“To die would be an awfully big adventure.” That’s the quote that Southampton horror punks Creeper posted on their website on Halloween – taken from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, it initially seemed just another nod to their long-storied love of fantasy. After last night’s show at Koko, however, it seems the sentiment might have been one they’ve taken to heart.
The show itself was a flamboyant return to the capital for the group. The likes of ‘Hiding With Boys’, ‘Black Rain’ and ‘Suzanne’ still stand up as some of the most accomplished British rock songs in recent memory, filtering their punk-rock blood through classical inspirations and a storyteller’s psyche, as frontman Will Gould conducts proceedings like a man half-possessed. It’s the last few minutes of the set that made the most impact, though.
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“Of all the shows we’ve played in this last four years, this one will remain with us the longest,” Gould announced before their final song, “because not only is it the last show of this album, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do” – an almost word-for-word callback to David Bowie’s speech at Hammersmith Apollo on July 3, 1973, where he killed off the character of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ on stage (though not before leaving fans fearing that Bowie’s whole career might be done and dusted).The band then launched into a rendition of ‘Misery’ that saw countless fans burst into tears, fearful of the end.
Following that, the band hung up their now near-iconic jackets, emblazoned with their Callous Heart logo, and walked off stage, backed by a black and white projection of backstage hijinks and career highlights. It was enough to leave Koko speechless. “I’m very sad – I don’t like this,” one fan told NME as she left the venue. “It can’t just end like that… I refuse to believe this is true. I was expecting a new fucking song.” As the band left the stage, a simple message was projected behind them: “Even eternity ends.”
Creeper’s debut album, ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’, was a narrative-heavy return to the glam-rock excess of late-00s emo, taking those fantastical influences and channelling them through a story of ghouls, secret cults, love and – naturally – death. It was a work that harked back to the glory days of Gould’s longtime hero, David Bowie. If tonight was the end of Creeper, it’s a blow to British rock music as a whole – the loss of a band whose horizons spread far further than their appointed scene.
Prior to the show, NME were granted a short interview with Gould, in which he was typically both forthcoming and yet tactically evasive. Without being made aware of the band’s plans, NME spoke to him about Creeper’s success, and the future, in an interview that is printed below.
There have been rumours flying around your fanbase that Creeper may be coming to an end.
“The alternative music scene seems to have this obsession with the finite. You think about every band, the last show is always rammed compared to the ones that came before. I think its only natural for people to come to that conclusion, especially when our output has been leading towards tonight. Tonight’s been in the works for like a year and a half, leading towards these things. I can’t even begin to think the first thing that linked to this. It’s difficult to say exactly what’s gonna happen. But I think that one of the things that we’ve always tried to instil with the band is that music became kind of boring – especially alternative music. Some of the things we do, some of our critics might call it melodramatic and over the top, and these are medals we wear with pride. Tonight’s no different. It’s about theatricality and doing something different. Or perhaps something people haven’t seen for a while.”
Have you thought about album two?
“No. Album two is still some way off. When it feels right to get on with that, that’s when we’ll begin it. It’s difficult, because that’s a question we’ve been asked almost as soon as the last one came out. You have your whole first few years as a band – we’ve been a band for four years now – to put together a debut album, and the second one you have far less. It’s working out what the band is to people after that which is the hard part. It’s like, if I were a listener, what would I want it to become? I wouldn’t want it to be the same thing again. My favourite bands have done that transition, and made different records. We’re in a big process, at the moment, of trying to work out what that is – and if it’s right to do another record. The record label want us to, so that’s good! And if we get to a point where it feels right, that’s good. But I can’t say for sure.”
Everything you’ve done in the last few years has been so wrapped up in ‘Eternity, in Your Arms’. How do you even think about moving on?
“It’s funny, the other day I was speaking to a therapist – it’s been a very manic year. There’s a sense of relief tonight. Which is why is everyone’s in such high spirits – I’ve noticed a shift in the climate of the band. Everyone’s got a real feeling of relief. I think that’s because the last year, year and a half, it’s been… Warped Tour, I think is the point where everything started to come apart for me. The therapist I was speaking to… it was really odd, because you have to start talking really honestly and openly about things. He was saying to me, ‘It seems like the lines between reality and the fictional aspect of the band blur sometimes’, and it does feel like that. It feels like sometimes we get so wrapped up in it, and sometimes it gets so all-consuming, that it’s difficult to be the person closest to it. That’s the heavy thing sometimes. You spend three years with The Callous Heart, where it’s been everything I’ve had to think about, and I’ve had to think about it and plan it months and years in advance… it’s really difficult to work out what your life outside of that is sometimes. Especially at this point where the album campaign is finishing. Trying to work out where you go… or what you are outside of the band – if you’re not a band guy, what are you? My life before this was very different to what it is now – I was just working in a call centre and going to gigs. It’s weird. I’m 30 years old now. Over the course of this band, I’ve kind of become a grown up. And yet I’m doing more stupid, ridiculous stuff than I’ve ever done before. It’s like living inside a bubble. That’s why thinking of a next one is so difficult. You’ve been living inside this for so long – what’s the next thing? Is it a continuation of this? It’s difficult to know.”
Do you want to return to that sense of normality?
“Sometimes I do. I’ve been cutting my hair off slowly, over the course of this album, it’s been getting shorter and shorter. I think it’s the same with a lot of people – this instinct of reinvention. Part of the reason I never got any tattoos is because I wanted the ability to transform myself and transition. I think when you’ve been wearing the same outfit for four years, like we have… you feel trapped, sometimes. I’ve noticed a shift in things, especially in Southampton. If you’re in a bar, and you’re with your girlfriend, and some guy knows you from the band, you suddenly can’t be just tired and a little bit drunk or a little bit hungover – you have to make the effort all the time. That seems like a stupid thing to complain about, I. know, but it’s just odd. We never predicted that – this was supposed to be something that was just fun. What happens when the lights go down – or, rather, the lights go up again? You walk away from it, and you can’t be that person on the stage all the time. Sometimes I feel like I have to be, because I feel like that’s what the audience deserves. The mission statement was to staple back the frills onto punk rock. But sometimes I think that that’s a lot easier to say than to do.”
Do you think you’ve done it?
“I’m really proud of what we’ve done. All you can really do… The amount of people that come and see us, or buy our records – I’m so happy and euphoric in those moments; we’re all sharing it together. Which is fucking awesome, I never imagined that. But… it’s hard to say whether… all you can judge it on is how you feel about the records. I feel that they’re great. I’m really proud of them. I don’t really listen to them, because they’re borne of really stressful periods, but I think if another band was making them, I’d be happy with them. I think that we set a good example – we try our best to. We make mistakes, like everybody else, but we try our best to be force for good. We try to do the best we can. I hope we have – it’s not my place to make that call. But if it ends tonight, I’ll certainly walk away proud of what we’ve done.”