The Northern Music Awards: Disruptors In Music winners discuss their homecoming Clifton Park show, rising through south Yorkshire’s scene and all things Ballad Of A Bystander.

Every now and then, a band comes along that is the antithesis of “pop”, and yet still manages to shake up the charts with an uncompromising attitude towards music. When The Reytons scored a number one for their second album, What’s Rock And Roll?, few will have expected the Rotherham lads to nudge Taylor Swift off the top spot and SZA further down a top 10 which included the Weeknd, Ed Sheeran and Eminem. “Every time you hit a milestone, I think you still pinch yourself and go, ‘I can’t believe we’ve actually done it,'” says lead singer Jonny Yerrell, panning his camera around to show me their physical accolades. 


The south Yorkshire band, completed by Lee Holland (bass), Joe O’Brien (guitar) and Jamie Todd (drums), haven’t rested on their laurels. In the five weeks following What’s Rock And Roll’s? release, they wrote and recorded their third album, Ballad of a Bystander: a thrillingly visceral listen filled with stadium hits in waiting. Contentiously peaking at number two, losing out to James Arthur when they were “docked 2,200 units on a technicality following an industry complaint”, the 12 songs articulate the emotional and social dissatisfactions of many. Jonny’s tones rip through reverberated guitars and crunchy drums, painting portraits with diaristic stories of unrequited love, social inequality and their rise to fame.  


Writing themselves into the history of Rotherham, later this year, The Reytons will embark on a 20,000-capacity outdoor headline show in Clifton Park. It’s the biggest gig that’s ever taken place in the city, eclipsing T-Rex’s performance on the same grounds back in 1971. A monumental moment for Jonny and Co, the band are proud of how far they’ve come, but a string of forthcoming intimate performances at The Leadmill proves their value in remembering where it all started. On tracks like ‘2006’, they recall the hard times, slogging around south Yorkshire’s venues, with a fondness, harking back to their hunger as a group rising through the ranks.  


Recognised for their contribution to Northern music, The Reytons are 2024’s recipients of Northern Music Awards: Disruptors In Music, in partnership with Notion. Hosted with leading British charity Nordoff and Robbins, the ceremony will take place next month at Albert Hall in Manchester, holding up the legacy of Northern music and celebrating artists, venues and festivals across all genres. It’s no more than the four-piece deserves, as they continue to put The Millers on the map and make music that resonates with the masses.  

Take us back to The Reytons’ first recording session, all those years ago, did you believe you’d get to where you are today? 

When we first started, the belief was always there. We’ve been motivated in trying to achieve arena status and getting to this Clifton Park show that we’re doing. But every time you hit a milestone, I think you still pinch yourself and go, “I can’t believe we’ve actually done it”. With the number one album, when you’re stood there holding the trophy you think, “I can’t fucking believe we pulled this off”, but we always manifested that it could happen.

You’ve been releasing a steady stream of music these past few years – how have you grown in that time? Both as entertainers in the public eye and musically as artists? 

All I know is that the crowds have got bigger. With that, there’s a confidence in what we can achieve, reinforcing the belief that we can top charts, we can sell out arenas and we will get booked for big festivals. Sonically, I’d like to think that we get better; we’re just trying to write the same stuff that we’ve always liked. At the end of the day, the foundation of The Reytons is being honest and making music that we like and then hopefully like-minded people will as well. I feel like we’re still doing that today, as we were seven years ago. 

Your new album, Ballad Of A Bystander, came out in January. How has your sound developed since your previous record, What’s Rock and Roll? 

For us, it’s just the enjoyment of making it. When we wrote the first EP, for example, a big show for us was 350 people at Plug in Sheffield. So, we were writing songs for a small amount of people to enjoy, and we’ve always just rolled with that. For me, Courteeners’ live album at Eaton Park inspired me to be successful, I wanted us to get to that level. I want people to sing our songs like they sing ‘Not Nineteen Forever’ on that album. Hopefully, Clifton Park is going to be that moment for us. I can’t look past that at the minute. 

What was your proudest moment and biggest lesson learnt when recording the album? 

We wrote the album in the space of five weeks, after What’s Rock And Roll? went to number one. We had every belief that we could do it again. So, the biggest lesson was probably not to take things for granted. We did everything we could to try and get into that number one spot but part of me somewhere deep down is probably happy that we didn’t. We never went in there with the pressure of making another chart-topping record; the pressure was to make an album that we still enjoyed. I honestly believe everyone will back me when I say this is our favourite one; it’s 10 times better than What’s Rock And Roll? and it’s not the number one album. So, I feel like the lesson is to be yourself and be honest about what you want to write. 

In May, you’ll be playing three dates at Sheffield’s famous The Leadmill venue, which reopened its doors last year. It’s been a while since you played somewhere so intimate, why was it the right time to be in these spaces again? 

Going back in to take the photos was great because you forget how special the rooms are and what these places mean to you. I clearly remember the first day that we sold out The Leadmill. I remember the day that we announced it because we never thought we’d get to play it, and then three months later, finding out we sold out and how excited we were. I was on the train going into Sheffield for a night out when the news came. I remember walking around Sheffield thinking, “I can’t believe it”. It was such a big moment for us, so to then sell out three nights instantly this time round felt fucking incredible. I can’t wait to get back out there. Last time, we were too busy focusing on everything going right. So, to go in there with the confidence we have now, I think we can really enjoy playing to a more intimate crowd now. It’s gonna be a great three nights. 

In your song ‘2006’, maybe our favourite from Ballad of the Bystander, you hark back to The Leadmill and your time as a rising musician from south Yorkshire. What happened in this year that particularly resonated with you?  

I was making music back then and pushing around the local scene. I say to a lot of artists now that sometimes the struggles are the best times but you’ll never realise it. The hustle, being mugged off by promoters, being paid for in pints or for the exposure; it’s all shit but I do look back at it with fondness because you’re so hungry. You want to fucking make it. 2006 was probably one of the years where I had my heart broken more times than I can remember in the music industry but I also ticked so many boxes, like my first time playing certain venues of a particular capacity. They’re all good memories. 

And in July, you’ll be playing a homecoming gig at Clifton Park in Rotherham. This will be the biggest outdoor event there in over 50 years. How are you feeling ahead of the show? 

I think the last band to play there was T Rex in 1971. I’m not sure what their capacity was but we think that we’ve done enough for it to be the biggest that the town has ever had, so we’re excited for it. One thing that no one can say they’ve done is be a working-class kid from Rotherham, sell 20,000 tickets in the park that they grew up in as a kid, boost the local economy and change the reputation of the town forever. I don’t feel like it gets any bigger than that for me. I can die happy as an artist knowing that we’ve done all of that. The rest is a bonus.

What are some of your fondest memories of Clifton Park growing up? 

I guess everyone’s got a Clifton Park. For us, it was the place you’d go to as a kid. Growing up, we couldn’t afford to go to places like Disneyland or on big expensive holidays. In the summer, to be told that you’re going to Clifton Park for a day to kick a football around, have a picnic, go to the paddling pool or on a few rides, was your highlight and it was something that I always look back on fondly. Part of me feels bad that we’re going to put a massive fence around it for a week but the other side of me is dead fucking smug and I love the idea of it. 

You always have strong promotional campaigns for your music announcements. Most recently, you posted a Neighbours parody for your Australia tour. Who are the brains behind these videos? 

I think it’s the most exciting part for us sometimes. We love going to Australia of course, but we love coming up with these ideas as well. We did I’m A Celebrity for the last one, so as soon as we got the confirmation of the dates for Australia this time, we thought that it had to be Neighbours. As much as we like writing the music, doing the shows and everything else, the videos and creative elements, are all done in-house by the band; we just love every single aspect. 

What’s next for The Reytons? Beyond the Rotherham show, and third studio album, is there anything else you’d like to achieve soon? 

I feel like I don’t want to rush. We definitely don’t want to rush writing another album, not that we rush them, but I feel like we need to spend some time enjoying the album that we’ve got. But we’re dead excited to get writing again. We love it. Some people say, ‘You did three albums in three years. Are you gonna have a break or is there pressure to write?’ but there isn’t pressure when you’re doing something that you love. There is something that feels unfinished about this campaign. We’re not done yet. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What legacy do The Reytons want to create? 

I’d like a statue at Clifton Park: a statue of us to say that we did the gig. I don’t really know, I can’t believe where we are now after the last five years. We’re dead grateful for where we are. I’d like to never have to go back to work a normal job. And if I could carry on doing what I’m doing now, and it’s the same as it was yesterday, in 10 years’ time, I’d be over the move with that. 

Find out more about the Nordoff and Robbins Northern Music Awards, taking place at Albert Hall Manchester on April 23, here.

Listen to Ballad Of A Bystander now: