This time last year, The Vamps were mere weeks away from making their UK chart debut, but 12 months on and they have placed inside the Top 5 four times over. Next to their number two album Meet the Vamps, a Taylor Swift supporting slot and a headline tour, it’s hard to ignore that the four-piece have firmly cemented their place on the British pop scene.
However, when we caught up with the band, they were embarking on an altogether more daunting and bigger challenge: America. This summer, The Vamps travelled the breadth of the continent with Austin Mahone, squeezing radio promo into each city and shooting music videos along the way. At Los Angeles’s Nokia Theater, their set was a soaring success. They may not be the headline act this evening, but the venue is bustling and the girls are screaming their throats sore during their performance.
You see, in 2014 pop acts can harness an international fan base through social media, and while hard graft and extensive touring pays off, The Vamps touched down in LA to a crowd who have followed their every hit single, YouTube cover, tour diary and tweet online.
“We’ve been received well and we’re very grateful for that,” James McVey says, while Brad Simpson adds that American audiences have helped push them harder. “It’s good because you’re working up the crowd a bit more and building your own stamina,” he notes. “It builds you as a live band.” And it worked; their ‘Somebody To You’ EP went Top 10 in the US upon its release last month.
That said, it’s not only the fans that have been following The Vamps; Hollywood studio execs have been keeping an eye on them too. Disney approached the group earlier in the year to write a track for upcoming film Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The final result is new song ‘Hurricane’, which allowed James and Brad to return to what originally formed the basis of their friendship.
“We work with a lot of songwriters,” Brad says. “But it was really nice to sit back down to how me and James first became friends, which was writing songs together.” James added: “We wrote it in about half an hour on the tour bus during The Wanted tour.”
‘Hurricane’ develops the sound The Vamps have built their chart reputation on; a chanting refrain, an optimistic sentiment and their knack for lively pop-rock. “With this song we had to imagine a little bit and cater to Disney’s needs,” says James on the set of the accompanying music video in the scorching Californian sun. “So lyrically, it was a little more child-friendly and easy listening, but it was good fun to write.”
And going back to basics in the writing process has paved the way for a fresh approach when it comes to the next album. “Obviously we’ve developed through working with songwriters,” says Brad. “So it would be nice to, as time goes on, sit down and do our own thing a bit more.”
The Vamps have begun work on their second studio album, with ambitions to have a stronger voice for the next record. “Yeah, [we want] a lot more creative control,” acknowledges Brad. “We had loads of control over the first album, but we did have co-writes. Whereas, I think for the next one we’re going to have a few weeks out as just us, and then go demo it in the studio.”
They also want to work on the live energy they’ve developed through extensive touring. “We want to be a little bit more band-y,” James notes, before adding that, if given the opportunity, they would “love to write with people like Ed Sheeran”.
Frontman Brad agrees that pushing towards a more organic sound is where he sees The Vamps going next. “‘Hurricane’ was one of the first songs we did that swayed towards the second album,” he says. “It’s a lot more live sounding compared to the first one, which is very clean-cut pop. That isn’t a bad thing, but as we’ve had the album out and gigged it, we’ve realised how much we prefer having it sound rockier and raw. We want to take that sound and put it into the second record a bit more.”
The group are hoping to work with John Shanks again (“he knows how to produce a band”) after teaming up with him for ‘Hurricane’, while they are also keen to get back in the studio with Espionage following their hits ‘Can We Dance’ and ‘Wild Heart’.
In the meantime, they have teamed up with another one of their touring buddies, Shawn Mendes, for a new single version of their popular track ‘Oh Cecilia’. As the familiar Simon & Garfunkel sample plays out in the grand Nokia Theater, a previously nonplussed father stands to clap along, and so the crossover appeal continues. The Vamps will be back at the top of the charts soon enough.