They are the newest boy band on the block and have won over thousands of fans before their first record is even recorded, Sarah Probert meets The Vamps.
Fresh-faced Bradley Will Simpson has a familiar look about him. It maybe that with his dark head of curls and cheeky smile he is the spit of that other boy band star One Direction’s Harry Styles. Or perhaps it is because he has been singing in Birmingham’s pubs and clubs since the tender age of 15.
The 17-year-old from Sutton Coldfield spent years playing venues where there was little more than “one man and a dog” watching but his hard work strumming away has paid off.
But unlike Styles, Bradley wasn’t catapulted to stardom as a singer in a boy band following an appearance on X Factor. For the former Fairfax School pupil, his journey to the cusp of fame is all down to social networking.
His performances were posted on YouTube and were spotted by James McVey, another keen teen also desperate to make it big.
James, 19, from Bournmouth, had also hit the road as a youngster, playing guitar and singing but took advice that he needed a lead singer to join him if he had a chance of playing in a successful band.
Once Brad and James were together they discovered drummer Tristan Evans, 18, on the video sharing website and finally bassist Connor Ball, 16, from Hatton, Warwickshire, who joined the boys a few months ago.
“I did some acoustic gigs around Sutton Coldfield, playing a couple of my own songs in any pub that would take me,” says Bradley, who began playing in a school band at the age of 11. His early highlights include supporting Cosmo Jarvis at the Rainbow.
“I played HMV Institute and the O2 Academy 3. Birmingham is a great place to get gigs. People are willing to let you play, which was really nice growing up having that opportunity to play music,” he adds.
The foursome – calling themselves The Vamps – have already generated a massive following via YouTube, with 187,465 subscribers on the site.
Their cover of One Direction’s Live While We’re Young turned them into an internet sensation with more than 300,000 views in just one week and they are currently supporting McFly on a UK tour. They performed at Birmingham 02 Academy last week and play Leicester’s De Montfort Hall on May 6 and Wolverhampton Civic Hall on May 11.
But appearing on stage at a major venue in his home city after years spent in community halls and pubs wasn’t too much of a daunting prospect for Bradley.
“It has been amazing,” he says. “But playing to five people is more scary than 3,000 people because you are just looking at a sea of faces.”
And despite the large-scale venues, it isn’t all about rock and roll and living it up in plush hotels for the boys. Following their Birmingham gig the foursome spent the night at Bradley’s Sutton Coldfield home, with his mum cooking up a roast for the boys the following day.
The band have a string of summer gigs, including a concert at Alton Towers on July 6, where they will appear alongside Olly Murs, Rizzle Kicks, Little Mix and Conor Maynard, and they will spend time in the US working on their debut album, with their first single due out in September.
In the meantime the band are enjoying the attention from a growing number of female fans and Bradley and the boys often get mistaken for that other boy band One Direction.
“He seems like a nice chap,” Bradley says of Styles.
“We appreciate all of the attention but we are keeping ourselves grounded and don’t let it go to our heads.”
James adds: “X Factor has worked with so many acts but we have been lucky enough to get this opportunity.
“We all appreciate how successful One Direction are and we don’t really see them as competition. I admire anyone who works hard and stays grounded.”
(Source: http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/music/midlands-band-vamps-set-summer-3406865#.UYPwZfKLPSY.twitter) (you could watch two videos of this interview)