THE CALLOUS HEART: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CREEPER

Neil Dowd introduces a band that you may not yet be aware of, and tells you why you should be – although it may be too late.

“To die would be an awfully big adventure” is a well-known quote from the beloved book Peter Pan. So when this quote was posted to the band Creeper’s website on the night of Halloween, it was taken as nothing more than another appreciative gesture from a band whose very essence is drenched in fantasy. However, following the occurrences at their headlining show at London’s KOKO, many fans fear that these words are something they have taken to heart, after announcing that this show would be their last before blaring a rendition of ‘Misery’ that sent a sea of deeply invested fans bursting into tears. I am aware that many of you reading this may be asking the question, “who are Creeper?”. And this article is here to answer just that.   Formed in Southampton in 2014, Creeper are an English rock band. The group is comprised of lead vocalist Will Gould, guitarists Ian Miles and Oliver Burdett, keyboardist and backing vocalist Hannah Greenwood, bassist Sean Scott and drummer Dan Bratton. As of 2018, the band have released a total of three EPs entitled Creeper, The Callous Heart and The Stranger and released their debut album Eternity, In Your Arms in March of 2015. The band’s members met and formed through their mutual involvement in the hardcore music scene revolving around their hometown, and the breakup of Will Gould and Ian Miles’ former band Our Time Down Here, a name derived from the cult film The Goonies. Musically and stylistically influenced by Alkaline Trio, AFI and The Bouncing Souls, Creeper are often categorised as ‘horror punk’. However, it is additionally noted that Gould, one of the primary writers for the band, regards glam-rock icon David Bowie as his all-time favourite musician. Despite their short time together as a band, the band have been acclaimed by critics as one of the best new rock bands since their formation, with their Kerrang! and Metal Hammer Golden Gods awards acting as evidence to the validity of these statements.

Before delving into their individualistic visual aesthetic and the theatrical intricacies of their conceptual lyrical content, it may be helpful to first look into the components and imagery of the horror punk genre in order to better understand the roots of the band’s inspiration. For anyone unfamiliar with the genre, horror punk is a musical genre that combines punk and gothic sounds with imagery and lyrical content that are inspired by or reference horror films. The Misfits, along with their founding member and former lead vocalist Glenn Danzig, are considered to be the pioneers of the genre, with Screaming Dead and The Damned being recognised as old school bands of the genre. Although the music of The Misfits may be something you’re unfamiliar with, the skeletal figure featured on the single cover for the band’s third single ‘Horror Business’ has gone on to become a recognised logo across both merchandising and popular culture, still being used on tshirts today.

The image first came into the public eye in 1979 and was inspired by a poster from the 1946 film serial The Crimson Ghost, the last film from renowned serial director William Witney. The skeletal skull became the band’s logo and mascot for the remainder of their career, due to its immense popularity across their fanbase. Looking at the image of the logo, it is clear to deduce that the design is quite simplistic in nature. However, the skeleton’s gaping mouth along with the addition of the upward looking pupils combine to create a sinister and unsettling image, as if the skeleton is directly addressing the audience.

Looking at images from photoshoots, it is clear that Creeper still aim to embody the aforementioned elements of the horror punk genre. In this image, the band can be seen dressed in completely black attire, with each member wearing either a leather or denim jacket to support their outfit. Although each member of the band is looking at the audience in this image, the stern facial expressions and body language capture the carefree and nihilistic ethos of the punk movement, particularly with frontman William Gould who can be seen crossing his arms. On the far right of the image, guitarist Ian Miles and bassist Sean Scott can be seen wearing heavy amounts of eyeliner. This beauty choice was popularised in the mid 2000s as part of the emo subculture and conveys more current stylistic influences from bands such as My Chemical Romance.

Musically, the band’s sound intertwines elements of pop punk, glam rock and posthardcore into their horror punk roots, with these styles revealing themselves through the lyrical content and musical components. Their debut album Eternity, In Your Arms is described as a concept record, following the disappearance of James Scythe, a fictional paranormal detective. Much like the aforementioned Halloween post to their website, the story conveyed on this album also draws inspiration from Peter Pan and is a continuation of the narrative started on The Callous Heart and The Stranger EPs. The Callous Heart logo is regarded by many in the alternative music scene as the modern day equivalent to the skeletal figure of The Misfits in terms of its significance in the genre. The image depicts a ghoulish skeleton wearing a hooded robe, and looking off into the distance. In background, you can see the moon and stars in white, whilst the clouds manifest from the purple frame which is in the shape of a love heart. Much like The Mistfits’ logo, The Callous Heart has become a prominent figure across the band’s merchandising and promotion, with each member having the image sewn onto the backs of their jackets. This is a trend which the band have also encouraged amongst their fanbase, who have taken to it quite well.

“Off all the shows we’ve played in the last four years, this one will remain with us for the longest because not only is it the last show of this album, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do.”

This is the announcement that shook audiences at KOKO on that night at KOKO, as Gould gave an almost word-for-word callback to David Bowie’s infamous speech at the Hammersmith Apollo, where he killed off the character Ziggy Stardust. The set ended with each member of the band hanging up their The Callous Heart embroidered jackets on the stage, marking the end of an era, and possibly the band.

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