Ed Sheeran Collaborates with Ukrainian Band Antytila for Remix to His Song '2Step'

The singer previously reached out to the band over TikTok after they requested to take part in a charity concert

Ed Sheeran attends a private view of artist Jelly Green's new exhibition "Burn" at Noho Studios on March 30, 2022 in London, England. Ukrainian Band, Antytila
Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty; Antytila

Ed Sheeran joined forces with Ukrainian band, Antytila, to releasee a new version of his song "2Step" after the band was denied their request to join a recent benefit concert featuring the British songwriter.

The song was released Monday along with a music video filmed both in Kyiv and on the ground in northeast Ukraine where the band's frontman, Taras Topolia, is working as a medic.

Antytila is a pop-rock band whose most recent album, Millennial, was released just days after war broke out in their home country.

Topolia told PEOPLE this week that the decision to volunteer to join the war efforts after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 was a "simple one."

"Despite that I have three kids with my wife, who's my sweetie, despite that my oldest son was born in America, he is American citizen, despite all of this, I have a fundamental understanding, fundamental feelings that I'm a Ukrainian man and if my country is in danger, I should protect my country and future of my kids, my wife, my family," Topolia said.

When the war began his wife, children and grandfather traveled to Western Ukraine to distance themselves from the capital, though have since sought safety in New Jersey staying with Topolia's mother and stepfather.

Topolia said knowing they are safe allows him to do his work "better."

The band's communication with Sheeran, 31, and his team started back in March when Topolia and his bandmates made a plea on TikTok asking to join in an upcoming benefit concert raising money for Ukrainian humanitarian relief.

"Concert for Ukraine" featured many artists including Camila Cabello, Snow Patrol, Emeli Sandé and Sheeran.

The two-hour event raised $17.6 million for Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal from sponsorship, ad revenue, ticket sales and public donations, Variety reported.

The band was ultimately denied their plea due to their involvement in the war efforts and the event organizer's desire to avoid "association with any kind of military," organizers previously said in a statement.

Topolia told PEOPLE that while they were disappointed by the decision they were grateful for the event's efforts to raise money to help the people of Ukraine.

Sheeran saw Antytila's video and responded publicly thanking the band for reaching out and shared his "love" for Ukrainian people telling them he stands with them and is proud to be playing the fundraising event.

"I can't wait to check your music out too, guys, sending lots of love," he said.

Shortly thereafter, the band heard from Sheeran again — but this time it was with the proposition to be featured on a song with the Grammy-winner.

Topolia told PEOPLE that Sheeran and his team asked the band to help in a remake of the song "2Step" off of his most recent album = (pronounced Equals).

"They proposed to us to write an absolutely new second verse and second chorus," Topolia said. "Of course, it was very pleasing for us and we, of course, agreed to do this."

Topolia said the timeline from first receiving the ask to sending in their final piece took about two weeks. He shared the difficulty he had writing and recording the new additions amid the unrest.

"There were really hard battles in the outskirts of Kyiv and we were doing our job," he said of that period of time. "We understood that it's very important, despite that we are doing our military job, it's very essential to create something, of course, to write some new lyrics and to find the words and find the inspiration to do this."

Topolia wrote the lyrics for the new verse and chorus on his own though consulted his bandmates throughout the writing process.

He told PEOPLE that the studio that the band usually uses, in the city of Hostomel, was under occupation at the time. With the help of a friend he was able to find another studio to complete the recording.

Topolia calls the accompanying music video, directed by Mitya Shmurak, a "masterpiece."

He said he called Shmurak, whose full name is Dmytro Shmurak, after Sheeran's team had approved the audio and relayed his idea for the video, understanding that in Ukraine it is imperative that songs are released with visuals.

Ukrainian Band, Antytila

"[We] asked him, 'Dmytro, if you can please make it work, do it please'," Topolia said. "And he said to us, 'Guys, I will do everything that I can to create this video. So you just doing your work, you continue to do your work.' "

While filming the video, Shmurak was in constant contact with the band, asking for their input to ensure he was capturing their idea.

Topolia calls the final project "heartbreaking," saying the director created exactly what was needed to match the music and lyrics.

"Everyone who is watching this video has goosebumps," Topolia said. "It means that it works."

The music video was filmed in Kyiv and begins with a young red-headed boy dancing in a theater, but then flashes to scenes of destruction. The video then shifts to a young girl and her mother who pack up their car to flee the unrest. At one point, the tearful mother sings along to the lyrics of the song while clutching her daughter in the back seat.

Topolia is also featured in the music video, dressed in his military uniform singing the words to his lyrics. His part was filmed in the field in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine where he is now located as he works as a medic, aiding wounded soldiers.

He said filming his portion was the "simplest thing" and only took about 15 minutes and a GoPro.

In his lyrics, Topolia "tells his own story of how the war started for his family. And this is not just his own personal story, but the story of millions of Ukrainians, whose families have been separated by disastrous shelling and war," according to a statement from the band's spokesperson.

According to a statement reportedly from Sheeran and provided to PEOPLE, during the next 12 months, the "worldwide record royalties from YouTube streams of the official visualizer, and Warner Music's proceeds from such streams, will be donated to Music Saves UA."

A representative for Sheeran did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Topolia shares that despite their exhaustion it is important to continue to create music as they are "musicians first."

"Despite that we are in the war, we try to create something," he said. "And sometimes we [are] pushing ourselves to do this. Because sometimes you don't want to do this. You don't have inspiration to do something. You don't have inspiration to think or create something new because you are tired, because a lot of horrible things happens around. But we are pushing ourselves to do this. Because this is the part of our [resistance], the cultural [resistance.]"

He said throughout this process he has had both "formal" and "informal" communication with the "A-Team" singer. He said the two have exchanged some messages over Instagram DMs as well as email chains with Sheeran and his team.

He said in "dark times" like the ones he and his country are experiencing now, people like Sheeran are important.

"He's shining from inside, and doing it through his music, through his lyrics, through his videos, and it's very valuable for me," Topolia said. "… In dark times, it's very important to meet the shiny people. So he's like a shiny people, shiny man, a very creative man."

Sheeran had previously released a remix for "2Step" featuring rapper Lil Baby earlier this month, which included an accompanying video that was shot in Kyiv last year before the attacks.

The video begins with a note Sheeran wrote himself that said all proceeds from YouTube streams of "2step" would go to the Disasters Emergency Committee's Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

"I felt so welcomed during my stay there – everyone from the production crew to the many people I met across my days off," Sheeran's message said. "Ukraine is a proud and resilient country and I'm grateful to have had the chance to film my video there. I stand with Ukraine and will be donating my record royalties from YouTube streams of the video to the DEC's Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal."

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