Ever polarising and fascinatingly dark, Fearless Vampire Killers are a testament to the idea of staying true to yourself, in spite of anyone else. Through being told their album wasn’t good enough and splitting with their record label, the band released their second album Unbreakable Hearts last year- confident in the knowledge their fans would love it. Seven months on and plans are already in motion for a new album. Tonight is a celebration of all things concerned with individuality, doubling up as a chance to treat your eyes to the theatrical aesthetics as well as your ears to the music. We spoke to Drew and Laurence from Fearless Vampire Killers right before the show to talk about their appearance at Download festival, their support shows earlier in the year, and what their new songs are sounding like.
BM: Tonight will be good, have you played here before?
Drew: Yeah, we’ve played the middle room, and now we’re playing the lower room… It’s slightly bigger, like half the size of the top one which is the biggest room in here. We played the middle one last year, didn’t we? That was really fun.
BM: So how’s this tour going so far?
Laurence: Yeah it’s going really well…
Drew: Pretty top notch isn’t it!
Laurence: It’s probably the best tour we’ve ever done.
Drew: Yeah, I think so. Turn out wise, set wise, just everything is clicking really.
Laurence: In terms of us enjoying it as well…
BM: You’re playing Download Festival later next month, is that making it better knowing you have that to look forward to?
Drew: It does help, but it’s kind of a different vibe I guess isn’t it… Like when you play, we almost have to remember that it’s not our audience, because you can get away with more when it’s just your audience, so it gives you a good confidence boost, but at the same time it maybe skews your expectations a little bit.
Laurence: The best shows are the shows where you play to your own audience. You don’t have to work for it, you just do it.
Drew: Yeah, Download will make you work a little bit more. Especially as it’s a bigger stage, but also earlier. So everyone is going to be just getting in, so we don’t have the benefit of people being maybe a little bit drunker and sort of being up for it. We’re starting people’s days!BM: How do you find dealing with other band’s fans if you’re a support band- if they’re there for the main act and the crowd maybe isn’t as responsive as they would be at one of your own shows?
Drew: Well I think you always try to give the same sort of show, but you can’t… you give everything but there is something that just happens when you are playing to people that are giving you a confidence boost…
Laurence: The simplest way of explaining it is when you are playing in front of people who are not your crowd, you are playing more for yourself. You focus on the musicality, you focus a lot more on your performance. Whereas when you are playing to a home crowd, everything just flows utterly freely. You don’t have to think about it at all.
Drew: It’s fun and you get like… You can let yourself get looser, but you have the confidence to keep it together as well.
Laurence: We spent three months on tour at the start of the year supporting other people, it was actually really cool because in a way…the first tour with In This Moment we got quite a bad reception at every show… not a bad reception but a muted one. In England we have quite a few of our fans there so it’s easier, but in Europe most of In This Moment’s fans had no reaction to us.
Drew: Yeah, it’s kind of a different musical crowd. It was the same sort of sub-genre I guess but kind of not. They’re more sort of the metal side…
Laurence: There were big metal head men who were literally just there to drool over Maria.
Drew: Then we’d come on and play really sort of like energetic, punky sort of metal-ly stuff and dance around like idiots.
BM: But at the same time, you’re both quite theatrical.
Laurence: But we didn’t have any of our theatricality.
Drew: Yeah, our theatricality sort of differs as well, because hers is more a stage show- it’s very rigid, whereas ours sort of flows a bit more.
Laurence: She doesn’t move, she stays in one place the whole show. It’s all about the stage, she has two dancers that dance the whole time.
Drew: The thing with theirs is that it isn’t really a rock show as such, it’s more of a theatre show. A really low-budget theatre show or something, because you’ve got the costume changes, and it’s about the dancers and the movement as much as anything.
Laurence: We always watched bits every night
Drew: Yeah, we had our few favourite songs, we watched the whole set a few times, but every night there would always be those certain songs that we made sure we saw because they were great to see live.
Laurence: Yeah, but then when we went on tour with Black Veil Brides, it was like so much easier, because their fans were so… they’re young and they’re up for a laugh. I could really get them going, the only thing you had to tell them, except like Finland or Copenhagen, Denmark… there were some really awesome towns, Hamburg were really good in Germany. But a lot of the time I still had to tell them to jump or to wave their hands or whatever. Then, when you come and do your headline tour, all you have to do is kind of… sometimes you don’t even have to do anything.
Drew: They just do it for you, it’s awesome.
Laurence: And they sing EVERY word.
Drew: It’s almost like the European support tours are a really good crash course for this tour, because part of the reason we can kind of switch off for this one, but still do hopefully really good shows is that with those tours as you said, you’re half focusing on your musicality, you’re really stressing. Then you come round to doing this tour and you’ve ingrained that in yourself and you know how to handle it. So everything becomes a bit easier and you know what works and what doesn’t, and you can start to push it a bit further as well.BM: You went to Comic Con back in March, and you have your own comic?
Laurence: We had a stall there!
Drew: Yeah, it’s sort of in development! We had some sample pages from it there… We’re hoping to get more of that out later this year. And obviously Laurence has written books as well, we had just released the second book at the time. We had done some Comic cons before that, well in advance when we were thinking of doing a comic book, but we didn’t have anything. So it was pretty easy to get a booth and stuff sorted.
Laurence: We are going to play something like that… But we can’t say what it is yet.
Drew: Are we?! I can’t remember what it is so I couldn’t say it even if we were allowed.
BM: As well as music and films, what do you find inspires you for your lyrics, and Laurence obviously your writing, as well as your shows and concepts?
Laurence: To be fair I guess, a lot of it is just… I mean for me, for example the city of York. That inspires me, just the architecture. I think obviously it’s massively films and books and stuff. We are into alternative stuff, but a lot of our songs are literally just based on real life, and they have just been turned into something else. When it came to the look, it’s just something that happened. We didn’t really decide.
Drew: If anything, it’s something that we have to think about more now, because after a while of doing the same thing, you naturally want to evolve. But when the initial thing is what you naturally gravitate towards then you have to explore a little bit more. Which is a little bit more difficult.
Laurence: Yeah, we’ve always just worn shirts and ties. It’s harder to not look like that we’re still in that place where we’re finding…
Drew: Kind of where we want to go image wise. Music is much more natural, its usually whatever we’re individually writing and then there’s always some kind of collective consciousness that we want to do with these songs. So that’s always really natural. But look wise it is a bit more difficult.
BM: So you find you’re drawn to darker things? Why do you think this holds such an appeal?
Laurence: Yeah… I don’t know. I mean, I grew up opposite a graveyard. We all live on the same road, and on one side there is all houses, and on the other side there’s just a massive cemetery. We used to have to walk through there… well you didn’t when you were younger because you were too scared!
Drew: Yeah, I didn’t walk through there in the night.
Laurence: But for school, to get to school you had to walk through there every night. I’d switch of my light and there is the gravestones looking at me.
Drew: There’s just something as well… I don’t know if it’s entirely accurate but there is a complexity to the darker side of things, and darker ideas to explore, and I guess you can even go down the route of darkness to just wallow, or rallying against darkness is equally powerful. Rallying against something, or exploring those sides is more interesting in the way of talking about being ‘happy’ and enjoying yourself.
Laurence: And none of us are very happy… I am quite kind of positive at this moment in time, being on this tour
Drew: In This Moment… in time
Laurence: In This Moment! But I don’t know what will happen when we stop touring, we’ve been on tour now for like four months.
Drew: Luckily we don’t have too much of a break before Download.
Laurence: We have been recording!
Drew: We did some recordings in a couple of sessions last year, and built up a batch of songs.
Laurence: We’ve got six songs that we kind of want to do something with, but we’ve written about 30 songs. We’re going to write more.
Drew: Yeah, we want to write a bunch more. We’ve already got some time booked in for later this year to do some recording, maybe a couple of songs or something like that. We’re kind of seeing what we can do.
Laurence: We weren’t expecting this album to do so well, that was it wasn’t it?
Drew: No, because our history is that this album almost didn’t happen, it almost didn’t come out.
BM: Whys that?
Drew: Well we signed with a bigger management company, and it was all great for a time- we went and recorded this album with Will, our friend. Then came back and we were basically told it wasn’t good enough, and no record company would put it out. We were like oh shit… and got into a position of putting it on the back burner like ‘you’ve failed, now do this’. So we started doing that for a while, then we realised this wasn’t where we wanted to be, and we ended up dissolving our contract with the management company. Our current manager was the one who put us back onto the album and was like ‘no it is good!’ He said maybe it’s not going to be a mainstream success, but the fans will enjoy it and it’s a good album, you know, put it out. So then when we had that mentality, it was just like, put it out, all the fans are going to enjoy it. So we released it song by song on a fan social network thing so it was just more of an event for them, you know to say ‘well we’re not dead!’ Then through that we got a little bit more confidence because our fans are at least enjoying it. Then when it came out it actually did get a pretty good response. I mean, not everyone loved it but most people… Most magazines and blogs and stuff really enjoyed it.
Laurence: Rock Sound didn’t like it…
Drew: But that’s really the only one, so you can’t really argue with that to be honest.
BM: When you started writing that album, how did you want it to define you? Is the process going how you thought it would and how did you want it to leave you when you are finished with the cycle?
Laurence: Well, I didn’t know what we were thinking really because at the time, we were trying to simplify our sound, and we were trying to streamline our sound.
Drew: I think there was also the element of… But I think we had the conflicting thing at the time, I think we kind of felt that we needed to make things a bit more straightforward, but also we knew we wanted the sounds to be broader than a five-piece rock band which it was limited to on the first one. So we kind of were edging towards something experimental and something structured.
Laurence: But we couldn’t really make our minds up, and I don’t know. We were hoping if we were picked up by a record label we’d be the biggest band in the world… but that’s not obviously happened. But we then went into the process where we thought we’d never release it. So what’s happening now is so much better than what could have happened, but yeah. We haven’t got a record deal or anything like that so… It’s just like, nothing will ever turn out exactly how you want it. But, its going as well as it could possibly go I mean we have no backing but a good manager, but we do everything ourselves. We’re doing pretty well, do you know what I mean?
BM: Surely that’s got to be more rewarding though?
Laurence: It is more rewarding, especially now on this tour I’m so incredibly proud of everything we have achieved since then; all these people are still coming to see us, there are new people coming to see us and we really love what we do. No matter how much ‘the man’ or the record label or record business wants us to end, we’re not doing it. We’re going to keep going, and we have done! We’re better than we have been for the past two years. We’re basically back where we were just after we finished the Kerrang! tour two years ago.
Drew: It’s kind of built more on a long term thing though isn’t it, that was an increase we got from buzz really and obviously that always dies away. So it’s encouraging to think that we’ve been slogging away and that people aren’t dropping off, people are still interested, so that’s got to count for something.BM: What are your new songs sounding like then?
Laurence: They’re very dark. They’re more real, they’re not about a concept. They are conceptual but more about real-life experiences. Less… what’s the word?
Laurence: Yeah, they’re less ambitious sort of instrumentation wise, they are just rock songs.
Drew: Well the thing we had to learn, you kind of do one album that lets you throw everything at it, then you want to do a different thing and the next challenge is stripping it away. So there’s an element of that- polishing it and not just stripping everything away. Trying to hone smaller things in so less is more. Kind of less is more is what we’re going for at the moment.
Laurence: It’s just a lot of the songs are a lot more succinct with more classic structures. The songs themselves sound as if they come from one band, whereas our last album sounds like there’s 16 bands.
Drew: We kind of like both approaches.
Laurence: That will come back, obviously the world that the songs are in is called Grandomina and there are two Grandomina albums. There will be a third one, but first we need to be… big. Because I want to have orchestras.
Drew: Yeah, the next one we don’t want to do half-arsed. Like, we had all synths as extras on this one. Next time if we want to go to that extreme again we want to do it the whole hog. Essentially our past two albums have been Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and we’ve gone away and we’re making Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, then we’re gonna come back and do The World’s End to finish the trilogy off.
BM: So this is sort of a break?
Laurence: It’s not a break though, we’re hoping to make our biggest ever album.
Drew: It’s the big break!
Laurence: It’s the break from the concept. And one day we will come back to the concept, but at the moment we need to talk about what we have been through as well and you can’t do that through metaphor- we actually want people to know. We want to talk about our deepest fears and stuff that’s real to us. More so than stuff we’ve sung about before.
BM: So that people don’t have to read into it as much?
Drew: I don’t know… No I don’t think so.
Laurence: I do. My one would. He’d be like ‘you’ve released two books, played Brixton Academy and toured Europe and America.’ That’s pretty cool.
Drew: Yeah I guess that’s true, anybody would actually yeah.
Laurence: I’d be like ‘fucking hell!’
Drew: I think if I wanted to talk to me though I’d be like ‘ah okay nah, still a wiener.’
Laurence: I’ve got really low self-esteem, if I were to meet myself… Which that should make me feel good about myself shouldn’t it? That’s what my Dad always says- I’m moaning that only 100 people came to the show in Oxford or something, and he’s like ‘yeah but when you were 13, if you had gone and played a show in Oxford, to 100 people who knew every single word, that would be like the biggest deal for you.’ And yeah, it would. But now you just want to be the next best thing.
BM: I guess when it comes down to it though you’re still getting to do what you love.
Drew: Yeah exactly!