Creeper frontman William Von Ghould takes us into the vampiric underworld of their triumphant and theatrical new album ‘Sanguivore’, out October 13, in this latest edition of The Album Story.
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“Creeper always make concept records, it has always been our way to tell little stories with a message behind it. That’s where we’ve always been and this one is no exception. Just a little bit grander…and a little more silly.”
Will Gould, or William Von Ghould as he is now known, has never been short of grand ambitions. With two concept-led albums under their belt, Creeper’s highly anticipated third full-length record ‘Sanguivore’ sees them summon the vampiric underworld for an epic, all-guns-blazing, 1980s homage that includes some of their best and most satisfying writing to date. Recorded at the legendary Rockfield studios, in the same room as Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, that spirit of operatic, hard rock is present and correct throughout.
“It’s great to make a big English rock record in the place where the most famous rock record ever was made. It was incredible to be there with that group of people, just really special for us.”
Will take us inside the making of the album, from the influence of Jim Steinman to working alongside kindred spirit Tom Dalgety for the first time.
The new world of ‘Sanguivore’ is here – time to sink your teeth in.
“We had this idea about doing a vampire record for a long time. It was always planned for the third one to be this way. After the second one swung into such a different direction, it made sense for the pendulum to swing back and go much darker in terms of aesthetic. But with the music, I wanted an overhaul.”
Exploring worlds that they love but had never touched upon before, ‘Sanguivore’s musical themes emerged from Creeper’s constant desire to never repeat themselves between albums.
“We try, each time around, sounds and ideas that we couldn’t do before” says Will. “We’re becoming better at that after ‘Sex, Death & The Infinite Void’ because that was the biggest jump. Going from three-chord punk stuff to something more delicate and intricate.”
The 2021 EP ‘American Noir’ featured unused songs from that album’s sessions. A product of the pandemic, it provided a level of fan service as they waited to see what major changes would emerge in the next era of the band. When writing sessions began, the songs that developed became an homage to the things that got them into music in the first place.
“We focused on a time period that almost feels like it had been forgotten, especially in our scene” Will explains. “It’s a throwback, a renaissance in a way.”
The influence of legendary rock songwriter Jim Steinman, known primarily for his work with Meat Loaf on ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, has always hung over the band’s songwriting to an extent. But, this influence has never been more present than on ‘Sanguivore’s opening track ‘Further Than Forever’, a sprawling rock opera jumping from a soft, ‘Tubular Bells’-style intro into an epic worthy of Meat Loaf himself.
“A lot of that stuff was intrinsically part of our band from the start and you can hear moments of it within punk songs, these grander moments” says Will. “But we always wanted to lean more into it and ‘Further Than Forever’ is almost like a real love letter to that stuff. Somewhere between Bonnie Tyler and ‘Bat Out Of Hell’.”
A mantra of ‘What Would Jim Do?’ Emerged in the studio, the band knowing that he would never be afraid to mix together so many influences at once or to try something new. The album is dedicated to Steinman in the liner notes.
On this spirit of homage, Will continues “it’s fresh in an old fashioned sense I suppose. What is old for some people is new to a new generation. It felt like nobody had done something as ambitious as a big rock opera for a minute. It almost became a little bit unfashionable again. But at this point in our career it felt really apt.”
Elsewhere, 1980s synthwave can be heard on the likes of ‘Lovers Led Astray’ and ‘Black Heaven’, channeling Depeche Mode and Gary Numan to great effect, further examples of musicians that have continually inspired Gould as an artist.
“That era was a simpler time and I think in an increasingly darker time, it is nice to have a nostalgic throwback and some sounds you haven’t heard for a while.”
Producer Tom Dalgety, known for his work with the likes of Ghost, Royal Blood and The Cult to name a few, immediately bonded with Will over their shared love of Steinman, Bonnie Tyler, Meat Loaf and Metallica.
“It was cool to be with somebody who really got all this stuff” says Will. “He was instrumental, this record wouldn’t sound at all like it did and we wouldn’t have half the songs. He really pushed us.”
A real confidence boost to have a person in the studio as embedded in this era of rock as them, Will insisted that physical store copies of the album come with a cover sticker reading ‘From The Twisted Mind Of Tom Dalgety’.
Working with the band as a co-writer as well as behind the production desk, Dalgety helped guide the band towards the classic metal sound of ‘Teenage Sacrifice’ and The Misfits-esque ‘Sacred Blasphemy’.
“He was referencing and reaching for things and they all seemed to be 1980s or very early 90s” Will confirms. “He knew exactly what to do. It was very convenient meeting someone like that. A kindred spirit.”
With two band members having departed since the release of ‘Sex, Death & The Infinite Void’, settling into their new lineup was particularly important as they embarked on this new era. Will cites the addition of drummer Jake Fogarty as a particular strength in that regard.
“Having a drummer like Jake is so extremely useful because he comes so prepared for every session. Tom said he was one of the best drummers he’d ever recorded. The ability to play with someone like that, we’re just so lucky.”
“When we first started, we had a whiteboard and wrote out the structure of the record and what we wanted the songs to sound like. But it became quite restrictive. If you couldn’t get that song right, you would have a dud on the record – you need that piece for it all to make sense.”
With the vampire-led concept already in place, Will pushed aside his usual work laptop, instead producing handwritten lyrics in notebooks.
“Sometimes I’d go away and think ‘I hate that one lyric, I really rushed that’. Then I’d go back and get a notebook and write ten different variants of the same thing and take it to the studio and put them to the band. Between me, Tom and Ian (Miles, guitarist) at least, it became quite collaborative in that way.”
‘The Ballad Of Spook And Mercy’ forms the most obvious story-led moment, a Nick Cave-esque “violent sad song”. But while the remainder of the record certainly continues to reveal the plot, it was also important to ensure that singles could be listened to outside of that context.
“I think thats something we’ve been guilty of getting wrong in the past” admits Will. “Sometimes we get so wrapped up in making the movie that we forget we are still a developing band. On the first record, all the videos fit together like a jigsaw and if you saw one of them out of context, it looked crazy. It really rewards hardcore fans but it is quite exclusionary for people who are just discovering it. It’s a barrier for getting involved. So it was definitely something we thought about more and more.”
Steinman’s influence once again stretched into the lyric writing with ‘More Than Death’ featuring the line “I’ll see you in hell, if I don’t see you before/I know that our love is cursed and I can’t find a cure”. Will originally planned to end this refrain with the phrase “and I never really sleep anymore” from ‘Bat Out Of Hell 2’s ‘It Just Won’t Quit’. However, as much as the current lines could easily fit into Meat Loaf’s grand opus, cooler heads prevailed when it came to rewrites.
“We’ve gone a step too far if we use the exact lyrics from his songs as well” Will laughs.
“Originally it was going to be called ‘European Vampires: A True Story’” Will reveals. “I thought the idea of a European vampire was really cool, just historically with Dracula, intrinsically it makes sense. I felt like it summed us up a bit – when we were in other countries we felt like the European vampires among the pop punk kids.”
But the looming prospect of Brexit soured the idea for Will who also wanted the freedom to include other world references where possible, with mentions of Corvettes and other Americana popping up in the lyrics.
‘Sanguivore’ appeared during sessions at Rockfield, immediately appealing to the band as something that sounded “grand and opulent”. Having an Italian word in the title would also help to keep that original European spirit they had sought to convey.
“It asks you to do some work as well because most people don’t know what ‘Sanguivore’ means” adds Will (the word translates roughly to mean a blood-sucking creature). “It forces you to do some homework. It involves you diving in deeper. All my favourite records do that.”
The image of a hand-drawn vampire straight out of a Renaissance painting provides something directly in opposition to the band’s previous album, both creatively and aesthetically.
“On the last record, the cover was so simple – just a logo on an old looking record sleeve” says Will. “Something you might find in the loft and put on and discover for yourself. This time around, I wanted to do the complete opposite of that and make something extremely detailed. Something that had no negative space.”
He cites classic metal records and Fleetwood Mac’s iconic ‘Rumours’ cover as inspiration – “something that already feels like you know it before you even listen to it.”
“It looks like something you might see on the wall of a museum but it is something new that feels familiar and old” he continues. “I like that because that is what the record is musically and sonically as well – something new that feels familiar. You have heard it before but can’t put your finger on where. Like a lucid dream somewhat.”
Held captive by the time restrictions of vinyl, there are at least two songs from the ‘Sanguivore’ sessions that Will hopes to release at a later date: A Leonard Cohen-style track with Hannah Greenwood on lead vocals and a second anthem entitled ‘Love And Pain’. But beyond that, does he see the band exploring this vampire-world they have created any further?
“We’ve never done more than one record in a world before. All I will say is that at the moment it feels very comfortable for us. It is the most at-home we have ever been with one of these things. And it feels like the best we have done of everything so far, it feels like the right sound.”