The Vamps: Songwriting, Spiders and Shots

The Tab sat down with Brad and James from the Vamps to talk about everything from their upcoming tour to their worst fears.


Last Friday, the Union was visited by the Vamps’ lead singer Brad Simpson and guitarist James Brittain-McVey. Since forming the group in 2012, the group have gone from strength to strength with number-one albums and the successful launch of their record label in 2015. The band are about to set off for their thirteenth tour ’10 Years Of The Vamps – The Greatest Hits’ around the UK this November. 

Going On Tour

From their first tour in 2014, the Vamps have been on the go every year until the pandemic struck in 2020. Talking about returning to the stage after such a sudden break, James explained “I got used to the feeling of being on stage,” but now “I had the adrenaline I hadn’t had for about six, seven years… I didn’t realise I had missed it.” Brad added that they had missed touring so much after building their lives around being on stage. 

With UK Tours passing through their towns of Bournemouth and Birmingham, both band members felt very strange performing at home. James added, “For me, it’s at the venue where I saw my first ever gig when I was about 10. We all played at venues we saw our first shows in, such full circle moments.”

The Vamps’ first touring experience was as the supporting band to McFly back in 2013. When asked about their favourite supporting tour, Brad answered, “Taylor [Swift] was incredible, we’d done big shows before that, but her production was amazing. We learnt a lot and that kinda set our drive as a band. We wanted to have this ethos that she has.”James backed this as a massive Taylor Swift fan himself saying “I thought doing a support slot with her would have restrictions, but it was the opposite. I spoke to her guitarist for ages about all his equipment. We still have such fond memories of that.”

More importantly, what were the group’s go-to drinks before a show? The night would begin with a shot of Jäegermeister then “before is a gin and tonic, then throughout is a gin and tonic” said Brad. James added, “then wine afterwards.” When asked about the infamous secret ‘Fab’ room at the O2, Brad replied, “we’d love to dive into it, but it’s secret.”

The Music Industry

The Vamps first formed through YouTube when James discovered Brad singing covers on his account. When asked about the evolution of online media and its effect on the music industry, Brad replied, “It was a big change when YouTube came out. TikTok is a new platform, a new way to present and meet people… Every generation has to adjust to the tools they’re presented with.” 

James explained the natural anxiety that comes with a new platform and whether it will disrupt the industry negatively. “You just evolve and grow,” he said, “I find it a real scary pressure, that the art at the core of it, or the freedom to express yourself, will become formulaic.” They explained that they won’t let the changing technology affect their focus with Brad joking “Maybe we will put out an album of 7-second songs.”

For aspiring musicians around Cambridge whether that be singers, songwriters or band members, Brad’s number one piece of advice is “nothing beats hard work.” The pair encouraged getting your content out in any way possible, “There’s a lot of options out there. Try and find that and do it in an authentic way. Take time and hone your craft, find who you are as a musician.”


Breaking into the industry at such a young age, the band members could relate to a similar feeling Cambridge students have: imposter syndrome. “I’m the oldest in the band and I was 18, Connor was 15. Being that age and going to America for 3 weeks was a big jump. I’d been to France like 3 times then suddenly we are going places like Australia.”

Brad explained, “I think there are moments [of doubt] but it’s all perspective. I get to explore other worlds and see people and places with three lovely men. It’s amazing. But there are things you can’t plan for. I got into this for my love of music, not for the fame, then a whole host of other things come with it: slight invasion of your privacy or people suddenly giving a shit about your stuff. If I could go back I’d prepare myself for that a little bit more.”

Talking about public personas, James added, “I took the approach early on in the band to be completely transparent with everything I do. I didn’t want to feel pressure to be James in the Vamps and a James out of the Vamps.” However, they both agreed that “the positives definitely out way the negatives.”

From their early success, the group have been able to collaborate with other artists such as Demi Lovato, Shawn Mendes and Matoma. When asked about their next dream collaboration, the pair wished for someone that could take their music into a slightly different realm. Brad was quick to pick Gorillaz or “Pharrell [Williams] would be really good as he’s just a genius. The way he rearranges music, you hear it in a completely different way.”

Dealing With Stress

Having the interview here in Cambridge, it was fitting to ask how the band deal with stress. James joked “loads of alcohol.” Nevertheless, he saw his coping mechanism as the band itself. Before tours, the group travel to Cornwall to spend a few days just them and “unbox lingering issues.”

“The bond between us is a great way to mitigate future stress,” he described. 

On tour, performing 6 nights a week takes a huge toll mentally and physically. When dealing with exhaustion Brad explained, “You build up a tolerance and a threshold. I struggled for the first three or four years with my voice. I didn’t grow up as a singer, I was primarily a guitarist until the lad in our band at school left then I got the call-up. So I didn’t start singing till I was 16. I was still growing into my voice.” He clarified that a singer is at their peak of vocal performance between the ages of 27 to 35. “You are still really developing your voice in your early twenties. You’ve just got to practice.”

TV Shows and Spiders

In 2018, James took the brave decision to enter the 18th season of ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’. Finishing in fifth place, his biggest fear was spiders. “Spiders have a scent… big spiders smell horrible, like a metallic smell.”

It seemed Brad was unenthusiastic to follow in James’s footsteps, “I’m scared of wasps. Bees I love, honey yes. But wasps…” Comparing the rest of the band members’ potential performance, James thought that “Tristan our drummer would’ve slept the whole time”. Brad added, “and Connor. They’re both very good nappers.”

I then asked the group to choose a TV show they think the Vamps could excel on. James was quick to suggest ‘Hunted’ but Brad was convinced the group would be terrible. “Tristan would book an Uber” added James. The pair began to imagine the endless possibilities and listed ‘Takeshi’s Castle’, ‘Total Wipeout’ or even ‘The Cube.’ 

Their tour begins this November at the O2 Apollo Manchester. 

All images including feature image credits: The Cambridge Union 

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