As pop giants JLS prepare for their biggest arena tour yet David Dunn talks sport and illusions
ONE-time aspiring footballer Aston Merrygold admits he got to partly fulfil his sporting dream when JLS went to Wembley Stadium to film the video for their Sport Relief single Proud.
But the self-confessed “baby of the band” denied taking any souvenirs away from the iconic ground when cameras stopped rolling.
“They were very on guard for all that kind of stuff which is really good as it’s sacred, a very special place,” recalls the Arsenal fan.
“We had 20 minutes maximum to film on the middle of the pitch, including four run-throughs. They literally had a stop watch in their hands and we’d run on to the pitch, film, run off and they’d stop the watch. It was hilarious.”
Aston confesses he had a little daydream while there, having once represented England in the European Youth Games while at school in Peterborough. With his footballing aspirations hitting the rocks before he could turn professional because of a foot injury, the happy chappie visualised what it would have been like during breaks from filming the Sport Relief promo, amazingly the first ever music video to be filmed in Wembley Stadium.
“As soon as you hear the single you think video and then for us the only fitting place was Wembley.
“It’s the holy grail of all sporting buildings so for us to be the first ones there and them to be cool about it was an honour. And yes, I always dreamed of going to Wembley, but never thought it would be filming a music video – I thought I’d be going there and lifting up the World Cup or in the FA Cup Final.
“If you’re a fan you always go ‘I would have slotted it in the bottom corner’. I do get really passionate about football. I’m always shouting at the TV.
“So I had a few times to myself where I kept shouting in the middle of Wembley ‘Rooney, on my head’. You have a little a bit of banter, reliving a fantasy.”
Then the band’s Sport Relief official single is about pursuing your dream, something JLS have undoubtedly been doing since storming to fame on a certain reality show.
“We started out on our own,” Aston reminds us. “Before X Factor we’d been together a year and a half. We had tried every avenue; sang outside the record label, sent demos off and went for X Factor because someone said we were good enough – and here we are now.
“So the song has a message in there to say no matter what you achieve, however big and successful you get, you are basically doing that for someone. In our view it’s for our parents and family and we hope they’re proud of us. That’s the message of the song; pursue your hopes and dreams to the full extent but just know there is always someone who is proud of you.
“Proud just felt right for the time of year and the year it is, London 2012, the pride this country is going to have for sport.”
The video – which you can view at http://vevo.ly/zzFE90 – sees British Olympic double gold medal winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington, triple jumper and silver medal winner Phillips Idowu and gymnast and bronze medal winner Louis Smith alongside JLS as the stories of three gifted children unfold.
Aston says the band had no hesitation about getting involved with Sport Relief, not least after a visit to Uganda last autumn.
“Before you go you have these preconceptions,” recalls Aston, “growing up over the years and watching people who have been out there to see who the money goes to, but when you are there it’s a totally different story.
“We went straight to a hospital to do some filming. A woman was being dragged out of the hospital kicking and screaming and couldn’t walk because her baby had just died in her arms. They said she’d been walking for seven hours from her village. When you hear that it’s crazy.
“I was in one of the rooms with six babies and parents. No-one likes to hear babies crying in pain but you’re in that kind of environment and there’s nothing you can do apart from tell a camera and people to donate. That’s all you can do. You know when you watch and think that must be scripted, no, they literally say ‘how do you feel?’ and half the time you don’t know what to say.
“Every moment you are there... I remember absolutely everything. It’s just a world of difference but to them it’s normal.”
JLS will perform Proud on a Sport Relief night of entertainment, BBC One on Friday March 23, as well as a special one-off matinee concert for the cause at London’s O2 Arena the next day with Olly Murs and Rizzle Kicks.
Either side of that the quartet, already well advanced on their fourth album after the success of last autumn’s Jukebox, have the task of their own latest sold out arena tour to deal with, including returns to Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena on March 28 and April 28.
“We’ve had meetings, literally just had the last one. From what I can tell you, because I don’t want to give too much away, it’s unbelievable and if we can pull it off it’s going to be amazing.
“You know like the illusions, the tricks of David Blane, we’ve incorporated all that kind of stuff into this tour. We had a flying car last time, but this time round it is going to be a proper full on... ‘we’re calling it a superhero extravaganza.
“We feel like kids in a toy shop because when it comes to the show we just say the world is our oyster, we make the rules. When we did the theatre tour we were ‘we wanna do this’ and they were like ‘guys, you’re in a theatre, you can’t get away with too much because it’s very close’.
“Now we’re doing plus 30 dates, a mad amount of shows, and they’re like ‘the budget is there’. So we’re allowed to do bigger and better.
“We have a mad strong input. We’re four very individual different people and when we all agree on something it seems to work out for the best. No-one is more the ideas man or more right than anyone else. It’s very equal and we’re learning off each other as well.
“We enjoy what we do. It’s coming to work but with your friends, talking about ideas and then a month later you’re doing the ideas.”
Pre-order Proud at itunes.apple.com where at least 42p for each download will go to Sport Relief, as will at least £1 from each CD sale.