NME’s long-ass Q&A: Creeper on Christmas tunes, Slam Dunk and American adventures

They've made a Christmas EP full of "sad, miserable Christmas songs"

Following the release of their album ‘Eternity, In Your Arms‘, Southampton’s glorious glam-punk sextet Creeper have just topped off the year with a Christmas EP (‘Christmas’) and the announcement that they’ll be playing Slam Dunk Festival at the end of May next year. NME had a chat with frontman Will Gould to talk through their festive release, Slam Dunk and how 2017 has treated them.

On your ‘Christmas’ EP you cover ‘Fairytale of New York’ – what made you choose that?

“Every year Ian and I always talk about the best Christmas songs. We’ve been speaking about it for years, even before we formed Creeper. ‘Fairytale of New York’ is without doubt the best Christmas song of all time and we always wanted to do it. When Hannah joined Creeper, we thought it’d be really fun. Every year in the past though, we’ve always been on tour around Christmas time, so never had the chance to do it. This was the first time we’ve been at home and found a window for it. All the stars aligned. I guess we chose it because it’s a classic and also more relatable to my own Christmas experience, as opposed to something like ‘Last Christmas’: everyone getting drunk and yelling abuse at each other is much more accurate, I think.”

We couldn’t help but notice you adapted the lyrics to switch the homophobic slur with ‘haggard’. When did you decide that?

“Straight away! It wasn’t something we really had to discuss very much. The song is from a different time, of course, for one, and we would never say that word in our regular vocabulary. It’s not something that’s in our vernacular, so it seemed completely unacceptable for us to use it. It was a no-brainer. I know that some purists over the original song are quite pissed off that we changed it, but I don’t really care about them.”

How about your original Xmas tune, ‘Same Time Next Year’? What are the challenges of writing a Christmas song?

“We’ve always wanted to do that as well. I know that this may sound really ridiculous, but I’ve always thought that there’s a real art to it. Everyone always says that there’s a real art to pop music – doing something simple. Sometimes, though, it’s much more complicated to write something really simple. A Christmas song is a really difficult one, because getting the balance of Christmas themes – not just focusing on opening the presents and dashing through the snow, something tacky like that. Writing a song about this time of year can be really challenging. So that’s what we were trying to do: write a song about what it’s like in the real world, rather than this fantasy version of what Christmas is like.”

What’s it about?

“Hopefully it reflects a lot more on the sadder times of the happy time of year that Christmas is supposed to be. We’re reflecting on coming back home, like everyone does – anyone who’s ever gone to university or moved elsewhere. Returning home for Christmas, and having that relationship back home is something like that. The nostalgia of seeing your old bedroom and stuff like that – it’s really odd isn’t it. So, yeah, we were trying to convey those feelings, I guess, and I’m really proud of it. It’s kind of nice I suppose, and a nostalgic song for us – it kind of sounds more similar to something we would have done when we were teenagers.”

How about ‘Blue Christmas’, what about that appealed?

That was Ian’s idea, because that’s one of his favourite Christmas songs. When Elvis Presley played that song he pulled the most ridiculous faces… it’s ridiculous! We watched it over this weekend. So yeah we chose that one – again, its another one of the older Christmas songs that has that sad tone to it as well. It was one of Ian’s favourite Christmas songs and he asked me ‘Can we do this!?’ We recorded a bulk of the EP, actually, in the same studios that Nick Cave recorded ‘Skeleton Tree’. I was super excited about that and I got to play piano and stuff. But we recorded ‘Blue Christmas’ at Ian’s house, and that’s how we wrote a lot of the Christmas songs. It was kind of fun to play around with it, and he had all these ideas, so it was kind of Ian’s baby, ‘Blue Christmas’. I think those two songs kind of work together – you know, these sad, miserable Christmas songs.”

You’ve won loads of awards this year – what’s been your highlight of 2017?

“It hasn’t really been anything to do with any of the conventional successes of the band. We did this tour back in February where we were in America and… this is a really long story, but I’ll try and summarise it for you. Our friend was tour managing us and we were on a really small budget because we had no money. He hired a party bus, like a converted old miniature school bus, that his brother owned. We borrowed a load of gear from other bands that he just went round and sorted out for us. So we were doing this tour, the drives were so long, we really hadn’t worked it out very well – we were kind of just doing it. We were sleeping in the bus every day – no bunks or anything, we were just sleeping on these two seats that faced each other at the back. We were sleeping in Walmart car parks and we got stuck in an onion farm – the bus tried to turn around and at 3am we were all trying to dig it out. The van was also full of all these weapons – we just turned up and it had all this stuff in there, a bow and arrow, a machete… So we were trying to dig the van out using a machete, we also had to wave down a tractor with a machete – he thought we were going to kill him! Then, near the shelf where Hannah was sleeping, the window smashed and a blizzard came in and broke her phone. We also had a hornet’s nest grow in there, a bunch of hornets flew in while we were playing a gig, so we had all these hornets living inside. It was just crazy.

“But stuff like that really makes you appreciate touring as the six of us and going through this experience together – it’s just absolutely ridiculous sometimes. I don’t know what other walk of life you could be in and experience those things, you know, and everyone be okay with it and just carry on. That’s the thing that I like about my life – just a series of absolutely ridiculous experiences. When we get awards, do these big tours, get amazing responses from the crowd and the record sells well – that’s all a bonus. The things I really like about the band though, are the hornets and the weapons…”

You’re playing Slam Dunk Festival next year. How has touring life this year prepared you for festival season 2018?

“I’ve always really liked Slam Dunk – I feel like it’s a miniature version of Warped Tour, and we did Warped Tour over the summer and I was alarmed at the similarities. It’s like a really really really tiny version of Warped Tour – a lot of the time we were on the road all year round, so we make friends with bands, see them for a few months and then don’t see them again for ages, because we’re all on tour. And Slam Dunk’s kind of like a place where all those people are in one room, and so it’s really exciting for us to see our friends and hang out with hem.

“That’s one side of it, the other is that all of our audience are in one place as well, so you end up having these really great shows. I don’t know what I’ve learnt this year, I think maybe I’m getting stupider every year actually, I’m forgetting things more than I seem to be learning. But I think perhaps the band has a really clear vision of what it wants to do, how it’s moving into its next skin. We’ve gone from, in the course of this year alone , Electric Ballroom to headlining O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire and playing the main stage at Download. We’ve had to learn how to be a big band quite quickly so I hope we’ve learnt some things from that – and we’ll take those things forward into next year. I’m really excited about Slam Dunk in particular because we’ve all been going to that over the years, many times in a row, and to be playing on the main stage like that, it’s super exciting.”

Who are you excited to see there?

Taking Back Sunday, Jimmy Eat World… I feel like those two bands were put on the line-up just for me. I grew up with that sort of music, you know. Taking Back Sunday I’ve been going to see since I was a kid. Jimmy Eat World I’ve actually never seen  but I’ve always been a massive fan. I’m looking forward to singing along with Taking Back Sunday and having a lovely beer.”