For those who keep up with the UK’s indie rock scene, you may have noticed a name rising through the ranks in the past couple of years. This is, of course, that of The Reytons, the Doncaster-based band that has been making waves since their formation a mere five years ago. With a sound reminiscent of the early Arctic Monkeys and the energy and charisma to boot, it is no surprise that the band have made themselves a force to be reckoned with in the industry, making it all the more exciting to be able to sit down with the band’s lead singer and lyricist, Jonny Yerrell.
“It’s just been an absolute rollercoaster — a whirlwind”
As the conversation begins, Jonny takes me back to where his journey began, revealing the true depth of his relationship with music.
“Right from being in school, I knew that this was the industry I wanted to be in,” Jonny explains. “It’s always been there, always been something. I don’t know anything other than chasing this dream: cracking the music industry and making it big.”
And make it big he did. Over the last five years, The Reytons have firmly established themselves as key players in the UK’s indie scene, from selling out tours to reaching number 11 on the charts with their debut album, Kids Off the Estate, despite being up against industry giants such as Ed Sheeran, ABBA, and Taylor Swift.
“One day we were laughing together, the next day we’d sold out a 4000 person event at Magna. It’s just been an absolute rollercoaster — a whirlwind. We never saw it coming but we’ve enjoyed every step of the way.”
“It’s social commentary: I write about what I see and what I know”
This newfound success hasn’t left any room for complacency, though, as Jonny explains that whilst being pleased with the album’s chart triumph “that fuel is still there: we want a top 10 next time and we’ll get it.”
Creating the album, whose songs encapsulate the Northern working-class experience, was something of a personal process for Jonny, who also serves as the band’s primary lyricist.
“It’s social commentary: I write about what I see and what I know,” he tells me. “I’ve experienced it, I’ve lived it, so I like to think it’s pretty transparent. It’s not totally important that everyone relates to it, but it is important that I’m honest and that the people who do relate to it are the right people for us to be performing to.”
However, whilst sticking to what he knows with the lyrics, the band’s music has evolved in other ways, as Jonny begins to laugh: “It’s got a lot better. Lyrically, with the songs themselves, there probably isn’t too much of a change — perhaps there is more anger and more energy in the newer stuff — but sonically, with the sound quality, there’s a massive difference. I mean, I can tell, I don’t know if you can.”
“The first EP we recorded ourselves and were spending very little on a studio, trying to cram as many tracks into one session because that’s all you can afford, and everyone’s got to work around times because we’ve all got jobs and everyone’s broke. It’s a massive difference when you can then finally work your way up there.”
“Every penny we ever made in the early days — even now, really — we put it back in. We’re a band of brothers who enjoy what we do and we’re very, very genuine, but when it comes down to our success, we’re very business-minded; we make sure we invest money back in. The plan was always to evolve.”
Of course, releasing an album is never an easy feat, let alone in the presence of a global pandemic, but unlike the many of us who were burdened by the lockdowns and restrictions that define the early years of this new decade, the band didn’t allow themselves to be set back.
“Great!” Jonny replies when I ask how he found the process of putting out a record in such uncertain times. “We wrote both the EP and the album in lockdowns, we utilised our time and did what we could with what we had.”
“I guess there were some nerves, like ‘are we going to be able to go on tour and promote it’ because what’s the point otherwise? Y’know, you can put an album out there, but from a charts-push point of view you need to be able to promote it, you need to be able to get it out there. It was a really nervy time. That being said, the response, though, has just been amazing.”
“There is a real, genuine feeling when you’re at one of our shows because of the people that attend”
The success of the record, however, almost pales in comparison to that of their live shows. The band are now infamous for their ‘raucous’ live shows, a characterisation that the band themselves are all-too-familiar with.
“It is quite a tribal thing — we get a lot of comparisons to a football ground,” he nods in agreement, and I, myself, cannot disagree. Having attended one of their shows on our shared home turf of Sheffield back in 2019, I have first-hand experience with the (almost overly) enthusiastic crowds that the band attract, the night marked by the quintessential mosh pits, pint chucking, and playfully vulgar chants.
Jonny, though, is reluctant in taking the credit for such vibrant scenes, instead directing my attention toward the real source of such electric energies: the fans.
“There is a real, genuine feeling when you’re at one of our shows because of the people that attend. It’s such a mixed audience we’ve got: thirteen-year-olds at the front, losing their heads, bouncing around, and eighty years olds at the back, nursing a pint, just enjoying the atmosphere. Everyone’s there for the same reason, though, and you’ve got one hour to show how much you care. That’s what really brings the energy.”
And when it comes to touring, The Reytons have a busy schedule ahead. Having only wrapped up the second leg of their UK tour a few weeks ago, the band are set for a quick turnaround as they head back out onto the road later this month for a sequence of festival appearances, including TRNSMT, Y-Not, and Meadowlands.
“It’s a testing time because it’s new to us, with the speed it’s going at and the amount of festivals we’ve got coming up — it takes its toll,” Jonny admits, but even if there isn’t going to be “an afterparty after every gig”, there’s no hiding the excitement for what’s ahead.
“It’s going to be incredible, especially with seeing our name getting higher and higher up the bill. I can remember back in the early days you’d get so excited just to see your name on the bottom, almost in the credits, and you’re having to point your name out. Now, there’s no need to: we’re up there and it’s surreal.”
“It’s really, really exciting going to new places — not necessarily cities we’ve not been to but venues we’ve not played before,” he continues, the conversation shifting towards the band’s next UK tour — the third in a year — that begins towards the end of 2022. “This November we’re playing Rock City in Nottingham and it’s almost triple the capacity of what we did last time. You know you’re going to have your core group there, the people that you’ve been building a relationship with for the last few years, but this time they’ve brought their mates. It’s always exciting to meet new people and see different reactions from different places.”
“I wouldn’t change it for anything, I really wouldn’t.”