With their debut album “Culling Culture“, released on Napalm Records in May 2020, the British alt-metal band VEXED impressed audiences and critics alike with their hard-hitting sound and hauntingly honest lyrics. Now the band, consisting of singer Megan Targett, guitarist Jay Bacon, drummer Willem Mason-Geraghty and bassist Al Harper, has released their second album “Negative Energy“, which is even heavier and more intense than their debut. Time for us to have-a-heart to heart with singer Megan Targett about the pain of losing a loved one, misogyny in the music industry and why she was even suspended from Catholic primary school once.
INTERVIEW BY: ISABELL KÖSTER
Your sophomore album is called “Negative Energy”. Why and when did you choose that title?
It took us ages to come up with the title. We actually didn’t know what to call it until the very last minute. We had notes on our phones with all the ideas we’d come up with and were trying to whittle it down to our favourite five and then whittle it down even more. When we were trying to talk about what this album is about and what we put into it, we realised that it’s just negativity and we couldn’t find a positive spin to put on it. We tried really hard, but we couldn’t. We were at a place in our lives where all we had was negative energy. So that just encapsulated exactly how we were feeling at the time. And it also was quite funny because I was binge-watching an American TV-show called “Ghost Adventures” with Zak Bagans. And he kept saying negative energy and it just made me think, that’s a cool word. So, that’s where it also came from.
Is there an underlying concept that connects the songs?
Yes, the sort of underlying theme is the process of grief and what happens when somebody close to you dies. Not only you got to deal with the death in the family, but then you have to deal with all the things that sort of umbrella from that, like money and wills and people arguing over property and just horrible stuff like that. Stuff that you don’t want to think about. And then after I realised that I was in this negative place and I was talking about all these horrible things that were happening, I thought screw it, you know what? I’m actually going to talk about how awful the music industry is as well. I felt like I may as well just be honest and lay it all out on the table.
For me, the most emotional track is “It’s Not The End”. I read that it deals with the death of your grandfather. Will you ever play the song live?
I think we will do it live, but we’ll only do it if it’s a headline show. I think I’d only ever want to perform it when we were playing it to people who understood the song, it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to do it at a festival or if we were supporting someone, because it is so vulnerable.
I also read that you wrote the lyrics when you were caring for him at home. That must have been hard.
It was. He was diagnosed with a terminal illness the day that our first album came out. It was supposed to be like a launch day and we were supposed to have a party, and I literally just stood in my driveway watching him being driven off in an ambulance. And none of us could go with him because it was Covid. So we were just hysterical. Then he came home and my mum, my sister and I quit our jobs, as he needed 24-hour care. We thought we would have him for at least 18 months, but it was only three. We took it in turns, slept on a bed next to him and just made sure he was comfortable until the end. And obviously during that time when you’re awake for 48 hours straight, you start to lose your mind. I had to try and find something to do. So I wrote lyrics. And a lot of the lyrics I wrote ended up on this album. It’s a weird one because it’s very connected to that time and therefore very painful for me. But then it also makes me feel like I got something out of that and he would be happy that I did something whilst that was going on. I take comfort in that.Where do you generally find inspiration for your songs?
I tend to find inspiration from things that I don’t know how to process. I bottle up my emotions. Likewise, I don’t like talking about things unless it’s to my partner. And I’ve always been like that since I was a kid. I’ve always put on a brave face and been the strong one. So, whenever I’m struggling with something, I write about it. That tends to be my inspiration. It’s almost like a journal or a diary. I’ve always used my writing for that. I often get asked, do you not ever write happy songs or love songs? And I’m like, no, because I’m happy to talk about those things. I write songs about things I don’t want to talk about.
How would you describe the new album musically compared to your debut album “Culling Culture”?
I think this one is a lot heavier. We just wanted to be heavy and groovy and just focus more on the emotion behind the music instead of technicality.
“I felt really empowered by putting on a big old bloke’s suit jacket but having nothing on underneath it. It made me feel powerful to have that masculine and feminine energy at the same time.”
– MEGAN TARGETT –
Which song on “Negative Energy” was the most challenging for you as a singer?
I would say “Trauma Euphoria”. It’s quite a simple song when it comes to the structure, apart from Jay‘s solo at the end. And going from the screams to the cleans I don’t usually have trouble with, but the cleans in this track are really high up in my range in the chorus, so I have to be careful that I don’t push myself too hard, otherwise I’ll end up hurting myself. And we made it a single, why did we do that again?
Going back a bit in time: what or who made you want to become a singer in the first place?
I grew up with a cool mom. My mum was and is a big metal head. She loves Slayer and Pantera. Everybody else’s mum and dad on the playground were very smart and my mum turned up with platinum blonde hair and a Slayer T-shirt. I actually got suspended from my Catholic primary school once, because I was in class singing along to Slayer lyrics. And they were like: “Oh, my God, this child is possessed!” That was my normal. And when I started getting into my own taste in bands, I was obsessed with early Slipknot and Corey Taylor’s vocals. But then I also loved a good old deathcore band like Emmure, Suicide Silence or Bring Me The Horizon back in the day. So, it was mainly Corey Taylor and Oli Sykes that made me want to do it. But I wanted to be the drummer for ages because I was too shy to sing. But then eventually I got forced into doing the singing.
How do you like to present yourself as an artist on stage?
It’s funny because with the first album campaign, I felt a lot of pressure to be covered up and very masculine and non-sexualized in any way. I still love that, my go to when I’m getting up or even when I’m going out to fancy places is a tracksuit. However, this time round I just wanted to embrace my feminine side because I’ve always been made to feel ashamed of it. And a lot of the time, women in metal will be told: “Oh, she’s too covered up, so she’s just a prude”. And the second that you embrace your femininity, it’s: “Well, she’s getting her tits out because they’re trying to get more views”. So you can’t win either way. That’s why I decided I’m just going to wear what I feel like wearing. And I felt really empowered by putting on a big old bloke’s suit jacket but having nothing on underneath it. It made me feel powerful to have that masculine and feminine energy at the same time. Basically, I just present myself however I’m feeling on the day. I usually got makeup on and my hair done, but I might rock up in an Adidas tracksuit, or I might rock up in something a lot prettier.
What was the concept behind the music video for “Anti-Fetish”? It seems to address this over-sexualised aesthetic.
I come up with all the concepts for our music videos, and for “Anti-Fetish” I wanted to have almost like two characters in the video. I wanted that covered up 90s music video vibe where it’s very aggressive and angry, and then I wanted that hypersexualised fetishised look with the latex suit, showing the two extremes of what one woman can be. You know, we can be anything, we can be both at the same time. Don’t put us into one category. So content wise, the song is about the comparison that women get all the time in metal. We’re all perfectly fetishised and put on a scale of who’s hotter, who’s more talented. And I just think when women go into this, what we’re thinking about is, do my vocals sound good and do I like my lyrics and am I proud of this? There’s not a single moment in my mind where I’m like: “Am I looking good? Am I hot? Am I the best?” It’s just not something that comes into my head. So seeing these people have open debates and putting women up in competition with each other based on their looks and their abilities to me is repulsive and gross. But it’s completely normal in today’s world and nobody seems to have an issue with it. Besides, our music sometimes gets described as for fans of Jinjer and Paramore – it’s like we’re all lumped into the same group. That’s why I find the term ‘female fronted’ problematic. I know a lot of women find empowerment in it – they have claimed it back. If you can find empowerment in it, then I think it’s great. But when it’s used as genre, when it’s used as an insult and used to put all these different women into one category, that’s when it does my head in.
Talking about aesthetics: You have several tattoos. Which was your first one and what’s the story behind it?
I have one on my upper thigh that says “Worse things happen at sea” in my granddad’s handwriting. I got that when I was 18. It’s kind of funny because he hated tattoos. But I showed it to him eventually and he liked it. It’s a good reminder that whenever I’m having a crappy day, it could always be worse. My granddad was such an upbeat, positive person. He was always telling me to do better. He was our biggest fan. Even though he couldn’t stand the screaming and shouting, he would tell everybody that I was the best, even though he had no idea what he was talking about.
The cover artwork of the album also kind of intrigued me. It looks a bit psychedelic. What’s the idea behind that?
I was trying to find a symbol that would represent losing a loved one. And what kept coming up was dragonflies. And funnily enough, I’ve got a picture on my phone from about an hour after my grandpa died, a dragonfly landed on my hand. When the dragonfly kept coming up, when I was sort of searching for symbols, it just kind of felt like the right thing to do. And then the lollipop represents how things can always look sickly sweet and pretty. But things aren’t always as good as they appear. The dragonfly is stuck to the lollipop. It can’t get off it. And it’s carrying around this mental health struggle, this grief. And it’s wearing it down. That’s the message behind it. But also, I love ethereal 3D art. The cover artist’s name is Andrei Sigarev and you can find him on Instagram as Laliett. He creates the most beautiful Elvish type of 3D art. It’s stunning. So, when I asked him to do the dragonfly, he was up for it right away.