TRACK-BY-TRACK: Fearless Vampire Killers – Bruises
November 4th, 2015
In a world where there is no more My Chemical Romance, Aiden are on the brink of calling it a day, and The Used have long ditched their more gothic inspired aesthetic, there are few bands still championing stories of vampires, zombies and all things ghoulish whilst dressed to the nines. However, London’s Fearless Vampire Killers are at the forefront of this revival, and have continued to push their style into the airwaves with their latest effort, ‘Bruises’. We spoke with the guys shortly after its released to flesh out the record more, learn what its all about, and get an inside look into the mini-album.
01.) FEEL ALIVE
‘Feel Alive’ was, in its inception, supposed to emulate those classic tunes by Fall Out Boy or My Chemical Romance. The more hard hitting chorus but with a splash of technicality in the verses. We’d started exploring the idea that the songs on ‘Bruises’ were going to focus on the darker side of human nature, and something that I’d always been fascinated in was cheating, being unfaithful in relationships. You see I never have, but I always wondered what must go through peoples’ minds… so I made a song about it. The screamed part in the second verse came from a fondness I’d got with experimenting in the vocal style on ‘Bow Ties On Dead Guys’ and ‘Edge Of Eternity’. It was originally going to be called ‘Adulterous’, but at looking at the names on the album we liked the idea of giving it a name that sounded positive in the first instance, but then alluded to the darker undertones, much like ‘Keep Smiling’ or ‘Stepping Stones’ does.
02.) STEPPING STONES
‘Stepping Stones’ is about humanity’s self-destructive desires: the counter-survivalist culture of suicide. Simply described, it is a song about an unhappy man who loses his girlfriend to a heroin overdose, but there is more to it than that. I wanted to describe the cold sense of despair that often harasses my thoughts, the feeling of drifting aimlessly to oblivion, the way an autumn leaf floats on the winds only to be sodden by the rain and crushed under foot. I wanted to write a song that was an anthem for the anxious, those who fear death, but long for release: people stuck in the purgatory of an unhappy life.
Where the music is concerned, I wanted – as I often do – to juxtapose the subject matter with the melody. It is punky, perhaps even pop-punky, and the chorus sounds uplifting, until you take note of the lyrics. I wrote the chorus when running through the fields on the outskirts of my hometown. I sang it all the way home to remember it. As you can tell, I wasn’t in the most positive frame of mind.
03.) KEEP SMILING
‘Keep Smiling’ came from a place of trying to turn all the shitty YouTube comments, crappy reviews, and music industry disdain/disinterest that we’ve accumulated over the years into something positive. The lyric is really an emotional response to all of that criticism; it was definitely a way of purging all of the frustration and anger we felt in one fell swoop, like screaming into a pillow after you’ve stubbed your toe (but a little bit more tuneful). It was fun to play around with a few different ways of layering vocals in this ditty – the call-and-response style of the verses, the double-hook counter-melody of the chorus and the uber-Shikari-esque monologue in the mid-section – that wasn’t just stacking up 10+ harmonies like we did on the last album. Fun fact: Originally the aforementioned monologue was going to be an excerpt from Birdman (the scene when Michael Keaton confronts the theatre critic in the bar) – END OF FUN FACT. Even though its lyrics flit from pissed off to defeated and cynical throughout, the song’s probably the jolliest sounding on the whole mini-album (juxtaposition alert). It’s also quite different musically to what we’ve done in the past, built around a big, dumb, stompy, Andrew W.K.-esque riff and a Biffy-ish chorus groove. It’s a rocking little number that’ll hopefully get booties shaking on the dancefloor when we play it live.
‘Regret’ was one of the songs written when the band was in its lowest ebb. We’d just recorded a ridiculously ambitious second album that looked like it would never be released; we had no money and could feel everything we’d built over the years falling apart. So, it’s safe to say that it’s not the happiest of tunes. It came together very quickly. I just plonked away on the piano until I had some melancholic chords and a melody then started mumbling random words until some sort of subject started to form. It was just a few hours from genesis to demoing. Probably because of that, it’s quite straightforward lyrically (little of the verse actually rhymes), but I’ve always been a big fan of the confessional nature of Rivers Cuomo’s lyrics (particularly on ‘Pinkerton’) that are simple, but work because they’re painfully honest and relatable. What I’d written felt truthful and open and I didn’t want to mess it up by overthinking as I am so often prone to do. I’ve never been one of those people who can let go of things easily, I regret a great many things – relationships, not seeing my friends and family enough, not working hard enough, not taking more risks when I could, blah, blah, blah, moan, moan, moan. This song was a chance to exorcise those demons. We put a lot of care and time into the arrangement, trying to push ourselves to new places whilst not overloading the song with too much silly-nonsense. And what we came up with, from Shane’s rippling chords and mariachi licks to Luke’s pounding beats and everything in between, really felt like a step-forward for the band. We certainly don’t regret releasing this song… heh-heh.
05.) LIKE BRUISES
This is a song I had rolling around for some time. When I finally got to completing it, I finished it in under an hour, but the chorus had been nagging at me for months.
It started as a ballad, as most of my songs do (writing on the piano has that effect). You plod through a melody, eking out every phrase and over indulging every chord, because it just sounds better like that. I knew the chorus was good, but I couldn’t find a verse that would complement it. Eventually, I had to completely change the rhythm of the vocal and the tempo of the song so that it would make sense played by FVK.
A friend of mine, Peter (guitar tech and sometimes guitarist in Annisokay), told me he thinks the chorus of the song sounds like Schlager music, which is a brand of pop music that’s incredibly prevalent in Germany. I guess over here we’d call it cheese, I was happy with that description. My intent once again was to mask the darkness in melody, partly because I wanted people to be able to listen to it without getting depressed, and partly because I love pop music.
‘Like Bruises’ is a song about the damage we do to the ones we love: the cold nuances in our words, and the hate behind our eyes. ‘Like Bruises’ is about humanities lack of back-bone, it’s about our willingness to give up on each other.
06.) AGING LOVE
We all have a first love. Not necessarily a first relationship, but we all remember a moment in our lives when we discovered that there was another human being to which we felt an indescribable bond. Some of us were lucky enough to remain with those young loves, but most moved on, growing, finding new partners, and allowing that long-passed rose-tinted romance to fade and become nothing more than a memory. For the narrator of ‘Aging Love’, this is an impossibility, an obsession that will drive to do terrible things.
The song was originally a lot longer, with an additional verse and a longer middle 8. Stupidly I shortened it, hoping it would be a single, but I think it won’t so that was unnecessary. This is one of the few songs I’ve written for ‘Bruises’ that betrays the dark tone of the song in the melody of the chorus: it’s yearning and melancholic. I think it works.
The band’s new mini-album, ‘Bruises’, is available now through Goremount Records, and can be purchased from the band’s official website (here).