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Feeling the FOMO: How These Youngsters Belted Out a Bombastic 80s Rock Opera for Virgin Voyages


New Math’s Jake Falby and Sam Skarstad, alongside Special Group, tell LBB’s Adam Bennett how their spectacularly memorable ballad - now available on Spotify - came together

Feeling the FOMO: How These Youngsters Belted Out a Bombastic 80s Rock Opera for Virgin Voyages

We all love our families. Of course we do. It’s just that, for some parents, the cumulative effect of two years of the pandemic - with schools closed and limited opportunities for a change of scenery - the idea of escaping from our beloved, precious children is rather appealing. 

That, ultimately, is the insight behind Virgin Voyages’ latest campaign. With the iconic cruise line being strictly 18+, it provides a sanctuary for weary adults looking for luxury. However, upon discovering that their parents are abandoning them for a pamperous cruise, one group of kids reacted the only way they knew how - with a riotously 80s-inspired rock ballad, complete with a suitably dramatic music video. 

The result is a funny, adorable, and somehow anthemic campaign. Thanks to the help of the independent creative agency Special Group alongside music and sound maestros at New Math, the Virgin Voyages ad has become so popular that the song itself is now available on Spotify. 

To go behind the scenes of the spot and discover how it all came together, LBB’s Adam Bennett sat down with New Math’s senior producer and composer Jake Falby, composer Sam Skarstad, and the team at Special Group. 

Above: The team of annoyed adolescents provided the perfect soundtrack for the campaign. 

LBB> What was the initial brief that came through to each of you, and how does the finished project align with your initial visions?

SG> When we got briefed, we kept on talking about how amazing the spas, the food, and the amenities looked. But we couldn’t help but think kids would want Hamachi Crudo or a hot stone massage, too. 

So we wanted to show one of Virgin’s best amenities, the fact that it's 18+, in a way you wouldn’t expect. We love how it turned out, thanks in large part to the performances of these amazing kids!

Jake> The initial brief was pretty open-ended stylistically, and called for some musical exploration. But essentially we were asked to create a rousing anthemic song for a bunch of angry kids to sing at their parents after they deserted them for a VV cruise. 

The finished song was our brilliant New Math composer Sam Skarstad’s creation. He took one of the ideas we discussed which was to do an 80s rock anthem and just totally nailed it. 

LBB> Sam, can you talk us through the process for how the song came together?

Sam> It was a good idea and a good brief, to begin with. I remember the request we got being something like ‘rock ballad with angry kids’. There are plenty of ways to go with a rock ballad, but I figured that it should be something huge, with plenty of guitars, and something kids would conceivably want to rock with. Strong, sweet, and shimmering, like a nursery rhyme with a leather hide. 

I thought it should hit hard, and soar melodically. The texture of the guitars was important - lots of layers, well-tuned distortion, and a touch of chorus for that spectral sheen. And it also needed some very earnest and perhaps genuinely sad quiet parts. In this case, I didn’t want to make fun of the genre, but instead to jump into the warm water along with it.

LBB> I’ve heard that Richard Branson himself enjoyed the song - can you tell me anything about that?

Jake> I’ve heard he tends to be quite hands on with pretty much everything in his companies so that is not surprising - we’re thrilled that he enjoyed it! 

LBB> And now the song is on Spotify! How did that come about?

Jake> There was enough love for this song all-round that the clients felt strongly that it deserved to exist out in the world as a stand-alone song. So an additional release seemed fitting.

LBB> The 80s-style music video is a fantastic accompaniment to the song which amps up the comedy factor. How did that idea first land?

SG> We wanted a style that communicated the true yearning and over-the-top sense of emotion that kids feel. When you’re a kid, everything is super dramatic. So, we decided that 80’s rock operas were just about dramatic enough to do the kids’ anger justice. 

LBB> Sam, the song feels comically fresh and kind of eerily familiar at the same time… did you have any genuine musical influences when creating it?

Sam> This year, I renovated my garage into a music studio and made about 9000 trips to the hardware store - during which I usually had the classic rock station on. I soaked in a lot of Def Leppard on those trips. 

Bands like Def Leppard or Scorpions live in an area between romance, conquering swagger, irony, and an almost naive sadness. I wanted to at least light a candle for that beautiful, under-appreciated mixture.

LBB> It’s a great overall performance by the kids signing - were you involved in coaxing that performance out, and how did you do it if so?

Sam> I had nothing to do with the actors on screen, but I recorded the kids in the song. My wife is a middle school teacher. I gave her the challenge of finding some kids who wanted to come to my newly-renovated studio for a mission. 

They were gung-ho and incredibly perceptive about the task at hand - I gave them the song a couple of days early, and told them to get familiar with it. They came fully ready to belt it out. I just had to shout “Bigger! Louder!” and then, sometimes, “Softer! Sadder! Even sadder!”

My 2-year old son sat on my lap as I mixed, and became deeply fascinated with the track. “Mama, Papa…” he would moan (the first lines of the song). He wanted to watch the ad over and over again. It became a bit of a problem in our house. If only he were a couple of years older, he could have cashed in.

LBB> What was the most challenging part of working on this campaign, and how did you overcome it?

Jake> The cut had to go through many iterations, and there were also a number of lyric changes throughout the process. This presented some production challenges around vocal recording with all the kids, but Sam is an amazing producer and was able to deliver exactly what we needed throughout the process. 

LBB> Any parent can surely appreciate a break from their kids, but presumably it's an extra-appealing prospect following two years of intermittent lockdowns. Do you think that context helps this campaign land especially strongly?

SG> Yes, definitely. We talked to many parents - all of whom dearly love their children - that were in firm agreement that a cruise without the kids right now seems very, very, very appealing. 

LBB> Finally, imagine you’ve just discovered you’re heading out on a Virgin Voyages cruise. What are the first three items in your suitcase?!

SG> A red fedora, epipen, and a DVD of Under The Tuscan Sun

Jake> Sunglasses, flip flops and swim trunks seem like a safe bet!

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Genres: Comedy, Music & Sound Design, Music performance

Categories: Ferries and cruises, Travel

New Math Music, Wed, 12 Oct 2022 14:48:00 GMT