“In some ways, my gift for music and writing was born out of tragedy, really, and loss.”- Joni Mitchell.
Vocalist Megan Targett for UK’s alternative metalcore outfit Vexed creates music that is in a different sound dimension to the progressive folk icon quoted above. Thought it may seem strange, lyrically the two musicians do share similarities – Joni’s poetry covered many different topics: Politics, domestic violence, criticism of the music industry, heartbreak and the loss of life. The final subject being one of the most challenging for Ms Mitchell’s career, especially with her 10th studio album entitled Mingus – a collaboration between herself and in all probability one of the greatest jazz musicians in history Charles Mingus. The LP was written and recorded leading up to Charles’ passing from motor neurone disease and via his instruction, this was to be the lyrical direction for Joni to design.
For Megan, the final two topics mentioned prior were a significant focus for Vexed’s sophomore full-length Negative Energy. Around the time of the creative process for the album, she sadly lost her grandfather. While caring for him, Ms Targett penned many of the lyrics that crafted the 13 tracks present on the full-length; one song in particular ‘It’s Not The End’ proved to be one of the most challenging, as she explains:
“Writing and recording this song was incredibly hard. It was heartbreaking and heavy in a way that’s difficult to explain. I needed to do it because writing is my way of processing things. I also wanted to pay tribute to my Grandpa in a way that would somewhat do him justice.” She articulates with immeasurable affection. “Nothing will ever be good enough to represent how much I loved him but we tried our hardest and I do think it’s a great song. It was a cathartic experience and a heartbreaking experience that took a lot of time and trust with one another to get done.”
To a large degree, Negative Energy is born out of tragedy and loss and with it some heroic honesty. Megan Targett addresses subject matter that countless people can empathise with from experience. A particular cut by the name of ‘Panic Attack’ possesses an openness and relatability that would undoubtedly catch the receptive attention of a myriad of observers and even some off-guard. The song is about the brief episodes of intense anxiety that some people suffer and have symptoms which include: Increased heart rate, shortness of breath, trembling and muscle tension among others. A difficult condition assuredly, however this scribe was fascinated to know the vocalist’s experience with these attacks of anxiety?
“Honestly, I didn’t find it too difficult to write about because at the time of writing I was having them very often. After my Grandpa died I was suffering with severe PTSD and so the smallest things would trigger me off into a downward spiral.” Megan discloses with sincerity – “I needed to try and explain what it was like in a song because so many other people don’t understand and it can be frustrating. Also, in order for me to try to process and rationalise why it happens to me, the writing process was very cathartic.”
“Catharsis” was an integral component in the poetry that the songstress composed and this ingredient was discovered using different methodologies. The track ’There’s No Place Like Home’ for instance references the famous story ‘The Wizard Of Oz’. It therefore provoked this writer to ask if this theme was to do with “escapism”?
“Yes, the reference is to do with escapism but also how I feel a connection to the character of Dorothy. When I lost my Grandpa, it forced me to grow up, but at the same time, I felt a pain that can only be described as a child-like heartbreak. Like Dorothy, I just wanted to go back home and have everything be back to normal. I needed all the sadness to be explained away as a bad dream, sadly that’s not the case.”
Negative Energy does venture into other topics, for example ‘X My <3 (Hope To Die)’ acts as an analytical criticism of sorts to the Catholic church and Ms Targett‘s own experience with it – “The lyrical inspiration behind the song is about those who use religion to take advantage of others for their own personal gain or justification. When the leaders are sitting inside a walled city worth over €4Billion, have covered up countless acts of child abuse, have been responsible for murders and working with the mafia… then the religion is rotten at its core. It’s a business that I no longer buy into.”
She continues – “But, what I will not stand for is how religion is used as a loaded gun towards anyone who isn’t straight, white, male and wealthy. Then I have no issue in telling people where to stick it.”
Arguably one of the most enthralling characteristics of the LP is the expansion in sound from the band’s debut Culling Culture. Venturing into sound territories which could bring about comparisons to fellow Brits Rolo Tomassi with influxes of death metal, metalcore and even electropunk. ‘Nepotism’ is in all probability the brilliant stand-out of this amalgamation, it is so rbreathtaking it actually gives every appearance of being a collaboration with royalty of the electronic genre The Prodigy.
“That’s awesome to hear!! The Prodigy were a big inspiration for us whilst writing this album so that’s really cool it’s come across.” Megan exclaims passionately – “We’ve wanted to experiment with different sounds and mixing of genres for ages but just needed the confidence to try. ‘Nepotism’ just worked out to be the perfect track to try it on and has turned out to be one of our favourite tracks too.”
Referring back to ’The Wizard Of Oz’ where the “Oz” part can be translated to Australia – although Vexed are yet to venture our way, they are already very affiliated with our nation. In 2019 the group released the single ‘Elite’ which featured Thy Art Is Murder’s CJ McMahon and with this new record, present on ‘Lay Down Your Flowers’ is the astounding voice of Alpha Wolf’s Lochie Keogh.
“We often joke that we will only work with Aussie vocalists! But it just happens that our favourite bands seem to be from there. There must be something in the water as Australian metal hits different!”
Do you think Vexed will ever visit the waters and land of Oz?
“Australia is my #1 dream tour destination and so we’re working really hard on building some relationships with bookers and promoters there. We just need more people to spread the word and keep sharing our music. Once the demand is high enough hopefully someone will take notice.“
As Joni Mitchell sang in ‘My Best To You’: “May your dreams come true”.
Interview by Will Oakeshott @TeenWolfWill
Stream Negative Energy https://lnk.to/VEXED-NegativeEnergy
Vexed – Negative Energy tracklisting:
3. We Don’t Talk About It
4. X My <3 (Hope To Die)
5. Panic Attack
6. Lay Down Your Flowers
7. There’s No Place Like Home
10. Trauma Euphoria
11. It’s Not The End