UK metallers Vexed recently released their debut album ‘Culling Culture’ – one of the strongest debut metal albums for some time now – and we caught up with vocalist Megan Targett to discuss the album. Other topics also on the agenda include; signing to Napalm Records, sitting on an album for a few years, and evading security at Ally Pally in London with CJ McMahon from Thy Art Is Murder.
‘Culling Culture’ has been out for a few weeks now, have you revisited the album at all? Or is it a case of once it’s out there, move on to the next album?
“It’s really weird because we wrote it a while back, I mean one of the songs was written in 2017! So in a sense, it’s really old to us. We’re just starting to figure out rehearsals again, sorting out a live stream, we really want to go to that next step, like we are halfway through album No2, writing-wise, but obviously, we never got a chance to tour this album and we need to do that, and we want to do that. So it’s really weird, we are stuck in between..wanting to go back and relive it, but we have also moved on from it in a sense because we wrote it such a long time ago. We want to do it justice, but yeah…it’s a strange one.
Usually, it’s album release-tour, followed by album release-tour, but now it’s album release, sit on the couch bingeing on Netflix…[laughs] Yes! We were supposed to release the album in 2020, we had it recorded in 2019, and then like you said, it was a case of you have to delay it, you have to cancel everything…and then when you do release it you’re just going to be sitting around in your bedroom. We are experiencing the album release from our phone screens so it doesn’t feel real, any of it, it hasn’t really sunk in. I’m looking forward to that live aspect coming back. Then it will feel real.
Rather than asking how best to describe Vexed, I’ll go with a quote from Loudwire in the US as they came up with a fantastic description…“Anger and disgust may be the most relatable human emotion on the Earth right now, which VEXED bottled, distilled and consumed undiluted at casket strength potency…” – that’s perfect, isn’t it?![laughs] They did an amazing job, that’s such a sick quote and they said it better than we ever could. What they said is what we are trying to get across, it’s perfect, it’s just mad that they summed it up so well.
If anyone was to ask what Vexed sounded like, that’s the perfect quote to show them…
It is, if anyone ever asks me “What is Vexed?” or “what genre” then I’m like uhh hmmm, it’s just fucking angry metal! People spend ages picking apart genres and subgenres, and that just takes the enjoyment away. We don’t think about genres when we are writing, we just write what we want to write, and whatever comes out, at the end of the day it’s just metal.
Exactly that, now ‘Culling Culture’ has been released via Napalm Records, at what point did they come on board, and where did the connection come from?
They came on board really late, we had finished the album, it was all recorded and done apart from one song, we hadn’t done ‘Fake’ yet. Personally, we knew that we wanted to release the album with a label, we didn’t want to do it independently as we all had done that for over a decade with old bands and we were never fully satisfied with that. So we wanted to have some sort of backing if we could, management sent it out everywhere that they could possibly send it, and nobody was biting at all. It was dead in the water for so long. We were actually in the studio doing the last song ‘Fake’ and we got a text from our manager that said that Napalm had heard the album and wanted to sign us, no questions asked. So we were like…”Fuck!” we were running around screaming, and again, it still hasn’t really sunk in because we weren’t allowed to tell anyone. We went on tour straight after we signed, and we couldn’t tell anyone, we kept it quiet for a year and then when we did announce it…we were stuck at home! So it kind of came out of nowhere, at the last minute. And we are very lucky. Very lucky.
Napalm is a great label, one of those labels that doesn’t rely on legacy acts or “traditional” metal acts and keeps on signing fresh blood from all aspects of the spectrum; Jinjer, Infected Rain, Powerwolf, and then Myles Kennedy…
Exactly, yes, Tetrarch are on Napalm as well, and they are fucking amazing! You’re right, we were a bit worried when we signed to Napalm that they were a traditional metal label, the home of Viking metal! And we thought that the fans were going to hate us, that we would stick out like a sore thumb, but when we started looking through their roster and saw all the modern metal acts, we could see what the label were doing and it’s really lovely being part of that roster.
The reason that we chose them above everyone else is that they are lovely people. A couple of other labels that we spoke to, it was very much like men-in-suits, and they wanted too much of a say in what we should look and sound like. And Napalm are just normal down to earth, lovely human beings who are happy with us as we are.
Given that there was a delay in releasing the album, what was going through your mind when the clock was counting towards 00:01 on the day of release and the album was finally out there?
I was shitting myself to be honest! [laughs] It was one of those things that had been building up for so long, and then when it finally hit I was like…how am I supposed to feel? So I went a bit numb…but I was absolutely shitting myself! But then it was almost like a sudden relief, no more anxiety about what was going to happen, it was out there and the long wait was over, so it was a huge sigh of relief, and then to see how well it has gone down…it’s unfathomable. I cannot get my head around it. It’s insane.
No matter where you go in the world you will always encounter people who insist on being arses, especially on YouTube, but the vast majority of comments on each single that you have released have been very encouraging…
No matter what you are doing, in every walk of life, you will always get some twat who thinks that they are a fucking expert, but overall, it’s been overwhelmingly nice.
The album itself is quite a personal album for yourself, how much did it take out of you when you were writing and recording the songs?
It was absolutely exhausting. If I was being honest it was exhausting…emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting. But, it was like the most cathartic experience because it was so personal and each song was difficult to talk about because it was about different experiences. But it was what I needed in order to kind of set myself free and move on. I wanted to write an album that I physically couldn’t sing or scream, when I went into the studio to record ‘Narcissist’ for example, I hadn’t even practiced it, and I was like…” right, I know this is going to fucking suck, and I know that I’m not going to be able to do it, but don’t let me leave the booth until it’s done”. And now I can do ‘Narcissist’ when I’m driving home from work in my car! But then, I was ready to punch the wall because it was so, so difficult. But that’s the kind of singer I am, if it’s too easy then I don’t want to do it. I want to be able to go into the studio and not be able to do something, but come out being able to do it with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back.
With it being so personal, did you find yourself having to take a step back, taking a break during a particular song, before coming back to it?
No, it was a case of..I’m going to do this, take it head-on, and I’m not leaving until it’s done. I’m quite a stubborn bitch to be honest! [laughs] And when I’m judging myself or doing anything that is putting myself to the test, then I am my own worst enemy. I will not let myself down, in a way, although it was really tough, I wouldn’t leave until it was done.
‘Hideous’ was the lead single from the album, and it works really well with ‘Ignorant’ as an opening pair, a real statement of intent, what was it about ‘Hideous’ that made you pick it as the lead single?
I think it was because we wanted to be able to come back after a couple of years of not really being in the public eye – we had released two standalone singles, and then it went quiet – and say, okay, this is our sound, it’s angry, but it’s also a little bit of a representation of everything that we do, and everything that is on the album. So we wanted to pick the one song that kind of summed up the album and I think that ‘Hideous’ is the one that does that. Plus it’s angry as fuck!
Oh it’s a banger for sure! It’s one of those songs where when you listen to it on the album with ‘Ignorant’ acting as an intro, it would be perfect for opening the live set, but at the same time thinking that it would also make a wicked show-closer…it must be great having that kind of headache?!
It is, yeah! At the moment we are trying to write our setlist for Bloodstock and it changes every day! We cannot make our minds up on what to open and close with, and ‘Hideous’ is the one where we are struggling to place in the set. We will probably make up our minds on the day!
On the subject of festivals, it must be reassuring that Download is going ahead with a pilot scheme and a reduced capacity as a test?
It was awesome to see that, and there are so many bands that we know on the bill, and without this pilot festival, they probably wouldn’t have been able to get a festival appearance this year. I cannot imagine not playing a festival this year! To go two years without playing a festival, would be torture. We are lucky enough to be playing Bloodstock later this year, and it’s so lovely to see friends of ours playing the Download pilot. And well done on Download for getting it organised so quickly.
Every cloud and all that, but had it been a “normal” Download bill with overseas bands, then perhaps some of the bands playing the pilot festival might not have been in with a shot of playing, hence they now have the opportunity to get out and play Download in front of 10,000 people…
Oh my god, yes, and that’s all it is sometimes, people giving bands that chance. There are so many amazing unsigned, and signed but small, bands in the UK who are so fucking talented that people don’t want to give them a chance. That’s what happened with us, for ages nobody was getting back to us, nobody was listening to the album, I was “too outspoken”, we wore tracksuits and they didn’t know how to market us, and we were like…just give us a fucking chance and we’ll prove it to you. So being able to see these bands getting on that bill at Download…they’re not going to take that opportunity for granted, and I can’t wait to see it.
Insane to think that for a lot of these bands, playing at Download might be their first gig in over a year!
Yes! We don’t know what we are going to do! Bloodstock will be our first gig since January 2020, so yeah, we are shitting bricks to be honest!
You just mentioned people giving young bands a chance, and supporting them, someone that has been championing the Vexed cause is of course CJ from Thy Art Is Murder, what did you personally take from the experience of working with CJ on ‘Elite’?
It was a reassurance thing, that we are worthy, and not from an arrogance point of view because I literally have zero self esteem on most days. I have the worst imposter syndrome and I’m constantly telling myself that I’m not good enough, but whenever I think about the fact that CJ stood there and told us that we were good, and he likes us, that we’ve got something…I mean, he’s one of the biggest people that I look up to in this industry…and he’s one of the nicest most genuine people I’ve met, he would not be scared to call us a bunch of cunts if he wanted to. So it was really reassuring and humbling to know that somebody of his stature thought that we were worthy, and it gave us the reassurance to keep going when everyone was turning us down.
And sometimes that’s all it takes…
Absolutely, it just needed someone who knows their shit to tell us…keep going, don’t stop. He’s been brilliant, I remember after ‘Elite’ came out I was getting quite a lot of hate personally, and I messaged him saying that I didn’t know what to do because people were saying filth to me online, and he replied something like…“Ignore the cunts, they’re jealous pricks…”. He was brilliant, my mum was saying the same thing, my friends were saying the same, and I was not taking it in, but as soon as CJ said it I was like…Yeah!
There are some tales to tell with regards to the promo video I believe? Dodging security at Ally Pally in particular?
God, yes! I don’t know how we pulled it off, I messaged CJ in the morning because he was arriving at Ally Pally for the Parkway Drive ‘Reverence’ tour as Thy Art Is Murder were supporting. I asked if he was at the venue yet, and when he replied that he was, we drove straight down there with this throne in the back of my car! We arrived and he said that he would come find us, bearing in mind that this man is my absolute idol so being able to text him was one thing, but having him coming down to meet us…I was freaking out! I tried to play it cool! He just came out the front door and said “come on then” so we got the throne on the back of a buggy that he had found, drove it around the back of Ally Pally and walked through the back door. We went upstairs and he looked around for ages until he found a room that he wanted to shoot the music video in, and he just went for it! And it was as simple and as lovely as that. Little things like when we were loading out and he helped us take all our gear, all our recording stuff out, and he came out outside and stood smoking a fag with us! There’s not enough people like CJ in the world, just a lovely, normal, down-to-earth guy. People need to start humansing their rock star heroes, because they are just normal people, and as lovely as it is to have escapism and people you look up to when you need it, you have to remember that they are just human beings and they still appreciate a good old chat about bullshit as much as the next person. But yeah, it was a humbling experience and if we could ever give that back at some point in the future then I’d love to do that.
On the subject of videos, the visual aspect of the band is really strong, a bit more than just the band lip syncing in a rehearsal room, who comes up with the ideas for your videos?
It’s a group effort for the ideas, and then we can take zero credit when it comes to the filming because our filming guys are incredible. We knew that we were doing ‘Hideous’ first so we had a concept, which was that we wanted it to be horror movie-esque; dark, really red themed, and wanted to have a Mustang. I don’t know why the Mustang, but we just did! We wanted it to look like the album artwork. We approached Purple Yam Productions who are a company here in England, and both of the guys are the kindest, loveliest people, but they also play in a band, so they kind of get it straight away. They are both massive horror movie nerds, so we told them not to hold back, and they didn’t! We came up with loose concepts for each video, and they went above and beyond on each of them.
We have to end on your incredible harsh vocals, how do you look after your voice?
Whenever we are on the road, I’m not obsessively healthy. Every so often, if we have a day off and a good solid 16 hours or so before the next show; then I’ll have a drink and a pizza. But I drink so much water, and I’m vegetarian so I have a pretty healthy diet anyway. So good food, plenty of water, and I always warm up my voice before and after every single show, which is quite boring and tedious, but it’s important when you are screaming so much every night…without stating the bloody obvious!
Connect with Vexed, here.
Interview – Dave
Photo credits – Andy Ford