‘A new chapter’: An interview with The Vamps on ‘Cherry Blossom’

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It can be hard to identify your golden years while you’re in them. For British pop rock band The Vamps, however, they’ve said it loud and clear: “These are our glory days.” The band has seen an immense rise since their first album in 2014, and with their newest release, Cherry Blossom, the members found themselves more ready for a revamp than ever.

In an interview with The Daily Californian, drummer Tristan Evans, bassist Connor Ball and guitarist James McVey chatted about the new record, explained the band’s aesthetic redirection and ruminated on the YouTube covers that got them to where they are today.

“It’s been a long journey — I feel old,” Evans said. “To be honest, because we started quite young, we got a little bit of a head start. I feel like we’re just getting started now, like we got so much energy. It’s a really good place for The Vamps to be in; it’s definitely a new chapter.”

Reflecting a more alternative sound than previous records, Cherry Blossom is a product of mixing synths, hard-hitting drums and other live elements into a predominantly genre-fluid sonic story. 

“The message that we’re trying to portray with the album is that of appreciating the moment and acknowledging where you’re at in life and embracing it,” McVey said. “There’s a lot of connotations of rebirth, rejuvenation, reimagination — it’s that sort of accepting what you’ve done to this point but then evaluating what’s important in your life.”

Before Cherry Blossom released Oct. 16, the band had mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness about how the evolved sound would be received by fans, with McVey calling the record a “departure from where we left off.” 

“We did learn with this album to trust our feelings on music slightly more,” McVey said. “In earlier albums, we’d send a lot of the songs out to a wider committee to almost seek approval, but this time (we) produced half of the album and we wrote it all. I think this time we deliberately didn’t ask as many people what they thought about it because we believed in it, which I think is quite a step into a slightly different world to what we’ve done in the past. It’s been really, really liberating hearing fans like the music, because ultimately their approval is what we seek.”

While a lack of touring due to the pandemic has choked the band of in-person reactions to the new record, quarantine effectively led The Vamps to produce some of the biggest songs they’ve released since 2018.

“We wouldn’t have had our first single if it wasn’t quarantine because it was written entirely over Zoom,” Ball said. “It’s definitely helped us — and hindered us, probably, but we’ve enjoyed the process as well, because we’ve been recording from our homes. … It’s kept it fresh, if anything, because it’s so different.”

Apart from The Vamps’ shift in sound, there’s also been a distinct movement in the visuals accompanying this era as a whole. The band produced the song “Chemicals” and immediately knew that track would influence the overall flavor of Cherry Blossom, enlisting an artist they stumbled upon off of Instagram to produce the album artwork and “create a world that is different.”

“It definitely looks like it sounds,” Evans said, “and that’s exactly what we wanted. The color, the texture, just perfect. He smashed it.” 

The Vamps have come a long way since their cover of Conor Maynard’s “Vegas Girl” in 2012. Years of practicing and playing other artists’ music was simultaneously challenging and comfortable for the band, but never has the work been easy.

“In some ways it was actually kind of more hectic,” McVey said. “There would be days where we’d be like, ‘Right, we have to do three videos in one day,’ which is a bit crazy. There’s something nostalgic about the naivety of being 16, 17, thinking that you kind of understand everything in your world.”

Although nearly a decade older than when they first started, the members are still rather young — ranging in age from 24 to 26 — for a band with five full-length albums in their repertoire. 

“It all happened for a reason, you know?” Ball said. “There’s maybe certain songs that we’d do something differently now if we were to write that song now, but I personally don’t regret anything.”

“No,” Evans responded, “I feel like it’s all part of evolving as a person.”

All of the members still have their surreal moments now and then — such as lead singer Bradley Simpson taking a shot with Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl — but the band is growing into a mature realization of what they pictured in those early YouTube years. 

“Just because you’re a kid doesn’t mean you’re not right,” Evans said. “Just believe in your art and your craft and work on it.”

Skylar De Paul is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.