As Bill Ryder-Jones tours with Mumford & Sons, and he and guitarist Liam Power fill Getintothis’ Cath Bore in on the stories behind the pictures, taken by drummer Jack Prince.
It came as a bit of shock, Bill Ryder-Jones bagging a support slot on frantic folky banjo bellowers Mumford and Sons’ summer 2016 European stadium tour. Wirral’s most thoughtful and reflective singer and songwriter opening for a band whose name – and music, to be fair – reminds us of a family run carpentry business, was a strange proposition. Nevertheless, the tour with “the Mumfords” took in major cities like Paris, Vienna and Prague, the band playing to sold out stadiums.
Taking in thirteen dates over the course of one month, here’s how they got on.
May 6. The band, comprising of Liam “Number 1” Power on guitar, Jack “Princey” Prince, Joe “Simply Joe” Edwards on keyboards and bass player Kevin “Mooney” Moonshine, prepare for the road trip. All eventualities are planned and catered for.
— By The Sea (@ByTheSeaBand) May 6, 2016
May 7. Helsinki.
When the band land in Finland they anticipate steel grey skies, brass monkey temperatures and a BBC 4 Scandinavian crime drama landscape. Instead, the sun is cracking the flags, much to their obvious delight.
Liam: “This the first night in Helsinki, around the corner from our hotel. It seemed around every corner there was a waterside bar serving super strong lager and/or Mojitos.”
Bill: “Aye Liam’s right, they had some nice pale ale on. I had an argument with the women on reception because the sauna wouldn’t open….needless to say I had the last laugh.”
The Hartwell Arena has a 15,000 capacity. In this photograph, there is no one in the audience. Worry not, fans; this is actually the sound check, where all goes swimmingly and there’s even time for laughs.
Bill: “Is this the one when I’m being ‘funny’ with the guitar? That’s the reason I don’t like to have fun, coz some tit takes a photo of you.”
Helsinki. Ice Hockey. Pantera. Rammstein. Expensive Ale. Boss Gigs. To Gothenburg! pic.twitter.com/DJKdpLFzpf
— Jack Prince (@jackprince) May 7, 2016
Liam: “A great gig. It was absolutely roasting hot, I think we all thought it’d be standard English type weather, turns out most of the tour was totally-tropical.”
May 9. Sweden.
The boys are in high spirits after a triumphant debut. But when the band’s plane arrives in Gothenburg the next day, events take an unexpected and unfortunate turn for tragic Liam.
Tour update…Just landed in Goteburg, Liam of course got pulled aside and is now having his hoop investigated by some dudes
— Bill Ryder-Jones (@BRyderJones) May 8, 2016
Fortunately, Liam’s hoop passed the examination and of course everyone is delighted. They are even more made up to find that in Sweden, Subway Veggie Patties are called Veggiebiffs. It really is all go. The sound check for the show at Gothenburg happens.
Bill: “(Here) I was either trying to be more Iggy Pop or stretching out me back. I pulled it being a five-a-side queen two days before we left for tour and I was a narky fucker.”
May 10. Bill Ryder-Drums.
In Oslo, we are treated to a prime example of top quality multitasking by Mr Bill Ryder-Drums.
Bill: “I’m rubbish on drums, think I was just trying to be a pain. That kick drum is far too big and there’s defo one too many cymbals on that kit.”
Liam: “I have no idea whats happening in these, but I can safely assume we’d started to feel really comfortable by now! Some of the venues where so big it’d be a ten minute walk from dressing room to stage so I can only assume Bill’s nicked one of only two seats here. Legs were tired towards the end, mainly because we hammered table tennis almost every night, we ended up playing around 60 consecutive games one day, which rendered my legs near unusable the next.”
Bill: “Stage presence innit.”
IMMIX ensemble’s Daniel Thorne arranges Bill‘s orchestral piece No Worst, There is None, based on his response to the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, featuring Liverpool Cathedral Youth Choir as an audio visual performance at LightNight 2016.
— Bill Ryder-Jones (@BRyderJones) May 15, 2016
May 15. Salty sea dogs in Malmo, Sweden.
On a rare day off, the chaps take a dip in the sea. Spirits are further cheered when Everton win 3-0 against the mighty Norwich at home, at Goodison Park. This means Everton are once more “the gear”. Marvellous news.
Liam: “We ended up staying in what we thought was a Christian retreat of sorts, complete with a chapel. We had this amazing empty beach joined on to the apartments where the shallows lasted for ages. Totally surreal but completely peaceful.”
Bill: “Yeah great day off. We had a BBQ and I saw my arse ‘cos Jack never bought anythin’ but had some of my spectacular halloumi.”
May 16. Bill & Ted.
More border checks slow our boys’ progress at Zurich, and the band are quite frankly dismayed at the price of beer.
“OTT,” comments Jack.
But, nothing can stop the Excellent Adventure as it continues at the Hallenstadion stadium, where Bill is entertained and enthralled backstage by Mumford & Sons’ bass player Ted Dwane.
Bill: “That’s Ted playing guitar at me. Normally I wouldn’t stand for that kind of behaviour but it was early on in the tour and I was still on my best behaviour. Ted‘s a really nice guy in all honesty, still I think guitaring at someone to be in poor taste.”
Liam: “Pre-soundcheck boredom i’m assuming here, possibly waiting patiently for tea-time catering (which was amazing every night), other than that we survived solely on bread, humus and cold cuts for 3 weeks.”
May 16. It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in UK. Noisey run a series of short films about music and mental health. A Light Went Out features Bill’s personal story:
May 17. Rock n roll and R & R.
There’s a mighty drive ahead before the band reach Munich. They resort to whacky brainteasers to pass the time. After all, no one likes travelling, do they? On the plus side, relations between the band and headliners Mumford & Sons warm further as the tour progresses. They take to the stage together every night, with Marcus Mumford joining in on Bill’s song Seabirds.
Liam: “A couple of dates into the tour, Marcus suggested he and Bill do a tune together, so he got up most nights and they did a great version of Seabirds from the album.”
Bill: “Yeah Marcus likes that song so I was press ganged into it. I was only gonna do it once but we did it in the middle of the set and that meant the second half of our set was better received so like the shitbag I am I give it one of them in the corridor next day ‘Markoooo Seabirds again tonight yeah?’ Then did the finger guns at him.”
Drummer. Bellend. Masseur. (in no particular order…) pic.twitter.com/a0nKpaliev
— Jack Prince (@jackprince) May 17, 2016
At this point we start to worry about our Brits abroad, and plead for an explanation.
Liam: “Purely down to Bill having chronic back pain on tour. Just so happened Jack had his white vest and chain on, and the dressing room looked like a holding cell. Dr Jack Prince, Hands of Heaven. Think he’s copywriting that.”
May 20. You Really Got Me: 02 Arena, Prague.
Bezzie mates now, the two bands cram onto the stage to pay homage to The Kinks. Again, nightly. Each evening. Every single one.
Liam: “Us getting up with Mumfords to do You Really Got Me by The Kinks, it was really fun to do and the crowd loved it. Again, another really surreal moment for us…”
Bill: “I hate that tune and the novelty of this wore off after a week. Still they were sweet and it was a laugh. Nice guys.”
End of the tour. Job done, the band return home.
Liam: “The crowds were really great, there solely to see Mumford’s and I’m not sure what they expected from us genre wise. But surprisingly there were quite a lot of BRJ fans it turned out and they were really attentive and we always got a good applause at the end of the set. The sheer scope and size of the crowds was pretty unimaginable. Bill‘s been through it before as you know but we were all pinching ourselves.”
— By The Sea (@ByTheSeaBand) May 30, 2016
You can catch Bill Ryder-Jones during the rest of the UK festival season, including Festival No 6 and End Of The Road.
Pictures by Jack Prince (except Helsinki photograph by Danny Castree)