This band is about reaching as many people as we can. It’s not about being cool or being above anyone else - it’s about connecting with people.’ - John McDaid, Vega 4
Somewhere in the farthest reaches of our galaxy, a star called Vega is growing stronger and brighter with every passing minute. In time, the older stars will burn out and Vega will outshine them all, ultimately becoming the brightest light in the night sky. Astronomers disappointingly predict that we’ll have to wait about 12,000 years for this to happen, but meanwhile here on earth, there’s another Vega hoping to achieve recognition a little faster.
Vega 4 are a band with a mission: to write songs that glimmer with sentiment and meaning, songs which they hope will inspire us all to live our dreams. Vega 4 are not chancers eager to score a chart hit and hit the celebrity circuit, nor are they indie underachievers fearful of the very success they crave. Vega 4 are committed to something far more substantial - the sheer emotional power of music. Here is a band who truly believe that music can touch, and even change lives.
Vega 4 are four individuals with wildly different backgrounds and influences intersecting and finding a common purpose. They boast an Irishman (glinty-eyed singer John McDaid), a Canadian (drummer Bryan McLellan), a New Zealander (guitarist Bruce Gainsford) and an Englishman (bass player Simon Walker). Accordingly, their ambitions are global. In September 2000 they signed to Taste Media (the home of Muse), who subsequently secured deals for the band with Capitol Records for North America; Na?ve for France; Motor Music for Germany, Austria and Switzerland; Play It Again Sam for Benelux and Festival Mushroom for Australia and New Zealand - with the intention of taking the Vega 4 sound to the four corners of the world.
‘I remember sitting in maths class with a walkman hidden up the sleeve of my blazer, hearing Radiohead’s ‘Drill EP’ for the first time, and it blew me away. I didn’t know what to think. I just kept rewinding and rewinding, and thinking, ‘This is going to change music - it has so much passion and energy, it’s real!’ When kids listen to music it affects their lives. It doesn’t matter if it’s Pavement or REM or the Strokes or us, as long as it touches something in them and reaches them, then it’s done its job. I really think that we are going to do that to people. If we give one person shivers down their spine, I’ll know we’ve succeeded.’ - John
Vega 4 first came together in 1999. John had come to London from Derry in Northern Ireland when he was 17 (after learning his guitar skills from The Undertones’ John O’Neil), looking for kindred spirits. After spending a few years playing cover versions in half-empty pubs and busking in Leicester Square, he met Simon, a refugee from a series of London bands who was also seeking a new and special sound. They shared a flat for six months, writing songs together every day, John remembers, ‘talking about our woes and misery and how we were going to get out of it,’ and searching for able-bodied bandmates. First they found Bruce, who added a brooding Fugazi-loving intensity to their optimistic melodies, and then Bryan (described by Simon as a ‘very Led Zep drummer’), who had recently ditched a burgeoning business career in favour of professional percussion
‘The first time we all played together,’ John remembers, ‘there was this amazing chemistry. It was just the four of us standing in a room facing each other and from the first note it was magic - we didn’t speak, and didn’t stop playing for an hour. We all felt like, ‘This is it. This is where the adventure begins.’ So far, it's proved to be quite a journey.
After being spotted by Taste they recorded a four-song demo (‘Caterpillar EP’) which was sent out to US labels just before their stellar performance at CMJ in 2000. When the band arrived in New York, they were shocked to find themselves the subject of an enthusiastic industry buzz and subsequent A&R tussle. That December, they signed with Capitol on top of the World Trade Center in suitably triumphant fashion, running across the observation deck waving a contract and a bottle of champagne.
The recording of their debut album, ‘Satellites’, took them back to New York for pre-production, then to the legendary Sawmills Studio on a remote Cornwall island, where they sequestered themselves for six weeks. Having completed the bulk of the album there with John Cornfield (Supergrass, Bluetones), they set off for Los Angeles, where they recorded four tracks with American producer Ron Aniello (Lifehouse) at Sunset Sound. Two of those tracks were done in the last room The Beatles ever recorded in together, the other two at Rumbo Studios where Guns ’n’ Roses recorded ‘Appetite For Destruction’. Auspicious, indeed. ‘We named the album ‘Satellites’,’ John explains, ‘because we love the idea that everything is linked to everything else, that six degrees of separation idea. We’re all inter-connected. We’re all revolving around each other. Everyone in the world. It’s like a domino effect - one person influences another person who then influences another person. ‘Satellites’ is about that, and the songs on the album wouldn’t exist one without the other. It’s really important to us that we feel constantly connected to everyone else. We’re not removing ourselves, we’re not losing anybody by doing this. This is about having a dream, and it’s about telling everybody that it’s okay to have that dream.’ Simon nods, ‘I think that we’ve written the kind of songs that will be the soundtrack to people’s lives, and that hopefully they will remember forever.’
‘It’s so amazing to be in a band. I hate reading interviews with people who moan about it - if that’s the way they feel, they should go and get another job. It would be easy for me to adopt an attitude of nonchalance just to be cool, but is that fair? Is it fair for me to give you one thing on the record and another thing here? I don’t think so. The people I looked up to when I was a kid certainly weren’t faking it. The last thing that I want to be is elitist, but I do want to separate us from the fakers. I’ll bet you a night at the bar that we’re not faking it.’ - John
With a diverse, powerful debut album under their belts, Vega 4 are ready for all the hard work that lies in store for them. They’ve already made a huge splash in Europe, where they recently found capacity crowds euphorically singing along with them. A cross-section of their song titles says it all - ‘Radio Song’, ‘Sing’, ‘Hallelujah’ - Vega 4 are ambitious and determined, with visions of arenas dancing in their heads. ‘There’s a great feeling in this band that absolutely anything is achievable,’ Simon says. ‘I truly believe that there’s nothing you can’t do if you really put your mind to it. We want to reach for the top, make everything brilliant.’
Vega 4’s dreams will undoubtedly be fulfilled. After all, it’s written in the stars.