“The core is friendship. Everything else around that is a bonus.”
There are lots of bands who break up before you know it, but British pop-rock group The Vamps are not one of them. Having played to over two million people throughout their career, generating over six billion streams and creating their own festival, 2022 marks 10 years of The Vamps as a band. To celebrate, the band – Brad Simpson on lead vocals/guitar, James Brittain-McVey on lead guitar and backing vocals, Connor Ball on bass and backing vocals and Tristan Evans on drums and backing vocals – is currently on a nationwide The Greatest Hits tour, playing London’s O2 Arena on November 27. In addition to the tour, they’ve released a CD, ‘Ten Years Of The Vamps’ and created a 68-page fanzine in collaboration with their fans, which revolves around their favourite moments together.
LDN treated The Vamps to a trip down memory lane over their decade-spanning career…
Words: Floor Jansen and Lieke Gaudes
Your first YouTube videos were covers of artists like Bruno Mars, Conor Maynard and Taylor Swift, and 10 years down the line you’ve worked them all. Did you ever expect that?
Brad: “It is crazy to imagine that it all worked out this way. It feels like a dream.”
Your debut album, ‘Meet The Vamps’, featured five singles that all made the UK Top 10. It must have been insane going from uploading videos to having five hits on your first album?
Tristan: “It was really cool. The whole process from those two parts of our lives; making the album, finding the right label, putting the right team together, that was really, really fun for us. We really enjoyed it. We took two years from the first time we started to cover songs to releasing original music. It was two years in the making. So that was really fun for us, we were enjoying that.”
You created your own record label, Steady Records, and signed on New Hope Club. How does it feel to have helped a band that started out the same way as you did, especially because their first cover was one of your songs?
Brad: “It’s very rewarding. I think that music can sometimes be quite a dodgy world, same as any industry. I think if people can help each other out, no one loses in that situation. We get to hopefully nurture some artists as they’re going to go on to do some amazing things in the world, which it looks like New Hope Club is doing. For us, it’s very fulfilling to pass on the lessons that we’ve learned. We’ve had people who’ve been great to our career. Taylor Swift, for example. It’s just having those people who are a bit of a guiding light, showing the best things to do and what not to do. It’s a lot of fun. Hopefully, we’ll continue to do that.”
Is there any advice that you’ve given them specifically, to help them?
Tristan: “Yeah. Any of their skincare routines belongs to us. We gave them that. Apart from that? No, I think they’ve kind of killed it themselves. They found their own identity which is really sick. We’re really excited about their future. You know, they’ve got some really cool stuff coming up.”
The ‘Night’ edition of ‘Night & Day’ was your first Number One album and also the first album you self-produced. Why did you make that decision?
Brad: “We did produce some on the first album, we produced on all the albums to be fair. But I think it became more as we went on. it’s not necessarily been a conscious decision. It’s just what we’ve always done. We’ve already started from the covers, that were solely our production, and then moving throughout our lives, we’ve all just kind of pitched in. It kind of unifies us as a band because there’s no other people throwing stuff in the pot on those songs and it’s just really fun to do.”
Do you feel like it makes the songs feel more personal if you’ve worked more on the album yourself?
James: “I think so. We’ve been writing songs since we were, I don’t know, we were 11 and 12. We probably started producing from the age of 14, 15. So I think we’ve always been really invested in learning as much of that as possible. And it’s just been brilliant. Like, especially in the last five, six years. It is important, especially in like this day and age, where the production is as important in many ways as the writing. It’s really important for us to be on top of all of that. And it’s nice to see the progression of the production from where back in back in the day when I first met Brad, we were recording songs without using like metronomes and stuff. So it’s funny to see that evolution of our production, so yeah, it’s been really good.”
In 2019 you released the ‘Missing You’ EP, featuring ‘Missing You’ the song. One of our favourite moments of your career was seeing you perform that song in a sold-out O2 arena with the Voices For Missing choir. Do you guys have a specific moment from the last 10 years where you thought; nothing is gonna top this?
Tristan: “That was a good moment, actually.”
James: “The first time I used the Japanese toilet in Japan blew me away. I was like, you know, I’ve made it, man.”
Brad: “James took a lot to get to that point because that was a big push for him. In the literal sense.”
James: “We sold out a UK arena tour. And I was like, that’s really good. But then as soon as I got on that toilet… I think there’s been a few moments like the first number one album for us, was really cool because very often people, if they’re going to get a number one album, it is likely to be their first album. But for us to get number one albums with our third and fifth album was kind of crazy. That is definitely the kind of stuff where we go like, wow, this is really cool.”
Your latest album, ‘Cherry Blossom’, was the first that you had full creative control over. How different was the process of creating this in comparison to your previous albums?
Tristan: “It was interesting, because we started normally and then Corona hit.”
Brad: “Yeah, we were doing it over Zoom, instead of in studios, but at the same time, I think there’s a reason for certain things that happen. Maybe that album wouldn’t have been what it is now if we weren’t making it over Zoom. It made us miss each other in a certain way which made us sort of try and recapture the feeling that you’ve missed because you’re all apart. We wanted to really just make an album that we were proud of and that we loved and I think that’s why it going number one meant more to us now than if the first one did go number one. Like James said, it’s further down in our career and we put so much heart and soul into that fifth one. It pulled us out of a really shitty time during Corona so yeah, it’s a very special album.”
To celebrate your 10 year anniversary, you’re embarking on The Greatest Hits Tour. How are you putting the setlist together, and will there be fan involvement?
Tristan: “100 per cent there’s going to be fan involvement. We’re actually thinking about it now. It’s very fun and it’s going to be a tour like no other that we’ve done so it’s going to be very cool.”
Tristan: “We may do some polls or something to see what people want to hear. Because especially with it being like the greatest hits, there are a lot of songs to choose from. The songs that we perhaps think are the ones that people want to hear may be different. When we played with Taylor, years ago, she had a thing on her setlist where across the five nights there was a moment where she would she’d do one of five songs, it would rotate, we might do something like that.”
On this tour you’ll be playing arenas again, but how did it feel seeing your fanbase grow to the point where you could fill arenas [and the O2 several times] with people who love your music?
Brad: “It’s really surreal. I think it’s a dream… you hope that you can live sustained by music and by doing something that you love, and then getting to do it in a packed O2 was just ridiculous. And again, the first five years felt like just a blur. Because you’re in the thick of it. As time goes on, we’ve just kind of got more and more gratitude for our situation. And being able to play in an arena is ridiculous. But in our heads, we just go right… How do we put on the best show that we can possibly put on because this is about giving back to the support that we’ve had over 10 years.”
You played the O2 Arena five times, the first band to ever do that for five consecutive years. Do you remember your smallest gigs?
Tristan: “We played to Brad’s parents once with the rehearsal set-up. So that was two people. And then the garage at my parents’ house, that was the first one for the four of us as The Vamps.”
James: “I guess the busking video that’s on YouTube, there were probably like 15 people there so that might’ve been the smallest.”
For the past 10 years, your music has played a massive role in your fans’ lives. What do you think makes your relationship with your fans so unique?
Tristan: “They’ve always been so kind and very respectful of our space and it’s really nice.”
Brad: “Around the time that we were coming up YouTube really was a base for us. Using that, rather than potentially a platform that might give you a media eye straight away, was really a steady bill. We were always slowly building. It’s about bringing people into something that felt like a community and felt like they were part of something. So that if you’re a fan of the band, you’re part of a big community of people. And it’s very accepting. And I think hopefully, that has been the thing that has kept the relationship really strong between us because 10 years in a band is a very big milestone, and we’re best friends. So that’s a huge reason why we got here, but a big part of it as well is because of the continued support of the fans. So yeah, our fans are great.”
To accompany the ‘Ten Years Of The Vamps’ CD, you released a fanzine and you asked your fans to submit their favourite memories of you. Did you come across any that you didn’t remember and were like wow, this is insane?
Connor: “The whole 10 years have been a blur anyway. So reading the stories really made us look back and like ‘oh my god, we actually did that’. I think COVID was like a great reflection period. It was completely awful, but everyone staying at home made us think that we had to reflect on everything. So looking back on it, we actually had a lot of photos and other stuff from back in the day to look back on and that was definitely amazing.”
James: “There’s a picture that was taken I think on our first ever tour and I’m holding this like girl, she was four years old, a now she’s like 13 or something and still a fan. Stuff like that is crazy.”
Speaking of crazy experiences – pick your favourite project: The Simlish version of ‘Wake Up’, the censored performance of ‘Can We Dance’ on ‘Jessie’, your ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ cover for ‘Kung Fu Panda’.
Brad: “I do like the ‘I do a lot of stuff when I’m thinking baby’ lyric we had to perform on ‘Jesse’!”
It was very funny because there are some quite other innuendo in lyrics that you were allowed to sing, but you weren’t allowed to talk about the drinking part?
Brad: “That’s a very good point. All of them were great, but I think our top three has to be ‘Kung Fu Panda’ being number one, then ‘Jessie’ and then The Sims.”
Last question for you! 10 years working together could be stressful, but you’re still together. What’s the secret of your success as bandmates?
Tristan: “Friendship. I think honestly the core is friendship. Everything else around that is a bonus. The music, hanging out, seeing the world, experiencing new things. It wouldn’t have been the same if we weren’t as close so I think friendship is definitely the main one. Without a friendship we would hate it.”
Find out more at www.thevamps.net.