Creeper’s Will Gould: my 5 lyrical heroes
"I think everyone is a natural creative and I am just one of them..."
Of all the new UK bands to have made a dent in 2017, Southampton’s Creeper have perhaps enjoyed the most memorable year so far.
The theatrical horror punks have been lauded throughout the music press in recent months and hit the top 20 with their debut album back in March.
Their showings at last summer's festivals were an absolute revelation, with hordes of fans packing out the arena for their first-thing-in-the-morning performance. They went and followed that up with a spell on the iconic Warped Tour.
So what is it about this band that has connected with so many fans and critics? Quite simply, the songwriting on that aforementioned debut (and the EPs that preceded it) is absolutely superb.
A cornerstone of the writing is frontman Will Gould’s impactful lyrics - the softly spoken leader has an undeniable knack for penning poetry which connects with his audience.
“I don’t know if I consider myself as a good songwriter,” he counters. “I think everyone is a natural creative and I am just one of them. For me, what constitutes being a good songwriter and lyricist isn’t necessarily what I'm good at as I'm definitely not as good as my favourite lyricists that I will mention in this interview, and I’m not as good as a lot of other people.”
Before quizzing him on his favourite all lyrical heroes, we ask Will want he thinks makes for a great lyric.
“I think it has to come from a true place and it has to be real,” he responds.
“Lyrics have to make you feel something. I saw this band called The Sidekicks. They played this song and it was the inspiration for me to write a song for Creeper. It was called 1840s Jet Fighter Pilot and it was just a guitar and this guy singing. It was like having a bolt of electricity shoot through me.
“They were playing in this room with barely anyone else there and the conviction in what he was saying and the little lines just connected with me. That’s the real magic and that is why we do this. When it is done right there is nothing like it. That night I went home and all I could thing about was that song; it changed me. Going to a music venue is like going to a church, in a way.”
Making a connection with an audience is often at the top of every songwriter’s wishlist, but Will reckons that some can place a little too much importance on making that link.
“I think if you worry too much about connecting with people then you will write bad songs. If you just write what is real and you’re true to yourself then that is the way people will connect with it. You have to just write what is real to you and hope that people connect with it. If you start trying to write songs for someone else you might as well just be a songwriter on the radio, and that stuff is of little value.
“It is very strange for me to have people connecting with our lyrics. I love it and I am very proud of it, having that connection with our fan base is the greatest thing we will ever have. But, I’m not sure that I am as deserving of it as our fans would have me believe.”
But, while Will plays down the importance of overthinking making a connection, he is under no illusions as to the almighty impact that his lyrics can have.
“All of my life I have found catharsis in other peoples’ lyrics. I have done that from a very young age. The reason I got into music was because I was sad, I was from a broken home as everyone seems to be these days and when you’re in that position a lot of people get lost in music because they find a home and a place.
“When you put a record on it becomes an escape. From a very early age music became an aid to me and I think that's why I’ve stuck with it this long and I haven’t given up.”
With all that in mind, we asked Will to pick out his five favourite lyricists of all time…
1. Leonard Cohen
“I’m starting with a classic choice. The last record he put out was called You Want It Darker. It is an absolutely amazing record, it is really beautiful.
“It has this great line in the first song and the very last song as well that goes, ‘I wish there was a treaty we could sign between your love and mine.’ That is so simple and so powerful. It's particularly powerful when it is reprised at the end of the album.
“It hits you so hard. It broke my heart the first time that I heard it. He has a history of doing that and that is just a very recent example. Leonard Cohen is arguably the greatest lyricist of all time.”
2. Nick Cave
“I know Nick Cave is someone that everyone always says in these sorts of things, and this is another very Leonard Cohen-leaning kind of singer that I have chosen here again.
“I love Lime Tree Arbour; my favourite Nick Cave lyric is probably in that song. For me, Nick Cave is one of the last great songwriters. I saw him once at the Hammersmith Apollo and it was the most incredible experience. You knew you were seeing something special right from the word go.
“It's very rare that you go and see a band and it changes your life, but for me that was one of those times. My parents played a lot of music around the house, but Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave were both people that I discovered on my own and that is one of the greatest things.
“When you start finding music for yourself that is when it starts becoming so meaningful to you and you become a real music fan. It’s when you start to understand it all.
“My dad doesn’t understand Nick Cave: it doesn’t follow a conventional structure, it’s very different and rambling I guess, it has these elements that he doesn’t get. But he does understand David Bowie….”
3. David Bowie
“I’m a huge David Bowie nut - I absolutely love David Bowie. He is up there with Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave for me.
“It’s a different type of lyricism depending on which era of David Bowie that you pick up as well and that makes it very interesting.
“The songs that I write often come from a lyric that I have and we’ll put some piano around it. Ian [Miles, guitar] will sometimes write a full song and I will put lyrics to it. It will go either way. The key to it all, I think, is honesty. If you’re not being honest with your audience then they will not care. That's true even with the layer of pantomime that we have in this band.
“To me what we do is like the ‘70s. It’s like Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler and all of the Steinman stuff. Also Fleetwood Mac is something I see in our band and I know a lot of people wouldn’t see that.
“People might just see us as a punk band. They might see us differently to how I do and that is completely fine. For me, the theatrics are me wanting to be like my influences. They come from the glam-rock world. It’s me wanting to be David Bowie.”
4. Davey Havok
“Davey Havok was a massive inspiration on me as a kid. It was dark poetry that he would write in AFI’s songs.
“The Art Of Drowning has some stuff that really made me rethink what punk-rock was. On that album there’s some very touching, very emotional lyrics but it is also very dark and very real. It didn’t ever seem like it was contrived.
“So much stuff that has come since then tried to be like AFI but seemed so tacky compared to it. AFI, in its purest form, is this amazing force of creativity, and the lyrics matched that perfectly.”
5. Dan Andriano
“I want to go somewhere different with number five. I think Dan is a great lyricist, not just in Alkaline Trio but also in his solo project, The Emergency Room, as well.
“He’s a very different lyricist to the other people that I have mentioned. Some of the lyrics on Good Mourning, I still listen to them and think, ‘Oh my God, you summed up exactly how I feel in one sentence.’ That is something that is so difficult to do.
“You can sit down and try to write something and try to sum up how you feel and then someone like Dan does it for you so effortlessly. It becomes the fabric of your life. I still hear some of his Alkaline Trio songs and think, ‘Oh my God’ and I remember where I was when I first heard it and what it meant to be when I first heard it.”