Goth punk outfit Creeper are a band that wears its numerous influences on their black lace and leather sleeves. The Southampton-based quintet clearly draws from their love of bands such as Misfits, Alkaline Trio and AFI, but on their latest release, Sanguivore, the band has taken inspiration from grander sources like Meat Loaf’s epic Bat Out Of Hell. With the help of producer extraordinaire Tom Dalgety, Creeper has crafted their very own vampiric-rock opera that is not only the most ambitious record that they've made so far, but their most critically acclaimed.
An integral part of the band’s sound comes courtesy of co-lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Hannah Greenwood, whose piano-playing and theatrical vocals set the band apart from anything else in the genre.
As well as lending her talents on the keys and vocals to Creeper's ever-evolving sound, Hannah can be seen providing additional guitar and percussion when the band performs live and even violin when the song calls for it. But despite having many strings to her bow, she's rather humble about her musical abilities, saying, "I suppose this might be putting myself down a bit, but I've always said that I'm a bit of a jack of all trades and a master of none" – but one listen to the band's latest album, and you can tell she is selling herself short.
With a tightly packed schedule for the year ahead, we caught up with Hannah while she was on a short break from touring to discuss everything from the advice she'd give beginner keyboard players to her go-to stage piano, recording with Coldplay's piano and balancing a full-time job in the NHS with being a key member of the UK’s hottest goth-punk band.
I thought we could start at the beginning and what inspired you to start playing keys?
“Piano was the first thing I ever learned to play when I was about six. My mum was really encouraging and found me a piano teacher in the village I lived in, and she was your typical piano teacher. I mean, she was amazing, but she was in her late 60s and had three cats. I remember the smell of her house, it was just cats and old furniture. And yeah, I started playing and did pretty well. My teacher was like, ‘Yeah, you're really good, you should go through your grades’, and as a kid, I just carried on learning.
“Then I started singing and playing the violin and the piano kind of fell off a little bit. I would still play as I got older, but I went to university and I did a vocal degree. So I did play the piano but [I] was much more focused on singing. And then it wasn't until I met Sean [Scott] that he was like, ‘Oh, I've just joined a band and we're looking for a keys player’. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I mean, I do kind of play, but like haven't played for a little while. I'm sure I could just dust it off'.
“So I bought a little Yamaha P-110 or something and then started again. I've played since I was a kid – but I could definitely be better. My mum used to be like, ‘Oh, you should practice, you should practice’ and I could still do with her telling me that every now and then [laughs]”.
Is there any advice you would like to give to aspiring keyboard players?
I'm the kind of person that, If I can't get it the first time, I get really frustrated, but I'm learning to be more patient.
“I would say for any instrument – because I've picked up and played quite a few – it's getting past the frustration, it's sort of like keeping going. I think with anything that you're trying to learn, it's going to be frustrating. It's going to be difficult, but you have to just work past that.
“I still have it now where I'll sit down to play something – maybe I've not played [it] for a few years or maybe it’s something that I want to learn, and I can't get it. I'm the kind of person that, If I can't get it the first time, I get really frustrated, but I'm learning to be more patient.
“So I suppose it's patience and perseverance really, with learning a musical instrument. Remember it doesn't have to be done to a certain timeframe. If it takes you longer than it takes somebody else, that's fine. But yeah, I'd say patience and perseverance”.
Before becoming a full-time member of Creeper in 2015, you were initially hired as a touring member, how did that come about?
“So I did my degree at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guilford. I stayed in Guilford and I had a job working at a school. I was working towards becoming an executive PA and I met Sean [Scott] while I was at uni through a mutual friend.
“He phoned me one day while I was at work and I was like, ‘I'm a little bit busy at the moment’, and he was like, ‘You’re going to want to hear this’. So I remember sneaking off away from my boss, and he said, ‘I've just recently joined this band, and they want somebody that can play the keys and can sing’ and I was like, ‘Okay yeah, well I can do that, so I'll pop down if you want?’
“So I went down to Southampton and met Will [Gould - vocals], Ian [Miles - guitar] and Sean [Scott - bass] and they were just like, ‘Oh, we just want a bit of keyboard and a bit of vocals’ and it just went from there.
“At first, I thought it would just be ‘thank you very much, see you later’, but then Will said to me, ‘We can't do this without you, we can't go on tour without you now because you're such a big part of the musicality of Creeper’.
“So I was like, ‘Okay’ and I quit my job at the time and my boss was like, ‘Yeah, you must go and do it’. So yeah, it started out from a phone call from Sean and has gone from there. I thought it would just be a one-off and here I am eight years later”.
In Creeper, you provide vocals, keys, guitar, violin and percussion. As a multi-instrumentalist, how do you balance your various roles in the band?
“I suppose this might be putting myself down a bit, but I've always said that I'm a bit of a jack of all trades and a master of none – well, I suppose singing is what I master in.
“I try not to let things overwhelm me. The guitar and percussion is something that I've very recently done and the violin was back on some of the first Creeper stuff I played [on] – but I haven't played violin for ages actually, which is kind of sad. It sits in its box under the bed, and it’s broken; the bridge on it has snapped. So I feel really guilty that it just sits there.
I don't want anybody to be under any illusion, there are times that it's a bit too much.
“But I guess I kind of spend a lot of time on the piano and vocals and then the rest of it kind of just comes naturally. What I do in terms of percussion and guitar is more of an embellishment – obviously, Ian [Miles] and Lawrie [Pattison] are way more talented on the guitar than I am, but I'm just sort of there to beef it out a little bit.
“I suppose I'd love to get better, but I’m trying to juggle my life, Creeper, and learning instruments at the same time. I sometimes bite off way more than I can chew”.
Speaking of juggling your life with the band, I believe you hold down a full-time job as well as playing with Creeper. Can you talk a little bit about what that’s like and the challenges of being in a successful band and maintaining a full-time job?
“It's really tough. So my fiance and I are moving to Suffolk at the end of January, which is a massive change for me. Next week is my last week; I work for the NHS in maternity. So I do full-time with that and then obviously do Creeper and it is really difficult.
“I don't want anybody to be under any illusion, there are times that it's a bit too much. With a full-time job, obviously, you get five to six weeks off a year, and all of my annual leave is carefully planned around touring – my annual leave isn't a holiday. Because touring – as much fun as it is, and I love touring, and sometimes it can be a bit of a holiday – it's not; it's hard work, it's putting the graft in.
“But then it's coming home from work, sitting in front of the piano, trying to get a good hour in of that. I'm very lucky that my partner is incredibly supportive, and he will do dinner, and he's very good for being like, ‘Just focus, just focus’ – but it's really, really difficult to juggle.
“I've left my full-time job now and I'm looking at more temporary stuff, so I'm going to see if I can make it work with some temporary stuff and then maybe dedicate a bit more time to playing the piano. I want to put some more stuff online. I want to do some Creeper covers that are just piano. I feel like I only do music when I have to, whereas I want to do it because I want to. So yeah, one word, difficult”.
I thought it would be great to discuss your current live set-up – can you walk us through your current touring rig?
“Yamaha very kindly gifted me, quite a few years ago now actually, the MODX8, which is amazing. I will put my hands up and say I don't know how to use it to its full potential and probably never will. There are lots of things on there that I would never need to use obviously, but it's been a real step up for me because I was a classical piano player.
“I did ABRSM grading on an upright piano, and my piano teacher had a massive full-size grand piano – so I went from playing the piano to joining Creeper. And now I use the MODX8, which is much more synth-based.
“So learning that has been really good fun. It's been a bit of a challenge, definitely, but I've learned now how to do patches. I can split the patches so that I've got the organ on one hand and the strings or whatever on the other.
“I'm planning on upgrading more as time goes on. I've got [the] Akai Mini MPK and I want to learn a bit more about MIDI because I don't know anything about any of that stuff.
“A friend of mine is session keys for Don Broco and he's very, very good with MIDI and stuff like that. So I'm gonna have a chat with him and ask him about his setup.
“In terms of the guitar – I've pinched that off my partner – it’s a Manson. It's the Mikey Demus signature model. It's really nice and it looks great. It's all black. That was sort of gifted to me by my fiance.
“On the last tour, the floor tom I had, I borrowed that off our drum tech – he was like ‘here you go’. So I'm very basic. But yeah, the Yamaha MODX8 is a really, really cool bit of kit and I really should do it justice and learn how to use it a bit better”.
The new album, Sanguivore, sounds like the most adventurous record Creeper has released so far – with the keys playing a massive part in the sonic presence of the record. Can you talk a little about how you approached the writing and recording of this new album?
“Will [Gould] and Ian [Miles] do the lion's share of all of the writing stuff and we worked with Tom Dalgety on the latest record, which is amazing. I mean, he's just a genius and he's such a lovely guy.
“So some of the synth stuff was actually just programmed by Tom whilst they were in the writing session and then I sort of come in and do embellishments. So I did all of the actual grand piano stuff.
“It's quite nice for me because I'm so busy and still have a full-time job, I can kind of step in and they're like. ‘Oh, this is what you need to do, can you just do it?’ And then I'll just pop it down, embellish it and then I write all the vocal harmonies.
“It's kind of a mixture of Tom and me sort of programming it in. I think Tom did some of it on a guitar through MIDI. So when I came to play it. I was like, the way these chords are notated is really weird. They're in really different positions.
“So yeah, it's me sort of embellishing on Will, Ian and Tom’s work and it's kind of always been like that. Will has a little Casio keyboard that he plays with three fingers and he'll sit me down and be like, ‘I want you to play something like this’. So I'll be like, ‘Oh, you mean like this?’ And he's like, ‘Yeah, great’. So yeah, it's a bit of a group effort.”
Can you remember which piano you used on the record?
“We've got something exciting coming up next, which is kind of a follow-on from Sanguivore, which is as much as I can go into.
“I’d have to double-check, I can’t quite remember, but [we recorded at] Rockfield in Monmouthshire, and I think Coldplay recorded Yellow on that piano. I was like, ‘Okay, I probably shouldn't be playing this’.
“There's one very funny video I've got of Ian and me recording a part in The Ballad Of Spook & Mercy, the bit where it builds and it's just us clamouring on the piano and I was like, ‘God, I really feel like we shouldn't be doing this to this piano’ [laughs].”
Creeper is a band that is constantly evolving, what can we expect from the band next?
“We've got something exciting coming up next, which is kind of a follow-on from Sanguivore, which is as much as I can go into.
“In terms of the next record, I know Will and Ian are already doing some stuff for that. I haven't actually heard anything yet, but with those two their brains are constantly moving at a different speed from anyone else that I know – so I just sort of wait for them.
“I feel like with how well Sanguivore did and how it was received so warmly – they're still on a high from that, so whatever they come up with next is going to be equally as good, if not better”.
Sanguivore is out now and you can catch Creeper throughout the UK on their 12 Days Of Night tour and in the US supporting Black Veil Brides. Head over to CreeperCult.com for more information.