all really into creating something fun—that’s the best part for me. Watching the ideas evolve.
TYF: One of the websites associated with the band is Strange Southampton. I’ve noticed that several of the pages can’t be accessed right now. Will those be revealed later?
Gould: There are parts that have been revealed by now, and there are new things being revealed all the time. That’s a very clandestine part of the band, so it’s difficult to talk about that. But for now they won’t load.
Miles: For now they won’t load.
TYF: Acceptable answer. Have you guys ever experienced any strange, supernatural activity yourselves?
Gould: I’m a big UFO guy. For a period, I was really into it. I was reading a lot of literature, reading a lot of books.
Miles (to Gould): Dude, I remember when you had that little mark on your chest and you were convinced that you were abducted.
Gould: I was really convinced. I was really obsessed with it. I saw a light in the sky one time, and me and my girlfriend woke up. It lit the whole sky up, and we looked out the window, and it happened again. I never knew why it happened. And a couple of weeks later, I woke up with a puncture wound on my chest, and it was in the shape of a triangle. And I looked online on some forums and things about it, and it was very common for abductees. (Laughs) I had that one experience; that was it, though.
Miles: When I was younger, I remember waking up in my bedroom—I always used to share bedrooms because I was really poor and we had loads of brothers and sisters—I remember waking up and seeing, at the end of my bed, a lady in a rocking chair, just rocking. And I tried to scream to my brother because he was laying in the bed next to me, but nothing was coming out.
Gould: So you suffered from sleep psychosis.
Miles: Yeah, but that was, like, the one and only time.
Gould: The Stranger character’s kind of based on [sleep psychosis]. The song “Black Mass” is about a mass of black matter that people see at night [during sleep psychosis episodes].
TYF: Since you guys mentioned that you love films, what are your favorite films?
Gould: There are lots.
Miles: That’s really, really difficult… I like old horror movies. I’m a big fan of The Exorcist and The Shining. But then I’m a huge Studio Ghibli fan. I love Spirited Away and The Cat Returns. I love Wes Anderson. We take a lot of cues from Wes Anderson. (To Gould) And Rushmore’s one of your favorite movies.
Gould: Yup, I’ve got that. I’ve got… Obviously, we reference Romeo+Juliet by Baz Luhrmann like we said. We watched Aliens the other day. We had a movie night.
Miles: Really great.
Gould: Sci-fi and stuff is my thing. I like a lot of films. I’m a huge fan of Star Wars. I’m a huge Walt Disney fan; Walt Disney’s one of my heroes. [I like] Pixar, as well.
TYF: Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Gould: Thanks to everyone that’s come out and seen us on Warped Tour so far. It’s been really fun. We love coming to the U.S., and we’re gonna be back in the new year.