The Creeping Ivies

The Creeping Ivies are one of my favourite bands around at the moment (writes Andy Wood). Sure, I count them as friends as well, but even if I’d never met them I’d still adore them. While some bands have a great sound and others a cool look or aesthetic, the two Creeping Ivies, Becca Bomb and Duncan Destruction, have the lot. Live they take the very bare bones of instrumentation, a lone voice, electric guitar and  the most Spartan of drum kits and make it all sound so much more than the sum of the parts. They look and sound amazing on stage as they strip rock ‘n’ roll down to it’s rawest, most essential parts and put it back together in their own trashy, sexy and thrilling vision. The songs roar and shriek but also swing and have great, dirty hooks to sucker you in.  A Creeping Ivies live show is some how primitive, visceral and beautiful and suave all at the same time.

So far so cool but none of this would matter too much if they didn’t have the songs to match but songs they have in abundance. Each gig or record throws up new favourites for me, some of their songs stick in my head for months after a single hearing. The debut E.P. ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Party’ was a cool calling card, simple in its execution, with it’s barebones production highlighting some great, catchy, raucous songs. Next up though was ‘Ghost Train’ which was mind-blowing. It’s a seriously brilliant song live and on record The Creeping Ivies caught the primeval rawness of their live shows but somehow made it work on record, a feat a number of good live bands don’t manage to do so well. Over the last eighteen months or so each gig felt better than the last one and so early on they had a recordings to match that.

The debut album Stay Wild sees The Creeping Ivies take all that early excitement and energy and release an album that is well worth hearing. It’s almost perfect, ten songs, not a bit of fluff or filler, just, as the old time record pluggers and hustlers would say, all killer. and stands up to, no scrub that, positively encourages repeated plays. Like the live shows Stay Wild makes me want to move my feet, leaves me with a big, daft smile on my face. While many bands look to their first album to consolidate things, re-recording or including live favourites and previous singles, The Creeping Ivies wrote and recorded ten new songs in lightning fast time. Time may have been of the essence but the quality control was on high alert. For this band, procrastination really is the antithesis of art. The devil certainly made work for idle hands and if old Nick really does have the best tunes he’d be still up for a bit of Stay Wild.

Onstage The Creeping Ivies are intense and enthralling, off stage they are equally passionate and entertaining, often completing each others sentences, totally in love with music and the creative process and humble and excited by what they have achieved in such a short time. With Stay Wild released as a digital download in December and due to be released on vinyl shortly via the U.S. label Deadbeat and live shows being booked into the coming months it seemed a good time to catch up with The Creeping Ivies.

How did you approach writing and recording the album? You were quite quick getting it together weren’t you?

Becca: I work better when it’s pressure, like we have to do this, it’s coming up, let’s do it and it was basically two to three months wasn’t it?

Duncan: Well you wrote it all.

Becca: But we had to learn it.

Duncan: We had to learn all the songs. Some of the songs we only had two practices.

Becca: That’s just me in general. If I have something to do it will be in at the last minute because that’s the way I work, that’s my personality. If I know something’s coming up I know, shit, that’s the pressure, I have to do it now.

Duncan: Most of our songs, when they’ve come together, they’ve come together quite quickly but it was pretty insane cos it was like ten songs had to come together.

Becca: I can’t even remember. I think we just decided yeah, we’ll make an album and we’ll book the studio but it seemed like it was along time away when I booked the studio…

Duncan: Well, no, no. It was more because Deadbeat Records approached us and said do you want to do an album and we only had two songs. We had ‘Stay Wild’ and ‘Black Cat’. They did that and basically the only time we had free was October. But Deadbeat approached us first about doing the album before the end of the year.

Becca: Then they said to me, how many songs have you got towards the album so far and I thought, well one, maybe two.

Duncan: Did you not bullshit and say five?

Becca: Yeah, I said maybe about five. Cos I knew, I just knew I’d be able to write them. I can write ten songs in the next month or two.

Duncan: ‘Bop Like That’ we played it three times before we played it in the studio and we did it in one take. Everything came together pretty quickly.

Becca: That’s the way it should be anyway. It’s rock ‘n’ roll, it’s not a long drawn out process.

Duncan: Even on the ‘GhostTrain’ E.P. half the songs, when we recorded it, it was the first time we’d played them like that anyway. Being in the studio kinda focuses you.

Did you have a fixed idea in your heads of what it was going to sound like before you went into the studio? It still has that rawness but the sound seems fuller.

Becca: No. Actually. Any of the stuff that’s kinda added on the day was purely thought up at the time.

Duncan: All the overdubs were just basically of the moment like the…

Becca: … different percussion. It was basically the atmosphere.

Duncan: There was a box of percussion and we just basically went oh, maybe that will go quite well.

Becca: Emily from the studio she did backing vocals. She’d come up with backing vocals for ‘Rock and Roll Ghost’.

Duncan: Then Stuart on one was like ‘handclaps would be brilliant on this one’. Essentially we had the basis for the tracks…

Becca: Because we’d worked with them before we were comfortable and they knew what our sound was so when I approached them about doing the album Emily was quite enthused. We were open to suggestions, to see what happens.

Duncan: Once we’d recorded the basic track we were just discussing it and throwing ideas about and just trying things to see what they sounded like and pretty much all the ideas were spot on anyway.

Were there any waifs and strays left out or did you go in with the ten songs?

Becca: There was one. ‘Secret Hideaway’. It was a total rhythm song. It was under practiced. There was meant to be eleven songs but that was the only one we ditched.

Duncan: It was essentially quite different from all the other songs. I just couldn’t get a handle on how to play the drums for it.

Becca: It just wasn’t gelling really. But, at the same time ‘Spinning’ wasn’t gelling initially cos it was quite a new song as well but that just kind of came together and a lot of people are now saying that’s their favourite song.

So how do you do you feel about the album now it’s finished and you can’t go back and do anything to it now it’s out there in the world?

Duncan: Really proud of it. I love it as it is.

Becca: I’m really happy. I actually like every song on the album. I know I’m going to say that because it’s ours but I genuinely love every song.

Duncan: Especially how quickly it all came together, just four days in the studio, really intense. I couldn’t listen to it for a month afterwards but coming back to it now it sounds exactly how I had it in my head.

Becca: Every night when we’d have about five versions of each song and going back to the hotel and thinking, God, we can’t hear this song any more.

Duncan: We recorded it on the first day, overdubs on the second then mastered it for two days so some times we’d listen to the songs ten, twenty times each, over and over again so at the end of the day you were just sick of it. But really proud.

How did the album come to be on Deadbeat Records?

Becca: He got in touch with us and emailed us and said he’d been listening to our previous stuff and keeping track of us and he loved the first EP and the second and he’d been checking us out for a while and loved everything we’d done. It was quite flattering as well as he’d not released anything by any U.K. bands for quite a while.

Duncan: It’s just really flattering when someone who loves and cares about music so much and is willing to put their money into you and stuff.

Who did the artwork for Stay Wild and the ‘Ghost Train’ E.P.?

Becca: It’s a guy called idonemine. He lives in Vienna and he does a lot of artwork for labels and stuff. I think we found him online.

Duncan: We really loved his stuff.

Becca: He did the artwork for one of the garage punk compilations and I think I just sent him a message.

How much input did you have in the final artwork?

Becca: I’ll give him an initial thing. Maybe this? Maybe that?

Duncan: More of a hint really of the general direction.

Becca: Cos I know what his works like anyway. I think, for the next album, we’ll go in a different direction and do a photograph. I don’t want it to be constantly illustrations. It would be nice to do something different for the next album which I’ve already started writing. I even know the title of it.

Stay Wild has received some pretty great reviews. How do you feel about the general response to it?

Becca: Just really happy and flattered that people are enjoying it. I mean, obviously we’re still quite low key, we don’t have management, we don’t have anyone representing us so we’re just really happy that we’ve done this on our own backs and there’s people getting to hear it. Even things like, there’s a music journalist in California who gave us a few reviews and he writes for The Examiner for Orange County and he’s got a couple of kids and he’s always updating us cos his son loves us. He’d went into this Kmart and his three year old son was listening to an Ipod and the cashier asked him what he was listening to and he went ‘The Creeping Ivies’ and just to hear something like that in a place like California. And this guy sent us a video of a kid singing ‘Buzzbomb’.

Duncan: That was so cute.

Now that the album is out has that made it any easier to get gigs?

Duncan: I think so, yeah, cos like…

Becca: It’s gone quite crazy in the last month or so. We’ve had a lot of like…

Duncan: It came out on download just, what the end of December and we had a couple of offers then and, suddenly, we’ve got the most gigs lined up that we’ve ever had. And we’ve had to turn down a few because we couldn’t do them.

Can you tell me a bit about the making of the ‘Ghost Train’ video?

Duncan: It was pretty mad. When was that? It was summer but wasn’t summer. It was one of the worst days of the summer.

Becca: It was June. It was pouring with rain.

Duncan: Freezing cold.

Becca: We just knew we wanted something dark. We were sending him copies of Nosferatu, saying we want something black and white, eerie and dark. The guy, Ciaran, he’s so talented, he’s an amazing film maker. He’s just won a competition to make a short film in London this month. We’re doing our next video with him next month, the first video off the album.

Duncan: He totally got the location, scouted it out and he was totally brilliant.

Becca: It was an old seminary, a catholic teaching place. The building was so eerie. It was a famous 60s architectural place.

Duncan: It’s derelict.

Becca: In the middle of nowhere. We nearly broke the car trying to drive there.

Duncan: It’s a total kids hangout. Half the place had been set fire to, half was graffitieed. Just perfect.

Becca: We were going up floors and a lot of it was unsafe so it was quite scary to film. I had my guitar and I was thinking, is this bit safe to stand on. It was really fun though wasn’t it?

Duncan: Yeah. It was really mad but really fun. The rubbish weather probably helped as well even though it was freezing cold.

Becca: So we’re looking forward to doing the next video which is going to be different. The next video we are doing is ‘Spinning’ which is an opposite theme. It’s kinda like a fast, more punk song so that’s going to be more colourful, it’s going to be on the street, me singing to camera. It’s going to be so different.

Duncan: More kind of like your Joan Jett vibe.

Have you had any offers to play outside the U.K.?

Duncan: We’ve got an any time you want to play Portugal…

Becca: … and California…

Duncan: … and Memphis.

Becca: It’s just getting out there. We got the most random thing. A TV producer from Ecuador contacted me. He’s making a music documentary about the gothic in music, gothic rock ‘n’ roll basically and he wanted to use ‘Ghost train’ on the soundtrack and he just asked my permission to use it so I just gave him my permission and said yeah.

Duncan: Ecuador state TV.

Becca: They’re filming it soon so that’s pretty crazy that they’re going to be using one of songs in Ecuador. Pretty cool!

If someone made a film about The Creeping Ivies who would play your parts?

Becca: Ourselves.

Duncan: There’s nobody better [much laughter]. There’s not much  to tell yet anyway.

Some songs have a spooky theme – ‘Rock and Roll Ghost’, ‘Ghost Train’ – do you believe in ghosts?

Duncan: To some extent.

Becca: I am the ghost. I just like everything that is dark, on the edge, out of this world and creepy hence the name.

So what have you got coming up in the next few months?

Duncan: Quite a few gigs promoting the album. Mainly around Scotland.

Becca: We’ve been asked to go back to London so it’s just finding the time because we both work.

Duncan: Record the next one.

Becca: I’m writing the new one, keeping the ball rolling. Like a rolling stone gathers no moss and all that shit.

I’m guessing that one of the things about working so fast, writing and recording an entire album in such a short time span, is that you haven’t had a chance to get bored of playing the album songs live yet?

Becca: Some of the songs have live before, some of the songs we’ve hardly played live.

Graeme: One thing Becca does is, she has a jotter and writes down possible song titles. She’ll have about ten possible song titles. Some of them won’t get used but half of them will get used and within a week she’ll have the basis of three new songs but they all started with a song title. I don’t know if I’m giving away your secrets here?

Duncan: It’s pretty amazing. We practice every week and sometimes she comes to practice and says ‘I’ve got three new songs’.

Becca: It’s more because I want to create an atmosphere for something. I want it ot be about something. So I’ll think in my head, what am I passionate about, what do I really want to write a song about and it’s like a movie in a way. I’ll get a whole sequence of visions in my head. I think I wrote ‘Ghost Train’ in the bath, I was actually singing it. ‘House of Ivy’ – walking to the Post Office I started writing it in my head and thought, I want to know what chords they are so once I wrote the song in my head I had to work out what the chords were.

Duncan: I remember ‘Buggin’ Around’. I was just messing about with a drum beat and you started with the riff. We’d had this weird conversation about dogging and the next thing, a week later we had a song called ‘Buggin’ Around’.

Thanks to Graeme Ross for his input and assistance with the interview.

Stay Wild is available now on digital download from

http://thecreepingivies.bandcamp.com/album/stay-wild

The Creeping Ivies have the following shows coming up:

16th February, The Cool Cat Club, Dundee

22nd February, The Buff Club, Glasgow

1st March, Henrys, Edinburgh

8th March, The Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh

9th April, Mono, Glasgow

1st June, The Windsor, Kirkcaldy

For more information check out www.thecreepingivies.com

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