Vexed – Anger as a Tool to Bring HappinessTuesday, 25th May 2021
New modern metal upstarts Vexed are making some noise in a big way. Their brutally heavy debut, Culling Culture, was recently released on Napalm Records. Mixing together massive grooves, playful guitarwork, and emotive melodies, it provides an invigorating experience for those seeking something fresh within the metal realm. We recently spoke with vocalist Megan Targett to get her thoughts on the album, mental health, how she became interested in metal/singing, and even some issues with the current world we live in.
Dead Rhetoric: Culling Culture is your debut album. Is there anything you feel particularly proud of accomplishing with it?
Megan Targett: I’m proud of the whole thing. It was a real learning process. Some of the songs we started with, like “Misery” and “Aurora,” they were kind of lighter and as we progressed through the album, we kind of learned our sound and you can hear that through the album. Maybe some songs aren’t as developed as others, but it’s nice to have an album representing our growth and sound. So I’m proud of the growth that it shows as a band.
Dead Rhetoric: So do you feel that you have hit that ‘sweet spot’ for where you want to be with the band now?
Targett: Yeah, I think for album two it will be our sweet spot. Although we really are happy with Culling Culture and we love it, it gave us the learning curve we needed to find our sound. I think now we are at that place, and album two will show that much better.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there anything that you hope people will take away from Culling Culture when they hear it?
Targett: I hope that people can take away that no matter what negative feelings you are having, you can push it into a positive place. The whole point of Vexed and the album, was to get rid of toxic people in your life, or anyone who brings you negativity/pain, and use that as fuel to make yourself more successful or happy. So I hope people take away that pain, anger, and suffering can be the best tool for bringing yourself success and happiness. That’s the whole message of the album. And if it’s a little bit of an escape for 40 minutes, that would be amazing too. I think we all need that at the moment.
Dead Rhetoric: You had some success with releasing singles independently. What do you feel was important in order for you to achieve that success?
Targett: When we started Vexed, we wanted to make sure we came out with a bang. We knew we needed to prove ourselves out of the gate. So we wanted to create a couple…there would have been a third but we managed to find our management team before that got released. We wanted to make a statement with two standalone singles and really put everything we had into them. To make a statement that we are here and you are going to take us seriously. To hopefully find people who would support us and help us grow. And that’s just what they did, amazingly! Through those singles, we found our management team – they are the best humans and they have helped immensely.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel makes Vexed stand out?
Targett: I think we just aren’t afraid to say what we think. I think a lot of artists, and understandably so, try to sugarcoat things or try not to get too involved with public topics or certain conversations because they are worked about things like fans not liking them, but with Vexed, we don’t care what people think. If we lose fans over something like that, we welcome it. We aren’t interested in having fans who are discriminatory or negative. We are here for those who can’t, and if people don’t like that we welcome them to leave. So I think Vexed is an honest an open conversation for people. It’s causing some metal gatekeepers to get very upset [laughs] but it’s quite funny and entertaining.
Dead Rhetoric: I had a similar conversation with another band recently. As a culture we have reached a point where no one wants to state their opinion because they are too afraid of someone disagreeing with them. I think we have lost that ability to argue and debate things without turning it into a pissing match, so to speak.
Targett: I completely agree. I don’t know why it has happened – people are afraid to upset other people, even if they are own beliefs are completely justified and are on the right side of an opinion, so to speak. They are too scared to cause a confrontation, or stand up for others because of what other people may think of them. It’s really sad! Ultimately, it’s more important to get an opinion out that is positive or help other people than to keep quiet and have people like you. I honestly do not care if someone who is sexist, homophobic, or racist doesn’t like me [laughs]. I just think, “good, piss off then.” I think it’s sad that people can’t speak up because they are too scared of confrontation. We all need to grow up a bit and accept that other people have different opinions, but it doesn’t mean that they are wrong or a bad person. We just all have opinions on things.
Dead Rhetoric: With that in mind, are there any lyrics on the album that you are particularly happy with?
Targett: I was very happy with the lyrics to “Narcissist.” They are so many lyrics in “Narcissist” [laughs]. I was getting a huge amount off of my chest, and the person that song is about – I know they are going to hear it and it is going to hear it and it will terrify them. I can’t wait for them to hear it! Also, “Aurora,” since it covers topics that are very difficult to talk about and are quite sensitive. In previous bands, I would never write about it because it was too personal. But like I said, with Vexed, there is no topic we won’t talk about. With “Aurora,” if anyone can relate to it, it would be awful because it is about abuse. But I think it’s important that people know they are not alone in that respect.
Dead Rhetoric: One thing that stood out to me was the artwork. It has a very different feel to it. What do all of those symbols represent?
Targett: We found a guy from Portugal. He’s an amazing artist. We went to him because we loved his style. He had never done full album artwork before, but we loved his style. We told him we wanted something that represents pure anger and hatred. He listened to the album and we described the message behind it, as well as moments in our lives that inspired songs.
One of those moments – I don’t know if you have experienced it yourself, but when you are so pissed off and you go get into your car, you sit in the car being red. You can either start the car and drive off and do something stupid, or I can turn it off and go inside. I think that ‘burning vehicle’ kind of thing represented where you are so angry that you do neither and you just set your car on fire [laughs]! We just wanted something that was pure anger and I think he did it really well. We love the artwork so much.
Dead Rhetoric: I think it has a nice, cinematic feel to it too. Which leads me to the “Hideous” video. What can you say about the cinematic influences on that video?
Targett: It’s kind of similar to the other two videos we have done [independently]. We had a team behind us and we wanted to make an impact. Since we were now signed to Napalm and wanted to prove ourselves, we had to find a team of people/videographers that could do it on an even bigger scale. We found a group of guys in the UK [PurpleYam Productions] who were just incredible. First, they are just the loveliest guys, but once we explained what the music was about, they completely understood.
They knew we wanted it to be big, but they also understood that we needed some sort of theme or something to tie into the songs. Adam is a big horror movie buff, and he decided the best route to go down would be to take inspiration from horror movies. It was the most fun thing, although the videos are quite gruesome, we have had such a laugh doing them. We had so many incidents with maggots and fake blood on set that were really funny. But yeah, we wanted to take inspiration from horror and gore, and make them more progressively uncomfortable to watch. The next video we have coming out is probably as far as you can take a music video [laughs]. It will be interesting to watch.
Dead Rhetoric: We have talked about this a bit already, but what bothers you about the world today, as it is?
Targett: I think how quickly people are to form an opinion of you, before they even get to know you. I think how everybody thinks they have a right to give you their opinion of you, when actually it is none of my business what you think of me. It’s so easy to just be an asshole nowadays. You can hide behind your computer screen and just say the most revolting and awful things to someone, not knowing what they are going through or how their day has been, and just thinking you are untouchable. And you are! There’s no consequence for people being an asshole online. That really does piss me off.
Throughout this campaign, we have had our fair share of amazing comments, and we have had some asshole ones as well. Through a screen, people may assume that it’s all rainbows and butterflies, and that we are having the best time. But we are normal people, and we have our own daily struggles and things that are going on that we don’t tell the world. 99.99% of the time, we just shrug it off or laugh a bit. But on a day that maybe I had a horrific time in my personal life, and I see a comment that just gets to me a bit. People don’t care that they can potentially really do some damage to someone. There’s no accountability.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s so strange with that. Other than the obvious of ‘don’t be an asshole,’ what do you do to turn something like that around?
Targett: You do have to grow a thick skin, and you do have to learn that if someone is giving you any negativity online – it’s difficult and it has taken me years to learn this – but I do understand now that it si literally their own problem. Someone else’s opinion of you is just an opinion. And opinions are pretty meaningless when they are coming from a place of hatred and pure ignorance. It’s a reflection on them. It’s not fact, so it doesn’t really mean anything or hold any weight. But obviously, that’s not easy to do.
You just have to make sure you delete/block those people. You have control over who you have in your life, and you have a right to do that online as well. If someone is openly being nasty online, people always crack out that line ‘it’s a public Facebook page, and I can say what I like,’ well actually its my Facebook page and my rules, so no you don’t. It’s about setting your own standards and rules.
Dead Rhetoric: The concept of mental health and getting help seems to be an important one to the band. Could you go into that idea a bit?
Targett: Vexed, for me personally, was a real revelation moment. I had been in bands before where I was really unhappy and people really wanted to control me and what I wrote or did. They wanted me to fit into this mold of what a female vocalist is. When we started Vexed, it was like having complete freedom. The mental health side of things was to accept my new found freedom and being able to openly talk about all the horrific things that have happened to me. For the boys as well, because men in the metal world particularly, are supposed to act manly and masculine. You aren’t allowed to talk about your feelings. The reality is that men really do suffer with mental health too and struggle to talk about it.
Especially during the pandemic, Vexed has gotten really close – even closer than we were. We have made it very clear, or I hope we have, but no matter what you identify as, but especially for men, it’s absolutely okay to feel like shit and to talk about it with your friends because they are probably going through the same thing as well. We wanted to make that really clear with people – no matter who you are, everyone is struggling. You have a right to talk about it, and not feel ashamed somehow. So I hope that comes across.
Dead Rhetoric: What initially got you interested in music, and singing?
Targett: I was raised by a metalhead [laughs]. My mom was, and still is, a big Slayer, Pantera, Metallica, W.A.S.P. fan. I grew up singing Slayer and I got into a lot of trouble at my Catholic school when I was in primary school. I got suspended actually for singing Slayer in the classroom when I was like 6 [laughs]! They didn’t like that! So I was raised on metal and it was normal to me.
When I went to secondary school, it just turned into a love of mine. I connected with it on a deeper level. I was a bit of an outcast in school and didn’t have any friends, so I found music. It connected deeply with me and I decided I wanted it to be my career path. Originally, I wanted to be a drummer, because I am awkward and shy. I wanted to smash things and sit in the back so nobody will talk to me [laughs]. But we couldn’t find any vocalists, so I was peer pressured into it and I really loved it. That’s how I became a vocalist [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: Is there something, outside of music, that you are really passionate about?
Targett: It would have to be animals. I am a massive animal nerd. I have so many different pets. It’s worlds away from the metal world. I have dogs, ducks, chickens, guinea pigs, gerbils, and horses. I am lucky enough to live in the countryside, and my grandparents have a small home there so they let me have pets [laughs]. I just find peace in nature, as cringe as that sounds, whenever I feel down there’s nothing better than a cuddle with your dog, because they love you no matter what. I love animals and being outside. There’s never a dull day on the farm.
Dead Rhetoric: What else is going on with Vexed?
Targett: Ideally, we would like to do a tour. We are trying to plan something, but unfortunately the UK is fluctuating so much at the moment that it’s difficult to get anything in stone. Even if you do, you don’t know if it will go ahead. We are trying to do a headline tour at the end of the year, and finger crossed it will happen. But at the moment, we aren’t so sure. So releasing the album, and we may do some more music videos for it, we will see how it goes down. We are desperate to be back on tour. All I want is to be in a sweaty moshpit. I never thought I would want to be back there, but I really, really do [laughs].