UK theatrical rockers Fearless Vampire Killers have been breaking ground with last year’s debut album Militia of the Lost. We sat down with Drew Woolnough to talk about Exposition: The Five Before The Flames, the world of Grandomina and their plans for the year.
By Emma Dean
What are three things people should know about Fearless Vampire Killers?
We have a mascot known as ‘Wet Panda’. Our van is called Optimiss Prime AKA ‘The Missus’. Oh yeah, and we like to run around like lunatics and make a lot of noise on stage (as you do).
What’s on the cards for 2013?
We have many, many plans for 2013 – some plans are more planned than others and some plans are still being kept hush, hush. We’re going out supporting Yashin for a few dates in March which I’m very excited about – plus on the 11th of March our new record Exposition comes out so we’ll be busy trying to flog that to people! Then in April we’re going out on a UK headline tour with Fort Hope – can’t wait for that it’s going to be amazing!
Then we’ll be working on a new record which will hopefully come out before the end of the year (but we’ll see how it goes before I promise anything), touring more, writing and releasing comic books and a whole heap of other stuff. We like to keep busy!
One review I read of you is that “if My Chemical Romance and Panic At The Disco mated, their offspring might look like Fearless Vampire Killers” – which is an amazing compliment – what do you say to stuff like that?
[Laughs] Yeah I’ve seen that one used a lot! I dig it, they’re bands that we admire and have been inspired by growing up so can’t complain there. We sometimes get described as being an MCR/Panic knock-off band but I think we’ve got a lot of other strings to our bow – it’s just those two bands had a taste for the theatrics that we’ve really developed as part of our style too.
Whilst there is a huge range of influences in your music, who would you say are your top three?
This is very difficult as between the five of us our main influences are very diverse so I’ll try to choose some that represent the band as a whole. Green Day would be probably the top influence as we grew up and started forming bands around the time of American Idiot and so much of the concept, unified image and chaotic/energetic live performance comes from trying to emulate them as kids growing up.
David Bowie, as well, is a big influence particularly in terms of his interest in taking elements from a broad range of musical styles and creating something unique yet poptastic and his chameleonic persona – we never want to sit still as a band and want to move onto new sounds, concepts and images to keep things fresh and exciting.
Queen are another touchstone as we try to channel their pomp, ridiculous, pseudo-classical Englishness whenever we can and a lot of our inspiration for massive vocal harmonies comes from them.
What initially pushed you into creating your own music?
Again everyone’s story will be different but growing up listening to a lot of music handed down by my brother – stuff like Ash and Manic Street Preachers – I tentatively started trying to write songs when I was about 13/14. The best I could come up with were dreary Muse rip-offs that just depressed whoever heard them – and not in some sort of melancholic artiste way, I mean that they plodded on for so long that they’d beat the joy out of a puppy.
It wasn’t until I got into Weezer that I really felt like I could write songs, my first song I’d written on my own was super-Weezer inspired – it even had the chord sequence to Pardon Me and the woahs from Hash Pipe. Rivers Cuomo is still a songwriter I look up to because he was singing about stuff that I could relate to – loneliness, geekiness, social awkwardness – in a way that was both funny and sad, simple yet intelligent. Of course with our Grandomina concept I can’t get away with writing songs about my Star Wars figures anymore!
You’ve toured with some impressive bands [Aiden, Black Veil Brides, Wednesday 13] – who’s taught you the most? Who was the most fun to tour with?
It’s hard to say, we’ve toured with some great bands. I think we’ve been lucky and never really toured with people we don’t get along with. Playing The Killing Is Dead Tour last October with The Dead Lay Waiting has probably been my favourite experience of touring with a band as we all got on really well and bonded over those three weeks driving around the UK together. We all had a similar love of drunk and disorderly dancing, porno funk and Breaking Bad so we kept each other entertained.
You’re on tour with Black Veil Brides at the moment – how is it going?
As I write we’ve just finished but it was an absolutely amazing experience – touring with Black Veil Brides, Chiodos and Tonight Alive was fantastic! We got to get on stage and do are hap-dash thing and then come off and watch those bands kill it every night – playing with musicians that good really makes you want to up your game!
Talk us through the recording process of ‘Militia of the Lost‘… Would you do anything differently for the next album? What are you working on at the moment?
Well for Militia of the Lost it was all self funded with zero money to our name so we had to take out loans or borrow money from family members just so we could get enough to record it. We went to Outhouse studios where we’d worked before (and since on Exposition) because we knew those guys would get the best out of us. A problem we had was that we all had to be working day jobs at the same time (to pay back loans, pay for us to live!) and could only record week days so everyone was in the studio individually working to tight deadlines. That was a shame because it would have been nice to collaborate more in the studio and work on the whole thing as a unit but it did mean I’d come into the studio hearing, say, lead guitars that Barrone had laid down that I’d never heard before and just think ‘Damn this sounds amazing!!’.
We’ve been really busy rehearsing for the K! Tour and making a video for our next single, Diamond Dust and Crimson Reign, but we’ve been working on new material and what we’ve got I’m very excited about. Laurence and I have been working closer together so that the songs feel more cohesive (before we’d write full songs separately then bring them to the band) and hopefully bring the best out of each other. Either that or we’ll drive each other mad and try to kill each other, which is still pretty damn exciting.
You are very hands on when it comes to the band’s merchandise/videos – even writing the novel ‘Ruple and Evelyn’ to go with EP In Grandomina… what made you decide to write the novel?
It was just one of those things that came about when strategising over some drinks, Laurence had been mapping out a Grandomina timeline so we could see the history of a very intricate concept and it became apparent that even a small moment in that history could make a full story so we thought – why not? Laurence has always written stories so he bashed out the first draft in a week or two then we hurriedly edited it (leaving many, many grammatical errors) and got it out in time with the EP.
It’s cool that we managed to do right from the start because we’ve always been a band who wants to do a bit of everything – hence working on these comic books, editing our own videos etc. and people seem to dig it which is super-duper!
What’s your process when it comes to merch designs and video ideas?
Generally it’s our guitarist Barrone being told ‘we need some new merch, any ideas?!’ and he’ll whip something out of his demented mind that will just blow us all away. We have this vampire-slaying owl T-shirt design that he just sketched out on the way back from a gig, in the van, in the dark and it barely changed from that initial design.
With the videos we have the concept to draw upon so it will usually relate to an idea from the story that we think is do-able with – our limited budget – then we bash out some ideas over some brews and note it down into a coherent structure, working out where narrative elements need to come in and how we need to present the idea. Then Kier will frantically scout for locations, we’ll rally the film crew (Pepper Films we’ve worked with on every video) and any friends we can coerce to act in it and run around like mad things trying to get it all shot! Shooting Bow Ties on Dead Guys was a lot of fun as we had to choreograph the flag dance-fight sequence which took AGES (even though it’s only up for about 30 seconds in the final video) and I got to feel like I was shooting some sort of lightsaber duel!
A lot of authors are heavily influenced by music in the stories they tell – what do you find comes first, the music or the story?
It’s a bit of both really the way we write is such that we write a song about something that is personal to us – but we use the world Grandomina as a setting to give it a cohesive tone and feel – and Laurence will find something in the story that the theme or idea of the song represents or will incorporate elements of what the rest of us write into concept as he writes it. I’d say because Laurence is our head storymeister lyrics that he writes always come from the story – although on Exposition for my song in particular I really wanted the story and the song to be linked more closely than they had been previously so I waited until the Vigilante story had been written and drew inspiration from it. All of the themes of the concept relate to real things that we have gone through or are going through as individuals we just chose to speak about them through these tales and metaphors.
What are some awesome up and coming bands we should be checking out?
There’s a load that we’ve been getting in to and have played with (sorry folks if I miss you) so here’s some ideas for anybody looking for banging tunes:
Ugly Love, The Dead Lay Waiting, Ashes to Angels, Dead, Evilyn, Stereo Juggernaut, Obscure Pleasures, Up, Crystal Bats.
Many thanks to Drew for taking the time to chat to us. You can find out more about the band at: http://fearlessvampirekillers.co.uk