The 1D comparisons may be inevitable but The Vamps are closer to a ’real band’ writes Ed Power
ON A sunny afternoon in Dublin, dozens of teenagers are camped outside The Vamps’ hotel, stoically awaiting their heroes. Up in the penthouse, the world’s hottest new boy-band have more pressing matters — bass player Conor Ball’s missing brunch.
“Where are my eggs?” he asks his vast retinue of tour managers and PR people, quizzing them one by one. “Has anyone seen my eggs?”
The worried rocker is assured that a replacement is en route. And so he troops over to the far side of the room, joining his bandmates in a circle.
Of the four, singer Brad Simpson is the only one whose hair isn’t shaped into a Jedward-style, spiky quiff. He is also the most immediately friendly: he will answer your questions straightforwardly, whereas the rest of the group hum, haw and exchange sly glances. This is standard operating procedure for boybands — contractually obliged to giggle when sat down before a journalist.
“We’ll go down to meet the fans later,” says Simpson, asked about the scrum of devotees downstairs. “They’re very loyal and it’s important that you show your appreciation. This is our first arena tour. We owe the fans a lot. You have to make sure you give back. We don’t take our audience for granted.”
Fame has come quickly for the UK quartet, who met, as young bands tend to nowadays, via YouTube. So far, they’ve enjoyed the trip. They are occasionally mobbed by over- enthused admirers. Thus far, it’s nothing they cannot handle.
“It was weird, at first,” says Simpson. “Our earliest experience of it all was going on tour as support with McFly. We’d never seen a response like that before. You learn to live with it — it’s part of the deal. Why would you complain that people are appreciative of what you do?”
Day to day, The Vamps can walk around unmolested. It’s only when they invite attention that things get a little crazy.
“As an individual going about your routine, it’s fine — totally manageable, “ says Simpson. “If you walk outside an all-girl school at 3.30 in the afternoon, it’s going to be different. It depends on the situation.”
The Vamps aren’t a boy-band in the classic sense. Their dress code is more punk-brat than teen heartthrob — three of the four wear sleeveless string vests and high-top sneakers; Simpson, heavy on the man jewellery, sports a look that might be described as ‘Paolo Nutini Does Hollyoaks’. Also, they play their own instruments and pitch in on songwriting.
“If you’ve seen us live, you’ll know the difference [from stereotypical boy-bands],” says Simpson. “We can all play — something we are very proud of. We’re a real band. We go out there and give it everything.”
They are widely touted as the new One Direction. With the actual One Direction having recently shed a member, there may well be a vacancy for a stadium-filling pop ensemble. Are The Vamps up for the job? Yes, they say. But they’re not getting ahead of themselves.
“Well, it’s very flattering to be compared to the 1D boys,” says Simpson. “They’re the biggest band in the world — who wouldn’t want to emulate them? On the other hand, it’s not something we think about. We just want to focus on being the best group we can be. You can’t compare yourself to other musicians. You have to concentrate on being yourself.”
With fame has come a deluge of internet hate. For every ardent fan, The Vamps have attracted an equally enthusiastic detractor. But The Vamps, endlessly easy-going, have no problem turning the other cheek.
“We’re pretty chilled, to be honest,’ says guitarist, James McVey. “Stuff like that doesn’t bother us. With every positive, there’s always a tiny negative. However many people are into what you do, there are always going to be a couple of hundred that aren’t. We don’t take it personally. We don’t really pay it any attention to be honest. We are all very laid-back.”
It was the tall-haired guitarist who started The Vamps. He’d signed a deal with a London management company and, eager to put together a band, recruited Simpson through YouTube.
For two years they worked on their sound, building their audience by posting occasional videos (that inevitably went viral). Released in August, 2013, their first official single, ‘Can We Dance’, proved an instant sensation, ratcheting up a million YouTube views in 10 days. It has been a thoroughly modern journey to the top.
Along the way, The Vamps have had to fight for their independence. At their insistence, the live show was designed entirely by them — they oversaw everything from the set-list to the design of the stage.
“We did it all ourselves,” says Simpson. “A lot of bands have musical directors who put together the whole show. Then, they’ll just turn up and all the slog is done for them. We were never going to do that. On our current tour, we spent two weeks putting it all together, working out where we were going to put various songs, how the whole thing was going to work.”
All in their early 20s, they are enjoying every moment of their current prominence. But what about the dark side of instant-stardom? None of them knew each other prior to The Vamps — and, as One Direction have proved, fame and wealth bring their own pressures. Is it odd to go on this amazing journey with three strangers? They shrug, as if it was the strangest question they’ve ever been asked.
“We sort out differences out on the Fifa pitch,” says McVey. “All of us get on really well — we’re constantly hanging out. To be where we are today is a dream come through. Bands like Busted were big for us growing up. Now, we’re playing arenas, too. It’s nerve-wracking — and also amazing.”
The Vamps play Live at the Marquee Cork, June 18. The band’s debut album is Meet The Vamps.
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