Do you want to join Creeper's fright club?

Like the lovechildren of Glenn Danzig and Davey Havok, swaddled in 80s references and theatricality, Creeper are the new goth-punk kids on the block.

Their black and purple emblem features a reaper whose scythe forms half a heart, while the coastline of their Southampton hometown proudly completes it. It’s a dark vibe that’s landed them a deal with Roadrunner and a support slot with horror-punk heroes the Misfits. Their essence is neatly encapsulated in their video for Lie Awake, the first half of a two-part noir romance story. Never mind wearing their (black and purple) hearts on their sleeves, it lays all their musical influences bare, near-subliminally flashing up band posters and vinyl.

“It’s all references to different parts of our band,” says frontman Will Gould, who should really complete the theme by changing his surname to Ghoul. “Our logo is supposed to be a nostalgic throwback to The Nerve Agents and Misfits and The Cramps and AFI – that type of punk that’s not around that much these days. I feel like hardcore and punk have been stripped down now; it’s become so straight-up. That may be some of the reason that Creeper does OK, because it’s a bit more flamboyant and it references those bands.”

The origins of Creeper lie in defunct hardcore punk band Our Time Down Here, of which Will and co-conspirator/guitarist Ian Miles were members. From their late teens, they lived a DIY lifestyle based on the guidance of older guitarist and father figure Gary Painting, sleeping in a van, living in the clothes on their backs, and subsisting on a diet of bread and cheese. When the band broke up in 2013, burned out from six years of activity, Will got a job in a call centre and was excited to have a regular income. But rather than buying fancy possessions or spending his money on another musical project, he decided to follow his dream: travelling to Disneyland in California.

“It was the best ever!” he enthuses, talking a mile a minute. “I went off with another couple of people from the punk scene round here, and we all saved up from work. It felt really good to do something extravagant, because I’d been living in this band for such a long time. Disneyland changed the way amusement parks would be for the future. It’s crazy to think that a man drew this down on a piece of paper, and actually built it all. That sort of stuff is really inspiring to me, because I have stupid ideas all the time…”

One of Will’s more out-there ideas is an alien musical called Cosmic Love, which the self-confessed UFO fanatic began working on in his spare time. So when guitarist Sina Nemati, formerly of sludge-punks Hang The Bastard, approached him about doing another band, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to. But after a year of answering phones and getting into the minds of extraterrestrials, Will got an “itch” to write with a band again, and joined with Sina, Ian, his then-housemate drummer Dan Bratton and local bassist Sean Scott to put together a self-titled EP in April 2014. Its five punkish songs combine their love ofthose aforementioned iconic bands, and led to a sold-out show at hometown venue The Joiners, followed by support slots with Funeral For A Friend and fellow Southamptonites Bury Tomorrow, before a well-received set at Download. They’re now poised to release its follow-up, The Callous Heart EP, a continuation of their sound that draws on a sense of 80s drama and the childlike abandonment that Will possesses – and even on the Disney-appropriated tale of Peter Pan.

“We love [songwriter and Meatloaf collaborator] Jim Steinman’s [1981] record Bad For Good,” explains Will, his speech speeding up as his brain fizzes with thoughts. “There are loads of songs about Peter Pan on it, and a song called Lost Boys And Golden Girls. He used a lot of those references and metaphors because they’re really powerful, and I started thinking about that as a reflection of my own life, and of what happened to me. Me and Ian have pretty much been running away from responsibility our entire lives, and we’ve sewn a lot of that in to the new EP. But you wouldn’t notice straight away, because some punk kids would feel weird as hell if they knew they were listening to a record based on Peter Pan!”

Given the nature of its source material, The Callous Heart EP is darker than you might expect; due to their unconventional lifestyle choice of playing in bands, rather than choosing a nine-to-five routine, Will and Ian have had to battle some demons, bonding as brothers to help each other through.

“Me and Ian have been through some really sticky situations in our lives, and we’ve grown to be really comfortable in terms of our own sensibilities,” says Will. “I’d been suffering a lot while we were on the road, with anxiety playing onstage, and some of those threadsare in the record as well. Ian appreciated that, because he was there with me dealing with it.”

This sense of togetherness through otherness also manifests in the band’s Calloused Heart patch, intended to be a symbol of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys – people who don’t belong anywhere – but gender neutral, so anyone can be a part of the Creeper club. It’s not a new idea, but the band’s gothic iconography is strong.

“I wanted to put a name on a group of people who come to see us at shows,” says Will. “Sometimes you’d meet hardcore punk kids, goth kids, and metal and rock kids – you’d meet all these different kinds of people who had grown up on different stuff, but they had this thread in common, not just with us, but where they were at with their lives. They were all as out of place as we were, and that’s why they came to see our band. It was the most gratifying thing.”

The black icing on Creeper’s punky cake is opening for the original misfits, Misfits. By the time you read this, they’ll have warmed up the crowds for the band to play once-lost 1978 album Static Age in full. It’s particularly exciting for Will and Ian, who, while sofa-surfing between shows with Our Time Down Here, used to drive out into the countryside every day and sing along to those songs before pulling over and writing demos.

“To be asked to play is incredible. From the outside looking in, it may seem like someone’s given us a golden ticket and we’ve got all this amazing cool stuff, but it’s not happened like that,” says Will. “We cut our teeth a long time ago with local promoters, so people have been very good to us. To see our name on the poster is enough – we’re like little kids. I want to get photos with Jerry Only, and talk his ears off about Misfits. We’re fans before we’re a band.”

And it’s that enthusiasm for their favourite bands that comes out in their music, and attracts people to their cult. They’re literally misfits; lost boys; a home for freaks and geeks. And they’re enjoying their dark Neverland too much to leave.

The Callous Heart EP is out September 18 via Roadrunner

Eleanor Goodman
Editor, Metal Hammer

Eleanor was promoted to the role of Editor at Metal Hammer magazine after over seven years with the company, having previously served as Deputy Editor and Features Editor. Prior to joining Metal Hammer, El spent three years as Production Editor at Kerrang! and four years as Production Editor and Deputy Editor at Bizarre. She has also written for the likes of Classic Rock, Prog, Rock Sound and Visit London amongst others, and was a regular presenter on the Metal Hammer Podcast.