YOU’LL know a certain fandom has reached stratospheric levels when devoted fans start lining up outside the venue as early as 4 a.m. for a concert and CD signing that’s scheduled at 5 p.m. When organizers initially pegged at only 500 pieces the CDs they were going to sell but had to bring in a lot more to give in to the clamor.
When all throughout the jampacked show, everyone passionately sings with the band, knowing the lyrics to each song by heart.
All these were no more as evident as when British pop rock band, The Vamps paid Cebu a visit and made their fans’ dream to see them perform live come true.
Although bassist/vocalist Connor Ball, 19, was not around for the show held at the Robinsons Galleria Cebu (he had to fly back to the UK after the Manila concert the day before due to an injury), his bandmates —Brad Simpson, 20 (lead vocalist and guitarist), James McVey, 21 (lead guitarist and vocalist) and Tristan Evans, 21 (drummer and vocalist)—made sure they give their Cebuano Vampettes and Vampions (as fans of the band are called) a performance they will not forget.
Comparisons to One Direction are inevitable but there are at least two things that set The Vamps: they formed the band themselves and although they started doing covers (and continue to do so), they now produce their own music as well.
In 2012, McVey “discovered” Simpson via YouTube, the two met Evans on Facebook and eventually formed the quartet when they got together with Ball through a common friend. The guys started uploading cover songs on YouTube, and in 2013, posted their first original composition, “Wild Heart.” In the same year, the group released the music video for their debut single, “Can We Dance” and their first album “Meet the Vamps“ in 2014.
Late last year, they released their second album, “Wake Up” with the carrier single.
At the media huddle for the Cebu show, Brad, James and Tristan charmed everyone with their humor, easygoing and down to earth attitude (one of them even managed to drop by the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral) while talking animatedly about their beginnings, their evolving music, and developing new artists under their own label.
Brad: He’s hurt his knee, unfortunately. He had a bit of a problem two gigs ago returning on stage and he has a bit of trouble with his knee so he’s going back to the UK to go and have a consultation.
Who’s taking his place for the show later? Do you have a sessionist?
Brad: No. We’ve recorded all of his bass parts so we’ll play him out.
Did you have time to explore Cebu?
James: I just went to the church down the road (the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral) where apparently, lots and lots of people came the other week. It’s really nice. Big white building.
This is your second visit to the Philippines. (The group had their first concert last year). What do you love about this country?
Tristan: It’s the loudest place in the world! It’s official.
Brad: The fans are amazing!
So, any stalkers?
Brad: Not necessarily, stalkers.
Brad: It’s nice, honestly. Last year’s (concert) and actually, this year so far, it’s been one of the favorite gigs we’ve ever done.
Have you tasted any Filipino food? Any favorites?
Tristan: I’m a big fan of the food here and the culture. I think we all are. But I really can’t remember the specific names of the food.
James: We have been in the Philippines for only 18 hours so we haven’t really tasted a lot of food yet but we have been to Hong Kong and Singapore. We do love Asian food!
When did you realize that you were such a big thing here?
James: The first time we came here. Well, actually no before that, on our Facebook page, a couple of years ago. We can have like a statistic thing that says where our fans are around the world and our No. 2 was the Philippines. And we didn’t know much about the Philippines before The Vamps. We love it so much because of the fans. And the first time we played a gig here, it was our favorite gig to date. It was amazing! It’s been just a place that we just really enjoy coming to. And the fans are great so we’re coming again soon.
Any crazy fan encounters?
Brad: Ah, not some pretty crazy ones on this trip, so far. Although I got hit in the face!
Oh, somebody slapped you!
Brad: Not on purpose. (smiles) Somebody was running for James—it was a guy—and he slipped and he just went … ugh. It was a guy so it might have been deliberate. I don’t know. (laughs)
James: Just looking at the airport, coming from the other side of the world, and having lots of girls there is something we’ll never really get used to. It’s amazing! So yeah, maybe arriving the Philippines is the craziest thing.
Tristan: The mob mentality is crazy. Just getting swarmed is crazy. We can’t move and we have to boost security, just to keep everyone–us and the fans–safe.
Your version of “Kung Fu Fighting” is part of the soundtrack of the film, “Kung Fu Panda 3.” How was the experience of having your music become part of a movie?
James: It’s cool! We’ve only done two movies as of yet. The first one was a Disney movie. The title was very long.
Brad: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
James: That one! Yeah, “Kung Fu Panda 3” was awesome! It was the first Hollywood red carpet event. Making the song was great. We produced it ourselves.
And shooting the music video?
Tristan: It was really different because we never had done green screen before and the end product was really impressive—the way they did the green screen and the floating mountains. It was really cool!
And the karate scenes …
James: Yeah, we had wires and harnesses on. For our flips and stuff. It was good.
How do you feel that you always get compared with One Direction?
Brad: That can’t really bother us that much. They’re a pretty big band so it’s nice to be compared to a band that’s very successful. But I think we’re very different in terms of just … the flare of the band. We’re just going to do our own thing and hopefully people are enjoying it.
One Direction’s Zayn Malik has said in interviews that he had been unhappy with the direction the band was going and he wanted to do his own music that’s why he left the group. Are you all on the same page? Will we see any one of you doing a Zayn in the future?
Brad: That’s why Connor is not here.
James: He’s gone! (laughs) The difference is we started the band ourselves. We write the music that we play. We found each other so there’s not really an opportunity for us to necessarily feel particularly unhappy about the direction because we make the direction ‘cause we are The Vamps.
Brad: We control it (direction).
James: We all like what we do. So, I don’t see that happening. We’re happy.
Where do you usually get inspiration when writing your songs?
Brad: It’s different every time. We’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to travel the world and get to meet a lot of people, see a lot of new things and have new experiences. That, in itself, gives a lot of inspiration. And you just try to run that in real life… and relationships.
Is everyone in the group in a relationship now?
All three: No!
Tristan: Someone’s single. Someone’s in a relationship.
Since you are together all the time, do you sometimes get on each other’s nerves?
Brad: I don’t think so. Considering that we do spend every day of our lives together, we don’t argue that much at all, really. We have heated debates, that’s about it. I think we are all very easygoing characters.
You released a new cover, Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.” Who decides on what song to do a cover of?
James: We covered it well, didn’t we?
Tristan: Yeah! We just did it. One night, we were bored and told ourselves: Let’s do a cover. We were backstage before a show. And there was a huge space so we said it would be cool to film. We always have our videographer with us. Whenever we want to get something recorded or shot, we use him.
Which artists do you want to collaborate with next?
James: We’d love to collaborate with lots of different people. It would be cool to do something with a DJ. Whether we get the opportunity to work with someone like Calvin Harris, we don’t know. Or Disclosure. Or Sigma. We’re just interested in pushing The Vamps in different directions all the time. We’re writing lots of different songs at the moment. And we’re open to ideas. Like with our second album, if you told us two years ago that this is how it would sound, we’d be like: “That’s really strange.” But it just kind of evolves and develops and hopefully, we’ll have opportunities to work with lots of different people. But we’d love to do more stuff with people like Demi Lovato, Shawn Mendes or Ed Sheeran. We’ll see what happens.
Why did you name the new album, “Wake Up?”
Brad: “Wake Up” was one of the first songs we got for the second album. It was very early in the process. And that kinda shaped the whole direction of this album, the sound, and how we wanted the songwriting to evolve. And it felt a bit more mature but didn’t lose the energy. And it captured what we’ve been through the past two years since releasing the first album. So it kinda felt right to call the album that. Especially since it had been a bit of time since we released any music so hopefully, there’s kind of like a double meaning in there, like we’re waking up the fans to a bit of new music.
What were you guys doing before The Vamps?
James: We were all in school. In college. When I first met Brad, I was still in school. And so was he. And Tristan was doing …
Tristan: Knitting. (laughs)
James: Music. So, yeah we were all doing normal stuff.
How does it feel knowing that you have made such an impact on your fans’ lives?
James: It’s surreal.
Brad: It’s cool! We grew up listening to bands and those kinds of bands had a massive impact on our lives and influenced us to go and be musicians. And you kinda naturally want to have the same effect on people and inspire hopefully, a new generation of musicians. Or just make people happy. Music has that effect on people. The fact that we can do that for people is a very good feeling.
What do you during your downtime?
James: The world tour at the moment is quite full-on (schedule) but we had three days off at the start in Australia so a few of us went to a national park. We like seeing different things. Like I just had an hour off so I went to a church. We like walking, relaxing …
Tristan: Football … The gym, cricket.
Will your third album have the same sound as the first and second?
James: We don’t really know yet. Similar to the second album, we just thought of writing lots and lots of songs. But it’s not going to be very different from the first and second album, it’s not going to be like an RnB album yet.
Tristan: And we can always change production.
James: Yes, like we’ve had songs that started acoustic and turned into a completely different sound song. A good song is a good song. We’re just trying to write as many good songs as we can and see what happens in the end.
So, you are open to reinventing your music?
Brad: Yeah, definitely! We are all influenced by different artists and genres so we kinda want to try different things. We do it a lot live. We kinda change the songs live.
Who are your major musical influences?
Brad: For me growing up, it was bands like AC/DC that got me into guitar. Foo Fighters. Arctic Monkeys. Paolo Nutini is a big influence for me.
Tristan: Eminem, Avril Lavigne … and then, Taylor Swift.
James: Taylor Swift for me. David Bowie when I was younger. Even Oasis when I was a bit younger.
What can fans expect from you this year?
James: We just released our album the end of last year and so this year, the emphasis is touring the album and travelling to places like the Philippines and sharing our music with the world. But we’re also starting on new music all the time. So I guess 2016 will be about touring and starting the next album, really so similar to 2015. Hopefully, we get to travel the world as much this year as we did last year.
Tristan: And we also have our own record label so we’re gonna focus this year as well on upcoming artists.
With your record label, do you plan on signing any new bands soon?
James: We just signed a new band called the New Hope Club. They’re kind of similar to The Vamps in the sense that they’re of the same age when we started. So we’ve got two bands now, The Tide and New Hope Club. Hopefully, there’ll be another one soon.