The Vamps are a band with pop smarts and the ambition to become a big stadium act. Meet James McVey, who is 19 and lead guitarist, Tristan Evans, the 18-year-old drummer, Bradley Simpson, 17, on vocals and guitar, and Connor Ball, who is also 17 and plays guitar and bass. They come from all over England, from Bournemouth, Devon, Birmingham and Warwick, but there’s no limit to the places they will go.
They’ve all been in bands before, working the acoustic and indie circuits in their local areas. They’ve even been known to busk around Britain. James and Brad have been gigging for years, playing, respectively, melodic acoustic, pop and indie rock – Brad’s covers of Arctic Monkeys and The Specials, in particular, used to go down well in the pubs and clubs of his native Brum. James found Brad’s indie covers on YouTube and they “met” the modern way via FaceBook in 2011. Subsequently Tristan contacted James via Facebook and Connor joined in early 2013.
By 2012, and before they had signed their record deal, they were writing their own material and gaining a considerable YouTube following with their viral versions of hits by Pink, One Direction, Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars – some of their covers have had a million views. Now with combined views of 13million on YouTube, 200,0000 subscribers to their channel, 120,000 likes on Facebook, a deal with EMI Records and 1000’s of hysterical girls following their every move, The Vamps will soon be the name on everyone’s lips.
Connor’s arrival, if anything, upped the indie ante, but if The Vamps are great at anything it’s combining melody with energy. That skill has been honed through intensive writing sessions in London, Los Angeles and New York with such stellar production teams as Espionage (Emeli Sandé, Beyonce) and Metrophonic (Olly Murs, One Direction, Example).
They write hummable guitar-fuelled songs about the pitfalls of love, with depth and colour that is the natural result of their characterful personalities. Tristan is the hyperactive one who nearly got kicked out of junior school for being cheeky. “I was a bit rebellious,” he admits. He was weaned on Good Charlotte and Green Day and if he was anyone in Sesame Street it would be Animal. But his instrumental prowess is no laughing matter: in 2010 he was on the shortlist for Young Drummer of the Year. He’s also the Vamp most likely to get busy in the recording studio and hopes one day to produce the band.
Brad is the cute one with the golf pro dad and circus contortionist nan. He began playing guitar aged 11 when his hero was Angus Young of AC/DC. These days it’s Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters. From his gigging days in Birmingham he remembers A Message To You Rudy by legendary ska revivalists The Specials being a crowd favourite. He loves the realness of Arctic Monkeys’ track Riot Van. “My two obsessions?” he repeats. “Music and skating.”
James is the academic one with the gravity-defying hair. He loved school and would probably have studied archaeology at university had The Vamps not taken off. He’s also the member most likely to scrutinise Vamps songs for imagery, syntax and grammar. “I can be very pedantic,” he reveals.
Connor is the new boy who became a member in early 2013. He was invited to join because he was the most down-to-earth, unlike his dad, who is up in the clouds – literally, he’s an airline pilot. Born in Scotland, he’s a gifted multi-instrumentalist who formed his first band aged 13 and grew up listening to Panic At The Disco and All Time Low. When he wasn’t moshing to emo he was playing football – he played semi-professional for Redditch. The quiet Vamp, he does have a secret vice. “I eat too many pancakes,” he says, shamefaced.
Following a support tour with McFly, The Vamps’ first single will be released in September and it will be an infectious stunner. There will be two more self-penned singles early next year, ahead of an album in spring 2014. It will display the full range of the boys’ vocal and instrumental talents as well as their gift for punchy melody and hooks with an edge. One of their songs samples Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecilia and had the approval of Paul Simon himself. They maybe be cuddly – they got mobbed when they were in New York – but they’re credible. No wonder they’ve got high hopes for The Vamps.
“My ambition is to be able to play a gig in Botswana and everyone will know who we are,” says James, wistfully.
“I just want to be able to have fun playing music,” adds Connor, realistically.
“I want to write great songs and have people appreciate our music,” hopes Brad.
“To create a Vamps empire and do what I love with my best friends,” decides Tristan. “That would be a dream come true.”
That dream has already started. The Vamps are coming.