“Our plan,” announces the one-fourth of Vida whose name is Jade, “is to take over. It’s cheesy but it’s true. We’d love to tour the world. We’d love a Brit, a MOBO, a Grammy. We’re pretty ambitious.”
The band has certainly set its sights high, but think twice before you bet against them. Since forming organically two years ago – a long time for anyone, a lifetime in girlband years – Vida have picked up a legion of fans including thousands of members of the self-styled Vida Nation, as well as celebrities like One Direction, Alan Carr, James Corden and Leona Lewis. They’ve also been nominated for MTV’s Brand New For 2012, supported acts like JLS and Chipmunk on nationwide arena dates, and cemented their reputation as serious ones to watch, thanks to a barrage of brilliant, fizzy modern pop tunes.
The girls’ street-smart lyrics come from everyday life as seen through the Vida filter: from the partying to the mornings after, from the relationships that work, to the ones that falls apart. Vida describe their sound as reggae pop, but it’s more than that too, with flashes of inspiration flying in from all directions. It makes for a unique blend, and one that complements the four-piece band’s colourful, north-meets-south pop dynamic.
There’s AJ, 22, a Manchester girl who started dancing when she was three, and went on to dance for the likes of Leona Lewis (“which was mainly swaying”), Tinie Tempah, Lethal Bizzle and Katy Perry. She’s the band’s founding member, and she’s got big ideas for where Vida goes next. V.vee, meanwhile, is the 18-year-old south London girl whose first musical purchases were by Destiny’s Child and the Spice Girls – strong influences that have quite obviously embedded themselves in her own compelling personality: she’s got a quirky, fun style with a hint of Barbie-infused ghetto fab, and loves her hot pink DMs. Jade, 21, grew up in a family she describes as “proper Cockney” – she spent a lot of her early life in Canning Town, east London, where her family used to train boxers (although her dad was also a breakdancer). Her own talent for kickboxing led to a street dance style that helped her win Trouble TV’s seminal dance show Bump ‘N’ Grind a few years back, which was followed by a long stint as a singer for hire touring clubs, weddings and parties. Her life motto: “Never say never.” And that just leaves Che3kz, Manchester born and bred, whose school reports were peppered with the word ‘mischievous’, whose favourite album is Missy’s ‘Supa Dupa Fly’, and whose bedroom walls were once plastered with Eminem and Tupac posters.
There are four very individual characters here, but these are no caricatures bashed out in a record label boardroom: the girls’ varied, sometimes contradictory personalities are as real as they come, and the result, if you get them on a sofa, in a vocal booth or on a stage together is a pop band with an unmistakable identity all its own. AJ, V.vee, Che3kz and Jade have a very natural spark together. Add music, and the spark becomes a flame.
Vida’s recent success has hardly come overnight. Their story begins at the beginning of 2010 with AJ, at this point in a different band, realising that she needed to make some changes in her life. She quit the band, and started her own. “I wanted to write about what I wanted to write about, and be who I wanted to be,” she recalls. “I didn’t want to have to put on an act. I wanted to find real girls. Everybody had to have the same drive, the same work ethic, the same fun ethic.”
Her first call was to Che3kz, who at that point was freestyling most nights in Manchester, teaching street dance to kids on her local estate in her spare time. Off AJ went on the train, on a recruiting mission. “Che3kz was a bit crazy, but really down to earth,” AJ recalls. “I liked the madness.” At the time, Che3kz needed a bit of persuading. “Back then I was all about grime,” she says, “and my music was all about growing up on the estates.” AJ persuaded her that life in a girlband was the way forward, and Che3kz moved down to London, and shared a place with AJ. The next member turned up when AJ’s vocal coach also turned out to be coaching V.vee, while Jade’s name came up via a friend. AJ phoned Jade about the band when she was on holiday; so keen was Jade that AJ had to talk her down from canceling the rest of the holiday and flying back on the next available flight. “I was having my own individual journey and that call came at just the right time,” Jade remembers now. “I liked what AJ was saying.”
By the start of 2011 the Vida lineup you see before you today was complete, and another key piece of the Vida jigsaw was already fitting into place. From the London showcase circuit AJ was familiar with Oritsé from JLS. JLS had once been similar to Vida – they’d formed themselves and spent a while playing showcases before The X Factor sent their career skyrocketing. Oritsé saw enough potential in the girls to use his new-found influence to give Vida their own leg up. He assumed the role of mentor, which suits the girls just fine. “All four of the JLS lads have been incredibly supportive,” V.vee explains, “and being around them, seeing how they work and how they are around people, has been brilliant.” Is it an unfair advantage, though? Not really, Jade says. “He’s helped, but the substance has to be there when people come to see us, or there’s no point!”
The result of all their hard work is not like anything else on the pop landscape. Vida’s songs are full of excitement, drama and surprises, with dashes of humour here and there. ‘Lock Up Your Daughters’ is a feisty, tongue-in-cheek romp that pictures the four Vida girls out on the rampage; ‘Boombox’, their infectious debut single slated for August 27th release, comes from an idea that AJ had while they were in the studio. ‘Control’ is a collaboration with MNEK, the prodigious writer and producer whose credits already include The Saturdays, A*M*E and Misha B. Down-and-dirty anthem ‘Badder Than Me’, meanwhile, is a great showcase of the band’s inclusive girlgang swagger.
Just as their music sounds unique by embracing of all sorts of genres, so Vida’s message is one of being proud of your individuality, but pursuing the idea of togetherness. “In 2012 Girl Power means girls coming together not against each other,” Jade says. “We do think of ourselves as a gang. Accepting the fact that you’re different, and that all the people around you are different. Finding the points of similarity, but being yourself.”
Listen through the tracks competing for a position on Vida’s forthcoming debut album, and there’s no doubting that Vida have pulled it off big style. “We’ve all got different influences, different personalities, different passions,” Che3kz says. “But they come together That’s why it works. We mix it, flip it, blend it, that’s Vida.”
Jade, ambitious as ever, has the final word. “Sometimes it feels like pop music has hit a wall and fallen on the floor,” she says. “We want to smash the wall right down.”
They are currently signed to B.O.B Music Entertainment
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The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.