Shelley Carter interrupted a song-writing session to chat to The Vamps’ Bradley Simpson about gin, skateboarding and five-foot bears!
One quarter of the Vamps, Bradley Simpson is a proud Brummie for whom there’s no place like home. He might have legions of adoring fans across the globe and millions of followers on social media, but he likes nothing more than coming home to mum and dad in Sutton Coldfield and chilling out. He says: “Life’s non-stop, so it’s just great to come home.”
He loves his home town so much that Brad’s invested in a bar in the area and it’s a proper family affair. Naturally the bar’s called Simpsons and it’s no ordinary bar. Its focus is gin – there are almost 80 to choose from – and the place has a glamorous Great Gatsby vibe about it.
Not particularly into gin initially, Brad’s been doing his research. He says: “My parents are big gin fans so I thought I should spend a bit more time drinking gin! Mum always wanted to open a café, but this came along and we went for it. We’re not usually a family that makes rash decisions, but everything just lined up with this.”
All the family are involved. Brad explains: “I built the website while on tour and mum and dad have been really hands-on. Mum was responsible for the interiors and my sister’s a barrister so she did all the legal stuff like staff contracts as well as marketing, so it’s been good.”
Every weekend the place is ‘rammed’ and Brad’s bandmates are impressed. “All the band members are from different parts of the country and we all came together for a party at the bar. Everyone said ‘you know this could work in my home town’ wherever that happened to be.” No doubt news to the Simpsons’ ears as the dream is to open more bars eventually.
Showing more commitment to Brum, Brad is involved in this year’s Wild in Art project, the Big Sleuth, in aid of Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Sleuth is the collective name for a group of bears – and colourful bears are being displayed around the city over the summer. Remember the Big Hoot? That, but with bears! In October, the bears will be auctioned off to raise funds for the hospital. Brad has designed a bear imaginatively named Bradley’s Bear which is in the Mailbox. Go take a peek.
Brad grew up skate-boarding around Eastside from the age of 11 to 18 before band life took over. Of his old stomping ground he says: “It’s nice to see how the city’s changing. That area is so different now. I always bought my boards at Ideal in the Custard Factory. I don’t skate anymore thanks to my bad knees.” The 21-year-old adds: “I have the body of someone aged 56 apparently! I always try to get together with my old skating pals when I’m back, but rather than skate we end up chatting in the pub instead.”
The Vamps might look like a boyband but they are not manufactured and groomed. They found one another naturally and formed a band hungry to make music – they are genuine musicians – rather than be famous, so it works and they’re in it for the long haul. When they’re not releasing music, they’re touring or writing the next album. For instance All Night! Is out now, but the lads are already busy writing while touring. It’s never a chore though. “It’s just massively enjoyable and doesn’t feel like work,” says Brad. In five years’ time Brad fully expects to be doing exactly what he’s doing now with the band just with more bars to his name.
The lads were jetting off again the day after we spoke having just performed at the Isle of Wight Festival where they played the main stage. This time they’re heading to America for a couple of weeks, although they won’t be wasting too much time trying to crack it. Brad explains: “We’re never going to be slaves to it. We’ve seen other people spend 18 months of their lives going for it. We don’t want to neglect the fans we already have.” Of which there are plenty. Favourite places to tour? “Australia is amazing and South America is great. The fans are mental there – in a good way!”