THE VAMPS; RECHARGED, REBORN & REVAMPED
WORDS MAISIE DANIELS – PHOTOGRAPHY EVA PENTEL
Resurfacing after a much needed break from touring the world with four albums, multiple festivals, and constant promo, today marks something very special for The Vamps as their much-anticipated album ‘Cherry Blossom’ is released tonight, at midnight.
'Cherry Blossom’ is the perfect symbolism as it is all about renewal, something this quadruple has spent time doing over the past two years. And what can you expect from 'Cherry Blossom’s' content? It’s a reflective body of work that delves headfirst into a diverse range of topics and emotions. Take mental health, liberation, aspiration, encouragement, honesty, insecurities, and finding your place of happiness. All layered with catchy riffs and melodies that have you itching for the dance floor.
Upon meeting The Vamps you are instantly drawn into their energetic and empowering natures but what stuck out the most was their incredible sense of comradery. Bradley, Connor, James, and Tristan are all diversely captivating personalities, yet they have taken different elements of themselves, and their experiences, and joined in unity to create what they hoped would be their best album yet, and they certainly haven’t disappointed.
Maisie Daniels: Hey lads how are you today, have you had a good morning so far?
Bradley Simpson: We are good! It’s been busy today as we’ve been filming for the new album that’s coming out.
M.D: Yes, huge congratulations on that! A little bird tells me that ‘Cherry Blossom’ is out very soon?
B.S : 9 days!
M.D: And you’ve had a two year break since your last album release. How important was that pause for you?
B.S: It was important in so many different ways. We needed to chill, we were so exhausted from touring, and writing, and various other things. And we didn’t take two years clean off, we toured, we released an EP but it wasn’t the same cycle of intense working. I think from a creative aspect, it’s really hard to get inspired without a bit of space and time- you need that in order to get on board with something you really believe in.
M.D: I’m guessing this is a really personal body of work for you all, such that you have written it, you’ve produced it, this is 100% you?
Tristan Evans: I feel like all of our albums are personal and have come from our own experiences but this one we have taken so much more time with, and we wanted to get the quality right, and we wanted to get everything perfect.
M.D: And how long did it take for you to do the album?
B.S: Over 2 years! The last song on the album ‘Treading Water’ was written around two and a half years ago. It wasn’t intentionally written for an album but that was the song that has probably taken the longest.
T.E: That was written around the same time as the last albums but it just wasn’t right and we hadn’t found the ‘Cherry Blossom’ sound back then. It naturally happened at such a cool time.
M.D: What’s your process when writing for an album? Does it come naturally; do you have to get into a zone?
B.S: So basically we do 2 hours of yoga…
T.E: …3 hours of palates
B.S: …16 candles on, it’s got to be 16. Laughs – it’s different every time, which is a very boring answer.
M.D: Not at all, do you find the lyrics come before the music?
B: Yeah, and for this album it all came at a similar time. It can start from noting down ideas on my phone...and especially after having 2 years off, there are loads of ideas that you scramble down and then you get the time and it’s like ‘oh, I can write this all now!’
M.D: Where did the title ‘Cherry Blossom’ come from?
B.S: We did a tour of Asia, which was amazing, and we finished in Japan at a festival called ‘Summer Sonic’, which was awesome! James and I stayed in Japan, Tristan went to Thailand and Con flew back to London, we all had a lovely time and went off and chilled separately. But all of us have had conversations about the next album and we knew we wanted to create the best one that we’ve ever made. And diving into Japanese culture a little more, I learnt about the cherry blossom flower and what it stands for. We came back and set up these Airbnb trips as a band and we got together and we spoke about it, and the more we did, it really resonated with us all individually and represented where we were at as a band and the idea of rebirth.
M.D: The nature of blossoming as well, I feel like your music has really bloomed, along with yourselves.
T.E: Thank you, we really appreciate that! We have evolved as people and musicians.
M.D: What would you say has been the high points of creating ‘Cherry Blossom’?
T.E: A high point was when we did ‘Chemicals’ because that made the vision really clear of what this album could be like. When we got it back from the producer Lost Boy in December- the perfect Christmas present- that created the DNA for the album and we used that as the default example of what is should sound like.
M.D: If this album was a dish, what would it be?
T.E: I’m going to go for a good old Sunday roast!
M.D: That’s my favourite. How come a Sunday roast?
T.E: Lots of stuffing – laughs.
Connor Ball: – It’s got a bit of everything. The emotions are the veg – the emotional supplement is your carrots.
T.E: The core is the beef, or the nut roast...
M.D: And what ties it all together…the gravy?
All: The gravy! Laughs
B.S: The gravy is like the sonnet.
T.E: I feel like the gravy is the artwork!
M.D: Due to lockdown, I hear you had to record and write a lot of the album via Zoom sessions- that must have been interesting?
B.S: It was strange. So ‘Married in Vegas’ was entirely written on Zoom, which was weird!
M.D: Yes so your single release ‘Married in Vegas’ is super upbeat and explores uplifting topics of love. I’ve heard that you undertake some big topics in the new album such as liberation, mental health, and insecurities. Can you talk me through some of these any why you wanted to explore these topics?
T.E: It’s a very dynamic album lyrically.
B.S: We were speaking about it the other day and it’s like one person. There’s a huge spectrum of emotions and feelings and it’s about trying to tick off all of those things and explore them through the album. ‘Glory Days’ is a song that touches on mental health, in a very positive way.
M.D: That’s great and in what way?
B.S: So it’s about shutting yourself off from social media and being able to be positive. And then ‘Would You’ and ‘Treading Water’ come from a very vulnerable, insecure, and human place.
M.D: I think it’s incredibly positive that you are touching on more vulnerable issues, especially with mental health. Do you guys feel like you can open up and talk with each other, as I know that a lot of males struggle due to societal stigma?
T.E: 100% we are always there for each other, when someone’s down we are there. It’s really important to us. In terms of mental health, I feel like everyone is different. You really have to find out what is good for you. For me, it’s listening to classical music and touring as well, and keeping sane because that’s what I love doing! Obviously that’s difficult now, so there’s things I have done instead like taking up yoga, or home workouts etc.
B.S: Both Connor and James have been massive advocates for male mental health and like you say, I think the biggest thing we have learnt from being in a band is that being open is the key and not bottling anything up. As a man, there’s the stigma “boys don’t cry” and it’s about breaking down that barrier and music is a great way of doing it. It’s the pathway, and an easier way to deal with heavier things.
M.D: Absolutely, and nobody should ever feel like they're trapped and can't open up about what's going on inside...
T.E: You need to speak about your feelings and if you don’t feel comfortable around your peers, to put your emotions 100% out there, then they’re not the right people for you.
M.D: And when you write and explore all these different emotions and sides to the human psyche, does it feel liberating for you?
B.S: I think so. I know all of the boys have written about it. Does it help you boys? I know it helps me…
C.B: I think sometimes when you write lyrics you don’t really think about it and it just comes out. And you look back and you think ‘oh, I wrote that because of that…’ And that’s quite nice because you didn’t realise at the time, you’re almost are having therapy with yourself and talking through it.
M.D: Your single ‘Better’ which also features on the album is incredibly uplifting, energising and a much needed reminder to strive for the best in a relationship. Is this something that you carry through with you in every element of your lives, not solely relationships?
B.S: Its set in the context of a relationship but the post chorus “I won't settle for less than best, I say it so I don't forget” is that mantra of self-belief. It doesn’t matter if it’s trying to get out of a bad point in a relationship, it could be if you’re having a shit day at work, or you are feeling a bit down and you’ve got to say to yourself “I’m not going to allow myself to sit in this feeling, I’ll push myself out of it”. And that’s what ‘Better’ is about.
M.D: Yes! It’s really empowering and we need that, especially at the moment.
T.E: It can appeal to anyone and can be to do with anything work, relationships etc. If you are in an abusive relationship, or something a little more intense, I feel like you always need to be looking outside of yourself and think ‘is this where I want to be in my life, is this the best version of myself that I want to be?’
M.D: Yes and it’s easy to forget that and sometimes you need a reminder.
B.S: You can also only give as much as you have to give. If you’re an empathetic person and you want to do your best for others, you’ve got to make sure that your tank is topped up in order to help others around you. So I think putting yourself first shouldn’t be seen as a selfish thing, it should be seen as ‘I’m doing this so I can be the best version of myself, for me and for you.’
T.E: Yes and then to be able to give more back…
M.D: You’re very wise! You are set to be touring the UK O2’s in April- May 21. How do you think it’s going to feel for both yourselfs, and your fans, after so long?
T.S: It’s going to be insane! I feel like we’ve released this small tour in the UK- we’re a touring band, that’s what we love- so as soon as we can, and it’s safe to do so, we’ll be out there! So fingers crossed our UK tour happens, if it all goes ahead then 100% to a world tour afterwards. As many places as we can!
In terms of energy, none of us can imagine how crazy it’s going to be because no one has been in the position of the world being shut out of going to any concerts. Sweating, jumping up and down with people- the unity! It’s going to be extremely special.
MD: Do you think you’ll cry?
All: Oh yeah! Laughs.
T.E: I watch films (especially during lockdown) and the actor’s will shake hands, and hug and I’ll go ‘woahhh!’ Laughs. So it’s going to feel weird seeing people actually back in a room and vibing.
M.D: When did you last perform to a live audience?
T.E: We did a Christmas charity show last year but the world tour ended in Russia and that was a really fun show!
M.D: Any funny tour stories?
T.E: Hmm, we need to note them down more…! I fell down a drain on the last tour. It was pitch black, in a field, Brad and I went for a walk outside our hotel and then yeah…straight down the sewers!
B.S: Not all of him- laughs- just the leg, which is a very large leg.
M.D: What’s the strangest thing you have asked for in your rider?
T.E: Nothing strange but as long as we have ginger, Champagne, Hennessey Gin, Corona we are good.
B.S: Not the virus!
M.D: I’m going to ask some questions and I want you to answer who you think fits best…
M.D: Biggest flirt?
C.B: Tris, has to be.
B.S: James is low-key, really funny!
M.D: Biggest trouble maker?
B.S: Err… I think we all have our moments!
M.D: The neediest?
B.S: The nudist?
M.D: Laughs. No the neediest! But who is the nudist?
B.S: I was going to say ‘guilty!’ Laughs.
M.D: What’s your favourite aspect of being in a band?
T.E: Being able to make music, whatever aspect that might be from playing it, to making it, is to see smiles and people happy. What really got me was when we went to Singapore last time- a couple of years ago we played a show, and a couple of years later we played the same show again- and we saw this couple at the front and the dude behind the girl was holding a ring, trying to hide it from her but showing it to us. So we got them on stage and he proposed to her and she said yes…
M.D: Awh- thank God she said yes!
M.D: What are your thoughts on social media?
B.S: I would say that it is a double edged sword. It’s got a lot of positives- we wouldn’t know each other if it wasn’t for it. And these boys are loooovely- Laughs. But there’s a lot of negativity too, it’s quite a dangerous place and it’s particularly hard to police.
James McVey: I would say I am what need policing! Laughs.
B.S: James’s private account…! Laughs. There are so many benefits: access to information, schooling, university, but it’s the danger of the lack of responsibility behind any words or actions. And it’s the disassociation between action and consequence. You can say ‘x y and z’ and no one’s going to come and say you’re expelled from school.
JM: I think it’s like with a lot of things, when it was invented and created there was a real excitement, an initial spark that no one knew the end of. And that’s what’s dangerous; it’s infinite regression of information on social media. Nobody knows the end goal, and with that it’s difficult to put parameters in place. There’s a lack of responsibility from social media companies to police their content because they like to pass the buck onto the users all the time but where do you draw the line? I think Tiktok is really dangerous because the crux is centered around a younger demographic, and now that platform has exploded, everyone is one there and there are still 8 year olds on there. And there’s all of this influx of harmful content and with these things, they’re like monsters that you feed, and feed and feed and before you know it, it’s out of the cage and you can never get it back in.
M.D: It’s become a serious addiction for a lot of people…
J.M: Yeah. I don’t know- other than reaching fans- in my personal life I don’t think I have a single positive of using social media. It takes things from me, opposed to giving me anything.
T.E: I think people just need to not feel pressured with following the trend of social media. Just because your friends have Tiktok it doesn’t mean you have to get an account. And I feel like one of the problems is the pressure that comes with it. Because back in the day you couldn’t compare yourself to being “the best” every day, when you’re looking at these platforms you’re looking at “the best” content and that is “the best” in the world.
B.S: But it’s not real…
T.E: Exactly, so you are always comparing yourself to the top, which is unfair and you shouldn’t feel the pressure. Focus on living your life in a way that makes you happy.
M.D: What would you say is the glue that ties you all together?
B.S: Music. And ‘Cherry Blossom’ – that shared passion to achieve. You asked what the best part to being in a band is and for me it’s the comradery that comes with it. Doing it with your brothers. It’s like when a football team goes 1-0 and the “come on boys, let’s do it!” is the glue. You have the highs and lows together…
M.D: And finally what is your favourite F-Word?
T.E: Fuck! I love that word.
J.M: Fridge. You combine Triastan’s answer and mine, it’s the dream evening!
B.S: Flanimals – it’s a very good book by Ricky Gervais!
C.B: I’ll go for Flannels! Like the shirt, not like a kitchen flannel.
B.S: Kitchen flannels are also pretty sick…
C.B: They do what they need to do!
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