Yesterday, retail giant John Lewis continued their annual tradition by dropping another headline-grabbing advert for the Christmas season. The soundtrack has almost become as important as the advert itself, launching careers (Aurora) and revitalising others (Lily Allen). We caught up with Ben Vella from this year’s chosen band Vaults, a electronica trio from London, about how they got the gig covering ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’, what they think of the advert, and if they actually met the Buster the Boxer.
How did your appearance on the advert come about?
“They got in touch with us, they thought Blythe [Pepino, singer]’s vocal would suit the direction they were going in. We met the arranger Chris Hill and worked with him closely before going into Abbey Road to record it. We got to work with a huge orchestra and choir and hang out in The Beatles’ Room 2 – the whole day was amazing.”
Are you fans of past John Lewis ads?
“The penguin one was very sweet – you’d need a heart of stone to not fall for a lovesick penguin.”
Did you like the song before you were asked to cover it?
“John Lewis chose the track but Blythe was a big fan of the original Randy Crawford version – she knew it backwards – so it made for an easy recording session. “
How did you put your own personal twist on the track?
“Given the style of the it, it’s quite hard to put your own sound on it – it’s full on orchestral film score so we didn’t get the Moog out! Chris the arranger was great incorporating our ideas into the version as we knocked ideas around a bit with him. We also had to stay true to the vibe of the track. There were 150 amazing musicians playing on it in a legendary room, so you don’t want to mess with that as it captured something really magical. Blythe sang along live with them which is quite rare these days. Our real stamp on it is Blythe’s interpretation of the song and her vocal performance. We love how it’s ended up, there’s something magical about the epicness of it, especially when you were involved in the process of watching it evolve on the day with all those players.”
Did you see the ad before doing the song? Did you cry?
“We did see it, but we didn’t cry, we laughed! It’s very funny, in a sweet way. I think it’s a relief it’s not overly emotional this year – the country needs a bit of cheering up at the moment.”
Did you get to meet Buster, the dog from the ad?
“No, but we’d love to, we’re big dog fans. We’re really happy John Lewis are working with the Wildlife Trusts on it as well and making donations from sales of the toys.”
What was your best Christmas presents as a kid?
“I did get a Scalextric set once as a kid, I’d probably still be quite happy with one if I got it this year.”
Do you worry at all about being labelled as that-band-that-did-the-John-Lewis-ad?
“Not particularly, I don’t think that’s massively been the case for Aurora. I think if you have a chance to reach a bigger fan base you can’t complain about what gives you that chance. We’re genuinely proud of the track so if that brings people to us who go on to discover the rest of our material it’s all good.”
You’ve covered Alt-J, Foals and Bjork in the past, what other current acts are you fans of?
“We’ve got quite varied tastes but we all absolutely love Caribou. ‘Our Love’ is an amazing record, we kept on playing the same festivals as him so we got to see it live several times, it’s a great live show as well.”
What can we expect from your debut album?
“It’s quite a varied record, there’s some big epic tunes with string arrangements but some more introspective moments too. It’s been a long time coming so it’s hugely exciting it’s finally coming out. We’ve put out quite a few singles and EPs but there’s still lots of new material our fans won’t have heard so I think everyone will be really happy with it.”