The hardest working young band in Britain are back. Yes, already.
Less than a year since the appearance of Night & Day (Night Edition), their third album and a Number One on the Official Albums Chart, The Vamps are poised to release the quicksmart, irresistible follow-up. Night & Day (Day Edition), out July 13th, is not just the second half of the innovative Night and Day project. It’s the sound of the arena-filling fourpiece digging back into their DNA as a melodically sharp, virally loved, guitar-bass-drums pop-rock band.
No matter that electronic anthem All Night, the cornerstone single from the dancefloor-friendly Night, became their most successful track to date – it’s been streamed over 400 million times. No matter, too, that Night saw the band collaborate with DJs/producers like Matoma, Jack & Coke and Frank E, creating a whole new sonic palette for their songwriting.
True to adventurous form, for their fourth album The Vamps were determined to change things up all over again.
“It’s good as a musician to do that, to experiment,” thinks singer Brad Simpson. “It satisfies other aspects of your song writing. But to be honest, the electronic direction was quite unexpected, even for us – we didn’t start out fully with that intention.”
“The whole idea of doing a two-part album was to give fans more songs over a short period of time,” explains guitarist James McVey. “My favourite bands always released an album every 18 months or so. And now, especially in the age of social media, and life being so instant, people want stuff all the time. So leaving it two years for a band like us, who are very big on social media, could be quite dangerous. So we thought it would be nice for the fans to just get more, and more quickly.
“We also thought it would be nice to take fans on a journey,” he adds. “Night and Day could represent literally that, the stuff you do in the evening – dancing, partying – and the things you do in the daytime: relationships, work… Or it could be life and death… In lots of ways, the contrast between the Night and Day albums is huge – Day is going back to the roots of the Vamps: organic, instrument-driven song writing and playing.”
In pop terms, Vamps years are like dog years: they pack more into 12 months than most bands do in a lifetime. To recap on their stats…
The Vamps have picked up over 2 billion streams globally and have 8.4 million monthly listeners and 1.7 million followers on Spotify. They are also one of the most watched artists on YouTube, with over 600 million video views. Their most recent album Night & Day (Night Edition) not only scored the top spot in the UK, it also stormed into the Top 10 on iTunes in over 20 countries including Argentina, Philippines, India and Australia. As well as their phenomenal record sales, they also have a huge live following. The Vamps have done 4 European arena tours and have sold out the O2 Arena multiple times. Their most recent tour saw them sell over 100,000 tickets. They are also a force to be reckoned with on social media, with over 6 million likes on their Facebook, over 4.2 million followers on Twitter, 2.3 million followers on Instagram.
Brad Simpson (lead vocals and guitar), James McVey (lead guitar and vocals), Connor Ball (bass guitar and vocals) and Tristan Evans (drums and vocal) – who formed The Vamps while barely out of school – had arrived almost as soon as their band was born.
Along the way there were collaborations: with Demi Lovato (a duet on Somebody To You); Brooklyn Beckham (star of the video for the single Wake Up); 20th Century Fox (for the soundtrack Kung Fu Panda 3); and, during a groundbreaking eight-day trip to Mumbai, with two of the biggest soundtrack producers in Bollywood, Vishal and Sheker.
They’ve also found time to launch a label, Steady Records, signing British trio New Hope Club. And in between and all around there was touring. Lots of touring. By the time they’d left their teens they’d already undertaken two world tours, with a third and fourth arena-sized treks taking up most of 2017 and the first half of 2018. To date they’ve played the O2 15 times in total.
The UK, Europe, South America, a North American radio tour, two further trips to India, New Zealand for the first time, the Philippines – The Vamps hit all those places, wowed all those markets, in the last 18 months. Next up: China…
“These countries are developing into massive musical powers,” notes James. “We found that in India, where doing a couple of tracks with Vishal and Sheker really opened things up for us un a huge, huge country – well, sub-continent. In the same way that doing the Night album was a different way of doing an album, we like to be similarly ‘out there’ – literally – with our touring.”
Night represented the next stage in the band’s development in other ways, too.
“On that last arena tour, it was definitely obvious this time that the fans are a bit older,” observes Brad. “Women in their early twenties who’ve come from work and are a bit merry and are having a laugh and a dance. And the clubbier songs from Night definitely helped with that.”
“There were a lot more drunk people than ever before – and I was one of them!” laughs James. “And there were a lot more guys as well,” continues Brad. “People are growing up with us. Some of those are probably the younger dads who maybe begrudgingly came with their daughters,” thinks James. “Now they realise they can like us themselves.”
The songs on Day have been written and recorded by The Vamps – all still in their early/mid-twenties – in a variety of locations, with a host of intriguing collaborators, over the past three, four, even five years. As Brad says, talking about R&B-leaning uptempo ballad Time Is Not On Our Side, an idea he had “ages ago”, this band “just write so much. We might do a batch of 50 songs, and some inevitably get put to the side.”
The first to emerge into the light was Personal, a teaser track released late last year (while the band were in fact still touring Night). It’s a collaboration with rising star Maggie Lindemann. “I sang that with Maggie because the way the song was written, it always needed a back and forth between a male and female. And Maggie had a song out at the time, Pretty Girl, which was blowing up. We loved that, we liked what she’s about – she’s gutsy and really cool – and she seemed perfect.”
It was followed this spring by another teaser, Hair Too Long, a quirky singalong that’s as simple as it is impactful.
“We liked the minimal approach – taking it back to guitar, bass, drums,” explains James. “The crux of our very first single, Can We Dance, was the same, and we tried to replicate that here. No massive synth like there is in All Night. When people hear this song, we want them to know instantly: this is a band.”
“I started writing that two and half years ago, when genuinely my hair was really long!” says Brad. The band worked with a young producer from Newcastle, Jordan Riley, in his studio in Hackney, east London. Their sonic reference was Julia Michaels’ deep cut Make It Up To You. “Very minimal and the drums are very dry,” notes Brad, one of three accomplished producers The Vamps can count within their ranks. “We wanted to go for that, and Jordan just nailed it.”
In cheerful contrast is the lead single, Just My Type. “It’s the only song here that has a nice big riff,” says James, pleased. Aiding that vibe was producer Jacob Manson, who’s half of DJ duo Blonde.
And that’s just start of the band’s Day of pop-reckoning. There’s also Talk Later, a creative cousin of Hair Too Long, “just minimal, bass, guitar and drums, floating on the melody and lyrics,” says Brad. “That’s another song with Jake. He got his bass and guitar out, we started jamming. And we just started writing the song together… It was a very organic process, and one of the most pared-back songs we’ve done.”
“Charlie Puth does that very well,” offers James, ever the keen student of pop production and creative trends. “He keeps things very simple but strong.”
Another track, another switch: For You is a piano ballad-goes-soul-belter, produced by Brad, for which he hired a gospel choir – “and some trumpets!”
Another song, another detour: What Your Father Says started out “as Fifties doo-wop, happy, upbeat, almost cheesy. Then I left it for two years while we went on tour. Then me and James went to LA to work with production team Captain Cuts, who were fantastic, and very funny guys.”
“That song nods back massively to the first album,” says James, “with an upbeat, driving chorus.”
“Man, that’ll be fun to play live…” grins Brad, relishing – already – another run round the world. When you’ve made four albums in six years, there’s never time to stay for long in one place, geographically or sonically.
Summer 2018 and for The Vamps it is, then, business as usual. But for the most forward-thinking pop band in the UK, “business as usual” means pushing onwards and upwards, as sure as Day follows Night…