Among heavy music’s most exciting prospects, the vocalist of the quickly ascending U.K. outfit offers insights for each of the 11-tracks that comprise the band’s impactful, incendiary debut.
Unanimously hailed as one of heavy music’s most engaging new collectives, U.K. powerhouse VEXED has emerged from one of the most dismal times in rock music history to become one of the scene’s most promising new voices.
A potent mesh of precisely-produced djent and groove-latent metalcore, the band’s creative calling card is a fluid combination of methodical melody contrasted with fits of menacing heft. The synergy of guitarist and songwriter Jay Bacon, along with one of the most commanding new voices in the game in Megan Targett, results in an 11-track debut that has not only lived up to the hype – it has far exceeded event those lofty expectations.
The succession of high-powered singles including “Hideous,” “Epiphany,” “Fake,” and “Misery” offer a collection of personal testimonials that traverse themes of animosity and angst. The post-modern examination of societal ills, in tandem with the instrumental intensity of quartet make ‘Culling Culture’ the kind of heavy album that channels true catharsis while upping the bar of aggressive music.
In an effort to better illustrate the the creative headspace that resulted in such a powerful introduction, the band’s front woman Megan Targett detailed a track-by-track recount of ‘Culling Culture’. The expanded liner peel back the curtain of what can already be considered as one of the genre’s most impressive release of the year.
Targett – Although it’s the introduction track for the album, “Ignorant” is actually the final song we recorded. We’d just finished tracking our last full song ‘Fake’ and were looking at the album as a whole. We knew it was missing something and that was an intro. The first half of the album is very heavy and intense and so we wanted a short track to prepare the listener for it. As the title suggests, the song isn’t supposed to be anything technical or groundbreaking, it’s just a quick jab to the face to get people ready for the next 9 rounds.
Targett – Jay came up with the chorus riff for this song first and sent it to the group chat. As soon as I heard it I knew exactly what it was going to be paired with vocally. I’d not long finished writing a vocal hook that just somehow aligned perfectly with what he’d written. It’s weird but this happens a lot with Jay and I. I think when you find someone who you artistically or musically connect with you often write things that are unintentionally spot on for one another. Everything after that just fell into place really easily, except the breakdown. We’d gone into the studio with a gap where the breakdown should be and it was driving us mad. It needed to be really really heavy and everything we’d done so far just wasn’t good enough in our eyes and ears. Luckily our producer Meyrick is the most incredible writer and pusher! We all sat down and chopped up riff after riff electronically until we found something that sounded big enough. And then jay tracked it. We’re so lucky to have a producer like Meyrick as he’s not afraid to tell us if somethings shit and helps us write songs we’re immensely proud of.
Targett – Like I mentioned before, Fake was the last full length song we tracked for the album. It originally wasn’t going to be on it as Napalm had said they were happy with what they’d heard already, but we knew it needed to be on there. They’re also chuffed that it was as it seems to have done really well as a single. This was another case of Jay writing a riff and then us building a song around it. However, this time we were much more confident. Throughout the writing process of Culling Culture, we often found it difficult to let go of bad habits. Falling victim occasionally to writing what we thought was expected and having to stop in our tracks, scrap it and start again. But by the time we got to ‘Fake’, we felt like we had fully found our feet and knew how we wanted to sound.
Targett – I’ll admit, this song is one of my least favourites on the album. So when Napalm said they wanted it to be a single I was really nervous. It’s not that I don’t think the song is good, it is, but it’s one I look back on and definitely think we could have done a lot better. This is because I hit a real writers block when writing lyrics for this one and so I don’t feel like it got our full potential. I was sat up until the early hours of the morning, on the day of recording, trying to think of lyrics and melodies. So when I got to the studio I had to really ad-lib and make it up on the spot. Luckily, Meyrick was there to push me to the limit and not let me settle for the easy option. It’s now a really difficult song to perform and I’m grateful for that because it pushed me out of my comfort zone and extended my vocal range a bit more. So for a song I didn’t have a lot of faith in, it’s done me a lot of good.
Targett – “Misery” was written in 2017 whilst sat on the floor of a village hall in a local village to me. We’d hire out different spaces once a week and sit there trying to figure out what to write. We weren’t trying to write an album at this point as we hadn’t even formed VEXED yet, but we’re just 3 friends writing music (Myself, Willem and Jay). If only we’d known back then that this song would be a single off our debut album with Napalm Records! We wouldn’t have believed it that’s for certain. We played around with the main riff for this one for a long time, but couldn’t decide where to take the song next. I remember going home and getting out my keyboard and writing a ‘guitar riff’ for a chorus, with the vocals over the top. We’re not the most technically advanced band when it comes to writing, everything is sent from our phones using voice notes. But once we had the chorus, it was just figuring out how to connect the two parts. That’s when Willem decided to come up with a pattern and completely change the dynamic of the song with ‘djent like’ verses. It was definitely a group effort for this song and is another one we look back on thinking we could have done better, so we’re so humbled with the response it has gotten.
Targett – Before we had a name for the band, I had the word VEXED written in my lyric book. I wanted that word to represent our new sound somehow but I wasn’t sure in what context. Later on it became the band name, but before that it actually was part of the lyrics to Narcissist and the title of the song. I was really suffering badly with PTSD and anxiety over an awful situation I went through caused by one of the most vile people I’ve ever met. I couldn’t sleep and spent most nights having panic attacks. So one night I went and sat in my kitchen and started writing down how this person made me feel. It was venomous and in emotionally excruciating pain. I never got to tell this person how much they destroyed my life and they were never held accountable for it. I’m a big fan of rap and grime and so I wanted to have the style of spitting bars and rhythms as opposed to a verse chorus type of structure. So I wrote a whole song knowing it would all be screamed, and remembered the rhythms so I could voice note them to the guys. They then built a song solely around those rhythms. Which was very challenging and a case of memory over time signatures. Doing vocals first is a really odd way of writing music, but it’s exciting and means for me, I get to fully express myself in the way I originally intended without needing to adapt or change anything.
Targett – As you’re now aware, we weren’t and still aren’t really the most technically advanced when it comes to writing music. Whilst writing for Culling Culture we would record ideas into a basic laptop software or use voice notes on our phones. So one day we were having a writing session at my house and Jay brought over a new piece of kit he had for his guitar that he could get loads of weird sounds out of. We plugged it into the laptop and just turned all the settings up the wrong way and played awful chords and notes that were completely out of tune and horrible on the ear. What came out was the intro for weaponise. We used the exact same original file that we saved to our crappy little laptop for the song and never retouched it. I love that something we were just having a bit of fun with at home turned out to be something so big and ominous sounding. This song changed a few times in structure and was originally without the end breakdown. But we didn’t feel fully satisfied with it and so came back to it near the end of the recording process and added in another verse and the end breakdown. This was where our producer Meyrick, again, really helped with the writing and we benefited from a fresh set of ears. I think sometimes songs just need time to be left alone to breathe. If it doesn’t sound complete, take some time away from it and come back when you’re ready.
Targett – Purity is probably the song I struggled with the most whilst we were writing Culling Culture. I couldn’t relate to it at all and found the music hard to connect with. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t think it was a good song, it was just a challenge and so I decided to use it as an opportunity to write something outside of my comfort zone and vocally very difficult. The music is simple yet complex in the details on this track which gave the boys an opportunity to express their playing in a completely different way to usual. Lighter but with more intricacy. The use of synths and saxophone was something our producer added in much later on in the mixing process and it took the track to a whole different level, as well as my own vocals as an effect in the final outro. Topic wise it’s a very personal one, and so I know I will struggle to perform this one live.
Targett – We wanted to have a moment of rest of the album. A moment where the listener can catch their breath and just feel peace. After such an emotional song and just before another one, Drift was as necessary as the tracks themselves. Interludes are often underrated or forgotten about moments on albums, but we believe they can be essential to allowing the tracks to breathe and create a space where the listener is prepared to hear them more openly. Jay wanted an opportunity to play something other than heavy riffs and this interlude was that outlet for him. We all listen to a huge range of music, not just metal, and Jay really loves atmospheric and tranquil instrumentals so this is an aspect of his playing that just made a glimmer of an appearance on the album.
Targett – Aurora was written at around the same time we wrote our first stand alone single ‘Elite’. So it’s one of our earliest songs that we wrote together as a band. However, because of how different it was to those other first releases, we decided to hold onto it for a bit longer until we knew what to do with it. I can safely say that it’s one of our proudest pieces we’ve ever written together. We started off with the first verse, which sounds pretty obvious, but really when we’re writing we rarely start from the beginning. We usually start with a chorus or hook and then build around it, but Aurora broke that method. As soon as I heard the verse I could visualise the drop and the vocals that would go with it. This was probably one of the easiest songs to write vocally as it all just poured out whilst writing along to it. Drums, Vocals and guitar were all just side by side being written at the same time and it flowed totally naturally. Willem wrote some more rhythms for this song and it gave him an opportunity to drum in a more dynamic way than your standard metal song. The guitar solo on the song is probably my favourite part of the whole album because it’s just, in my ears, perfect. I remember when we went to the studio to track it, our producer heard the original version of the solo and said “nope you can do better”. A few hours later and probably a few mental breakdowns later, Jay had come up with something that I am so in awe of and it just made a very personal and heartbreaking story into something truly beautiful.
Targett – This track was really fun to write and one we knew would be great to perform live. It all started when we sat down for another writing session one Friday. We’d been writing non stop all week so we were all running dry on ideas, and spent a lot of time scratching our heads. We knew we wanted to write something bouncy so we picked out a BPM that we felt would best comply with that. Jay picked out 4 notes, hit record, and started improvising a riff. The other sections of the track flowed out of us from then onwards, but had no definitive structure. We took these sections into the studio, where yet again, our producer Meyrick helped us properly structure the track and round it off.
For more insight on the release of ‘Culling Culture’ from Vexed, watch the band’s candid conversation via Pulse of the Maggots hosted by StayPuft Mallow broadcasting Mondays on the KNOTFEST Twitch channel. ‘Culling Culture’ from VEXED is currently available via Napalm Records – HERE