The Vamps' new found position as superstars-in-waiting is a social media fantasy come true. Four teenage musicians from disparate parts of the country hook up via their homemade demos on YouTube, their plan: to upload a series of punkish, acoustic-driven covers of chart-conquering pop hits by the likes of One Direction, Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars and release an album of their own arena-shaking anthems. 28 million online hits and a Number 2 debut single later and the UK four piece have become one of the heaviest bleeps on the pop radar.
This is only the beginning, however. Having won over an army of new fans during their support slot with chart heavyweight McFly, the four piece - singer Bradley Will Simpson, guitarist James McVey, drummer Tristan Evans and bassist Connor Ball - have amassed a serious online following. Their YouTube channel has gathered almost ½ million subscribers and they have over 450,000 Twitter followers and over a ¼ million Facebook likes.
"YouTube opened all of this for us," says James, a Taylor Swift fan and one time acoustic pop solo artist. "It's not an understatement to say that without it, we wouldn't be a band. We've been able to put our music online without any real trouble and got our videos in front of a big audience. It used to be that bands had to wander around record stores and TV stations begging to have their music heard. We're very lucky that we have the online thing where we can just put a track on the internet and get an immediate reaction. It's mind-blowing."
The Vamps' beginnings mark a very modern twist on the age old tradition of band making. When James decided his acoustic pop sketches required a great singer in the summer of 2012, he decided to scour the pages of online demos and cover versions posted online. After weeks of searching, he stumbled across 16 year-old Bradley on YouTube, an indie fan with a neat line in Ed Sheeran covers. One Facebook email later and the duo were recording the first of three demos in James's Bournemouth home.
"I did loads of solo covers and songs when I was 14, 15," says Bradley. "I would cover The Specials and the Arctic Monkeys and put my versions on YouTube. That's when James found me and got in touch. For six months we'd meet up and write songs together."
The duo's next steps towards stardom took place firstly with the arrival of 18 year-old Tristan, a finalist in the 2010 UK Drummer of the Year competition. After seeing Brad and James’s videos online, Tristan reached out to James on Facebook to express his interest in working together. (Brad: "We saw him on YouTube and thought, “Let’s get him in - he's amazing'"). And then with latest arrival, Connor Ball, a 17 year-old, self-confessed French fries fanatic, who was the frontman in his own band.
"It used to be that 20 years ago people would put an advert in the NME to find bandmates," says Bradley. "But now people get together on YouTube, it's a hugely helpful tool in the whole process. We've managed to get a band together through that; we were able to see what the other guys could do online and what music they liked. Instead of putting ads in music papers like they used to, we were putting ourselves online for bands to find."
Throughout this process, The Vamps recorded a string of covers in their home studios, including hit singles from the likes of One Direction (Little Things), Taylor Swift (We Are Never Getting Back Together) and Bruno Mars (When I Was Your Man). Brad's soaring vocals and the band's rocky, acoustic guitar riffs attracted a raft of new fans. "When we got a thousand followers we were really happy," says Tristan. "Then we had 2,000, 5,000, 10,000… it kept going up and up and up…"
Major label interest followed soon after and EMI signed the four piece to a recording deal. The band were then flown to New York and LA to sketch out the tracks that will make up their forthcoming debut album - due for release early 2014. With 30 tracks demoed by the band, The Vamps opening shot is a release that James promises will arrive big on "feel good guitar riffs and melodic anthems."
Early demoes and writing sessions framed The Vamps as a band with a knack for discovering the infectious pop hook. Their first UK single“Can We Dance” is a shuffling, pop juggernaut that stormed the UK charts and debuted at #2. It’s also starting to pick up worldwide airplay, seemingly destined for global ubiquity. The next single“Wild Heart” (available January 20th) is already all over the airwaves.