British modern metal act VEXED recently released their excelling debut effort, “Culling Culture,” via Napalm Records. We had the opportunity to chat with vocalist Megan Targett about their latest release. Watch the complete interview below here, or read the text below…
Hi Megan! Thank you so much for taking the time and sitting down with me to do this interview; how are you doing today?
I’m good, it’s been a very busy day today. I have a normal day job, so I raced home in the car to get here to do all my interviews and try and put some make-up on and not look like, you know, death [laughs]. So it’s been quite a hectic day but it’s nice to finally be home and talking to people so yeah I’m good how are you?
Pretty much the same. I also have a day job, so I understand all the struggles that come with it. Anyway, you’re releasing your debut album “Culling Culture” very soon. Are you excited about the upcoming release?
I’m really excited, yeah. We have been sitting on this album for just over 2 years now. We were meant to bring it out quite a while ago but because of the pandemic, it got delayed, so we’re just finally so ready for it to come out. A bit nervous as well, because obviously having a debut on a label like Napalm Records brings quite a lot of pressure. You’ve got to be good. So a little bit nervous but mostly just excited.
What is the story there, because not a lot of bands release their their debut album on Napalm Records. There must be a good story there?
Yeah, it’s quite a quick story. We’ve released two songs without management, without a label, which were “Elite” and “Dominate” and we had all the album but one song recorded, so we knew that we had an album we were proud of. We were like right okay we’re going to try and find a team to release this with. So we found Tone MGMT, who we love, and they’re like family now. They sent the album out to everybody that they could possibly get to listen to it. For ages, nobody was interested and we didn’t get anything back, so we were like are we really going to have to release this independently? Then, we were recording the last song for the album because we knew we wanted just to add one more and our manager just texted us the word “napalm” and we were like “napalm do you mean NAPALM DEATH? What does this mean? He didn’t reply for like 2 or 3 hours and then he got back to us and was like yeah they want to work with you, they really like “Culling Culture.” So we ran around screaming and we’re really excited and it literally was just as simple as that, right? The album got put in the right hands at the right time. They wanted to work with us and it was just the easiest story to tell.
Now, I’m pretty sure that there are still some people who haven’t heard about you yet, so could you briefly talk a little bit about your band’s history; for instance, when did you guys start and how did you guys meet each other?
So we all knew each other from old bands that we were in. Al had been in – who is our bassist – in bands down in Oxford, which is quite a long way away from where the rest of us live, but we all got on really well whenever our bands would meet up to play shows, and then there’s a festival in the UK called UK Tech Metal Fest and once a year we all meet up there as a group of friends and drink too much and have fun. When we decided to form VEXED on New Year’s Day 2019, we didn’t have a bassist, but we’d already booked a European tour, which was really well organized… well done, book a tour without a bassist [laughs]. And so we were like, we need to find a bassist, what do we do, and then the first person who came to my mind was Al and we asked him to come along. He wasn’t a member at this point, he just came along for the shows and by the end of it, we had such a laugh and such a good time, he decided to join. So, yeah it was a combination of all of us, we knew each other previously but we were in bands for years that we didn’t like, and then we were like, right we’re gonna give it one more go or we’re gonna quit, and it luckily all fell into place.
How would you describe your sound to people who haven’t heard your songs yet?
It’s really difficult to describe, because if you’re somebody that likes to know by genres, I don’t know what it is. I was just talking to somebody before about this, we were both saying we can’t put it into a genre. So I suppose we take a lot of inspiration from all different kinds of metal, like progressive metal, death metal, metalcore, deathcore, but then we also are really big fans of grime and rap. So we take quite a lot of interest and influences from that. It’s kind of just a mismatch of a lot of different aggressive genres packed into one, I think.
Now, before you mentioned that you didn’t have a bass player at first. I’m wondering how you guys wrote the songs? Did you guys already have the bass lines in the first songs?
We all met up like a couple of times a week and we knew that we wanted to write an album. We had a couple of songs done and then we were like right, we need to write a few quite a few more, so we’d meet up once a week. Then, we went to the studio, recorded all of them, without a bassist and our producer Merrick, who obviously produced and did the songs, he wrote all the bass for the album. He did all of that and he helped us write the songs, he’s amazing, amazing musician and songwriter as well. Then, after we finished it, Al kind of jumped in and had to learn to play the whole album. He helped us write the last song of the album, which was “Fake.” Now, when we play them live, he kind of does his own interpretation of the songs instead of playing what’s really on the album, which is really nice because it’s nice that he can bring his own take to it. We’ve already started writing the second album so he’s bringing his own writing – which is very good – to the band and he performs it in the way that he would have recorded it if he could have. So yeah, the bass was done by our producer Merrick.
The press release mentioned that this album was kind of inspired by cancel culture. I want to talk a little bit more about the lyrics later on because I heard that it’s not really about that, per se. I’m wondering what your thoughts are about cancel culture, in general, especially because I guess it’s kind of a relevant thing this year because so many artists already got canceled, for instance, Marilyn Manson and Jon Schaffer?
For those instances, I think it is absolutely amazing because finally, these bastards are being held accountable, and the days of rock and roll stars being untouchable are over. I am so pleased that it’s over because all these women and some men, boys, girls, they are all finally being listened to and taken seriously. I think the rock star is dead, and rightly so, and not in the way that you know like Gene Simmons says rock is dead, what I mean is that these people have acted however they wanted to for decades and has destroyed so many people’s lives and have been completely untouchable, they haven’t had to suffer the consequences for it, and cancel culture now has caught them all up for their time, and it’s the most amazing thing to see all these people finally get some vindication and closure, and make these bastards, you know, accountable for what they did. On the flip side though, there are some areas and topics that cancel culture I think is awful for. For example, there’s a lot of people who are denying that certain events in history happened or are just using it as an excuse to be racist, homophobic, sexist, and for those reasons, I think it’s awful because it gives people a reason to hide behind just their awful opinions, when in fact, you know, it’s not true. They’re just horrible people. For victims of abuse, however, it’s the best thing and I fully am behind it, I love it.
Well, you have mentioned in some interviews the lyrics are not necessarily about cancel culture, but are very personal to you. What are they about?
The lyrics on each song is written about an individual person, so there are eight people who each song is dedicated to, and all these people have done horrible horrific things to either me, my family, or my friends and I now have nothing to do with them and have culled them from my life, so to speak. So each song is about each of those individuals, and it explains in some sort of way, the experience I went through, and now how I have absolutely nothing to do with them.
What I also thought was a nice sentence in your biography is something along the lines of that anger can destroy you, but it can also make you stronger or give you real strength or something like that. I was wondering, after having written this album, do you feel like you became a stronger person because of writing all these songs?
Yes, 100%! It’s really weird because when I was writing them, I was so full of anger and pain because it was like having to relive what these people had done to me. The second they were recorded, it was almost like closure. So now, when they’re being released, it’s even more satisfying because it’s finally like I’ve had the closure, but now I’m kind of exposing those people, even though nobody knows who they are, some of them will hear them and know that it’s about them and that that brings me a lot of happiness.
In general, there’s also a lot of anger, I guess, in society present is that also a source of inspiration for you because I heard, in a different interview, that anger really inspires you as a vocalist?
Yeah, it does. Like you said before, I use my anger and my pain to push it to a positive place because you can let it really mess you up in your head, which I did for a long time. For years, I would hate myself for the things that other people had done to me, I would always blame myself for it, whereas now I have the mentality of okay I’m in pain and I’m angry and I’m upset, use it to feel positive things and write lyrics, whatever it is. It’s one of those things where, whenever I’m feeling angry or upset, I can either go and do something stupid or go and do some writing, so I go through writing now. But yeah, sorry I’m losing track I forgot the question.
It’s not so important, I forgot it too, so let’s move on. Anyway, structure-wise, what was also interesting about the album, is that it goes from a very, very dark place to a more hopeful sound. I was wondering whether that was deliberate?
When we were deciding what order to put the songs in, we wanted the start of the album to almost resemble the end, so it feels like you could listen to it on repeat and it would just kind of flow constantly. We didn’t want to kind of put all the angry songs at the end or the beginning, we wanted to make sure that it flowed really nicely and tells a story. So yeah, when we were kind of deciding where to put them, we’d definitely bear in mind that it needed to have some sort of a resolution. I think ending on “Aurora” and “Lazarus” kind of helped sum up the feeling and the end of the album quite well.
I also noticed a lot of people compare you to Tatiana of JINJER. In one of those comments on one of your videos, you reacted that it would be great if people would stop comparing female vocalists and kind appreciate them for their own style and influences. I was wondering if that’s something that happens to you a lot and how do you feel about that?
For ages, it used to really piss me off because I don’t like being compared to anyone, even if it’s in a positive way, because I know some people think that it’s a compliment, but it really isn’t. As a woman, if you’re compared to another woman, it never feels nice in any respect. I don’t mean that in a horrible way towards women, I just mean there’s nothing worse than somebody being like, oh, well, you’re kind of like her but not as good, is just like well, I have my own thing going on. You know, I respect her, but I also respect me and you know, we’re two different individuals. You know you don’t get a comment section in bands where there are male vocalists and they’re like, oh well, he’s just trying to sound like Corey Taylor, like you just don’t, you don’t get it. So it’s purely coming from a sexist place, which is why I get really annoyed about it. Now, I’m used to it and it’s just water off a duck’s back. I don’t even rise to it anymore, but for a long time it did get to me because I felt like I was always going to just be second best, or not good enough, or just compared to other people who are so far ahead of me on a journey I’ve only just started, that there’s no way I can compete with women like Tatiana or Alissa [White-Gluz] because they are so much more experienced than me and they’re incredible. They’re incredible frontwomen. I don’t want to be in competition with them either, we all have our own place. Comments like that used to really get to me, but now I’m just like, well, you’re just an idiot. That’s the only way I would take it now, you’re just a sexist idiot, basically.
In another interview, you mentioned that “Epiphany” was kind of based on these sorts of comments. You mentioned there you also used to get a lot of mean comments about your appearance, your singing, and everything that comes with it. What was the moment that you stopped caring and do you have any advice for artists who probably go through the same things as you were?
When we released “Elite,” I got so, so much hate. I was told I was fat, ugly, untalented, like the most awful things, and I even had people threatening me that they would beat me up if I came to their town to do our show. It was awful and I really didn’t cope with it; like you said, I completely broke down I wanted to quit music completely because it felt like the one place where I felt safe was now not safe anymore. No matter what I did, I just was constantly surrounded by people who hated me and I couldn’t deal with it. Then, the boys they made me realize that other people’s opinions really don’t matter, because it doesn’t matter who you are. You could be the most beautiful, most successful most talented person on this planet, somebody is still always gonna hate you and their opinion is just a fart in the wind. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s not actually fact. So the boys made me realize that if I’ve had that much of an impact on somebody, to the point where they’ve had to write a comment because they can’t stand me, that’s a power that I’ve had on them and that is their own problem. If anything, I find it quite liberating that I am able – from the probably the opposite side of the world – somebody I’ve never met, to have made them upset. It’s quite funny. Advice to younger people is that is going to hurt for a while, because it’s never nice being told awful things like that, but you have to remember that opinions are just things, they are not facts. And, yeah, even we don’t like everybody. So, yeah, just find it funny and save them in your group chat and then go stalk whoever they are and take the piss out of them.
That sounds like a plan! [laughter] The biggest surprise to me on the record was the song “Purity,” because it seems kind of inspired by this retro game music or something like that. How did you guys come up with that song?
Jay, our guitarist, came up with that tapping thing quite early on. We were all wondering how we are going to put this in a song. We managed to do it, or he managed to write the rhythm that goes behind it, because he was so proud of that tapping pattern… and it’s really difficult to play I don’t know how he does it! Even though not all of us were fully behind it, it was so important to him that we were like okay we’re gonna put this on the album. So we managed to kind of figure out a way of having it on there. Then, I had to obviously write lyrics and melodies to it, and of all the songs on the album, “Purity” was the hardest one to write vocals to and is now the hardest one to sing. So I really shot myself in the foot, it’s probably the most difficult song I’ve ever had to do, so hopefully I won’t get asked to do it live [laughs].
Were there any other challenges connected to the record that you went through as a vocalist?
Every song was hard! I wanted to write songs and lyrics or vocal patterns that I physically couldn’t do. I wanted to be able to get into the vocal booth in the studio and not be able to do it, have to really fight, push myself to almost a breaking point, and then be able to do it because I just needed that challenge. Now, when I was driving to work the other day, I did the whole album in the car, and I could do it, which is insane, but back then when I was recording it, it was so difficult. I kind of needed that process, to kind of find my voice again and find who I am as a vocalist again after years of being in bands that I hated. Every single song was a challenge but now, even though they’re hard, they’re nowhere near as difficult as they used to be, so that’s good.
You mentioned you’ve been in bands that you hated, do you feel like this is the band for you that’s going to be it for the future?
100%! Yeah, I have absolute freedom and liberation when we’re writing songs with VEXED that I never had in old bands. I was very controlled by the old bands and old band members. I felt like I had to be the perfect female-fronted vocalist and do the things that female-fronted vocalists are supposed to do and wear the things they’re supposed to wear, whereas with VEXED I’m completely unapologetically myself and it’s really liberating. VEXED is definitely my baby and hopefully what I’ll be doing for as long as I can.
What songs are you looking forward to play live the most whenever that’s possible again.
Let me think. I’m really looking forward to “Hideous” live, because that went down really well. So that would be exciting, but also “Fake” and “Narcissist”; I’ll throw a third one in. I really like performing the really heavy and angry ones. They’re just really good fun. “Fake” is actually coming out as a music video, the day after the album comes out, so that would be really cool for people to experience.
Now you guys are from UK and Brexit came into effect in January 2021; how do you see the future of British live music? Do you feel like Brexit will have a big effect on you?
Yeah, it has and it’s really sad. We’re not a political band, we don’t talk about that sort of stuff, but when Brexit happened we all just suddenly became so political in our group chat because our government has completely screwed over musicians and it’s so unfair and I don’t know how we’re going to overcome it. If we want to tour in Europe or anywhere else, we have now get visas or permits for every single country and it’s gonna be really hard. We’re still going to do it, regardless, it won’t stop us, it’s just going to be even more paperwork. But I feel really sorry for bands and sympathize with bands who do not have a team behind them that can help them do that, because we’re so blessed that we’ve got amazing managers and an amazing record label like Napalm Records, who are going to figure out how to do that. So the independent bands, you know, I take my hat off to them. It’s going to be really tough trying to figure out how to get around that, but hopefully at some point, Brexit will get sorted for musicians and we’ll be able to just talk freely again. It’s going to be an uphill struggle for quite some time to think.
Now, speaking of touring – even though it’s not really a possibility right now, do you guys have anything planned or are you looking into things?
We literally want to go anywhere that we can. We’ve had a lot of people and agents asking us to come to America, Russia, Europe, all over. We will not say no to anything, if we’re able to. Okay, we’ve been stuck in our bedrooms for too long now, so I will go anywhere. As for actual planning, we’ve got a few things that we are going to announce hopefully next week, which is exciting. They’re not 100% confirmed yet so hopefully they next week they will be. It’s just a case of as soon as corona pisses off, we can we can confirm literally absolutely everything, which would be great.
Okay, well that’s it for my questions. Do you have any last thoughts you want to share with our readers and your fans?
If you check out the music, thank you so much. If you leave nice comments, thank you so much, because it’s so easy to be an asshole on the internet nowadays, so to make a choice to actually write something nice is amazing and we read everything, so we really appreciate it!