The Vamps are back with Cherry Blossom. An album title that is a reflection of the theme of rebirth that runs throughout.
And a rebirth of The Vamps it is. Their most personal and fully-formed to date – the album was aided by the enforced rest, with the band having the time and space to meticulously plan exactly what they wanted it to be and say.
It’s an album that started with a slight bump. Having been on the treadmill of album, tour, album-recorded-on-tour, another tour, they fell back into the old routine and wrote half an album quickly 18 months ago. Some proper time off was needed however, so they indulged in that rare thing of space away from the band. “We had a lot of time to soul search, but also as musicians we had time to go and listen to a variety of different albums and just enjoy music,” explains McVey. Then, last summer, unhappy with the results of those early sessions, they booked some AirBnbs and just hung out and started jamming as the band. “We ended scrapping all of the first batch of songs and starting again,” McVey says. Calling in regular collaborators such as Jack & Coke (Rita Ora, Charli XCX), Lostboy (Zedd, Dua Lipa) and JHart (Camila Cabello, The Script) to help shape the songs, alongside Simpson who took the lead on much of the production, Cherry Blossom was formed.
The Vamps, aka Brad Simpson, Connor Ball, Tristan Evans and James McVey, had never really had the chance to be bored before 2020 struck. Since their platinum-selling debut album, Meet The Vamps, crashed into the UK charts at number 2 in 2014, the band have been holding onto a dream-like rush of albums (four in total, including 2017’s chart-topping Night & Day (Night Edition), featuring the Matoma-assisted global smash “All Night” which certified Gold in the US), singles (eight UK Top 40 hits including five top 10s), and world tours (they’re the first and only band to headline London’s O2 Arena five years in a row). A decade into their careers, and now on their fifth album, they had to take stock. “When you’re on tour it’s very reactive and you’re in the moment, so you’re not necessarily really deep-diving into your relationships as a band,” says Simpson. “We got to a point where we needed to stop so that we knew what we wanted to do next. Every crossroads that we’d come to –the end of a tour or the end of an album cycle –it was like ‘what are we going to do next?’
If their first two albums centered around bright, left-leaning acoustic-pop and their second two around a more experimental, EDM-orientated sound, then Cherry Blossom feels like the perfect mid-point between those two soundscapes. It’s an album that sees them embracing where they’re at as mid-twentysomethings, with a fanbase going through the same things as them. “Fans want more context to music now, they want more subtext to it,” says Simpson. “You’re doing them a disservice not to evolve. To not be authentic. The idea is to bring them on a journey with us, as they grow up too. We’re writing about stuff we haven’t necessarily touched on before.”
“We unlocked where we wanted to go in terms of our own aspirations,” Simpson explains. So while the playful, bouncy-castle-in-song-form “Married in Vegas”, propelled by a buoyant Elton John-esque piano riff, is about throwing caution to the wind, songs like the pensive ballad “Would You” deal with the insecurities that crop up in seemingly perfect relationships, while the sentiments of not settling is echoed in the lyrics to second single “Better” – “I won’t settle for less than best, we can do better than this.”
In the space of just six years The Vamps have morphed from bright-eyed and bushy-tailed boyband with instruments into a proper fully-fledged pop band crafting arena-sized hits. On Cherry Blossom, the musicality that’s occasionally been lost in frantic release schedules and world tours and award shows has been given the time to properly, well, blossom. This isn’t a vehicle for pop’s current crop of in demand songwriters and producers, this is a Vamps-lead project that’s made all the more impressive by the fact it was honed and finessed during lockdown. “We’d be lying if we said we didn’t want it to go out into the world and be received positively,” says Simpson of their hopes for the album, “but ultimately, we love it so much, and that feeling of self-fulfillment is so exciting. These are songs that really touch on parts of our lives.”