The Reytons are one of the most exciting bands to have come out of South Yorkshire in recent times. Starting as a small, unsigned band a couple of years ago, they have since evolved into one of the best live acts on the UK scene; as well as last year releasing their much anticipated debut album Kids Off The Estate.
Having followed them for a while now, seeing them play small gigs up and down the country as well as their most recent show, a huge homecoming at Magna in Rotherham, I jumped at the chance to have a chat with lead singer Jonny Yerrell about old tunes, big gigs, and headlining the new Meadowlands Festival.
Firstly, the name of the band is pretty unique. Where did this come from?
You know what, when we first started this band, it was the hardest thing. Hardest question on the quiz isn’t it, the team name, do you know what I mean? To be fair, we went through some really shit names, trying to think of something that made sense, and in the end, we carried on working and writing without a name. Then, I were literally just driving onto our estate, these two kids ran out in front of me and I went “f*cking reyt uns”, and suddenly thought “there you go, The Reytons”. There you go, we’re named after two kids on our street.
Do you remember any of the other names?
Nah nah, oh god mate, I wouldn’t even like to say if I did, they were terrible! Like, they weren’t even a frontrunner, it weren’t like there was one where half of us wanted it and half of us didn’t, it was just a “no, that’s awful”. All I know is that we said we didn’t want “The” at the beginning but then we ended up with it in the end anyway.
A lot of your songs make reference to various spots round South Yorkshire. How much are the songs you write influenced by growing up and being from there?
Yeah, I guess really heavily. The genre – you can call it indie or rock or whatever, but our style, it’s social commentary, it’s observational, what we’ve seen around us, what we do see around us now, its really made up of that. Obviously the plots are a little bit twisted, to make it more entertaining, but generally, what we’re writing about is just real stuff, real stories and real people, things that are around us, so I’d say 99% of it is down to South Yorkshire.
Your first full-length album came out not too long ago – how different was it to make compared to your earlier releases?
Three times more hard work, because obviously you’ve got to write more songs, but it was just a case of before, you’re putting EPs out there, when we started this band, we knew we had to make an immediate impact, it was a case of getting as much content out there as we could, and never releasing a proper album until we felt we could do it justice. We never wanted to put an album out in the world until we knew we had enough of a platform of people to appreciate it, and I feel like the timing were just about right, we thought we’d put it out and it were special. After coming out of lockdown, and all the shit that’s been going on in the world, it wasn’t just releasing an album, it was getting back to normal, to be able to do what we love. So yeah, it were a big moment.
On this album, a couple of the tracks (Low Life & Kids off the Estate) are quite different to their original releases – what was the thinking behind this?
Well, in the beginning, the first tracks, you know, Slice of Lime, Low Life, all of them, we basically self-recorded and engineered them ourselves, it were kind of very minimal studio equipment, very basic gear that we used. Obviously when it came to record the album, sonically we’d gone up a level, working in a professional studio with a producer called David Watts in Castleford at Chairworks Studios, and it were a case of, we really really like these songs that we’ve got, these are our top-streaming, top-performing tracks, we don’t want them not to be on the album, but they just can’t stand next to these other tracks because the level of production is so much bigger, so we tried not to do too much to change it but obviously you’re going to hear it. I mean, do you prefer the old ones or the new ones? – I think me and my mates prefer the old ones, but that’s more because you know, I started seeing you when I was about 17, so it just reminds me of being younger, it’s a bit more raw – yeah yeah, I totally get that, and you can see it as well, if you look on Spotify, the originals still perform a lot better than the new ones do. But for new people coming to pick up an album, a new vinyl and give it a spin, they’d have stood out like a sore thumb, so we had to either re-record, or not put them on, and not putting them on weren’t right for me. I get what you’re saying about the old ones though, I probably feel the same to be fair, there’s summat a little bit special about them.
Following on from that, how would you say you’ve changed as a band since you first started to attract attention, if at all?
I don’t know to be fair. I guess, from the inside looking out, we’re just trying to get bigger and better, whatever that means, we’re not trying to lose our core. People have talked about new material and the future and asked what direction we’d take it in, but I don’t want to change anything that we’re doing, it’s maybe just trying to add a few more layers of guitar in there, sounding a bit more polished, but maybe that needs to happen less. The best thing about The Reytons for me is the live shows, it’s about that rawness, like you’ve said, the energy that we bring at gigs.
I feel like you’re going to develop as a band and work with new people, everyone’s an expert in this industry and you’re always going to bump into people who want to point you in directions they think you should go. For us, we’ve been knocked about a little bit, but we’re here, we’re independent, and we want to take our own direction, I think keeping that raw energy and that ballsy attitude is what I want to focus on. Bigger shows, bigger budget, but keep the core the same.
Talking of the gigs, your live shows are some of the best I’ve seen in terms of atmosphere and energy – what would you put this down to?
I think there’s nothing false about Reytons, you know, when we come out there, we’ll fling our arms about and stuff, cocky as fuck, because we’re in that mood, sometimes we’re blown away with hands on the heads, can’t believe what’s happening. I feel like however the crowd is, that’s what we are. We’re not in the mentality of ‘we’re putting on a show to however many thousands of people or hundreds of people here’, we’re just some of those people as well. Half of the time, I turn round to Jamie who’s on drums and I’m bouncing around the same as everyone else, I feel like it’s just that we’re enjoying it like everyone else, while we’re enjoying it, you guys are enjoying it out there, I feel that’s probably the key for us really. There’s no hidden tricks or anything like that, it’s not an act, it’s genuine, and that’s what I love about being in the Reytons, that everyone’s just themselves and dead honest with it.
I remember seeing you in a tent at Tramlines in 2019 in front of a couple of hundred people – three years later and I’m seeing you in front of 4 and a half thousand people for a homecoming gig at Magna – can you believe how much you’ve blown up in such a short space of time?
Where would you suggest? I mean you can’t do Sheffield or South Yorkshire on every tour, you’ve got to find and develop audiences in different places, but where else is left for us? I mean when we started this, and we first sold-out the Leadmill, it was a case of “we’ve really got to build this up and take it somewhere, where do we end up?” and I’ve just said “Magna, it’d be mint, let’s try us best to get there”. I remember, just before covid, one of the promoters said “are you sure you wanna do Magna? Let’s do two 02 Academy shows instead” and I said “no, I wanna do Magna, I wanna do Magna”. We eventually had to do the 02 shows anyway because of how it fell with covid and stuff, but then Magna came and we managed to sell it out in ten hours! So I’m there going “f*cking told you” but deep down I’m thinking ‘I can’t believe this has sold out, never mind that quick’. There’s only really one local venue left, so we’ll see what happens.
You’re playing the inaugural Meadowlands Festival – how excited are you to be part of such an exciting opportunity?
Yeah, it’s an amazing opportunity. As I’ve said to a lot of reporters already, the exciting thing about this type of event is seeing how high up we are on the bill, you know, it’s Gerry Cinnamon, then the Kooks, then us, it’s just mind-blowing. When you first start out in a band, it’s like a word search looking for your name on there! To be announced early, right at the top, it’s honestly mind-blowing. It’s gonna be a great day with very little pressure on production, you know, we just turn up and play. it’s a really easy day mentally, but on the other hand, it’s not all our crowd, obviously some will be there to see us but the majority aren’t, so you’ve got to have your wits about you, see what we can do. But yeah we’re looking forward to it, we like a challenge.
Who would you say your main influences and inspirations behind your music would be?
You know what, everyone’s really different in this band, we’ve all done different styles, different genres in the past, so I feel that does reflect on us. Lee, the bass player, that wasn’t him until this band, he grew up listening to reggae and like Dolly Parton. Jamie is into more of his heavy metal and classic rock, you can tell that from his drumming. Joe likes everything under the sun, from sort of singer-songwriter stuff to being similar to me with hip-hop and stuff, grime and that kind of thing, which I think comes into the wordplay, so there’s a lot of influences. Obviously, it’s inspirational to see so many big bands from round here like the Arctic Monkeys, Milburn, Reverend and the Makers, Little Man Tate, Pulp, all coming from from our area. A stones throw up the road, you’ve got people like the Courteeners, it’s a big place to be our end, when it comes to music. Obviously there’s inspiration from that, but we do try and do our own thing. The most inspiration from us comes from everyday people, you know, stories of people we’ve met that inspire us to write songs and do what we do.
Are there any bands you’re tipping to follow in your footsteps, maybe be the next big thing?
Well I’m hoping it’s us, I hope we’re the next big thing! There’s a load of good bands, have you heard of The Rosadocs? They’re a good band from our way, they’re doing good stuff. The Sherlocks are still churning out stuff, they’ve got their fourth album on the way. I don’t feel like any of us have peaked yet. With touring so much the past few years, the support bands we’ve been getting at each gig like Dictator, a Scottish band who are really different, really edgy, I’ve listened to them a lot. The people who end up supporting us are probably most of what I listen to cos I get really into new stuff and try and support them as much as possible.
Finally, it’s been an incredible few years for you – what’s next for the Reytons?
We’ve got the Uninvited tour coming up, biggest headline tour we’ve done to date – I mean every band says that because that should be the way it goes – so yeah, get involved, get to the front!