The Vamps unveiled their long-awaited fifth album, Cherry Blossom, on Friday (Oct. 16). It’s a sparkling collection of 11 arena-ready pop-rock confections, fronted by the uber-catchy single “Married in Vegas.”
Sadly, the arenas will have to wait, but the LP — written and recorded last summer after the quartet scrapped their earlier writing sessions and started over — certainly signals a creative rebirth for the group after years of non-stop touring and recording.
Tracks like the aforementioned lead single, as well as anthemic opener “Glory Days,” are imbued with a clear-eyed optimism, despite the uncertainty of the current moment. On “Better,” another highlight, frontman Brad Simpson vows “I won’t settle for less than best/ And we can do better than this” over crashing, synth-driven pop production.
To celebrate the blooming of Cherry Blossom, The Vamps chatted exclusively with Billboard ahead of the project’s release.
They dished about everything from their first concerts and which other band they’d want to join, to their dream collaboration and favorite track on the album. Read on for the entire round of 20 questions.
What’s the first piece of music that you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
Brad Simpson: The first piece of music I remember buying for myself was The Fratellis‘ Costello Music. I’d had albums before, but they were gifts from my family. There was a garage sale at the end of my road and it had a load of CDs in there. I went through and saw that album and I’d already heard a couple of songs so bought the whole thing. Loved it.
What was the first concert you saw?
Tristan Evans: Angels & Airwaves at the O2 Academy Bristol. Still one of my favorite concerts I’ve been to! The energy and volume of that show made me want to be in a band that toured even more.
What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid?
Connor Ball: When I was younger, my mum worked in a leisure centre [a building with a swimming pool and sports areas] and my dad has always been a pilot.
Who or what made you realize you could be an artist full-time?
James McVey: I think it’s a dream for most 12-year-old kids to be a full time artist when they first learn a few chords on the guitar. For me, it was just that:- seeing bands on TV, and the occasional American act coming over and selling out my local venue, totally mesmerized me. I remember seeing The Fray when I was 12 and wanting to be on that stage so bad.
We were very lucky with The Vamps that our covers connected on YouTube quite quickly. I think it was when we first racked up a million views in a few months that I realized we had a real shot. Then, when our first album came out and charted at No. 2 in the UK, it really felt “real.”
What’s at the top of your professional bucket list?
Simpson: I’d love to work with Pharrell. I’ve been a big fan of him since N.E.R.D’s first album. His production and approach to writing music is just so open, and it would be amazing to see what the process is like and what would happen.
How did your hometown/city shape who you are?
Evans: I was quite isolated as a kid living in the country/middle of nowhere. I didn’t see that as a bad thing — I liked the fact I could make all the noise I wanted as a kid playing drums, and trust me, they were loud. So this gave me a chance to practice more. The people were also quite down to earth, which I liked.
What’s the last song you listened to?
If you could see any artist in concert, dead or alive, who would it be?
McVey: I’d pay good money to watch Damien Rice every night for the rest of my life.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in the crowd of one of your sets?
Simpson: I throw my guitar picks out throughout the gig, and towards the end of a show I threw one out and watched the flight of it. It landed in a girl in the front row’s mouth. It didn’t just land in her open mouth, she caught it IN HER TEETH. It was incredible.
What’s the weirdest or most unique venue you’ve played?
Evans: Probably a haunted venue somewhere in America. I can’t remember the exact place, but it had such an edgy/creepy vibe to it, which I loved.
Which band would you drop everything to join if you were asked?
Ball: I’m happy being in The Vamps! But Panic! At The Disco.
What’s one thing that even your most devoted fans don’t know about you?
McVey: My adulation for Malbec.
If you were not a musician, what would you be?
Simpson: I wanted to be an architect when I was younger. Not being able to draw well was a real hindrance, haha, but I’d like to learn. It’s similar to music in the sense you’re making something where there was nothing before, and I like the idea of that.
Who do you want to collaborate with next?
Evans: The dream collab would be Post Malone. I dig his stuff hard!
What are the challenges of releasing music/an album during a pandemic?
Ball: This is a hugely hard and odd time for everybody at the moment and since for the majority of this album process we’ve been in lockdown, it’s been so different to anything we’ve done before. We’re usually out promoting our songs in a live environment playing shoes wherever we can, so that’s been tough, but we’ve just had to adjust and adapt to think of new ways to get our songs out there.
What about the benefits/positives?
McVey: It’s bittersweet. I really feel music has done wonders for us during this incredibly difficult time. Music has that marvelous ability to take you anywhere you like, if you close your eyes and focus enough. I am grateful to be part of a band that may offer our fans an ounce of that.
At the same time, though, it’s hard in the sense that we, and the fans, thrive when we’re touring. We love nothing more than to be playing shows in other countries and meeting new people. Obviously, we can’t do that, and there’s little indication of when we’ll definitely be able to do it again. That’s scary.
What do you want fans to take away from Cherry Blossom?
Simpson: I want Cherry Blossom to provide some relief throughout these strange times. Overall, the album is a really positive one, so if it can bring some joy to people, I’m happy. It’s also been a really therapeutic writing process for me and there are subjects explored on the album that I hope can resonate with people.
Do you have a favorite track on the album?
Evans: “Treading Water.” The message behind it is so powerful and I love the way the production turned out. For me, that song was always going to be the end to the album!
What do you miss most about performing in front of a live audience?
Ball: I miss having that real human interaction with the crowd and everyone being in that room for the same reason of forgetting anything that’s going on in the outside world. For that hour and a half that we play a live set, it’s a real escape for a lot of people, including ourselves, and it’s just not the same via a Zoom or video call. The sooner we can get back on stage, the better!
As Election Day approaches, what message do you want to share with fans about the importance of voting/registering to vote?
McVey: Regardless of which way you lean politically, I can’t stress how important it is to vote. Without getting all preachy, the right to vote is something many take for granted. For centuries people have died to gain this right and so many still do not benefit from having it. Please, please, please vote.