The Breunion Boys: meet the band battling Brexit with their six-packs
PUBLISHED: 08:56 04 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:56 04 January 2019
The Breunion Boys are not targeting the hearts of teenage girls - but the 17.4m Brits who voted to leave the EU.
At first glance, the Breunion Boys could be any other boy band. There's the muscly one and the sensitive one and the one with glasses he probably doesn't need. Except these guys are different.
The Breunion Boys weren't formed by a cackling svengali with an eye on the disposable cash of screaming teenage girls - but the 17.4m Brits who voted for Brexit, many of whom may be having second thoughts and open to persuasion by an autotuned middle eight warbled by a handsome European man in double denim.
The group - four Dutch nationals and a Spaniard - were put together by Julia Veldman, a visual storyteller from Amsterdam who felt "quite similar to how I felt when Take That broke up" when hearing the news of the UK's Brexit referendum. And so she decided to use "the language of the boy band to try and ask for a second chance".
In the video for their first single the five boys - Seyed, Hajo, Gilles (aka "Maestro"), Joshua and Pablo - urge the UK to reconsider its decision and return to the bosom of Brussels. "I cannot believe this is the end, oh no, I still feel your love inside me, I still feel your words, I make a wish as your star falls," they sing, in words not even Jean-Claude Juncker might utter after an agreeable lunch.
"There's always been a sea between us, we used to sail it together. But you're leaving, now we're falling apart."
As with every good boy band in a break-up song, the offer of a reunion stands: "It's not too late to remain, it's not too late to come back again, it's not too late to build a bridge and reunite." The video shows the boys singing on a deserted beach as British girls float away on a tiny Brexit boat.
“During the referendum I was living in New York at the time and the whole presidential election was also going on around me and it was so bizarre to see all these weird things happening," Ms Veldman told The New European from her home in Amsterdam.
“And I was very homesick and I was longing for something more than just liquorice and cheese. I was longing for the idea of Europe as a place where we try to make the lives of all citizens better.
“The Brits voted for Brexit and I was really surprised. And heartbroken, because I never expected something like that could happen. It made me see that something that I saw as an actual part of my life was way more vulnerable than I ever thought.
“So this desperation was quite similar to how I felt when Take That broke up. So that break-up became symbolic for Brexit to me. And not just that the emotion was similar, but also because the members of Take That come from the area[s] of England where a lot of people voted to leave the European Union.
“So I thought what better than the language of the boy band to try and ask for a second chance?”
She spent a year putting the band together, giving presentations and asking everybody she came into contact with "do you know a talented, beautiful boy that is a European soul that wants to help out with this boy band?". But after 12 months she had a composer (friend Flavia Faas), video director and producer and was sitting on the terrace of an Irish pub in the centre of Amsterdam singing the very first version of the song which would become Britain Come Back. Everybody involved gave their time for free and - despite the claims of the online haters - no European public funding was involved.
The reaction was “emotional, that is for sure”, says Ms Veldman.
“The response has been overwhelming," she says. "We get a lot of people that love it. From the beginning of the project, even before the song, we had Brits reaching out to us, saying ‘we’re so sorry that our fellow countrymen voted to leave you, I didn’t want this to happen’. Around us people are very excited about it and very optimistic as well.
“But then there’s also people responding quite aggressively to it. And, in a way, it’s a bit hurtful sometimes, but it also shows that we do reach people that are very heard to reach with a pro-European message if they’re already convinced that they should be out. So it’s kind of encouraging to me.”
Time, though, is running out if the band are to halt Brexit, she acknowledges.
“We have so much work to do still," she says. "But there’s still hope. In two weeks there will be the other parliamentary vote, of course, on the withdrawal agreement May has reached with the European Commission, and we want to do a musical response to that. So that’s something coming up pretty soon.”
The plan is for the boys to do an as-yet-unbooked tour of the UK next month to mark Valentine's Day and "meet the people that we want to take us back and look them in the eye and ask them, baby, please take us back", says Ms Veldman. She has her eyes on Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Liverpool and Birmingham, culminating on a concert on the Green in front of Parliament (“that would be a nice symbolic ending to it”).
Towards the end of their first music video Seyed, a trained surgeon born in Afghanistan, strips off his t-shirt and begs Brits to stay. "We'll always be connected, our lives are intertwined," she says, rubbing his impressive six-pack. "You can't change your course without remorse, look at what you leave behind." Does Ms Veldman think this is what's needed to change the minds of wavering Brexit voters?
“Maybe not necessarily the hardest of Brexiteers," she muses. "But I’m mostly keen on reaching out to people that are still in denial of this happening and make them see that it’s really time to stand up and try to avoid this drama from happening.”