Creeper’s Will Gould on new band Salem: “These are spooky, silly, romantic punk rock songs”

Check out the "cute and deadly" new single 'Destroy Me' as Gould tells NME about his colourful new side project

Will Gould went through a lot to create Creeper’s ambitious second record ‘Sex, Death & The Infinite Void’. With his personal life in turmoil and working hard to trade out Creeper’s hardcore edges for something more Brit-pop influenced, he needed a release. So, teaming up with one of his best friends Matt Reynolds, the pair went into a practice room to make music without pressure or purpose beyond being a bit of fun.

A few hours later they had an EP’s worth of music and soon teamed up with Ranny Ransom (bass) and Aaron Graham (drums) to record the songs with long-term collaborator Neil Kennedy.  But with Creeper still very much Will’s main priority, those tracks went into a vault with no intention of ever being released.

With lockdown putting a stop to all of Creeper’s live plans though, Will and Matt decided to revive their band. Meet Salem: a punk rock band dealing in “satanic love songs” offering you a baby pink lining to the dark cloud that is 2020.  We hopped on the phone with Will to find out more.

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Hey Will, where did the idea of Salem come from?

Will: “Matt’s one of my best friends and one of the best guitarists I know. When I was going through some dark patches making the last Creeper record, I’d meet him every morning for coffee and we’d talk through everything that was going on. I told him I just wanted to get in a room and write some songs that are simple because Creeper was so complex, so we did. We wrote all the songs in an hour because it’s so easy. We had no grand aim, it didn’t have a name, it was just for fun and it reminded me of the way I got into music in the first place.”

Did you need a separate band away from the pressure of Creeper?

“Absolutely. Making the Creeper record was scary. That’s the way it should be but sometimes I felt out of my depth. You’re most creative when you’re just about to lose control, so that’s what I was doing but at times, I was floundering trying to work out how to get it together. I definitely needed that outlet at the time and I need it now.“

Why release it now?

“If it wasn’t for lockdown, this record wouldn’t have been released. Everyone is doing boring shit in bands at the moment, just sat on top of a washing machine with an acoustic guitar doing a live-stream and I hate it. It feels like no one can do anything fun. There are so many shitty things about this year, but isn’t it cool that the fans of the things that I make can escape into this new world? It doesn’t involve you having to crack the internet to get it, it’s just something fun at a time where things aren’t very fun.”

Creeper's Will Gould unveils new band Salem. Credit: Press
Creeper’s Will Gould unveils new band Salem. Credit: Press

So, tell us about this self-titled EP

“It’s dramatic, a bit silly and flamboyant but it’s a punk rock record. It’s a love letter to all our favourite bands who we grew up with: Strike Anywhere, Bad Religion, Alkaline Trio, Jawbreaker, Taking Back Sunday, AFI, Against Me! and The Bouncing Souls. People hear my singing and see me wearing eyeliner and think Alkaline Trio, but a lot of the time, I’m trying to be the singer from The Bouncing Souls. These are pools I’ve dipped into before. It’s a return to form in some ways, and a progression in others. They’re spooky, romantic punk rock songs, which is what I’ve always been about.”

And lyrically, what was inspiring you?

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“A lot of the songs are about my girlfriend. I sing about love being like a knife that stabs you in the heart. It’s so over the top and ridiculous and that’s why Salem is separate to Creeper. It’s serious, deadly and cute but also funny. It’s really silly and that’s the whole point.The tongue is really in the cheek for the whole thing. A lot of these songs are about falling in love, which is the really nice thing about where I am in my life right now. I’ve been through some quite traumatic things in the past few years that have changed me but right now, I’m in a real place of peace. It’s taken me a long time to get here and it’s really cheesy and gross but I’m so in love. “

And first single ‘Destroy Me’, what’s that about?

“Come on, man. ‘Bury me in bed with you/I want to hang helpless from your noose/I’ll whisper all the ways I long for you/so destroy me baby.’ There are some very explicit lines in that song and that’s the fun of it. It’s about loving someone so much that you want it to destroy you. It’s a little sexy love song. It’s masochistic, it’s a little depraved and a little dark but all the best songs are.”

Creeper
Creeper’s Will Gould. CREDIT: Dani Willgress

Creeper have some really dedicated fans. Are you worried about meeting their expectations?

“I swear to God, my enemies rate my music more than some of my fans do. I don’t want there to be any pressure for it to live up to anything I’ve done before. I want Salem to be its own thing. What I really don’t want is for people to think I’ve gone back on my creative decisions for that last Creeper album. That’s not what’s happening here. If I wanted these Salem songs to go on ‘Sex, Death & The Infinite Void’ we could have done that (‘Eyesore’ originally was for that record) but playing punk rock wouldn’t have felt right for Creeper when we wanted to be as ambitious and exciting as possible.”

So there’s a totally different mindset to Creeper?

“This band runs the opposite way to Creeper. You can’t make a Creeper record without a whiteboard because it’s so complex and intricate. With Salem, there’s no whiteboard. You’re not going to get a long concept record with this band. There’s a time and a place for massive, overblown production but for Salem, I wanted to sound like the band was playing live in front of you. There’s a raw energy to it.”

With everything that’s going on in the world, will Salem be tackling politics in their music?

“On Twitter, I’ll talk politics but I don’t think it’s what people want from me, and it’s not what I want to put out either. I need to focus on the things that are really inspiring. Imagine my dumb voice singing about political stuff. I don’t really sing from a place of anger either. With Creeper, it’s from a sorrowful or sad place, and Salem is something cute and deadly. My genre of writing is romance and sadness, and people need that just as much as they need someone singing about politics.”

What’s the end-goal and ambition for Salem?

“I can’t stress how good the musicians are in this band. The weird thing is, I’m the weak link. There are so many possibilities for what comes next. We’ve been doing bits over lockdown and it’s becoming this punk and soul thing. It’s going to progress because I can’t sit still. There’s no way I’ll be in a band that makes the same record again, because I’m incapable of doing that. It’ll progress but in a different way to what I’ve been doing with Creeper and I’m excited about that. I just want to create more.”

Million dollar question – is this the end of Creeper?

“Creeper aren’t going anywhere. I’ve built this whole life with Creeper but I don’t feel an obligation to anything. If I wanted to stop Salem tomorrow, I’d stop it. Same with Creeper. Being indebted to something isn’t healthy but I do Creeper because I still love doing it. I’m really excited to get to work on what Creeper are doing next. With the record charting so well there’s going to be a pressure on me shortly to get back into the driver’s seat for that, but it’s nice to have Salem on the side.“

Salem release their self-titled debut EP on October 23.

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