The best policy: VEXED highlight honest conversation on their visceral new album, ‘Negative Energy’

The best policy: VEXED highlight honest conversation on their visceral new album, ‘Negative Energy’

- By Maddy Howell

Vocalist Megan Targett gets real about the music industry, metal's gatekeeping culture and the emotional weight that resulted in their most powerful album to date.

For musicians, it’s arguably an essential trait, but confidence can be a funny thing.

In a world where few people seem to truly know what they’re doing at all times, many swear by the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ approach. Mimicking others and creating a character to mask their insecurities, for some, it’s like learning to swim. Jumping in at the deep end and working out how to perform the correct strokes to make it through, it can be an effective way to find confidence quickly, but for others it poses a serious question - what is the value of success if it’s not wholly authentic?

For VEXED vocalist Megan Targett, that question flitted around her mind at the time of the band’s formation in 2019. With experiences in past bands tainted by expectations of being the ‘perfect’ female vocalist, aligning to gender roles set out by the limited representation of women in heavy music she saw growing up, she was tired of putting on a mask.

“I felt so restricted,” she starts.

“I had to be a character in my old bands because I felt a lot of pressure from other members who were like, ‘We need to sound like this, you need to wear that, and you should do this because that’s what people like to hear from women in music’.”

“I was too naive and introverted to say no. I've always been a bit of a pushover, so I just went along with it, but it makes you miserable. No matter how successful those bands could have become, I wasn't happy in them. I wasn't making the music that I wanted to make.”

Determined to forge a musical outlet that felt liberating and allowed her to be unapologetically herself, VEXED was born, a vessel of sheer confidence and unrelenting honesty. Properly introduced to the world with 2021’s, ‘Culling Culture’, the band’s full-length debut explored the value of cutting ties with those who no longer serve you in pursuit of becoming the best version of yourself. Serving as a fierce manifesto for the band and Targett’s honest intentions, it was a defiant opening statement that left VEXED pondering their next chapter.

“We were talking about all the stuff we'd been through over the past couple of years, and that ended up becoming our downfall. We spent a long time trying to figure out how to put a positive spin on those awful experiences. We were writing songs with messages like, ‘things are bad, but we got through it’ and ‘there are better days ahead’, but the reality was very different,” Targett recalls.

“What we were actually going through at home was pretty horrific. There was no positive spin, so it didn't feel authentic. It felt like we were going back to those old days of writing music for the sake of it and not being fully invested in what we were doing. We were so bitter and angry - not towards each other, but just in our own lives - so the band wasn't a safe outlet anymore.”

“We lost direction for a while, but we found it again when we sat down and honestly chatted to each other about why we weren't alright. We were completely honest and vulnerable with one another, and as soon as we did that, we realised that we didn't have to be brave for each other. It gave us this sense of relief, and we could be typical British people laughing and crying about how shit life was. The only way for us to carry on as a band was to just admit that none of us were coping, so that’s what we did. We deleted all the old demos, and we wrote a new album in about three months.”

Pushing aside the expectation to serve as role models and no longer fronting their emotions, ‘Negative Energy’ was born, the band’s second release with Napalm Records. An album with no sugar-coating, and no silver linings, its creation became a lifeline for Targett and her bandmates amidst some of the darkest moments in their lives.

“Growing up, I was always the kid that put on a brave face. I’d always solve the problems and I would never cry. Now as an adult, I don't really know how to cope when things go wrong,” the vocalist admits.

“I put it all into the music, and this is my way of figuring out how to process things. We’re all very private, introverted people in this band, so whilst most people would get angry about things, we just bottle it up. We put it into the music, and that’s why it often comes out so extreme. It's the only outlet we've allowed ourselves.”

Found somewhere between progressive metal, death metal, metalcore, and grime, VEXED’s sound is driven by a searing aggression. Channelling the frustrations of life into each visceral sonic onslaught, the band’s sophomore album takes an unfiltered look at the realities of the music industry for upcoming artists. Pulling no punches with their takedown of ‘industry plant’ culture on songs such as ‘Nepotism’, they’re keen to highlight how the scene’s DIY ethics are often compromised by money and clout.

“I don't feel any ill feelings towards the bands, because if we were given the opportunities, we'd all take them, but it's the people who promise you opportunities and then go back on themselves. We're writing all this music, and putting all our time, money, and emotions into this, and it could all just be blown away because we’re dropped for somebody who's got a lot of TikTok followers and has suddenly gone viral,” Targett says.

“It's not about what you know, it's about who you know. You could be an incredibly talented band, and a lovely person, but if you haven't got the followers and the connections - things might not work out for you. The higher up you get in the industry, the more you see it, and it is really disheartening. We have to just keep telling ourselves that it will eventually work out because we've put our whole lives into this. We don't know any other way of living.”

That’s not to say Targett and her bandmates are against the concept of ‘industry plants’ entirely - especially with the vocalist being an avid K-pop and J-pop fan - just the dishonesty that turns the cogs in the machine. Telling her stories in their most direct forms and refusing to adhere to the pressure to water down their messages, it’s a frustration that makes sense when you listen to Targett’s lyrics.

Whether she’s taking a swing at the corruption of the music industry or exposing her own personal traumas, that drive for honesty now sits at the centre of everything the four-piece do, but it’s been wired into the vocalist’s brain for as long as she can remember.

“It's all I have. It's the only way my brain functions. Ever since childhood, something about deceit and people not telling the truth has brought out this side of me that's so emotional. I get so upset and offended, and I can't bear dishonesty,” she explains.

“I've always been an oversharer when it comes to my emotions, and I've never been a person who can just put on a brave face. It only lasts so long before I implode. I sometimes forget how jarring it may be to listen to our lyrics, because for me, it's just normal. It's just the way I think, and I forget that sometimes I am sharing things that are incredibly deep. It's my way of processing and getting through whatever the song is about.”

That statement couldn’t be truer when listening through one of the album’s most emotional cuts, ‘It’s not the end’. Sonically softer than much of the record, it was written whilst Targett was responsible for providing home care to her grandfather shortly before his death. A visceral ode to grief, trauma, and mortality, it’s a heartbreakingly vulnerable snapshot of a tragic moment that serves as a beautiful memoir.

“He was our biggest fan, but he didn't like the band. He wore our band’s shirts, but he didn't like the music. I wanted to write a song that he'd listen to and go, ‘Oh, I like those bits!’” Targett smiles.

“There are hints of the wartime singer, Vera Lynn, at the end. She sang the song ‘We'll Meet Again’ for the troops in World War Two. She was my granddad's childhood celebrity crush, so I put some of her lyrics in as a little nod to him.”

“We left that song until last because we all knew it would be horrific to record, and we took it as slowly as we needed to. It was important to just let it be whatever it was, and if it came out very different to the other songs on the album, that was what it was going to be. That song had to be written for our own sake to process what we’d been through, and even though I can only listen to it very occasionally, I love it on a deep level.”

It’s a song that radiates confidence, maturity, and growth, made possible by the strength VEXED have found in one another. Removing all of the restraints and focusing their collective vision on a mantra of open expression, the four-piece are championing a new wave of heavy music that embraces, includes, and tolerates. Proving that honesty is the key to a brighter future, they’re here to lead a community of metal fans who are tired of the bullshit.

“There are always going to be trolls, bigots, and dickheads in the background who want to gatekeep and keep things black and white, but there is an uprising of metal fans who just love music,” Targett finishes.

“They aren't trying to put everything into boxes. They don't care if the screams are coming out of a woman's mouth, and they don't care if the band are straight, gay, trans, or non-binary. All I can hope is that VEXED is a safe space for anybody and everybody. I want people to come together and create a community that is completely non-judgmental, and I've started to notice it in our Discord and Patreon already. We need to keep highlighting these amazing communities and spread the love, that way people will start following that trend instead of spewing hate.”

Negative Energy from VEXED lands June 23rd via Napalm Records. Order the album – HERE

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