When British tech-metal maulers Vexed dropped their crushing Culling Culture album, it gave a shot in the arm to heavy music in the UK. However, after unleashing this beast of a debut, it felt like this was just the start for the band.
Which was a theory proved to be correct when, two years later, the band emerged with the devastating follow-up, Negative Energy (Napalm Records). So, having spoken to Megan Targett following the release of their debut, it felt now was a good time to catch up with the vocalist again to find out how she had changed in the two years since Vexed’s debut album.
Negative Energy is out; what has the reaction been like?
Megan Targett: “It’s such a relief to have the album out. We felt so irrelevant and without purpose for such a long time that now the album is out, we feel like we have lives again. The response has been incredible, and we’re so grateful for it. A small number of people have struggled with the album as it covers some uncomfortable topics and the content is dark, but overall it’s felt like our fans really understand it and can connect with the music on a much deeper level.”
It’s been two years since Culling Culture dropped; what do you think about that album now, and how do you feel you’ve changed as a band in those two years?
“Before we had even released Culling Culture, some of the tracks were already 3 years old. So we felt like we’d outgrown a lot of it before it was even out. Tracks like ‘Fake’ and ‘Hideous’ were songs that we’d written much later on, and so that was us going in the right direction of developing our own sound. We still hold a very special place in our hearts for CC, but it’s not an accurate representation of our sound anymore.
“Since writing new music and especially recording Negative Energy, we’ve matured massively and really know how we want to sound. We’re much heavier and certain of our own identities in the writing process. Focusing more on emotion and the overall point of view of a song than just technicality.”
Culling Culture was your first album as a vocalist/lyricist. How do you feel you have changed as a person and an artist in those two years?
“The last couple of years of my life have consisted of some of the most traumatic and painful experiences I’ve ever been through. It’s made me realise that life is too short to try and make everyone else happy at your own expense. I’ve learned to say ‘no’ and found strength in that word. I’ve also reached a point where I won’t hold back anymore or try to make everything a positive metaphor. I definitely care more about what I write for myself now and care less about what others will think of it.”
You talked about growing up when we last spoke and becoming a singer, how have people’s attitudes to you changed over the last few years?
“Since the latest release, people have been taking me and my career choice far more seriously. I think for a long time, I was just seen as another ‘female-fronted’ person trying to be a singer and was put into the pile of ‘wannabes’ when it came to my aspirations. Negative Energy has been a great unintended ‘fuck you’ to those people. Ultimately what other people think of me is none of my business, but I know I’m worthy of being respected as a person and vocalist at the very least.”
You talked about bands like BMTH and Slipknot being your gateway into heavy music as a teenager. Now you’re more established, as a female vocalist, how has touring with bands like Spiritbox and Courtney helped or inspired you?
“I don’t think that gender has any correlation between who does and doesn’t inspire me. Being able to support Spiritbox was an incredible opportunity for our band, and I have a huge amount of respect and appreciation for them giving us that platform. I take inspiration from my own bandmates and vocalists that I want to sound like or have had similar backgrounds to. Frankie Palmeri, CJ McMahon and David Gunn are my vocal inspirations, and they just happen to be men.”
So, onto Negative Energy, as a platform for your thoughts, what messages did you want to get across on the album?
“Negative Energy doesn’t have an overall message, but some individual songs do. For example, ‘Anti-Fetish’ is about the constant comparison and unwanted fetishism women in music face. My own journey in Vexed so far has definitely been a victim of that, and I have been subjected to comments like ‘you’re just copying her’ or ‘you’re good but not as good as her’. It’s something that I honestly never thought I’d have to deal with. Every woman in metal has a right to be there on her own merit, for her own reasons, and to express her own art.
“If I had to give Negative Energy a message, it would be that rock bottom doesn’t have to be the end of you. If we can go through hell and back but come out the other side with a new purpose and something we’re so immensely proud of, you can too.”
Again a lot of the lyrics feel like they come from a deeply personal place. Last time you told us, “it’s really personal, but it’s also like therapy, kind of writing it all down and getting it out and then letting go.” Is that the case with Negative Energy?
“I still agree with what I said before but this time I’m not letting go so easily. Negative Energy is mainly about the grieving process and all the ugly things you have to deal with after a loved one dies. The day our first album was released my grandpa, who raised me and who I saw more like a Dad, was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Within 3 months he had passed away and our lives were completely turned upside down. This album, the lyrics were my way of trying to process what had happened.”
Social Media is a key aspect of any modern band. For someone like yourself, do you communicate online with fans who have been through experiences similar to your own?
“I consider our fans as extended family, and if there’s anything I can ever do to help them, I will try my best to. Sadly I’ve had to close all my social media DM’s because of some creeps! But our Discord and Patreon is an amazing community where we can all talk about anything and everything.”
As someone who has a platform and is the focal point for the band, what do you hope people take away from either your live show or listening to the albums?
“Firstly, I hope that they enjoy it! Music is meant to be enjoyed, and too many people get bogged down in trying to over analyse or review the music when it really should just be a question of did you enjoy it? How did it make you feel? Secondly, I’d like to hope that people take away a sense of belonging and relatability. We’re not trying to be rock stars; we’re normal human beings who have been through some shit! If you feel less alone when you’re at our show and can forget about your worries for a short while, that’s amazing.”
You told me that when you went into your first pit, you knew this is where you belonged. Having been immersed in the industry for the last two years, are there any people you’ve met along the way who have really impacted on you or inspired you?
“The first person that instantly comes to mind is Matt Heafy (Trivium)! He’s been so kind and supportive of Vexed and towards us as people. We’ve been screwed over a lot by people in the industry the last couple of years, and Matt always has his inbox open for us to talk, vent or ask for advice. He’s a really kind and caring person who truly put my faith back in the industry when I really had none left. Matt is the GOAT.”
From being somebody who wanted to scream to someone who has two successful albums out, what are your ambitions now as a person and an artist?
“The ultimate goal is to just get bigger and better and to be able to do this Music thing full time. We don’t need to be making money but we’d love to be able to quit our day jobs and just tour the world. Travelling, meeting people and playing live shows really is our calling in life and if we could make that a full-time reality, it would make the pain of the last few years a lot easier to deal with.”
And what can we expect from Vexed throughout the rest of 2023?
“We have a couple more festivals to play, and then we will be announcing a headline tour very soon! We will also be releasing some more music videos and playthroughs, which will be a lot of fun.”
Thanks for your time again. Just to wrap up then, could you sum up what Negative Energy the album means to you?
“Negative Energy was my reason for waking up in the morning. It gave me purpose and motivation to find joy in life again. When we really thought that we had nothing left to give, Negative Energy was the hope I held onto.”